STAGS WIN IN LAST MINUTE AT KENILWORTH ROAD
Blue Square Bet Premier
Luton Town 2 - 3 Mansfield Town
Rendell 37, Gray 47. Green pen 31, Daniel 44, Meikle 90.
Attendance: 5968 (410 from Mansfield)
Date: 23 February 2013
Martin Shaw, Simon Chamberlain and Jeff Barnes at Kenilworth Road
If there is one ground in the entire world where you would want to win a league game in the last minute, it would have to be Kenilworth Road. With the game locked at 2-2 and Luton, for the first time in the game, pushing for a winner, super-sub Lindon Meikle popped up in the six yard box to poke home after the Stags had broken forward with Luton having too many men committed forward. The goal came in front of the massed travelling Stags fans who were sent into raptures. Earlier, the opening half an hour was quiet as the Stags silenced the home fans. Then the Stags should have been given a penalty when Daniel was clearly tripped by Wayne Thomas in the box. Unbelievably the referee waved away appeals. Two minutes later, Daniel was tripped again in a carbon copy incident, this time by McNulty, and this time the referee couldn't ignore it. Green clinically finished low into the left corner of the net from the spot. Luton were level when the Stags were down to ten men as Beevers's shoulder had popped out. A cross from the left was deflected into the path of Scott Rendell who was the spare man in the box, and easily neat Marriott. The Stags showed great character to come back and re-take the lead, as good play between Green and Stevenson, and Stevenson fed Daniel who was in space on the left and beat Tyler in the Luton goal. Luton were back level again just after half time as the pacey Andre Gray got away from Dempster and coolly slotted past Marriott for a terrific goal. On the balance of play the Stags were the better team, but in the final few minutes it was Luton who looked the more likely winners, desperately trying to keep their play-off hopes alive, but it was Lindon Meikle who had the final say.
Stagsnet report in the Match Centre.
Stags' supersub Lindon Meikle stuns Luton with late winner
CHAD report by John Lomas
SUBSTITUTE Lindon Meikle was the last minute hero as magnificent Mansfield Town finally reeled off a sixth away win in seven trips, after taking the lead three times, to eventually kill off promotion rivals Luton Town in a thriller at Kenilworth Road today.
Meikle popped up with a last minute winner to finally finish off the Hatters, who had twice earlier come back with levellers to wipe out goals from Matt Green, from the penalty spot, and then Junior Daniel.
The fading Hatters knew that, 11 points adrift of the play-offs before the game, they had to win it.
But Mansfield showed the resilience that has recently become a feature on their travels, despite a variety of setbacks on the day.
The Stags lost Anthony Howell to injury in the pre-match warm-up, saw Lee Beevers have to get his shoulder popped back into place and continue in a first half dislocation, and also saw Luton grab their first equaliser thanks to a massive deflection. So Luton could hardly claim the visitors had Lady Luck on their side.
This result hauled Stags up to level points with Forest Green in sixth place, but Mansfield have two games in hand.
Mansfield suffered a pre-match blow when Howell pulled up with a knee problem in the warm-up, having injured it the previous day.
That meant Clements was quickly promoted into the midfield with Hutchinson taking his place on the bench.
It was the first change to the team in five games.
Amid the usual hostile home atmosphere, McNulty headed away Stags' first corner on four minutes, then Tyler comfortably gathered Briscoe's curling cross in from the right.
Jones then got his head to a Lawless free kick into the heart of the Mansfield box.
The whistle had already gone for pushing on nine minutes when Thomas continued play to head past Marriott from a long free kick.
Stags won a second corner from which referee Mr Thomas spotted pushing and the chance was wasted.
The 12th minute saw the first real goal attempt in a tense opening as Gray pulled a tame shot wide of the near post from 18 yards.
A good turn from Gray won the Hatters their first corner on 20 minutes. Jones headed it clear and Smith finally dipped a hopeful shot wide of the far post from 30 yards.
