Newport County 1-2 Mansfield Town (EFL League Two) 18.04.23
Mansfield overcame a 320-mile round-trip to South Wales on Wednesday night to bring a much-needed three points in the race for the play-offs, back to Nottinghamshire, extending their unbeaten run to eight games, but not without cost.
Hiram Boateng scored his third in four games for the Stags, notching midway through the first, whilst James Gale scored the winner five minutes after coming on in the second, but it’s the loss of second-half substitute, Stephen McLaughlin, that will no doubt be a talking point.
The Stags’ medical room has been a busy place this season, and it continued in this clash, away to Newport County, when, having come on with nine minutes left, replacing the first scorer, Boateng, quickly went off with a knee injury.
Having only recently returned from an ankle injury, McLaughlin was on the field for the less than ten minutes before being replaced by Jason Law, as the game ticked into stoppage time.
Afterwards, Stags boss, Nigel Clough, told BBC Radio Nottingham that: “The effort was absolutely incredible,”
“”We are eight unbeaten now and we almost have to stay unbeaten now for the last four games.
“The way we achieved it, we are down to our bare bones, lost players throughout the game and hung on.”
As the injuries continue to turn over, Clough will have to see what’s available when they face third-place Stevenage Borough at the weekend, Jordan Bowery also coming off, with twenty remaining, having picked up a hamstring injury, and Rhys Oates said to “be 50-50 at best for the bench.”
Changing up the formation again, Clough went with a 4-3-3 line-up for the trip to South Wales, but will be disappointed to have conceded late on as the race for the play-offs, and promotion, continues to boil away nicely.
The hosts had the better of the early chances, Will Evans forcing a save from Christy Pym, and Mickey Demetriou heading against Pym’s crossbar in the minutes before the opener, the Stags being the first to find the breakthrough.
Bowery would be the provider, his final ball to Boateng, being wept home into the bottom right corner of Joe Day’s goal from six yards, much to the delight of the travelling fans in the 3,575 strong crown.
Boateng nearly turned provider on the half-hour, his set-piece reaching defender, Alfie Kilgour, who headed wide from a tight angle, before both sides were seen to try efforts from range, the respective ‘keepers proving equal.
The hosts’ Charlie McNeill hit a speculative effort from fully 35 yards which Pym was equal to in the centre of goal, whilst at the other end, immediately after, Elliott Hewitt forced a save, from the edge of the box, to which Day was on hand to stop, the Stags holding on for that solitary goal, interval lead.
As has been the case in games of late, the chances began to pile up for the Stags, Day saving from Lucas Akins within minutes of the restart whilst Davis Keillor-Dunn put wide from the centre of the box shortly after.
Continuing to grow into the second period, the hosts rattled off a few efforts of their own in quick success, Pym saving from Evans down to his right, on the hour, Cameron Norman fired wide, before Calum Kavanagh, and McNeill, saw efforts blocked by the visiting defence.
Both Pym, and Bowery, for which the latter was replaced by James Gale, were treated for injuries within a short space of each other, and, with the hosts’ Nathan Moriah-Welsh sending another effort high and wide, the visitors soon doubled their advantage.
A quick break involving Boateng would see the first scorer play in substitute, Gale, who’s right-footed effort found Day’s bottom right corner from the middle of the box; Boateng was replaced with a little less than ten remaining, Stephen McLaughlin coming on, before Gale smacked an effort off the post.
Then, at the other end, the hosts pulled one back, Aaron Wildig, who’d seen his first attempt blocked, fired into the top left corner from an Aaron Lewis cross, with minutes remaining, before McLaughlin pulled up, being replaced by Jason Law for closing exchanges.
Newport had a late, late chance to equalise, in the 98 minute, but Kavanagh’s shot goes wide of Pym’s goal, the Stags holding on for three points, and eight games without defeat (three wins, five draws).
Victory, they could have done with one more goal, keeps the Stags on the fringes of the players, on goal-difference, from Salford City, with a game in hand, and just three points off fourth place Stockport County – and, with their next three matches all at home, against Stevenage (22 April), Leyton Orient (25 April), and Harrogate Town (29 April), that play-off berth, it’s in the hands of Clough’s charges.
Mansfield Town: Christy Pym, Johnson, Alfie Kilgour, James Perch (Riley Harbottle 45), Elliott Hewitt, Hiram Boateng (Stephen McLaughlin, 81, Jason Law 90), Kieran Wallace, Stephen Quinn, Jordan Bowery (James Gales 68), Lucas Akins, Davis Keillor-Dunn.
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @mansfieldtownfc Mansfield are still a place outside the playoffs.