Saturday, 21st December 2013: Mansfield Town 2 Accrington Stanley 3

An incredible finish at One Call Stadium saw Accrington Stanley net twice in stoppage time to snatch a 3-2 victory from the jaws of defeat against a Mansfield Town side that have now gone 12 miserable League matches without a win.

It piles the pressure on manager Paul Cox and his players after fans saw an eighth home game without victory and another late capitulation.

Recalled John McCombe’s first two goals for the club looked to have set Stags on course for a much-needed win on an afternoon when two nervous sides, lacking in confidence, had fought out a poor game in windy conditions.

Accrington’s earlier equaliser had been thanks to a deflection and they only had three shots on target all afternoon, all of which found the net.

Just as Stags were waiting on the final whistle 2-1 up, Kai Naismith hit his second goal of the game to level on 90+3 minutes.

And, with Mansfield players and fans still shellshocked, James Gray then popped up at 90+5 minutes to grab an unlikely winner and spark joyous scenes on the visitors’ bench and behind the West Stand goal.

The result saw Accrington leapfrog Stags – a far cry from when Stanley were rooted bottom and Stags in the top three after the win at Chesterfield.

It meant the revived visitors have won now three and drawn two of their last six games on the road.

Mansfield made five changes from the midweek FA Cup defeat by Oldham. With John Dempster suspended and Sam Clucas and Ben Hutchinson injured, Junior Daniel and Lindon Meikle were also dropped to the bench.

Into a 3-4-1-2 came John McCombe and Ritchie Sutton at the back alongside Martin Riley with Daryll Westlake moved up as wing back, James Jennings back in on the other flank, and Lee Stevenson in to play in the hole behind a front pairing of Calvin Andrew, back in from the cold, alongside Ross Dyer.

Mingola sent in a cross carrying little threat from the left that Marriott easily gathered in the opening minute as the home side battled against a strong wind in their faces.

Andrew then headed clear a long range Naylor free kick.

Stags broke from that but Dyer was caught offside.

Riley took a bang on the head, putting a long Hunt throw out for a corner, which Westlake cleared at the near post.

Jennings did well to stick with Naismith in full flight and eventually managed to prevent the cross and win a goalkick to warm applause.

Riley went down again holding his head on the edge of the box, this time with blood streaming down his face.

The referee went across to his assistant to ask if he has seen anything untoward but nothing was given with Stags players protesting Riley had been the victim of a red card incident involving the collision with Gray.

Riley stayed down for lengthy treatment before coming back on with his head heavily bandaged.

Stags’ first corner came on 19 minutes which saw Riley head Murray’s far post kick back into the centre and Andrew miscue an ambitious overhead kick wide.

Murphy then sliced a difficult volleyed chance wide from Gray’s flick for Stanley.

Mansfield hit back with a pair of corners, and from the second swept in front on 23 minutes.

Jennings floated it in from the right and McCombe rose to head against the bar before making sure from close range as he rammed the follow-up high into the net.

Stevenson was a couple of feet wide of the target from 25 yards with a low effort four minutes later.

Accrington asked for a penalty when Riley controlled the ball and it flew up off his foot onto his hand, but it would have been harsh had he pointed to the spot.

Naylor whistled a 25-yard free kick narrowly over from just right of centre on the half-hour mark.

But a minute later Mingola nodded a deep ball perfectly back into the path of Gray, just inside the box, with time and space only to see him lash over and fail to make Marriott work.

There were jeers as Bettinelli completely miskicked at a back pass and conceded an unnecessary corner, but Jennings’ near post kick was cleared.

Dithering defending by Mansfield almost let in Gray. But, when he could have shot, he tried to dink a little pass towards no one in front of goal and wasted a truly dangerous moment.

Accrington continued to press and a half-cleared long throw saw Naismith snatch at the ball and whip it well over.

But Naylor did well to just outjump Dyer at the far post and concede a corner before he could put away a lovely Jennings cross.

From the corner Riley was too high with his far post header.

Straight away Dyer forced another corner for the home side, their sixth of the half with home fans screaming at their side to get on with it as they took their time and the ball was eventually caught by Bettinelli.

Four minutes were added on, but neither side looked likely to add to the scoreline at the end of a dire and nervous half of football.

However, Accrington were back on level terms with a huge slice of fortune within three minutes of the restart.

Mingola laid the ball inside to his right to Naismith, who lifted it innocuously towards the home goal only to see it take a deflection and sail wide of Marriott.

It was agony for the home side and typical of the luck of a side in such a poor run of results.

The home fans were irate and Jennings was booed for a poor, hurried low shot wide soon after.

Windass then shot from further out for the visitors, the ball again off target.

Jennings sent in a good free kick from the left which Riley got something on with a diving header but not enough to get it on target.

Naylor was well off with a hopeful 35-yard punt.

But Stanley were clearly encouraged by their equaliser and forced two corners, Marriott getting down to punch the second away and Naylor wide of the far angle with a cheeky first time shy at goal with the keeper out of position after the punch away.

Stevenson did well to win a loose pass and swap passes with Dyer before volleying wide from 20 yards.

Then McGuire was too high from 25 yards as he tried to use the wind to beat Bettinelli.

A loose header from Sutton then set up Stanley for another attack which ended with Naismith shooting wide.

Stevenson slid in well to win a tackle on the left and McGuire then helped the ball on to Murray whose finish was deflected for a corner.

And from that McCombe put Stags back in front.

Jennings put the ball over from the right and McCombe met it with a powerful shot that was blocked on the line only to see the ball roll back to the defender where he smashed it back through a crowd of players into the net from 12 yards.

As Stanley made a double change with 12 minutes left, sending on two strikers, Stags replaced Stevenson with Meikle.

Matt Rhead took over from Dyer and with three minutes left and Accrington pushing hard, Stags caught them on the break and Rhead’s slide rule pass sent Westlake away to seal the win only to see the keeper block with his legs.

Jennings was booked for a foul a minute into the four minutes of added time.

But with 90+3 on the watch the visitors were level again.

A long throw was headed away by McCombe to the edge of the box where Naismith poked a low finish back through everyone and just inside the post.

Incredibly more Stanley pressure saw McCombe win a tackle and the ball break towards Gray who smashed an 18-yard finish inside the left hand post to provoke and angry but not unexpected reaction from the home fans as the sides left the field.

STAGS: Marriott; Sutton, McCombe, Riley; Westlake, Murray, McGuire, Jennings; Stevenson (Meikle 78); Dyer (Rhead 86), Andrew (Daniel 89). Subs not used: Beevers, Clements, Deakin, Palmer.

ACCRINGTON: Bettinelli, Murphy, Joyce, Aldred, Winnard, Naismith, Mingola, Hunt (Bowerman 78), Gray, Windass (McCartan 78), Naylor. Subs not used: Liddle, Richardson, Hatfield, Wilson, Atkinson.

REFEREE: Carl Boyeson of Hull.

ATTENDANCE: 2,549 (73 away).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: John McCombe.