County denied at the deathNewport County AFC were dealt a cruel blow at the One Call Stadium on Saturday conceding a 90th minute goal to a physical Mansfield Town side and mystifyingly leaving on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline.
County, in their change strip of all white were pleased to be playing on a relatively even surface after 5 games on the trot at Rodney Parade and any football that was played during the game came from the away side.
It was County the forced the opening exchanges as they won a succession of corners following good work down the left by the lively Willmott. However, despite the early pressure, it wasn't translated into clear cut chances.
Chapman was enjoying a more forward role in the first half on his return to Mansfield and after a cushioned lay off from Burge the former Stag drove towards the area but his low drive was deflected to safety by Dempster. Chapman then linked up well with Zebroski down the right before the front man's cut back saw Chapman's flicked shot end up in the arms of the veteran Mansfield keeper Marriott.
The home side were relying on the pace and skill of Clucas as their main outlet and it was from a Rhead flick that the ex Hereford winger spurned the first real chance for Mansfield on 18 minutes when his 20 yard volley flew over the bar.
Chapman then placed a dangerous right footed cross into the area that just eluded the front pairing of Zebroski and Howe as the game began to open up. On 28 minutes Mansfield took the lead when Daniel's 40 yard in swinging cross from the left was met by the head of centre back Tafazolli 8 yards from goal. The ball failed to bounce and Parish could only parry into the corner of the net.
The remaining minutes of the first half were scrappy and tense with both sides landing players in the referee's book as the cautions began to mount up. Zebroski challenged Marriott from a corner on 31 minutes that left the Mansfield keeper prone on the ground before being revived with treatment from the physio. Clucas was then booked for diving in the area as the game became increasingly fractious.
Half Time 0-0
Justin Edinburgh sent the team out early for the second half and what ever was said at half time must have worked as County drove at the opposition from the kick off. A short corner routine led to an exchange between Burge and Willmott on the left and the former Cambridge United winger cut in but his shot from the edge of the 18 yard box went into the side netting.
On 50 minutes County equalised after a high ball from Naylor into the Mansfield penalty area resulted in a challenge between Zebroski and Marriott. As the keeper again lay on the ground Howe reacted first to prod home from 6 yards into the unguarded net.
County were starting to dominate the central third with Minshull allowing Burge and Chapman to get forward and support Howe and Zebroski and a one-two between Burge and Zebroski allowed the midfielder to break into the right hand side of the box but his cut back was cleared by Tafazolli. Chapman and Minshull then both went close with efforts from distance as County looked the more likely to grab a winner as the game entered its final minutes.
Mansfield were relying on the break and brought on Meikle for Daniel and the youngster was immediately into the action setting up Clucas but his run into the area was thwarted by Parish.
In the 90th minute Mansfield sent a free kick from the right to the far post and the target man of Rhead headed back across the six yard box where the on rushing Howell was able to bundle the ball into the net to steal the points for Mansfield and send the County home empty handed.
Full time 2-1
County: Parish, Hughes, Chapman (Flynn), Minshull, Zebroski (Jeffers), Willmott, Burge, Jackson, Naylor, Anthony (Capt.), Howe (Jolley)
Subs: Pipe, Crow, Jeffers, Flynn, Worley, Jolley, Holloway
Goal: Howe (50)
Bookings: Hughes, Zebroski, Howe, Anthony
Mansfield Town: Marriott, Sutton (Palmer), Dempster, Rhead, Clucas, Tafazolli, Howell, Hutchinson, Murray (Capt.), Westlake, Daniel (Meikle)
Sub: Briscoe, Stevenson, Beevers, Meile, McGuire, Cain, Palmer
Goals: Tafazolli (28), Howell (90)
Bookings: Rhead, Murray, Clucas
Referee: Andy Davies
Att: 2,765 (224 County)