Mansfield Town 1 Crawley Town 1: Mersin impresses as Reds end Stags' play-off hopes

Crawley Town's Karlan-Ahearne Grant is congratulated by team-mates Josh Doherty and Jimmy Smith after taking the lead for Reds during their 1-1 draw at Mansfield Town with his seventh-minute goal.'Picture by Andrew Roe
Crawley Town's Karlan-Ahearne Grant is congratulated by team-mates Josh Doherty and Jimmy Smith after taking the lead for Reds during their 1-1 draw at Mansfield Town with his seventh-minute goal.'Picture by Andrew Roe

Crawley Town held Mansfield Town to a 1-1 draw away in their final league match of the season.

The result finally killed off Mansfield's hopes of finishing in the play-off places, finishing eighth while Crawley finished 14th.

Stags needed to win and hope one of their rivals, Coventry City and Lincoln City, lost.

Lincoln did trail for much of their home clash with Yeovil, but in the end they got the 1-1 draw they needed while Coventry and Morecambe fought out a 0-0 draw that saw the Sky Blues through too.

Stags battled magnificently and played some superb football, creating a wealth of chances which they failed to take, apart from Kane Hemmings' 64th minute equaliser.

Crawley were always dangerous on the break and had gone ahead when Karlan Ahearne-Grant had headed past Conrad Logan on seven minutes.

Logan did have to make some good stops to deny Crawley on breakaways, but it was mostly Mansfield pressure and the visitors defended magnificently with Josh Yorwerth outstanding.

Keeper Yusuf Mersin made a string of good saves and Josh Doherty a goalline clearance to help thwart Mansfield, though a win would not have been enough in the end with how the other games finished.

Harry Kewell made three changes to the side which lost 2-1 last weekend at home to Crewe with Mersin making only his second league start of the season and his first since December while regular number one Glenn Morris was on the bench.

Striker Panutche Camara came in for the injured Thomas Verheydt while Dannie Bulman replaced Aryan Tajbakhsh.

Stags at least ended 2017/18 on a five-game unbeaten run and playing well, but it is scant consolation at the end of a season that promised so much.

Mansfield were without top scorer Danny Rose after he suffered a recurrence of a toe injury - he was replaced by Lee Angol, who scored twice in last weekend's win at Yeovil.

The only other change was Alfie Potter being replaced by CJ Hamilton out wide.

The game kicked-off in bright sunshine and a carnival atmosphere with plenty of noise from the hopeful home fans.

And Stags almost took a second minute lead after a succession of superb passes got the ball to Hemmings in the box.

He squared it to Angol who saw his low finish pushed away by 'keeper Mersin.

Instead, disaster struck on seven minutes. Atkinson lost the ball in the middle of his own half and Crawley profited quickly as Camara crossed from the left and Ahearne-Grant was on hand to flick a header past Logan at the near post.

Stags pushed forward for an equaliser but were vulnerable to a break, and on 15 minutes Logan had to make a save as Camara broke down the middle and found Boldewijn to his right who forced to keeper to block an on-target finish.

Two minutes later clever play from Angol saw him swap passes with Hemmings and get a shot away on goal, though it was straight at Mersin.

Mansfield were clearly struggling to get on top of a Crawley side, enjoying their afternoon, and on 27 minutes Flitcroft made a bold double-change.
He hauled off Atkinson and Digby and replaced them with Potter and White.

MacDonald was inches wide from 20 yards on 34 minutes with the keeper rooted to the spot as the home side continued to press.

Then Mellis was too high from a similar distance when a clearance reached him as Crawley saw out the first half and three added minutes.

Mansfield began the second half well and Hemmings sent a tame header at the 'keeper before Hamilton cut inside after a great run by White to force a save.

On 49 minutes Hemmings sent a powerful shot across the face of goal as the Stags cranked up the pressure.

From a corner scramble, Pearce saw a close range flick saved for another corner.

On 53 minutes Potter curled in a tempting low cross from the right and Hemmings somehow placed it wide from four yards when he looked certain to score.

A minute later the visitors again caught Stags out pushing forward and Logan had to deny Smith after he had gone clear.

Bennett was next to miss, poking the ball wide from 12 yards after taking it off Potter's toes.

On 61 minutes Crawley struggled to clear a corner and this time it was Angol who blazed over from 12 yards.

The agony was finally over on 64 minutes as Stags deservedly levelled the game.

Benning swung over a great cross from the left to the near post where Hemmings guided it home on the volley from close-range. Mersin saved superbly from Hemmings' shot on the turn from 20 yards as the home fans turned up the volume.

Pearce had a shot blocked and White looked certain to score from close-range until Doherty superbly headed off the line and over the bar on 67 minutes.

A rare Crawley break ended with Ahearne-Grant forcing Logan down for a save.

After Potter had seen a penalty appeal turned down, another Crawley break saw Logan deny the same player as Mansfield pushed evermore forwards.

In added-time Logan even went up for two corners, but Benning sent the final shot of the season over the bar as Stags were rightly applauded off for a gutsy, battling display.

Crawley Town: Mersin, Young, Doherty, Payne (Tajbakhsh 59), Connolly, Boldewijn, Smith, Ahearne-Grant, Yorwerth, Bulman, Camara. Subs not used: Moore, McNerny, Djalo, Evina, Sanoh.

Mansfield Town: Logan, Digby (White 27), Bennett, Pearce, Benning, MacDonald, Mellis, Atkinson (Potter 27), Hamilton, Angol, Hemmings. Subs not used: Olejnik, Sterling-James, King, Byrom, Graham.

Referee: Ben Toner of Lancashire.

Attendance: 4,734 (135 away).