Saturday, 2nd March 2013: Mansfield Town 1 AFC Telford United 0

Despite hitting the woodwork four times in the first half, it took Matt Green’s 17th goal of the season for Mansfield Town to chalk up a ninth win in 10 games and finally see off bottom club AFC Telford at the One Call Stadium this afternoon.

The visitors, whose manager Mark Cooper walked out on them the day before after only 30 days in charge, had lost their previous 20 games stretching back to 6th October.

And, looking a poor side that is in a true position in the league, the Bucks spent much of the afternoon under the cosh and riding their luck as Stags entertained a decent home crowd with some excellent play as Paul Cox’s men rose to third in the table.

Telford’s cause wasn’t helped when Karlton Watson was sent-off on 75 minutes for his second bookable offence.

Stags were forced into a change in the centre of defence. John Dempster failed to recover from a knock picked up in midweek and was replaced at centre half by Ritchie Sutton.

There were also two changes on the bench with a return to the 16 for big defender Exodus Geohaghon and back in from the cold was forgotten man Jamie Tolley, not involved in the 16 since Gateshead away back in August.

Mansfield made a positive start and worked the ball along the edge of the Telford box, Green’s pass to Clements seeing the midfielder shoot low and wide with just 16 seconds on the watch.

A great ball down the centre from Murray picked out Green whose instant shot was blocked by Ford.

And on six minutes Briscoe was given some space to run at the Bucks just outside the box, and he almost punished them with a thunderous shot that came back down off the underside of the bar and was poked behind to safety for a corner.

Salmon was in the way of a first time shot from Daniel on the left after Stevenson’s pass had switched the play.

Jennings won the home side a second corner on 10 minutes which was eventually cleared after Jones’ initial header prompted an almighty scramble.

Telford finally eased the pressure with their first foray into the home half on 12 minutes, Marriott comfortably claiming Valentine’s far post cross from the left.

Young was equally decisive as he caught Jennings’ inswinging corner three minutes later.

But the visitors might have snatched the lead against the run of play on 16 minutes as Craney’s long free kick picked out Rose who failed to guide his free header on target as it bounced wide of the far post.

A superb home move involving a dozen passes ended with Briscoe rifling over a rising 20 yard shot, which drew warm applause from the stands.

Jennings could have few complaints about his 20th minute booking as he let Reid turn him on a Telford break near the halfway line and took his legs away.

Stags were reliant on Marriott saving the day on 29 minutes after Jones somehow wriggled his way completely free down the centre. He evaded several challenges and then had a slice of luck as Sutton’s tackle on him saw the ball bounce back into Jones’ face and back into his path as he went one-on-one with Marriott, only to see the keeper block the finish with his legs.

Stags rattled the Telford crossbar again on 32 minutes, Murray this time steadying himself as a headed clearance came his way, 20 yards from goal, and he met it with a dipping volley that just didn’t dip quickly enough for him.

Jones took a knock in his challenge with Marriott and went off on 33 minutes, replaced by Graham.

Watson was booked on 35 minutes for a cynical trip on Stevenson as the midfielder made space for a shot just outside the box. Daniel took charge of the free kick but blasted it tamely into the wall.

Next a Beevers long throw was headed out towards Daniel, who met it with a volley that flew over the bar, and seconds later Jones sliced a finish just over the angle as the Bucks hung on.

Some risky footwork in his own box saw Beevers bring the ball away and almost set Green on his way, the move halted by a very questionable offside flag.

On 41 minutes the away goal led a charmed life as Stags again twice hit the woodwork.

First Green’s delightful far post chip from the right found Daniel at the far post where he could only turn the ball against the foot of the post.

Stevenson curled the ball back into the middle from the left by-line and this time keeper Young turned the ball onto his own crossbar.

The game was halted after a clash of heads between Stevenson and Rose left both players on the floor.

In stoppage time Rose was crowded out in the six yard box as he tried to guide a low Graham cross home from the left.

Then Stevenson broke well down the left and, despite the attentions of two defenders, managed to get in a low on-target shot from a tight angle that Young had to get behind as the half ended scoreless.

Meikle came on for Briscoe on the wing for the second half.

And within four minutes a moment of opportunism by Green broke the deadlock.

Watson was caught in possession 40 yards from goal by a hungry Green who then raced away down the centre and nonchalantly flicked a cool finish past Young with the outside of his right boot for his 17th goal of the campaign.

Meikle cut in from the right to curl in a shot that, via a deflection, only just beat the far post to roll for a corner.

A second corner soon followed from which Jones sent a far post header straight to Young’s hands.

Marriott had safe hands as Rose fired a 20 yard shot on target from Reid’s square pass in a rare Bucks raid.

Stevenson was furious when he appeared to be pulled down in the box by Rose on the hour and play was allowed to continue.

Clements was unlucky as he received a return pass from Green’s neat backheel to offer him a shooting chance from 20 yards that he couldn’t keep down.

Stevenson tried his luck with a 30 yard free kick which just swerved wide at the last minute with Young beaten.

Wright took over from Daniel on 72 minutes as Stags waited to take a corner which, when Jennings sent it in, was headed home by Jones, whose celebrations were quickly halted as the referee awarded Telford a foul instead.

Telford’s hopes of a comeback took a nosedive on 75 minutes when Watson was booked for a second time for a needless late challenge on Murray and was shown the red card, the Mansfield skipper needing treatment.

Jones was wide with a near post header from a long Beevers throw as we entered the last 10 minutes.

Young then needed a second grab to hold onto a wicked Meikle shot that curled in the air as it reached the keeper.

Mansfield forced two more corners, Jones’ header from the first striking a Telford hand, the referee happy it was ball to hand, and Stevenson too high with his overhead kick from the second.

More home pressure saw Young made a fine reaction save to push away Green’s shot on the turn.

There was a heart-stopping moment in the final minute as AFC almost stole an equaliser they didn’t deserve as Rose guided a header just wide from a Graham cross. But it would have been an injustice as Stags celebrated yet another victory on this superb run.

STAGS: Marriott; Beevers, Sutton, Jones, Jennings; Murray, Clements, Stevenson; Briscoe (Meikle HT), Green, Daniel (Wright 72). Subs not used: Rhead, Tolley, Geohaghon.

AFC TELFORD: Young, Salmon, Valentine, Craney, Trainer, Jones (Graham 33), Reid, Ford, Watson, Rose, Henry (Rodney 81). Subs not used: Smith, Leslie, Taylor.

REFEREE: Charles Breakspear of Walton-on-Thames.

ATTENDANCE: 2,725 (67 away).