Mansfield Town 2-1 Northampton Town (EFL League Two Playoff Semi-Final 1st Leg) 14.05.22
Although it’s advantage Mansfield going into the second leg of the play-off semi-final on Wednesday night, it was maybe a little closer an outcome than they would have liked, more after pretty much dominating the first half, and racing into a two-goal, interval lead.
Visitors Northampton however pulled one back just after the hour mark to afford themselves a little hope, the Stags holding out for a 2-1 victory at the One Call Stadium.
It started brightly for Nigel Clough’s side, even though the first real chance in the opening exchanges went to the visitors, Louis Appere forcing a smart save from Nathan Bishop in the home goal after eleven minutes.
Shortly after though, and the Stags were in front, much to delight to the home support; Jordan Bowery was seen to release Rhys Oates on the right, and the Stags striker wasted little time in place the ball through the legs of the advancing Jonny Maxted in the Cobblers goal, and into the back of the net.
A quiet spell ensured in the middle part of the first period, the game sparking back into life just after the half hour mark, the visitors defence having withstood some pressure, finally broke.
Jamie Murphy was picked out brilliantly on the far left of the eighteen yard box and, having charged into it, swung in a beautiful, left-foot cross, which evaded everyone in the centre, falling to the onrushing Bowery at the back post, he wasting very little in smashing the Stags into a two-goal lead.
That lead could have been furthered minutes later when Oates turned Horsfall, flipping him this way and that, before sending a fight-footed effort wide of Maxted’s goal, from distance, the Stags having to make do with a two-goal cushion going into the break.
The second period would be punctuated by a number of substitutions, both Clough, and his opposite number, Jon Brady, trying to get the little extra, to go into the second leg with, the Cobblers needing a goal to boost any hopes they held of progressing to the final.
Oates came close to adding his second, and the Stags’ third, early in the second period, Maxted though was equal to the shot and parries well, before Oliver Hawkins gets a sniff of goal himself, he sending a left-foot curler wide of the far corner with less than an hour gone.
Those missed chances for the Stags though, quickly came back to haunt them just past the hour mark – a Clough substitution, replacing Matty Longstaff with Kieran Wallace, no sooner had that happened, the Cobblers were back in the game.
Appere had been troubling all night, and it would be he who’d play in Ali Kioki, the Northampton player finding the bottom corner of Bishop’s goal, from the edge of the area, on 61 minutes – game on!
As had happened in the first half though, the game slowed a little, both sides trying to figure out the other, and what move would be made next. More substitutions were made, Clough bringing on Ryan Stirk and Lucas Akins in the latter stages, adding some fresh legs in order to see the game out.
Horsfall though, he came close to equalising during a flurry of late, Northampton attacks, as the game headed into the final ten, heading wide of goal.
The Cobblers would have a number of chances in the final ten minutes, but the Stags held firm to take a slender, one-goal advantage, into the second leg, the winner of which will play either Swindon Town or Port Vale.
Nigel Clough’s merry men though, they have to be confident of progressing – just keep their wits about themselves.
Mansfield Town: Bishop, Perch, O’Toole, Hawkins, McLaughlin, Maris, Longstaff (Wallace 60), Quinn (Stirk 77), Murphy (Akins 86), Oates, Bowery.
Northampton Town: Maxted, Sowerby, Guthrie, Horsfall, Hoskins, Pinnock, Koiki, McWilliams, Kanu (Eppiah 56), Mills, Appere (Rose 66).
Venue: Field Mill (7,469)
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @mansfieldtownfc the Stags take a slender advantage to Northampton for the second leg.