Sutton United setback rocks Mansfield Town automatic promotion dream

Mansfield Town's automatic promotion chase suffered a huge blow when they were beaten 3-2 at home by rivals Sutton United at the One Call Stadium this afternoon.

Friday, 15th April 2022, 4:59 pm

The result also ended Stags' proud club record run of 11 successive home league wins.

An early error by Farrend Rawson gifted Sutton the lead and they never really looked like letting go of what they had.

The visitors were big and powerful and refused to let Stags cut them open with their usual passing game.

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Mansfield Town forward Lucas Akins under pressure from a Sutton. Photo by Chris Holloway/The Bigger

Nigel Clough had warned how hard Sutton are to break down when ahead and so it proved.

Trailing 2-0, Mansfield had a glimmer of hope when an own goal halved the deficit with 10 minutes to go, but United added a killer third just two minutes later, Matty Longstaff pulling another back at the death but too late to change the outcome.

To make matters worse, Stags' main rivals for automatic promotion, Port Vale, won to open a six-point gap, though Stags have a game in hand and are quickly back in action at Carlisle United on Easter Monday.

The Mansfield side to showed just one change with injured defender Stephen McLaughlin replaced by Oli Hawkins.

The versatile Hawkins, who was rested last weekend, was utilised up front rather than his recent outings at centre half.

Jamie Murphy was back from injury to take a place on the bench, which was once again a man short.

But there was no return for top scorer Rhys Oates, who is trying to shake off a thigh strain.

Neither keeper was tested in a scrappy opening, but on nine minutes Stags gifted the visitors a shock opener.

Bishop rolled the ball to Rawson on the edge of the box to start playing out from the back.

But Rawson failed to control and allowed the lurking Bugiel to pick his pocket and run on to round Bishop and find the empty net.

Stags were looking nervy and some of the passing was loose with several decisions going against them too.

On 20 minutes Boldewijn ran at the home defence and ghosted inside Rawson, but his low shot was easy for Bishop.

Stags broke upfield and finally fashioned a chance as Akins crossed low from the left by-line and Hawkins slid in at the far post but just too late to turn the ball home.

Sutton were already frustrating home fans with their time-wasting tactics and were also giving Stags no time to get the ball down and play.

From a clearance on 25 minutes Goodliffe ambitiously tried to lift the ball over Bishop from 40 yards but was too high.

Stags' best move so far on the half-hour earned a corner and got the home fans' noise level rising. But Hawkins headed Longstaff's kick tamely wide at the back post.

A dangerous far post cross by Perch saw Hawkins head it goalwards, but it was cleared and it took a fine tackle by Hewitt to halt a dangerous Sutton break.

Bowery needed treatment after taking Goodliffe's elbow in his face, but the referee deemed it to not be a foul. Bowery returned with his head bandaged.

On 40 minutes O'Toole conceded a free kick wide on the right and Milson whipped it in, Bishop choosing to punch it away.

In the three added minutes Ajiboye failed to keep a header down from a Milson cross as Stags went in with work to do.

However, within four minutes of the restart it was Sutton who had doubled their advantage.

Boldewijn got the left by-line and pulled back a cross that Ajiboye was able to turn home from six yards unchallenged.

Stags were then grateful to see an Ajiboye shot deflect wide for a corner after he had made a fine run down the middle.

Quinn went down under a challenge in the box on 57 minutes but the referee decided he had taken a dive and booked the Stags man.

On the hour Quinn sent a good free kick to the far post where O'Toole rose to power his header over the top.

Two minutes later Olaofe easily ran past Rawson into the left of the box but Bishop saved with his legs at the near post.

Desperate for a lifeline, Stags threw on Johnson for Quinn on 66 minutes.

Two minutes later Bowery put a good ball into the box where, amid a scramble, Akins had a shot blocked almost on the line.

Maris replaced Stirk and two minutes later Akins chested down a Maris pass for Johnson to blast straight at Bouzanis.

However, Stags were given a lifeline on 78 minutes when a long ball forward from O'Toole was headed back over his keeper by Goodliffe into his own net.

But two minutes later Stags were left staring at the linesman as a through ball to Sutton sub Bennett left him racing clear and, with no expected offside flag, he slotted expertly past Bishop.

Wallace replaced Perch and quickly went on a great run to set up Johnson for a shot that deflected just wide.

In added time O'Toole warmed Bouzanis' hands, but the keeper denied him.

In the seventh added minute Longstaff grabbed a consolation as he saw a low 18 yard shot deflect past the keeper but it was too late to save the day.

STAGS: Bishop, Hewitt, O'Toole, Rawson, Perch (Wallace 85), Stirk (Maris 73), Quinn (Johnson 66), Longstaff, Bowery, Hawkins, Akins. SUBS NOT USED: Stech, Law, Murphy.

SUTTON: Bouzanis, Kizzi, John, Goodliffe, Milsom, Ajiboye, Eastmond, Beautyman (90+2), Boldewijn, Bugiel (Bennett 68), Olaofe (Wilson 76). SUBS NOT USED: House, Rowe, Wyatt, Korboa.REFEREE: Neil Hair.

ATTENDANCE: 6,134 (173 away).