Mansfield 1-0 Fleetwood
Fleetwood Town fell to only their second league defeat of 2014 as Paul Cox’s Mansfield edged out a tight game on a cold afternoon at the One Call Stadium.
Stags striker, Matt Rhead, scored the only goal of the game in the first half, but despite a much-improved second half display, Fleetwood could not find a way past Alan Marriott in the home side’s goal.
In the build up to the match, manager Graham Alexander was forced to change his back four for the first time since December 21 with illness forcing Charlie Taylor to a place on the bench whilst Conor McLaughlin was ruled out all together.
Stephen Jordan came in to replace Taylor for his first start since August, whilst Liam Hogan replaced McLaughlin and Mikael Mandron partnered Jon Parkin in attack in place of Jamille Matt who was ruled out with injury.
Despite a bright start from Fleetwood, the hosts controlled large periods of the first 45 minutes with the Stags’ left wing-back, Colin Daniel, who put in the Stags Man of the Match performance, quickly establishing himself as Mansfield’s main threat going forward.
The 26-year-old showed his attacking qualities early on as he came forward to latch on to Sam Clucas’ pass on the left, but Maxwell was on hand to deny Mansfield the early opener.
Both teams struggled to create any meaningful chances as the game approached the half hour mark, but Mansfield continued to ask questions of the Fleetwood defence with their 3-4-1-2 formation.
Clucas curled a free-kick over the bar after Nathan Pond fouled Lee Stevenson 20-yards from goal, before Mansfield made their mounting pressure count on 32 minutes.
A corner from the right was not dealt with by Town and Stags striker, Rhead, rose highest to plant a firm header just beyond Maxwell, who despite getting a hand to it, could not do enough to turn it round the post.
Mansfield continued to control the game with Daniel, again, delivering a dangerous cross into the area that just avoided Stevenson as they went in search of a second, before Maxwell turned a Ritchie Sutton header away from goal a minute before the interval.
Alexander introduced Matty Hughes in place of Goodall at the start of the second half to add imputes to the Town attack, and three minutes before the hour mark, Fleetwood had their first attempt on Marriot’s goal but Evans’ tame free-kick was easily saved by the keeper.
A neat passage of play in the middle led to Sarcevic testing the keeper again moments later as his dipping half volley was tipped behind for a corner.
Fleetwood were beginning to assert themselves at the One Call Stadium, but Mansfield remained a threat on the counter attack. A corner on the far side led to Clucas being found in the centre by Darryl Westlake, but the winger curled his effort just wide.
With just under 20 minutes remaining, substitute Taylor tried his luck from distance as Fleetwood boss, Alexander, switched to a far more attacking formation and Hogan was next to test Marriott, but the right-back saw his header well saved from a corner.
As the game entered the later stages, Sutton, who has never scored a professional goal, came close to breaking that record for a second time in the game with a point-blank header that Maxwell was again equal to keep Fleetwood in the contest.
Rhead threatened a second goal from another corner with 10 minutes remaining, before the post denied Parkin from close range after he latched on to Evans drilled free-kick from the left.
Alexander introduced Jamie Allen for his first league appearance of the season, but despite a much-improved second half display, Fleetwood could not find a late equaliser on an afternoon where a five-point gap opened up between themselves and the automatic promotion spots.