Sam Clucas scored his second goal in as many games this afternoon to earn Mansfield Town a point and seemingly end their sequence of bad results against Newport in recent seasons. The point saw Mansfield extend their current unbeaten run to five games, however the result was over shadowed by a fiery encounter which saw both sides end the game with ten men.
Chris Zebroski had opened the scoring for Newport from close range on 29 minutes before Clucas nodded Stags level on 67, however several rash challenges saw referee David Phillips kept busy, dismissing Lee Minshull for the hosts on 74 minutes as the Newport man elbowed Martin Riley – Matt Rhead received his marching orders with ten minutes remaining, picking up his second yellow card of the match after being restored to the line-up at the expense of Ollie Palmer prior to the match.
The two sides promoted alongside each other last term began this league two fixture fighting it out for an early opener, Newport County had won their last three meetings with Stags and had the best early chances but wasted them, spurning two corners and firing way over Alan Marriott’s cross bar through a Robbie Willmott free kick.
Jamie McGuire picked up a yellow card on six minutes before Matt Rhead, restored to the starting line-up, made an excellent flick on five minutes later, teeing up Ben Hutchinson who fired wide of the target from 17 yards.
Newport sent in a series of dangerous crosses through Christian Jolley as they looked to breech the deadlock, however Ritchie Sutton, Martin Riley and captain John Dempster were all clued up to keep out the advancing Ryan Jackson.
Mansfield then pressured the hosts on 20 minutes as Dempster sent Jennings on his way down the left hand side following a deep free kick, Dempster then swung in a teasing cross in support of Jennings, which saw Sam Clucas head harmlessly wide.
The intensity of the match saw Newport’s Christian Jolley into the book for a late challenge on Jamie McGuire, despite the cards there was no intention of either side calming down as both searched for the opener – former Stag Tom Naylor swung in a cross for the hosts which Alan Marriott plucked out of the air, seconds before McGuire sent through Sam Clucas, the former Hereford man was clean through but was denied by Pidgeley in the County goal who made a smart save to keep the Stags at bay on 25 minutes.
Newport then opened the scoring on 29 minutes as Adam Chapman swung in a corner which saw Stags undone. Chris Zebroski got the final touch as Mansfield failed to react to the powerful set play.
Matt Rhead then came close to a quick response three minutes later as Clucas made a fine challenge inside the Newport box before drilling into the feet of Rhead, the big front man firing agonisingly side as Stags looked to atone for their defensive error. Seconds later, Rhead was again in on the action, denied by Pidgely who pulled off a great save following Ben Hutchinson’s right sided cross.
Late on in the first half, Chapman again had the chance to tease with a set piece – however this time he fired over his free kick, seeing that County held just the one goal lead going in at the break.
It was a more sluggish start to the second half however a John Dempster handball on the edge of the box saw Newport given the chance to whip a free kick in on 51 minutes, Ritchie Sutton was on hand to clear Stags’ lines however the visitors failed to counter.
Ryan Jackson was booked seven minutes later for kicking the ball away, seconds later Matt Rhead was also booked for back chatting to the referee as both players began to feel the frustrations of the second half drop in tempo.
Paul Cox then switched formation on 64 minutes as Lee Beevers made way for Ollie Palmer, the former Havent & Waterlooville man went straight upfront to partner Rhead, with Clucas and Hutchinson taking their place out wide in a flat 4-4-2 formation.
The switch soon paid dividends as Sam Clucas levelled things on 67 minutes, the wide man converting from a Ben Hutchinson corner, reacting before the Newport defence to score his second in as many games with his head, the corner coming after sustained pressure down the left hand side.
Two minutes after Mansfield’s equalizer, Alan Marriott kept out opening goal scorer Chris Zebroski who managed to get goal side of the Stags back line, seconds later skipper Dempster went into the book as he fouled County sub Connor Washington. The resulting free kick saw Adam Chapman’s swinging ball bounce harmlessly wide of Marriott’s goal as the intensity of the game began to lift once more.
Ben Hutchinson was then replaced by Lindon Meikle as Cox injected some pace into the match on 74 minutes, seconds later Lee Minshull was shown a straight red card as he elbowed Martin Riley following a County free kick, Robbie Willmott was then immediately substituted for Michael Flynn as the hosts looked to best seal the numerical difference.
The numerical difference was soon rebalanced as the fiery nature of the fixture saw Stags reduced to ten men, striker Matt Rhead shown a second yellow card as he fouled the advancing County man Harry Worley on the edge of the Stags box with ten minutes to go.
Newport made their final throw of the dice on 85 as Chapman made way for Ryan Burge, neither side could go onto take all three points with Stags the closest late on, as Chris Clements’ dangerous corner was eventually cleared.
FULL TIME: Newport County 1-1 Mansfield Town
REFEREE: David Phillips
ATTENDANCE: 3,709 (212)
STAGS: Alan Marriott, Lee Beevers (Ollie Palmer 64), Ritchie Sutton, John Dempster ©, Martin Riley, James Jennings, Jamie McGuire, Chris Clements, Ben Hutchinson (Lindon Meikle 74), Matt Rhead, Sam Clucas
UNUSED SUBS: Liam Mitchell, Lee Stevenson, Anthony Howell, Calvin Andrew, Junior Daniel.
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