A minute later Stevenson's pass put Briscoe into the right of the box and, from a tight angle, he forced Tyler down to smother his low shot at the near post.
Murray was hurt sliding into a 50-50 challenge with Smith on 24 minutes, the Stags' skipper in agony and needing treatment. Thankfully he was able to continue.
Tyler smothered a dangerous Daniel cross as hostilities resumed.
Daniel was hoping for a penalty as he went down over a loose challenge from the outstretched leg of Thomas on 29 minutes, but nothing was given.
But Daniel did win a spot kick two minutes later from which the visitors grabbed the lead.
The home fans had already started groaning at their team's efforts as Stags began to edge the possession. And when McNulty was a fraction late with his lunge on Daniel in the box, their misery was complete as the referee pointed to the spot.
Green took responsibility and, although Tyler went the right way, Green's kick was perfectly placed and inside the post.
On the restart, there was a lengthy hold-up as Beevers stayed down after a challenge. There seemed a concern over his shoulder and he was given oxygen as medics attended to the problem.
As play resumed with Mansfield down to 10 men, Luton pounced to level.
The equaliser had a massive element of fortune. Smith received a throw on the left and fired in a shot which took a massive deflection into the path of Rendell, just 10 yards from goal, who could hardly miss as he poked the ball under Marriott.
Beevers, still in discomfort, bravely returned to the field on the restart to a chorus of boos from the home fans who had baited him the entire time he was down injured.
A great throw from Tyler sparked a move that won Luton another corner. Jones headed out as far as Lawless who then saw Murray throw himself in the way of his attempted strike.
However, a minute from the break, the visitors were back in front.
Green fed Stevenson on the edge of the box and, eschewing the chance to shoot, he intelligently squared the ball into space to his left where Daniel was racing in a far better position, and his low finish was cool and clinical.
Four minutes of stoppage time were safely negotiated before the home side were booed off by their supporters with Stags sitting pretty.
Mansfield made a great start to the second half with a corner inside the opening minute, cleared to Briscoe, who shot wide from 20 yards.
However, the Hatters were level on 47 minutes as Luton got Gray in behind Jennings on the right and he ran on to slot past Marriott.
The game quickly began to turn nasty with tackles flying in and, when Henry hacked down Daniel just outside the box, McNulty then kicking the ball into the fallen winger's body, Henry was finally booked.
A home corner, taken by Lawless, was headed over by Thomas on 58 minutes.
Slowly Mansfield began to regain the possession levels of the first half and keep Luton on the back foot which once again saw the natives becoming restless with their side.
The Hatters won a free kick just outside the box on 67 minutes only to see sub Howells curl well over the bar.
A Gray snapshot from 20 yards was closer two minutes later, but still ended up over the top.
Hutchinson took over from Stevenson on 74 minutes
On 80 minutes Clements flashed a low shot wide from the edge of thre box as the game screamed out for a hero at either end.
Then Daniel was inches away from getting his head on the end of a great cross by Green from the right by-line.
Briscoe's failure to clear a far post cross then offered a brief chance to Fleetwood, who thankfully miscued.
That signalled a period of home pressure, Marriott in the way of a Smith shot that was always routine for the keeper.
Meikle replaced Briscoe and immediately played a loose pas that saw Gray and Marriott in a race for a through ball, the Stags keeper winning the chase.
Meikle then became the hero of the day with an 89th minute winner.
Soaking up the home pressure, Stags broke well, Meikle running at the defence and squaring to Clements to his left.
Clements' low finish was half-stopped by Tyler, but the ball ran loose to Meikle who, following up, made no mistake, sweeping it past the fallen keeper to spark huge celebrations among the 400 Stags fans behind that goal.
The home scoreboard didn't even register the goal until the final whistle as Luton maybe realised their season is over.
LUTON: Tyler, Rowe-Turner, McNulty, Lawless, Rendell, Martin (Fleetwood 55), Neilson (Howells 63), Thomas, Smith, Henry, Gray. Subs not used: Ainge, Mendy, Brill.
