A valiant performance from AFC Telford United against Mansfield Town saw the Bucks secure a deserved point at Field Mill this evening. The Bucks more than held their own for much of the game and had chances to take the lead, only to concede just eighteen minutes from time following a spell of intense Mansfield pressure. However Telford were not to be denied a deserved point and Chris Sharp notched a second goal in two games to level the scores just four minutes from time.
Boss Andy Sinton made three changes for the trip to face Paul Cox’s Stags, with Dan Preston
, Richard Davies and Ryan Valentine all called into the starting line-up at the expense of Stuart Whitehead, Dwayne Samuels and Nathan Rooney
. Greg Mills missed out although with a suspension after accumulating five yellow cards.
Telford started brightly against a Mansfield side which arrived on the back of five straight victories, although it was the hosts who threatened first on 12 minutes when Matt Green cut in from the left and forced a comfortable save from Ryan Young. Telford had a half-chance though when Luke O’Neill hauled down Chris Sharp on the edge of the area on 15 minutes and Sean Newton fired well over from the free-kick, whilst Will Salmon’s dangerous cross nearly created another opening on 20 minutes only to drift agonisingly wide of the far-post.
In-form Mansfield had scored fourteen goals in their previous five matches and they showed their threat on 26 minutes when former Hednesford man Ross Dyer surged forward from midfield, only to be denied by a perfectly-timed challenge from Dan Preston
. As both sides traded blows, Andy Brown then headed over from Phil Trainer’s hanging centre before Lindon Meikle – who regularly impressed against Telford during his Eastwood days – saw his goal-bound shot blocked after Louis Briscoe had burst down the right.
Telford had made a very composed and assured start though, and the Bucks nearly took the lead in freak fashion on the half-hour mark when Sean Newton’s long-range shot was deflected inches wide with goalkeeper Alan Marriott beaten. Richard Davies also fired just wide of the diving Marriott’s right-hand post on 32 minutes after bursting through from midfield, whilst Sharp’s driven cross from the left then narrowly evaded Newton in the centre as Telford continued to impress against their much-fancied opponents.
Mansfield upped the ante in the closing stages of the half, though, and the Stags missed the best chance of the half just five minutes before the break when Green’s cross from the right found Dyer in space at the far-post and the midfielder somehow nodded wide. Indeed, the lively Dyer came close again just moments later. His floated effort looked to be heading into the net with Young beaten and out of position, but Will Salmon showed good anticipation by tracking back to head off the line and ensure that Telford didn’t face what would have been a thoroughly undeserved deficit at the interval.
Mansfield threatened first in the second-half when Green cut in to force a save from Young and Telford came desperately close moments later when Jon Adams found some space in the area to produce a shot which was deflected just wide for a corner. However, the Stags then began to assert themselves as the Bucks were pushed increasingly onto the back-foot. Ritchie Sutton’s header was saved by Young on 58 minutes and Dyer then lashed over from Briscoe’s cross after Valentine had been caught trying to shepherd the ball out of play on the by-line.
For the first time in the game the Stags were on top and another Dyer strike was comfortably saved by Young after some trickery in the box from former Alfreton man Anthony Howell before Briscoe’s dipping volley from 35 yards was superbly tipped over by Young on 68 minutes. Young was increasingly coming under sustained pressure and Saturday’s man-of-the-match was again proving a valiant last line of defence, pushing away substitute Adam Smith’s strike at the near-post before repelling Ben Futcher’s header on 70 minutes from a left-wing corner.
Mansfield’s pressure finally paid off though on 72 minutes, Green breaking through to fire past a helpless Young and break Telford’s dogged resistance. Sinton, however, responded by throwing on Adam Proudlock and Dwayne Samuels in a bid to inspire a Bucks’ fight-back and it worked as the Bucks gained a deserved leveller on 86 minutes. Davies made a surging run from midfield and produced a delightful pass to Sharp who drilled a superb left-foot strike past Marriott, much to the delight of the 110 away supporters behind the goal.