Northampton Town 0-1 Mansfield Town *1-3 on aggregate (EFL League Two Playoff Semi Final 2nd leg) 18.05.22
Mansfield Town are now one game away from achieving their dream of promotion to League One after seeing off Northampton Town in a fiercely contested second leg playoff semi-final at Sixfields last night.
The Stags, holding a slender 2-1 lead from the first leg played in front of a sell-out crowd at Field Mill on Saturday, might have been pegged back to level terms within 60 seconds of their away match down the M1 as the Cobblers aimed from the off to get themselves back into the tie.
Nathan Bishop forced into a diving save early doors as he palmed away from Appere who’s looping header caused chaos, Mansfield surviving the early onslaught.
And after digging in to their defensive responsibilities splendidly, on half an hour, the Stags were provided full control of the tie thanks to their full backs getting into the opposition danger zone, a forward pass by Akins was left by Oakes in an offside position, for Elliott Hewitt to pick out left back Stephen McLaughlin who’s late run was rewarded with a timely finish to put Nigel Clough’s men 3-1 up on aggregate.
The extra goal advantage, wrestling the tie away from Northampton, who’s emotional status was always to be questioned after narrowly missing out to Bristol Rovers for automatic promotion, although the hosts had penalty claims either side of half time, Horsfall bundled over by Rawson five minutes before the break, McWilliams tripped five minutes after, both inside the area, on both occasions the referee doing nothing.
As the rain tumbled down onto the pitch the tackles went flying in some more, Kieran Wallace lucky to avoid a red shortly after the hour for a sliding foul in the centre of the pitch, Stephen Quinn perhaps could also have been sent off for an elbow on a Northampton player, Mansfield willing to get ugly in order to protect their lead.
And protect it they did, the later the match went the harder it was for the home side to create, Mansfield for a man brilliant on the night and eventually once finally hearing the whistle, they had already prepared for their destiny of a Wembley tie against Swindon Town or Port Vale.
A week Saturday is showtime, the Stags are back at Wembley, to think in October they were near foot of the Football League, since then any concerns over relegation soon evaporated to a record run, the only way for these Mansfield Town players is seemingly up, and in Nigel Clough they certainly have a Manager who can take them in the right direction.
Special mention to Stephen McLaughlin, the clubs player of the season has been magnificent all campaign, but particularly in the latter half of the season, the 31-year-old Irishman scoring eight goals and seven assists since December, mostly from left back. Fitting that he should score the all important goal as one of his Manager’s main stays and most reliable source’s at the club.
Northampton Town: Roberts, Sowerby, Guthrie, Horsfall, Pinnock, Koiki, McWilliams, Eppiah (Zimba 68), Mills (Rose 65), Appere, Hoskins.
Mansfield Town: Bishop, Hewitt, Perch, Hawkins, O‘Toole, McLaughlin, Wallace (Clarke 85), Quinn (Lapslie 82), Akins, Oates, Bowery.
Venue: Sixfields (7,619)
*Main image @mansfieldtownfc Stephen McLaughlin is the hero as his goal sinks Northampton.