On-song AFC Mansfield made it five wins on the bounce with a hard-fought victory over relegation-threatened Armthorpe Welfare on Saturday.
Goals from Ollie Fearon and Matty Plummer worked the oracle to push The Bulls up to ninth in the Toolstation Northern Counties East League, Premier Division table. And although it wasn’t vintage AFC by any means, they are delighted by their current run of form.
Manager Rudy Funk said: “Sometimes it wasn’t pretty to watch, but Armthorpe are a physical side who are battling for every point. We showed we can do the hard stuff when needed.”
In a tentative start, the first real chance didn’t come until the 17th minute when a low drive from Fearon flashed wide of the right-hand post. And it was Armthorpe who went closest to grabbing the lead when Darren Mansaram broke down the left and squared the ball to striker Liam Radford, who sliced his effort well wide with only goalkeeper Jason White to beat.
The Bulls responded on 28 minutes when a cross from Fearon found Lynton Karkach, whose far-post volley crashed against the bar, with ‘keeper Adam Stevens beaten. And two minutes later, Stevens did well to turn Fearon’s header around the post before beating away a rasping drive from James Cullingworth.
However, Fearon wasn’t to be denied and in the 34th minute, he outjumped Stevens in the six-yard box to head home the opening goal from a Cullingworth cross.
At the start of the second half, Armthorpe’s Chris Gowen tested White with a low drive, while at the other end, Fearon tried an overhead kick from a Jimmy Ghaichem cross and Plummer fired over the bar from just outside the box as AFC went looking for that all-important next goal.
Stevens did well to deny Fearon, saving with his legs after the striker had hit a rasping drive from the edge of the box. And AFC’s pressure was interrupted only by a nasty incident midway through the half when the visitors’ Liam Olssen hacked Ghaichem to the ground. It seemed inevitable that he would receive red, but referee Abbas Khan angered the home supporters when he produced only yellow. Justice was served, though, when man-of-the-match Jordan Annable, who has been a revelation this season after emerging from U18s’ football, delivered a free-kick into the box where the ball eventually dropped for Plummer to rifle home from 12 yards.
Armthorpe were not done and broke quickly on 78 minutes when the ball was played into the feet of Radford, who fired past the advancing White from 12 yards to reduce the arrears.
But although there were some dicey moments in the home box in the final minutes, AFC held on and might even have extended their lead when Fearon’s downward header was hooked off the line.