Controversy aplenty as 10-men Mansfield Town are pegged back at rivals Newport County

Battling ten-man Mansfield Town were cruelly forced to settle for a point at Newport County in a thrilling and controversial 1-1 draw at their promotion rivals this afternoon.

Saturday, 19th February 2022, 5:15 pm
The team celebrate their second half goal with the travelling fans at Rodney Parade. Photo by : Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media
The team celebrate their second half goal with the travelling fans at Rodney Parade. Photo by : Chris Holloway/The Bigger Picture.media

Defender Stephen McLaughlin returned with a bang as he put the visitors on course for a first win at Rodney Parade since 2016 with a low shot that deflected in off Newport's Josh Pask.

But the afternoon turned sour when John-Joe O’Toole was sent off after a mass brawl on 73 minutes

And on 82 minutes goal machine Dom Telford levelled from the spot after a controversial penalty decision for Oli Hawkins’ handball.

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O'Toole now faces a three-game ban and Hawkins two games and leaves Stags short at the back.

The Stags did stretch their impressive unbeaten run to 12 games, but frustratingly missed the chance to close the gap on the automatic promotion spots.

Nigel Clough made a trio of changes after his side’s goalless draw at Bristol Rovers last weekend.

As expected, right-back McLaughlin returned to the starting line-up after his recent injury niggle, whilst Ryan Stirk and George Maris were also recalled.

The Stags dominated proceedings in the first half without finding a deserved opener.

Newcastle United loanee Matty Longstaff could only fire straight at a grateful Nick Townsend early on.

Down the other end, prolific marksman Telford hit an effort straight into the side-netting at the visitors were let off the hook.

Maris blasted over before Stephen Quinn volleyed wide of the mark at the back post as Clough’s charges upped the ante.

The dangerous Quinn should have done even better when he missed from close range after Elliott Hewitt’s tempting cross.

Experienced striker Lucas Akins, who has a fine game, forced Townsend into a good stop on the stroke of half-time.

County made two changes at the break to stem the flow of Stags’ chances.

And the hosts frustrated Clough’s side early in the second period.

Newport’s Finn Azaz had an effort from the edge of the box before Quinn couldn’t keep his effort down.

The Stags finally got the breakthrough as McLaughlin’s deflected effort put the visitors ahead in the 69th minute, given as a Pask own goal in the end

But minutes later they were down to 10 men as O’Toole was sent off for his part in a brawl on the far side of the pitch.

Hawkins tried to delay a throw-in and players piled into the fray.

The victory then slipped away as Hawkins was harshly judged to have handled Scott Bennett’s strike, the ball spinning up off his foot and hitting his outstretched arm.

Stags players were furious with the decision and Quinn ended up being substituted before he was sent off, being shown a yellow card before storming off to the dressing rooms.

Striker Telford calmly slotted home his 23rd goal of the season as he sent Nathan Bishop the wrong way from the spot.

Substitute James Waite and Mickey Demetriou both almost stole it for the hosts late on as the referee played an extra eight minutes with Stags on the ropes defending for their lives.

There were emotional scenes at the end as a clearly furious Clough and coach Andy Garner rounded up the players and went over to acknowledge the away fans.

NEWPORT: Townsend; Pask, Dolan (Willmott, 45), Demetriou; Bennett; Lewis, Cain (Waite, 75), Azaz, Haynes (Norman, 45); Baker-Richardson, Telford. SUBS NOT USED: Day, Clarke, Collins, Street.

STAGS: Bishop; Hewitt, O’Toole, Hawkins, McLaughlin; Longstaff (Bowery, 83); Clarke, Quinn (Wallace, 83); Maris (Rawson, 73); Stirk, Akins. SUBS NOT USED: Stech, Law, Perch, Johnson.

REFEREE: Will Finnie.

ATTENDANCE: 3,936 (339 away).