STAGS RETRO: Kearney penalty sends Mansfield Town through to area final over Middlesbrough, 10th March 1987

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Mansfield Town manager Ian Greaves usually gives short shrift, to the soccer pundits who believe in “horses for courses”.

To be more explicit - to those who maintain that a football club has certain venues where they can expect fortuitous results... or vice-versa... no matter their status.

But before Tuesday night’s visit to meet Middlesbrough in the Northern Area semi-final of the Freight Rover Trophy, Greaves was prepared to forget his aversion to omesn, for he rated Ayresome Park as one of his lucky venues, both as a player and a manager.

And at the end of the 90 minutes “Guru” Greaves had every right to stick to his Boro’ lucky omen.

Portents

Mind you there were other promising portents to be considered.

Skipper George Foster had never been on a losing side on previous visits to the Boro’ headquarters.

Then perhaps of more significance, Bury and Blackpool were two of the only three clubs to have won at Ayresome Park this season... and the Stags had seen them both off, and on their own grounds too, in the past fortnight.

But there was nothing fortunate, or dependant on omens about the Stags gutsy performance as they clinched a place in the Northern Area final of the competition for the second time in three seasons, to leave themselves just 180 minutes away from a trip down Wembley way.

At no time during the enire 90 minutes did the Stags look to have lost control of the game, against a Boro’ side currently in third place in the table.

Onslaught

They rode out the expected early onslaught from the home side and in fact created the two best chances of the half at the other end, Neville Chamberlain guiding one just wide and forcing goalkeeper Stephen Pears into a good save from the other.

And in the meantime, Kevin Hitchcock was well protected and hardly had to make a single save of note, despite the pressure.

David Hodgson, back at his former club on loan from Norwich City, had the best Boro’ chance of the night just a minute after the restart, but he dallied too long and Tony Kenworthy was able to rectify the situation.

Mansfield’s 75th minute lead, when it came, was nothing less than they deserved after Keith Cassells had been scythed down in the area.

MARK KEARNEY stepped up to fire the spot kick home - with half of the Mansfield players just unable to look on.

And still there was drama right up to the very last minute when Gary Gill forced the ball into the Mansfield net.

But Boro’s joy was shortlived, for a linesman’s flag cancelled out the goal in favour of an offside decision.

That - and the final whistle seconds later - sent the hundreds of travelling Mansfield fans into almost delirious celebrations as they were saluted by the players.

The Stags must wait until tonight before discovering their final opponents, for the Wrexham-Chester semi was called off on Tuesday because of a snowbound pitch and is due to be played tonight (Thursday).

Match details

Middlesbrough: Pears, Coyle (79 mins Kerr), Cooper, Mowbray, Parkinson, Kernaghan, Slaven, Stephens, Hamilton, Gill, Hodgson (70 mins Ripley).

Mansfield Town: Hitchcock, graham, Garner, Lowery, Foster, Kenworthy, Kent, Chamberlain, Whatmore, Cassells, Kearney. Substitutes: Stringfellow, McKernon.

Referee: Mr D. B. Allison (Lancaster).

Attendance: 11,754.

Scoreline: Stags: 75 mins - Kearney pen.

Bookings: Boro’ - Hamilton. Stags - Cassells.