Boro lose but make play-offs
Mansfield 2 Stevenage Boro 1 Boro stumbled their way into the play-offs at Field Mill this afternoon despite a late Aaron O Connor strike giving Mansfield all three points. Kidderminster s failure to beat Kettering ensured it didn t matter what Boro did
Mansfield 2 Stevenage Boro 1
Boro stumbled their way into the play-offs at Field Mill this afternoon despite a late Aaron O'Connor strike giving Mansfield all three points.
Kidderminster's failure to beat Kettering ensured it didn't matter what Boro did and Graham Westley's side can finally celebrate claiming the final play-off spot.
Mitchell Cole will be the most relieved man in Hertfordshire this evening after he was sent off for an act of petulance at the end of the first half allowing Mansfield to gain the initiative in the second period.
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Scott Garner duly fired the Stags into the lead in the 70th minute but Scott Laird equalised with a fine strike in front of the 785 travelling Boro fans.
O'Connor had the last word, however, when he fired home after a nice weaving run but it didn't matter as the final whistle at Aggborough soon followed setting up a play-off semi-final date against Cambridge United.
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Graham Westley kept faith with the same side that despatched of Kidderminster on Tuesday night meaning Mark Albrighton continued to deputise at centre half in place of Jon Ashton due to a shoulder injury.
The one change came on the bench as Gary Mills came into the match day 16 with Peter Vincenti missing out.
Darren Murphy had the first shot in anger as early as the second minute after good work by Steve Morison, but his low 25-yard effort was easily saved by Stags' 'keeper Alan Marriott.
Mansfield were dealt a blow in the sixth minute when skipper Jonathan D'Laryea limped off to be replaced by Curtis Shaw and Boro were certainly in the ascendancy in the early stages.
Both Morison and Boylan looked lively although Ronnie Henry was the next to try his luck from long range but his right-footed effort sailed over the crossbar.
Mansfield then started to show signs why they haven't lost at home since January as they started to put pressure on the Boro back four.
Only an outstanding tackle from Mark Roberts prevented Rob Duffy from opening the scoring after being teed up by Daryl Clare in the penalty area.
It was the kind of tackle all Boro fans have come to expect from the former Northwich Victoria defender, who has flourished under Westley since his move to the Lamex Stadium.
Darren Murphy, who has struggled at times since his move from Cork, then had a golden opportunity just before the half hour mark when Andy Drury produced a superb cross from the right flank that found the Irishman six yards out from goal.
Murphy simply had to hit the target to open the scoring but the midfielder failed to make a proper contact and his effort skewed horribly wide.
Drury opened up the Mansfield defence again in the 37th minute when he found Cole free at the back post but Adie Moses had spotted the danger and hacked the winger's cross clear with Boylan set to pounce in the six-yard box.
Boro looked comfortable then a moment of stupidity from Cole gave Boro a mountain to climb as he was shown the red card.
The 23-year-old had been dispossessed on the left wing by Scott Gardner, who emerged with the ball before Cole, frustrated at not beating his man, aimed a kick at the defender.
While he did not connect, the referee had no option but to send the former Grays man for an early bath.
Boylan dropped into the left midfield role vacated by Cole's departure and the Boro faithful braced themselves for a nervy second half.
Westley had obviously encouraged his side to continue pushing forward after the break and Marriott had to be quick off his line to deny Drury after the former Lewes man had latched on to Morison's flick on.
Michael Bostwick then had a sight of goal in the 54th minute when Morison laid off to the midfielder on the edge of the area but his drilled strike was well saved by Marriott.
Boro had a massive let-off 10 minutes later when Ryan Williams had a goal disallowed for handball. Silk managed to get past Laird down the left before swinging the ball over for Williams, who controlled and finished low past Day.
The Mansfield midfielder wheeled away in celebration but this was curtailed when the linesman called over the referee to say he had used his hand to control the ball.
Boro almost took full advantage of their reprieve when Morison found Drury in the penalty area but the midfielder dwelled on it too long and allowed Silk to make a last-ditch tackle.
Mansfield were starting to make the extra man tell, however, and in the 70th minute they took the lead thanks to an absolute beauty from Garner.
The ball arrived bouncing towards the defender 30 yards from goal and he unleashed a fearsome strike that flew past Day into the top corner. Boro's play-off hopes were hanging by a thread as all thoughts turned towards what was going on between Kidderminster and Kettering.
Morison should have got Boro back on level terms when Roberts' knockdown found him one-on-one against Marriott but the Stags' shot-stopper denied the former Northampton man.
The danger still wasn't cleared, however, and the ball fell to Boylan, who blazed over from 10 yards.
But Boro did finally get the goal they deserved in the 84th minute thanks to a sweet strike from Laird. The ball fell to the former Plymouth man on the edge of the area and he produced a wonderful effort that flew past Marriott.
News also filtered through that Kettering had scored against Kidderminster prompting jubilation among the travelling Boro support.
The Stevenage players appeared to lose focus allowing O'Connor to embark on a solo run before curling past Day into the far corner.
But it didn't matter, Kidderminster's failure to beat Kettering meant Boro were in the play-offs.
Mansfield Town (4-4-2): Marriott 8, Silk 7, Garner 7, Moses 6, Gardner 6, Arnold 6, D'Laryea 6 (Shaw 6), Hotchkiss 6, Williams 7, Clare 7 (Stallard 76), Duffy 6 (O'Connor 25). Subs not used: White, Naylor.
Boro (4-4-2): Day 7, Henry 7, Albrighton 7, Roberts 8, Laird 7, Drury 7 (Mendes 79), Murphy 7, Bostwick 6, Cole 5, Boylan 6 (Willock 88), Morison 7. Subs not used: Bayes, Wilson, Mills.
Referee: J West