Calvin Andrew staked his claim for a start against York City on Saturday by scoring a dramatic late winner tonight at the One Call Stadium against Rotherham United.
Richard Cooper’s men had won their opening two fixtures of the campaign to top the Central League East Division table, however when Francois Zoko cancelled out Jake Speight’s early opener midway through the first half, the game looked like it was ending level before Andrew fired home in the dying seconds from Keiran Murtagh’s corner.
It hardly had the same impact as Matt Green’s winner at Hereford last term, but Cooper’s men had fought desperately to maintain their 100% record and the players involved naturally eager to get the chance of first team football, mindful of Paul Cox watching from the Ian Greaves Upper Tier.
Liam Mitchell arguably won Mansfield the points with a stunning man of the match display between the sticks, the gloves-man, whose deal expires soon, pulled off several excellent saves to deny the likes of former Crawley striker Matt Tubbs and the lively Danny Hylton.
Mansfield made a bright start to the encounter with Lindon Meikle picking up the ball in midfield and chipping the ball to Jake Speight. The front man who looks set to exit turned well against former Stags trialist Pablo Mills but fired horribly wide of the target.
On three minutes however, Speight knew exactly where the back of the net was as he gave the Stags the lead. Advancing full back Junior Daniel made the goal with a pacey cross which flashed across the six yard box – Speight converting with a powerful finishing getting ahead of his marker.
Keiran Muratgh had the opportunity to create a Stags second on ten minutes with a left sided free kick, his delivery was plucked out of the air well by Adam Collin and a minute later, it was the visitors that had their first sight of goal as a low cross deflected off the back of John McCombe and into the path of Zoko, who fortunately fired into the empty Quarry Lane End.
Liam Mitchell then kept Stags ahead with two excellent stops in as many minutes, the first on 28 minutes as he palmed away a point blank effort from Tubbs before Salem Kerkar romped down the left hand side and into the box. Former Notts County man Mitchell pushed the ball away before Tubbs sent the follow up crashing against the cross bar, allowing the Stags keeper to collect the loose ball.
Lindon Meikle tested the water at the other end on the half hour mark with a low drive, the Stags were left to rue the missed opportunity eight minutes later as Kerkar’s left sided free kick was turned home by Zoko from close range – the Stags defence static to the pacey set play.
Both sides had efforts before the break to take the lead, Stags came close with Jake Speight and Calvin Andrew whilst it took the safe hands of Liam Mitchell to again deny Matt Tubbs on the stroke of half time as a slip from John McCombe allowed the dangerous front man a sniff of goal.
The second half lacked as much pace although it was Rotherham the brighter, Mitchell keeping out two free kicks and several free headers most notably a powerful flick from Mills on 62 minutes moments before youngster Liam Marsden went into the referee’s book.
Jake Speight spurned two excellent chances for Stags, the second of which saw Collin save well with his legs in a one verses one situation after Andrew had slotted through his strike partner.
Once again Liam Mitchell came to the Stags’ rescue on 74 minutes as a stray ball forward avaided Tafazolli and fell for Tubbs – the Crawley man reacted instinctively, as did Mitchell who palmed the ball away allowing Marsden to clear.
As the match went into the final minute of stoppage time, it looked as if the match would end level – however Mansfield kept pushing and grabbed the winner through Calvin Andrew as the front man stabbed home the loose ball following Murtagh’s low corner.
FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 2-1 Rotherham United
Referee: James Bell
Stags: Liam Mitchell, Liam Marsden, John McCombe, Ryan Tafazolli, Junior Daniel, Louis Briscoe ©, Keiran Murtagh, Anthony Howell, Lindon Meikle, Jake Speight, Calvin Andrew
Unused Subs: Ian Deakin, Jack Hawkins, Ben Birch, Joe Flint, Jason Gregory, Jack Thomas, Godfrey Poku
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