New-look Mansfield Town took a major step forward with a superb display and a vital point from today’s battling 0-0 home draw with League Two leaders Wycombe Wanderers.
The Stags again created a wealth of chances only to see the post deny them twice in five minutes, keeper Michael Ingram pull off two superb first half stoppage time saves, and the Chairboys make block after block in front of their goal.
Few gave struggling Stags a prayer against a Wycombe side that arrived nine League games unbeaten.
But the visitors know they were lucky to leave with a point from a game in which Stags had to be more gritty then pretty on a soaking wet surface that had the match in doubt overnight.
However, Wycombe sub Mat McClure almost stole a win right at the end in stoppage time which would have been unjust.
Thankfully he put what was the visitors’ only real opportunity in the game straight into the hands of keeper Adam Smith.
Ricky Ravenhill celebrated being made skipper with an all-action display in the middle of the park, his early crunching challenge on Peter Murphy getting the crowd going and sparking a feisty afternoon which saw eight bookings.
Michael Raynes was a tower of aerial strength at the back while Ryan Tafazolli did well on his return from illness alongside him.
Vadaine Oliver won almost everything in the air up front and on another day would have ended the game with a hat-trick.
Martin Riley, who made that awful backpass that cost Stags so dearly last weekend, was left out, though said to be injured. He was replaced by fit-again Tafazolli.
There was also a full debut for winger Matty Blair, who came in to replace Reggie Lambe.
Raynes was almost caught out as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a goalkick in the opening minute, pursued by two opponents, but luckily the ball broke off a Wycombe player for a goalkick.
Then Smith’s first touch from a backpass was a little heavy and he had to quickly clear before Wycombe were able to pounce.
There was a hold-up on five minutes after Murphy went into a challenge with Ravenhill and came out with a cut head, claiming he had been elbowed.
A couple of feisty challenges followed as tempers rose.
Stags won the first corner on nine minutes only for Tafazolli to be penalised for holding at the far post.
Ravenhill was lectured on 11 minutes after catching Bloomfield in a tackle.
The Wycombe players surrounded the referee trying to get Ravenhill booked, but the cards stayed in the pocket.
The complaints continued as the game restarted.
Clements tried to send Kee through, Mawson slid in and made a challenge which Stags felt was a foul, but the referee felt he’d got the ball.
We finally had the first shot at goal after 20 minutes, Jacobson drilling a 30 yard free kick straight to Smith.
Three minutes later Smith dived to his left to gather a low Bean shot from 25 yards.
With Stags unable to make any impression going forward, Brown and Blair switched flanks.
Stags won corner number two on 27 minutes. Before that was taken Murphy was booked for his incessant moaning since the Ravenhill tackle.
Jacobson was too high with a looping effort from 25 yards after a poor clearance from Brown.
Finally Mansfield created real danger on 34 minutes as Brown’s far post cross reached Oliver who was unable to direct it on target from a great position, the ball coming back off the far post.
Encouraged by that, Brown then cut inside and lifted a shot well over.
This was much better by Kee and Oliver set up Blair for a shot that was blocked for a corner.
Wycombe struggled to clear that as two shots were blocked and then a Raynes shot clipped a defender and hit the post on 39 minutes.
Raynes was booked for a trip on Wood in the last minute of the 45. The free kick was half cleared and Mawson swung it back across, Murphy trying to reach it with a diving header but failing to make contact.
Three minutes were added on in which Stags piled on the pressure.
Kee’s flick set up Oliver for a low shot that Ingram blocked at full stretch. Kee’s first follow-up seemed to strike the hand of Mawson and his second follow-up was kicked off the line by Pierre.
A minute later Ingram made a great save from a Raynes header from a left wing corner and then Oliver’s follow-up was blocked as the Stags left the pitch to warm applause.
Mansfield came back out in the same mood and quickly forced successive corners.
Then Wood went in late on Ravenhill on 49 minutes for a booking.
A minute later Ravenhill blazed a first time shot from 25 yards narrowly wide.
Wycombe’s first corner came on 55 minutes which Oliver headed away and Sutton cleared.
Stags then broke well and Oliver helped the ball on to Clements whose had the sting taken out of his finish by Pierre’s challenge.
Brown was in the book on the hour for a late challenge on Jacobson with Wycombe again trying to get him sent off.
Onyedinma joined him on 63 minutes for kicking the ball after the whistle had gone.
Mawson could have been sent off two minutes later for his studs-showing challenge on Ravenhill but escaped with a booking.
Two more home corners followed as the pressure and noise from the stands turned up again.
And Oliver should have done better from the second on 67 minutes as he was left free to sidefoot well wide.
Pierre’s cynical trip on Brown added his name to the book on 69 minutes.
In a rare chance, Wanderers won a corner on 75 minutes which Mawson headed over at the far post.
Raynes then did well to get in the way of an Onyedinma shot from a tight angle.
Back came Stags and Jacobson did well to outjump Oliver at the far post to concede a corner.
Tafazolli was booked on 82 minutes for blocking off the run of Onyedinma – the eighth yellow card of the game.
With six minutes to go Rhead took over for Oliver up front for Stags.
Stags felt Murphy had dived for his free kick just outside the box in the last minute, but Jacobson’s free kick was straight at the home wall.
Both sides made double changes in the first of four added minutes, Blair and Kee replaced by Lambe and Fisher.
Chairboys sub McClure might have won it against the run of play in the fifth added minute as he chased a long ball down the left, got goalside of Sutton but then lifted a tame finish at Smith.
It would have been a travesty had that gone in and Stags were rightly applauded from the field at the end.
STAGS: Smith; Sutton, Tafazolli, Raynes, Elder; Blair (Lambe 90+1), Ravenhill, Clements, Brown; Kee (Fisher 90+1), Oliver (Rhead 84). Subs not used: Studer, McGuire, Heslop, Beevers. WYCOMBE: Ingram, Jombati, Jacobson, Pierre, Bean, Bloomfield, Wood (McClure 90+1), Murphy (Ephraim 90+1), Onyedinma, Holloway, Mawson. Subs not used: Richardson, Craig, Kretzschmar, Senior. REFEREE: Eddie Ilderton of Tyne and Wear.
ATTENDANCE: 2,759 (382 away). CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Vadaine Oliver.