STAGS: Marriott; Beevers, Jones, Dempster, Jennings; Clements, Murray, Stevenson (Hutchinson 74); Briscoe (Meikle 87), Green (Wright 90+3), Daniel. Subs not used: Sutton, Rhead.
REFEREE: Kevin Johnson of Somerset.
ATTENDANCE: 5,968 (410 away).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Adam Murray
Forget the play-offs, Mansfield Town can go all the way to the top
Nottingham Post report by Stevie Roden
HEADING down the M1 to Luton, the travelling army of Mansfield Town fans would have been met by a familiar scene.
There were cars and buses, all full of Bradford City fans, making their way to London with scarves, flags and foam hands hanging from the windows.
Some had their rear windscreens covered with a flag, others with the stickers of their heroes plastered against side windows.
The service stations were no different, with families decked out in the strip of the Bantams, finding it hard not to smile as they headed for their Wembley dream.
For them, it was yesterday's Capital One Cup final, a fairytale as a League Two side took on Premier League Swansea in the final.
They were so excited on the eve of the game, so much so they were heading for the Promised Land 24 hours early to make it a weekend of it.
For the Stags fans travelling to Luton for this Blue Square Bet Premier match, witnessing such scenes would have got the old juices flowing.
Yes, Mansfield had their FA Trophy final trip under the famous arch in 2011, losing to Darlington. But a play-off final, a route back into the Football League, had a ring to it.
However, by the time they were heading up the M1 to north Nottinghamshire on Saturday evening, surely thoughts of a day out at Wembley were a bit premature.
Put the flags, scarves, foam hands and stickers away for a moment. Forget Wembley.
And that is not a negative. For it is now clear, first and foremost, Mansfield are in a real battle for top spot, for automatic promotion.
They are not in pole position, but they are nicely placed. Now is the time, as manager Paul Cox often says, to aim for the stars.
Lindon Meikle's dramatic late winner to defeat Luton Town 3-2 chalked up a seventh win from their last eight league games. Also, in terms of away games, it was a sixth win out of their last seven on the road. Their form, their solidity, cannot be faulted.
They still remain sixth, just outside the play-offs, but only by a single goal. They also possess two games in hand on fifth-placed Forest Green, who are on the same points.
But beyond that, top side Wrexham are just five points ahead of Cox's men and the Stags have a game in hand and are still to meet them twice. Anybody not eyeing top spot is taking their eye off the prize.
The weekend also demonstrated another big point Cox had been making.
He had named the same starting 11 for the fifth game running, the same with the bench. But Anthony Howell pulled up with a knee injury in the warm-up.
At the last minute, Chris Clements came in and Ben Hutchinson was promoted to the bench.
By the end of the game, it was substitute Meikle who scored the winner, while fellow sub Hutchinson played a part. And Clements was the man denied before the rebound was put in.
Like Cox has said, everybody has a part to play and the weekend was the perfect example.
The game, in truth, failed to come to life for the opening half-hour.
That was until Colin Daniel looked to have been chopped down by Wayne Thomas but the referee waved play on. However, on 31 minutes Steve McNulty – a Stags January target – was found guilty of a similar challenge.
The huge central defender was just about to clear when Daniel darted in and took ball off him just as he went to launch down field and he brought him down. Matt Green tucked the penalty away into the goalkeeper's bottom right corner.
Then came Lee Beevers' moment of pain, as his shoulder popped out but, epitomising the Stags' resilience of late, he allowed the club physio to pop it back in and play on.
But the four-minute break for treatment took its toll as on the restart, the Stags were rocked as Jonathan Smith's shot from the edge of the box struck Andre Gray, spilled kindly to the right of the area where Scott Rendell was free and smashed home from close range.
Yet on 44 minutes, Louis Briscoe got the better of Lathaniel Turner-Rowe, pulled it inside to Lee Stevenson who picked out Daniel running down the left of the box and the winger kept his composure to drill beyond Mark Tyler to put the Stags ahead once more.
