Mansfield Town 1-2 Leyton Orient (EFL League Two) 25.04.23
Despite defeat at home to the champions, Leyton Orient, EFL League Two promotion-chasers, Mansfield Town, are still in with a chance of joining the end-of-season party, with just three points separating the five contenders, and two games remaining.
All three goals in this top eight clash arrived in the opening half hour, whilst the champions finished with ten men following the second half dismissal of Shadrach Ogie, he denying Stags attacker, Davis Keillor-Dunn, a goal-scoring opportunity.
Before that though, the game was all about that opening half hour, and, following a guard-of-honour from the hosts, to the champions, in front of a 7,000 strong One Call Stadium crowd, it would be the hosts that would open the scoring.
Minutes earlier and the influential Keillor-Dunn had seen a strong effort blocked by the visiting defence, Lucas Akins having done well to hold off his marker and releasing his team-mate; shortly after and, with Hiram Boateng bursting down the right flank, and into the box, found Keillor-Dunn and he slotted home a right-footed effort into Sam Sargeant’s bottom corner.
However, within seven minutes, and the game was levelled up when a corner is fired goal-bound from Craig Clay, ricochets back into play off Christy Pym’s upright, for the incoming Charlie Kelman to head home the rebound.
End-to-end, the visitors’ Kieran Sadlier sends an effort over Pym’s bar, before Jamie McCart heads clear a cross at the other end, followed by Alfie Kilgour despatched Kelman as he makes a burst for goal.
The Stags injury-worries continued midway through the first when defender Elliott Hewitt twice receives treatment in a matter of minutes before being replaced by Riley Harbottle; the champions, they picked the bones from the disorientation in the hosts defence when Sadlier beats the offside trap and sets up Ruel Sotiriou.
The Cypriot attacker proceeded to smash home past Pym from the edge of the box, affording his side a lead they’d never relinquish; in fact, Sotiriou came close to adding his second of the game shortly afterwards as well, but substitute Harbottle put himself in the way to block well.
Rhys Oates, and Keillor-Dunn both saw efforts blocked, the latter with a powerful effort, whilst, deep in first half stoppage time, Sadlier is pulled back for offside at one end, and Stephen Quinn the same at the other, he having been sent through from Pym’s release.
The second half began with more, on-field treatment, for a Stags player, this time Oates the recipient, whilst Sadlier sends a direct free-kick wide of Pym’s goal after he was fouled by Kilgour; then came the flash-point which the hosts should really have capitalised on.
With the goal in his sights, Stags attacker, Keillor-Dunn, makes a beeline for it, only to be brought down by Shadrach Ogie; the Irish defender would receive a straight red by referee Robert Lewis for denying what was deemed a goal-scoring opportunity – the resultant free-kick however, from Boateng, is cleared by the visiting defence.
Following a handful of substitutions, by both sides, the visitors, through one of theirs, Aaron Drinan, sent an effort wide of Pym’s goal from the edge of the box before Lucas Akins, with space in the visitors box, but his effort is well-saved, low down, by Sargeant, following a headed knock-down by James Perch.
Two further chances to equalise then went begging for the hosts following goal-bound headers from first, Keillor-Dunn, and then Callum Johnson, before Sargeant saves from Oates as the game headed towards stoppage time.
The Stags would see further chances come to nothing in those closing minutes, the visiting defence holding firm for another three points, they heading into League One in style.
Meanwhile, Nigel Clough’s charges, with just two games remaining this campaign, are locked in a five-way battle, for four, play-off spots, sitting just outside of that on goal-difference from both Bradford City, and Salford City.
Just Harrogate Town (h, Saturday 29 April), and Colchester United (a, Monday 8 May) left to play, the Stags need two wins, with a few goals in their favour, to overturn at least one of their promotion rivals (Bradford have the advantage with three remaining).
Fourth place is still within touching distance for the eighth place Stags, Stockport County being just three points ahead, but it’s now win-or-bust, and hope a rival slips up, if they’re to keep those promotion dreams alive.
Mansfield Town: Christy Pym, Callum Johnson, Alfie Kilgour, James Perch, Elliott Hewitt (Riley Harbottle 28), Hiram Boateng (Ollie Clarke 80), Kieran Wallace (Louis Reed 45), Stephen Quinn (George Maris 71), Davis Keillor-Dunn, Lucas Akins (Will Swann 80), Rhys Oates.
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @mansfieldtownfc a tough test too much for Mansfield against the O’s.