Fleetwood 4-3 Mansfield
Antoni Sarcevic scored his first football league hat trick as Fleetwood Town edged a pulsating game 5-4 against Mansfield Town at Highbury Stadium.
The young attacking midfielder struck deep into injury-time to steal all three points for Town after Mansfield had twice fought back over the course of the game.
Gareth Evans also scored a brace, but goals from Chris Clements and Anthony Howell to put Mansfield in front and then Sam Clucas and Ross Dyer to bring the score back to 4-4 before Sarcevic scored in the last minute of the game from the penalty spot.
Nathan Tyson, who played 85 minutes on his debut, became the fiftieth player to play for Fleetwood since the club made their Football League debut and was Graham Alexander’s only change for the game after David Ball sustained a shoulder injury in the defeat to Northampton town last week.
Mansfield, however, made three changes to their line-up in a bid to pick up their first league win since the end of September. Jamie McGuire, who left Fleetwood in the summer to join Paul Cox’s side, missed his return to the Fylde Coast after his sending off last week whilst Mansfield welcomed back Martin Riley, Chris Clements and Ollie Palmer back to their starting line-up.
Within 18 seconds Fleetwood had taken the lead. A misplaced pass by Howell in the middle park set Tyson on his through on goal. The on loan striker his lost his balance but Evans came in off the right side to slot the ball into the empty net to give Town the best possible start.
Fleetwood did not sit back as they looked to put the confidence stricken Stags further on the back foot. Tyson twice could have doubled Town’s lead, firstly, narrowly missing a header from an excellent cross from the left before directing a right foot effort just wide of Marriott’s far post.
Despite Town controlling the early stages, though, Mansfield equalised in the ninth minute. Chris Clements, back from a spell out injured, curled in a free kick on the edge of the box and past Scott Davies after Sam Clucas had been brought down by McLaughlin.
Three minutes later and Mansfield had turned the game upside down after a miss kick from Ryan Cresswell on the edge of the six-yard box fell to Anthony Howell and the midfielder calmed slotted the ball past Davies to atone for his error that had led to the Fleetwood opener.
The frantic first 15 minutes showed no signs of letting up. Cresswell nearly equalised within minutes of his error leading to Mansfield’s second and Steven Schumacher crashed a long-range free kick goal wards that was saved well by Marriott.
The visitors, though, continued to apply pressure. Martin Riley tried an ambitious left foot effort from all of 20-yards out that Davies saved at the second attempt after spilling the initial effort and a cross from the left caused all sorts of problems for Davies and the defense before Town eventually cleared their lines.
Four minutes after the half hour mark Fleetwood levelled the game once more. Antoni Sarcevic was brought down by a rash tackle by Riley in the penalty area and the attacking midfielder continued his fine form and scored the penalty himself to make it 2-2 heading towards the break.
Sarcevic stunk the palms of Marriott moments later and at the other end Clucas whipped a dangerous free kick into the box that Cresswell dealt with in the six-yard box before Clements tested Davies again with another free kick, which Town’s number one was equal to on this occasion.
Tyson had a goal bound header deflected for a corner from Schumacher’s free kick and Charlie Taylor drove a long range effort narrowly wide of Marriott’s near post in what was the last of the chances in what was a pulsating first half.
Second half started in the same vain as the first ended. First Murdoch tested Marriott from long range and Pond’s from the consequent corner was deflected onto Tyson’s chest, which was blocked on the line.
The game threatened to boil over in the early stages with Paul Cox receiving a word of warning from the referee Scott Mathieson and before Colin Daniel was booked for a late foul on Evans on the right hand side.
That man Evans again tested Marriott when put through on goal by Stewart Murdoch, but the keeper pulled off another fine save to keep the scores level after 50 minutes.
After a 10 minute spell of Fleetwood controlling possession whilst not creating much with it, the game sprung back to life with its fifth goal. First Colin Daniel cracked the woodwork from all of 25 yards before Fleetwood went up the other end and Sarcevic ran the length of the pitch to slide the left wing cross past Marriott for his second of the game to restore Fleetwood’s lead.
Moments later, again following a failed Mansfield attack from their corner, Fleetwood broke with pace and power and the ball was worked to Evans on the right and the winger rifled a right foot effort from just outside the area over the head of Marriott to give Fleetwood a two goal cushion just after the hour mark.
Fifteen minutes from the end and back came Mansfield again after Clucas converted his header past Davies from eight-yards out following a deflected shot from Ollie Palmer that had spun in the air as the Stags set up a grandstand finish.
Murdoch continued to exploit the spaces in midfield and shot wide after linking up with Sarcevic as Fleetwood tried to restore their two goal cushion, but two minutes from the end Mansfield struck the game’s eighth goal to send the visiting fans into raptures.
Clucas started the move, and following an exchange of passes, the striker drilled a shot goal bound that was blocked on the line by Pond but substitute Ross Dyer reacted quickest to slam home the equaliser.
There was still to be one final twist though. Matty Blair was put through on goal in the dying embers of injury time and was brought down by substitute Jennings as Mathieson pointed to the spot to give Fleetwood the chance to steal all three points.
Up stepped Sarcevic and the midfielder struck hard and low past Marriott to complete his football league hat trick as Fleetwood made it 5-4 with almost the last kick of the game.
FLEETWOOD TOWN: Davies, McLaughlin, Pond, Cresswell ©, Taylor, Evans (Blair, 86), Murdoch, Schumacher, Sarcevic, Tyson (Dieseruvwe, 85)
SUBSTITUTES: Roberts, Parkin, Hogan, Blair, Dieseruvwe, Carr, Lucas
MANSFIELD TOWN: Marriott, Sutton, Dempster, Riley, Beevers (Jennings, 59), Clements, Daniel, Howell (Dyer, 78), Stevenson (Poku, 67), Palmer, Clucas
SUBSTITUTES: Rhead, Tafazolli, Dyer, Jennings, Meikle, Deakin, Poku