A sting in the tail was there as two minutes into the second period, Luton were level. Green felt he was fouled by McNulty but nothing was given, before Rendell slipped a great ball through and Gray got the better of the Stags rearguard before finishing across Alan Marriott.
It was a lapse by the Stags defence but they recovered to stand tall to Luton pressure before Clements fired just wide for the Stags.
However, Luke Jones had to clear off the line for Mansfield before, in the final minute, the breakthrough came.
Clements, down the left of the box, forced a solid save from Tyler but as the ball spilled a few yards out, quick-footed Meikle was there to pounce and prod home for the winner.
The three points were in the bag, in dramatic fashion, the Stags heading home smiling.
Yes, Bradford had their historic afternoon out yesterday.
But, with 15 games remaining, surely Wembley must now be the fall-back option for Mansfield Town, rather than the goal?
Read more: http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/story-18247378-detail/story.html#ixzz2Lu3IYRiJ
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Cruel last-minute defeat is a hammer blow to Hatters' play-off hopes
Blue Square Bet Premier: Luton Town 2 (1) Mansfield Town 3 (2)
A last-minute 3-2 defeat to play-off rivals Mansfield Town all but killed off Luton's promotion hopes at Kenilworth Road this afternoon, writes Mark Wood.
Twice the Hatters came from behind to level the scores with goals from Scott Rendell and Andre Gray, but they always looked fragile at the back as late substitute Lindon Meikle seized on a rebound to net the winner in front of the travelling supporters.
That means it is now eight games since Luton have won in the league and they remain 11 points off the play-offs with their chances of promotion ever-dwindling.
Luton made three changes to the team that surrendered a 1-0 lead to draw 1-1 at Macclesfield Town on Tuesday night.
Jon Shaw and Greg Taylor were left out and Jake Howells dropped to the bench as in came David Martin, Scott Neilson and Wayne Thomas for his Hatters debut.
After a slow start by both teams Thomas had the ball in the net on nine minutes but his header was ruled out for a push on his marker.
A scrappy opening then saw Gray drag wide, before almost getting free on 20 minutes and seeing his cross deflected behind for Luton's first corner.
The Stags though looked dangerous on the break as Louis Briscoe broke the offside trap seconds later but could only fire straight at Mark Tyler.
And the visitors were denied a penalty on 28 minutes when Colin Daniel nipped as Thomas went to clear and was sent tumbling in the box. But referee K Johnson and his linesman just looked at each other with no decision forthcoming.
However, the visitors did get a spot-kick moments later when lacklustre Luton played themselves into trouble and Daniel stole in as Steve McNulty could only foul him just inside the box as the referee pointed to the spot.
Matt Green then stepped up to drive confidently home into the bottom left-hand corner and give the visitors a 31st minute lead.
Right-back Lee Beevers received a prolonged spell of treatment much to the disdain of the Luton faithful and, just when it looked like he would be substituted, Mansfield changed their mind.
But with the Stags still down to 10 men Town levelled on 37 minutes. Jonathan Smith charged on to a loose ball on the edge of the box and his low drive deflected into the path of Rendell to net his 12th of the season at the far post.
The Hatters started to play with renewed vigour and the Stags were given a big let-off on 41 minutes when former Hatter Adam Murray was caught in possession on the edge of his own box only to be given a dubious free-kick for a foul by Smith.
Having already been caught earlier by the Luton midfielder Murray reacted petulantly and was lucky to receive just a warning from the referee.
But Town's hopes were dealt another blow just before the break when Lee Stevenson did well on the edge of the box and Mansfield's square ball was perfect for Daniel to calmly finish at the far post.
A paltry four minutes of injury time were signalled and Town offered little as they trailed 2-1 at the break after a terrible first half performance.
Briscoe's early second half drive ran harmlessly wide before Luton levelled again two minutes in. Rendell slid Gray through and he kept his cool to finish confidently one-on-one against Alan Marriott.
