Crawley Town 1 Mansfield Town 0: Lubala atones for penalty miss to claim hard-fought Reds win
Bez Lubala made amends for his first half spot kick miss as he fired Crawley Town to a 1-0 home win over Mansfield Town this (Saturday) afternoon.
Lubala saw his penalty on 26 minutes superbly saved by Conrad Logan, in a first half full of chances for the Reds. But the 21-year-old struck on 53 minutes to extend Crawley's unbeaten run in League Two to four, and move The People's Pension Stadium outfit up to eighth.
The visitors had the game's first chance on four minutes. A lovely weighted ball from Jacob Mellis played in Nicky Maynard but the former Bristol City striker skewed his attempt wide of the target.
Three minutes later the Reds hit back with two chances in as many minutes. Reece Grego-Cox did well to nick the ball from a Stags defender on the edge of the area before squaring the ball to Camara. The Bissau-Guinean set himself but his powerful shot was well blocked by a Mansfield defender out for a corner.
From the corner Nathan Ferguson whipped a delicious ball into the box for Ollie Palmer, but his deft flick was easily taken by keeper Logan.
Crawley had a massive penalty appeal turned down on 17 minutes. A lovely flowing move from the Reds saw Grego-Cox fizz a pacy cross into the box towards Lubala. Although the ball was plucked out of the air by Logan, the Reds starlet was bundled over by a Stags defender off the ball. A huge roar came up from the stands, expecting a spot kick to be awarded, but referee Scott Oldham remained unmoved.
On 21 minutes an under-hit backpass from Mansfield's CJ Hamilton sent Camara haring through one-on-one with the goalkeeper. But the Stags stopper did well to spare Hamitlon's blushes, racing quickly off his line to clear.
A minute later and the Reds had a half-hearted penalty appeal waved away after Camara went to ground, probably too easily. But Crawley would eventually be awarded a spot kick on 26 minutes.
Grego-Cox was pulled down in the box by Krystian Pearce as the Reds winger attempted to accelerate past the Mansfield man. This time referee Oldham pointed to the spot and up stepped the in-form Lubala. But the Reds starlet saw his penalty saved well down low to the left by Logan and the scores remained level.
On 31 minutes Lubala had a superb chance to make amends for his miss. The 21-year-old cut in from the left before fizzing a shot away that rippled the side netting.
Despite Crawley's dominance in the opening half-hour, the Stags were still posing a threat. A minute after Lubala's chance, Mansfield launched a breakneck counter attack. Maynard found himself through on goal and, perhaps too unselfishly, squared the ball to Danny Rose. But Rose's first touch was awful, taking the ball away from the forward, and the chance was snuffed out by Glenn Morris.
The Reds forged another shooting opportunity on 39 minutes. Ferguson, receiving the ball from Camara, fired a low shot from the edge of the area that beat Logan but went mere millimetres past the left hand post.
Two minutes before the break Morris was called into a top-draw save to keep the game goalless. Hamilton cut inside before unleashing a stinging effort which was well palmed away by Crawley's number one.
The Reds ended the half with another two chances. Lubala's driven attempt was punched away by Logan and this was followed Palmer flicking over from a corner.
Three minutes after the restart Palmer was hauled down on the edge of the box and won a free-kick after a superb pin-point ball out of defence from Morris. Palmer stepped up to take the free-kick but his low shot under the wall was straight at Logan.
Crawley had dominated large swathes of the game, creating countless chances, and were finally rewarded for their persistence on 53 minutes. Lubala picked up the ball on the edge of the area and fired towards goal. Fortunately for the Reds man his attempt took a huge deflection off a Mansfield player, and looped over the head of Logan to make it 1-0 to the hosts and atone for his earlier miss.
The Stags almost hit back with an instant reply two minutes later. Alex MacDonald pulled the ball back on the edge of the D for Kellan Gordon but the midfielder could only fire inches over the crossbar.
This signalled an increase in Mansfield's tempo as they went in search of an equaliser. Rose found himself one-on-one with Jamie Sendles-White on 62 minutes. The debutant did well to contain the Stags forward as he hit a weak shot straight at Morris.
A minuter late Josh Doherty was alert to clear Mellis' header off the line from Conor Shaughnessy's corner. Maynard then went close with a towering header that was well saved by Morris on 66 minutes.
Mansfield continued to grow into the game and pose the Reds problems. 12 minutes before the end a Stags cross from the left was flicked on by Rose into Dapo Afolayan who headed over. This was a let off for Crawely, although it wouldn't have counted as the sub was offside.
With five minutes to go the Reds missed a gilt-edged chance to put the game to bed. Grego-Cox skipped past his man before finding Lubala. The goalscorer picked his spot but could only watch as his shot went agonisingly past the far post.
Two minutes later the Stags were inches away from levelling. Substitute Omari Sterling-James teed up fellow replacement Mal Benning. The defender let rip with a stinging volley which was superbly saved by Morris.
Five minutes of added time was added to the second half and Mansfield began to throw the kitchen sink at Crawley. But the Reds held on for a vital and hard-fought three points.
Crawley Town: Morris, Sesay (Young 69), Sendles-White, Tunnicliffe, Doherty, Bulman, Ferguson (Bloomfield 62), Grego-Cox, Camara, Lubala, Palmer (Allarakhia 80). Unused: Luyambula, Francomb, Nathaniel-George, Galach.
Mansfield Town: Logan, Preston, Pearce, Sweeney (Benning 63), Gordon, MacDonald (Afolayan 70), Shaughnessy, Hamilton, Mellis, Maynard (Sterling-James 73), Rose. Unused: Stone, Bishop, Khan, Smith.
Referee: Scott Oldham