Disciplinary issues and lack of cutting edge sees the Stags miss out on a valuable victory against fellow promotion contenders Newport County


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Games between Mansfield Town and Newport County are always fantastic and bring a lot of excitement, controversy and goals.

The match at Rodney Parade was no different as a game of two halves saw the fixture inevitably end in a 1-1 draw, to the amazement of both sets of supporters.

Nigel Clough’s men had the better chances in the first period, however, the finishing touch was not there for the Stags as they missed chance after chance.

In the second half, it was Mansfield who got ahead through a Josh Pask own goal. The returning Stephen McLaughlin arrowed a low shot goalwards which deflected off the Newport defender, past goalkeeper Nick Townsend and into an empty net.

Five minutes later, Clough’s side were down to 10 men after a melee involving all the players from both sides ensued.

Oli Hawkins looked to stop a quick throw-in from Courtney Baker-Richardson as the duo tangled on the touchline. This saw John-Joe O’Toole get involved and drag back the Newport forward as the play was momentarily stopped and the referee talked to his assistants regarding who was the guilty party.

After minutes of deliberations, O’Toole was shown a red card and Hawkins was also booked, however, none of the Newport players received bookings even though they were clearly involved in the fight.

Ten minutes from the end, the hosts were awarded a penalty as Scott Bennett’s shot hit the outstretched arm of Hawkins. The Exiles’ talisman Dom Telford calmly converted the spot-kick from 12 yards to level the game at 1-1 and set up an interesting finale to the encounter.

Newport huffed and puffed but the resilient 10-man Stags held onto a point with dear life. However, it will feel like two points dropped than one point gained for Mansfield as they were in complete cruise control in the first half and should have converted their chances.

Disciplinary issues costing the Stags once more

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It is not the first time that bookings have cost Mansfield Town. O’Toole’s red card against Newport is the fifth time a Stags player has been given their marching orders this season.

With tempers flared after a coming together between Hawkins and Baker-Richardson, O’Toole unnecessarily dragged the Exiles forward away which caused an even bigger uproar.

Referee Will Finnie looked reluctant to book anyone but had to send off the Mansfield defender due to violent conduct.

To make matters worse, Hawkins was shown his 10th yellow card of the season which means he is suspended for the next few games.

Stephen Quinn and McLaughlin were also booked in the latter stages of the game as the Stags let their heads go and were unable to keep their anger under control.

Stags boss Nigel Clough expressed his frustration after his main centre-back pairing earned themselves a two-game and three-game suspension respectively during the brawl.

“I was a long long way away for a start,” said Clough.

“First of all, I can’t believe Oli Hawkins with his experience would even want to get involved, all he has to do is spring back into his position and deal with the throw in.

“Sometimes with these players things go through their heads, you’ll have to explain because I can’t fathom it.

“He’s on nine bookings, the crowd are quiet, the game’s dead, we’re winning 1-0 in complete control.

“He wants to try and rile the crowd and get himself involved in something he shouldn’t. He got himself a yellow card so he’s now missing for two games.

“His partner in crime alongside him [O’Toole] decides to get himself involved and get a red.

“When you’re playing as well as we are at the moment and are in complete control, there’s no excuse.”

Mansfield Town will now miss their defensive duo for the games against Bradford City, Exeter City and Tranmere Rovers, crucial games which could decide the Stags’ fate this campaign.

Lack of cutting edge in front of goal

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With the amber and blues missing the likes of Rhys Oates and Jamie Murphy, Clough opted to overload the midfield and deploy Lucas Akins as the lone striker.

Throughout the first half, Mansfield created plenty of chances and should have been out of sight by the half-time interval.

Matty Longstaff, Stephen Quinn, Akins, George Maris, Ollie Clarke and Stephen McLaughlin all had chances but failed to take them.

Townsend was also resilient in goal as he made a few saves to keep the scores level as the hosts hung on for dear life.

In the second half, the momentum shifted as the Stags only recorded a handful of chances but were unable to get any on target with the breakthrough goal being classed as a Pask own goal.

Jordan Bowery and Danny Johnson were named as substitutes but it may have been a good idea to give the duo a start as their attacking threat cannot be undermined.

With that being said, the Stags missed the pace of Oates, the trickery of Murphy and the hold-up play of Bowery which was on full display against Colchester United in Mansfield’s 2-1 win.

The chances that were presented for Clough’s side should have been taken, with a win easily achievable if those efforts were turned into goals.

Two points dropped rather than a point gained

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Amidst all the chaos, the Stags still managed to pick up a point against a fellow promotion contender, but it should have been an easy victory after such a dominant first half.

Defending fantastically and driving forward with ease, Mansfield were the victims of their own downfall and the red card sort of highlighted the afternoon they had at the Rodney Parade.

With no Hawkins and O’Toole through suspension for the next few games, the amber and blues will have to rely on their squad depth and versatility in the squad.

It is hard to predict a Nigel Clough starting lineup ahead of any league game so it is virtually impossible to do so now, especially with the centre-back pairing missing.

However, one thing that is certain is that the Stags will battle on and will show that even when the going gets tough, they will pull through it as a team.

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