A series of bizarre calls proceeded to go against the Hatters, although Ronnie Henry was justifiably booked for a late challenge.
Stuart Fleetwood was introduced for Martin on 55 minutes before Thomas could only head a Alex Lawless corner over the bar.
The second half was being played at a frenetic pace as Rendell was fouled on the edge of the box midway through the half but substitute Howells, on for the ineffective Neilson, could only curl well over, while Gray blasted wastefully wide with Howells overlapping.
With Luton playing a much narrower 4-3-3 half-chances were coming at both ends with Chris Clements thumping wide with 11 minutes to go, while Green's cross was just out of the reach of the onrushing Daniel moments later.
Town twice went close with seven minutes to. Fleetwood was just unable to hook home Rendell's effort before he diverted Henry's low drive goalwards but straight at the keeper.
Rendell was then just unable to get on the end of Gray's cross as Luton finished the stronger.
Smith's curler was right at Marriott before he raced out in the nick of time to beat Gray to Fleetwood's fabulous crossfield pass.
And in the very last minute Luton were again caught with a sucker punch. McNulty couldn't clear his lines as the Stags broke in numbers. Clements was played through on the overlap and, although Tyler pulled off a brilliant save to deny him, it fell perfectly for substitute Meikle to stroke into the unguarded net.
Four minutes were again added but Luton couldn't summon a third equaliser to a salvage a point.
Hatters (4-4-2): Mark Tyler, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Steve McNulty, Alex Lawless, Scott Rendell, David Martin (Stuart Fleetwood 55), Scott Neilson (Jake Howells 63), Wayne Thomas, Jonathan Smith, Ronnie Henry (C), Andre Gray. Substitutes not used: Simon Ainge, Arnaud Mendy, Dean Brill.
Stags (4-5-1): Alan Marriott, John Dempster, Luke Jones, Matt Green (Nick Wright 90+4), Louis Briscoe (Lindon Meikle 87), Chris Clements, Lee Beevers, Adam Murray (C), Lee Stevenson (Ben Hutchinson 75), James Jennings, Colin Daniel. Substitutes not used: Ritchie Sutton, Matt Rhead.
Booked: Henry 51.
Referee: K Johnson.
Assistant Referees: M McIntyre and A Serrano.
Fourth Official: J Richardson.
Attendance: 5,968 (Mansfield 410).
Star Hatter: Alex Lawless. Luton's driving force and the glue that binds Town together
REPORT: TOWN 2-3 MANSFIELD
Hatters fall to last-minute defeat
The Town twice fought back from going behind but a last-gasp winner from Mansfield substitute Lindon Meikle stole three points for the visitors in an enthralling contest that saw five different scorers.
A quiet opening was put to bed by three goals in fifteen minutes with Mansfield striking twice either side of a Scott Rendell strike. Andre Gray had levelled soon after the break but Meikle snatched a winner in the 90th minute as the Hatters piled forward looking for maximum points.
Caretaker boss Alan Neilson elected an attacking eleven as they looked to re route their path to the Play-Offs. A home début was awarded to Wayne Thomas after his international clearance issues were put behind him as he slotted in alongside Steve McNulty for a brand new central defensive partnership. Dave Martin and Scott Neilson provided the width with Rendell and Gray up front.
It didn't take long for Thomas to affirm his presence, bullying a path to the ball as he rose highest to meet Ronnie Henry's floated dead ball. One swift shove gave him space to nod home but the referee took exception to his physicality and penalised the débutante.
A well worked corner routine nearly brought about its own rewards when hesitant defending from Lawless' cross saw the ball bobble up for Smith on the edge of the area. Close control allowed Smith to volley goal wards and his effort bounced inside the six yard box and agonisingly wide of the far post.
Instant response from the Stags as Briscoe broke the offside trap on the left corner of the box before cheekily trying to slide the ball underneath the onrushing Tyler. Big and strong from the keeper who was down early to nullify the effort.
