REPORT: Mansfield Town 2-2 Chesterfield
Skipper Zander Diamond rescued Mansfield Town with his 88th minute equaliser in a thrilling 2-2 home derby day draw with arch-rivals Chesterfield this afternoon.
All had looked lost for the Stags after a poor second half showing.
But Diamond struck late to make it 10 games unbeaten and prevent a famous win for the bottom placed Spireites, who are now four unbeaten as well.
The Stags had to fight from behind after the Spireites stole the lead against the run of play, but were the better side in a thrilling full-blooded first half.
Stags failed to hit those heights in a highly disappointing second half in which the bottom placed visitors ran the show, scored, hit the bar and forced two saves from Conrad Logan until Diamond saved the day.
Stags had fallen behind through Joe Rowley’s excellent 14th minute finish – the first goal Stags had conceded in 333 minutes of football - only for Hayden White to level on 24 minutes.
Then Andy Kellett’s 58th minute header looked to have won it until the late drama.
Mansfield were forced into a change up front with Hemmings picking up a slight calf strain in training yesterday, Sterling-James replacing him.
The other change came in midfield where Mellis came in for Anderson.
Chesterfield named an unchanged XI, though Scott Wiseman returned to the substitutes’ bench in place of the injured Jordan Sinnott.
There were two separate minutes of applause during the game to remember two young supporters - one from each side - who sadly passed away recently.
Two-year-old Mansfield fan Dawson Wilcock lost his battle with cancer yesterday, while 12-year-old Spireites fan Abbie Jacques recently died due to complications related to type 1 diabetes, which she had been diagnosed with at six.
The tributes took place in the second and 12th minutes respectively.
After a tentative start, Stags had the first attempt on goal on four minutes. A short free kick routine saw the ball worked to Hamilton on the left. He hit the by-line and lifted the ball into the centre where Bennett, with back to goal, could only hoist the ball over the bar.
MacDonald went down hopefully in the box on six minutes but a penalty was never going to be called.
On eight minutes Sterling-James pulled the ball back on the right and Mellis fired in the game’s first on-target shot, Anyon down to his right to comfortably smother.
Sterling-James pulled an 18 yard shot just wide on 10 minutes as Mansfield continued to dominate the early attacking action.
Mellis was even closer on 13 minutes as he turned and raced down the middle before firing a stinging shot narrowly wide of the left post.
It took Chesterfield 14 minutes to get forward and create a chance – and against the run of play the found the net.
McCourt sent the ball in from the right after some neat passing and Reed set up Rowley for a superb curling finish from 12 yards on the right across Logan and under the far angle.
The goal took the wind out of Mansfield’s sails for a while.
But they hit back with an equaliser on 26 minutes.
Full back White gave the ball away on the right but, fortuitously, won it back and saw the ball bounce forward off his knee.
Sterling-James raced away with it and fed White into the box with a perfect pass, the defender finishing with a striker’s finish as he crashed it high past Anyon for his first goal in a Stags shirt.
A minute from the break the visitors worked the ball to Kellett who sent a low shot across goal and wide of the far post.
Then a clumsy tackle by Hamilton on Kellett gifted the Spireites a dangerous free kick 25 yards from goal in stoppage time, McCourt’s eventual shot deflecting wide as the sides went in all square.
Chesterfield were almost ahead out of nothing two minutes after the restart as Dennis tried his luck from 25 yards and saw his shot dip over Logan and hit the crossbar.
The visitors began to enjoy their best spell so far and Rowley tested Logan with a low swerving drive at his near post, which he easily held onto, before a sliding Dennis was inches away of turning a low Barry cross in from close range.
And they were rewarded for that spell as they regained the lead on 58 minutes.
Dennis sent in a superb cross from the left to the far post where Kellett powered home a firm downward header from close range.
In reply Hamilton was too high with a far post header at the other end.
Desperate to get a foothold back into the contest Stags threw on Potter for Hamilton on 65 minutes.
But on the restart Dennis forced Logan to turn a 20 yard shot aside.
Then, from the corner, Binnom-Williams headed straight at the keeper.
Still it was all Chesterfield and so Mellis was replaced by Atkinson and Spencer thrown up front with midfielder Byrom withdrawn.
Things looked bleak as we entered the last two minutes when, out of the blue, Mansfield levelled.
MacDonald put the ball over from the right and there was skipper Diamond to head home from six yards inside the left post to spark hige celebrations of relief.
The game pulled the 11th biggest attendance at the ground since it was rebuilt.
STAGS: Logan; White, Bennett, Diamond, Hunt; Hamilton (Potter 65), Byrom (Spencer 72), Mellis (Atkinson 69), MacDonald; Rose, Sterling-James. Subs not used: Olejnik, Pearce, Anderson, Butcher.
CHESTERFIELD: Anyon, Binnom-Williams, Hird, Evatt, Dennis, Rowley, Kellett, Reed, McCourt (De Girolamo 90+2), Barry, Weir. Subs not used: Parkin, Wiseman, Mitchell, O’Grady, Dimaio, Maguire.
REFEREE: Andy Woolmer of Northamptonshire.
ATTENDANCE: 7,525 (1,646 away).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Alex MacDonald.