A quiet opening half an hour at Kenilworth Road for both sides and Mansfield felt aggrieved not to put an end to that silence when Thomas sent Daniel sprawling. The Hatters central defender when to slam the ball to safety when Daniel nipped in front and prodded the ball away from the toes before falling to the ground. Heavy appeals from the Stags players and staff were waved away by the referee uninterested in their complaints.
Minutes later and it was a carbon copy appeal, this time the official pointed to the spot. The ball bobbled across the centre of the area when McNulty intercepted. His heavy first touch bounced away from him and Daniel, again alert to the situation, got his body in front and went to ground. Matt Green converted low into the bottom corner of Tyler's goal to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
After 37 minutes, and after a lengthy stop for Beevers' injury, the Hatters capitalised on Mansfield only having 10 men on the field with Scott Rendell slamming home from close range. A quick throw in saw Smith invited to shoot, his effort looped up off of a flailing Mansfield leg, dropping kindly for Rendell who crashed home at the far post.
The Hatters, buoyant from their equaliser, pressed for a second. Smith continued to drive his team on as he found himself out wide and swung a low cross in to the area. His cross just evaded Rendell and was cut out before Martin could fire goal wards at the far.
Seconds later it was Martin's turn to provide as his jinking run worked his own angle to loop in an inviting cross. As played loaded the box for Martin to aim for and just as it looked Rendell would head home for his second Marriot darted off his line to pluck the cross out of the air.
As the first half drew to a close Mansfield struck to nab the Stags back in front. Intricate football on the edge of the area between Green and Stevenson before the latter slid the ball into the path of Daniel who coolly slotted the ball past Tyler to retain the lead at the half time interval.
Mansfield have won a reputation for starting quickly in the second half of Blue Square matches this season but the Hatters were the architects of the early action as Andre Gray netted three minutes after the interval. Rendell won the flick on and gave Gray the opportunity to race away. Keeping his composure when in on goal Gray dinked the ball into the far corner over the onrushing Marriott for his 14th of the campaign.
The Hatters continued on the offensive as Martin took his plaudits for a tireless performance and was replaced by fans favourite Stuart Fleetwood who was greeted with whole hearted cheers. A second change soon followed as Jake Howells replaced Neilson and slotted infield as the formation switched to 4-3-3.
Rendell, playing at the point of a front three, was hauled down on the edge of the area by Dempster allowing Howells the chance to make his mark on the game. He and Fleetwood stood over the set-piece before shifting it neatly between themselves and allowing Howells to search for the top corner with a left footed curler. Charged down by the Mansfield wall, Howells was forced to aim high and couldn't find the target.
Both sides looked dangerous as they searched for the all important three points. Mansfield retaliated with efforts of their own as Green's clever flick on the edge of the area sat up sweetly for Clements who dragged his shot wide of the post.
Seconds later Green stretched the back line again as he strode away from McNulty's challenged before cutting back at the byline. His cross flashed across the face of the goal with Jennings busting a gut to meet it at the far post but unable to make any contact.
Then the Hatters launched their own barrage on Marriott's goal as Fleetwood, Rendell and Henry all came close within seconds of each other. Smith's deep cross caused Briscoe to tangle up at the far post and with Rendell lurking the ball popped up for the Town forward to strike. His effort cannoned into the air off Marriott and as Fleetwood looked set to acrobatically convert Dempster slammed it away.
His clearance only halted the danger for a split second as Henry drilled a shot back into the mix. Through a flurry of players it deflected up off Fleetwood and Marriott clung on to keep the game all square.
The Hatters looked the more threatening as they continued on the front foot but were caught out in the final minute by Mansfield substitute Meikle. McNulty's header could only drop as far as Ben Hutchinson who rolled Clements in on the left. His early cross forced Tyler to fly to his left but his strong palm could only fall as far as Meikle who turned home from close range to snatch three points for the Stags
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