Report: Mansfield 1-1 WycombeWanderers were denied a first away win by Matt Green's late leveller at the One Call Stadium.
Matt Bloomfield capped the visitors' first-half dominance with a tidy finish from Paul Hayes's assist but the introduction of Green from the bench at half-time was the catalyst for the Stags' revival towards the end.
Gareth Ainsworth made two changes in personnel from the side that lost 1-0 at Yeovil in their last outing, and that also prompted a tactical change to 4-3-3 with Matt Bloomfield coming into the midfield while Adebayo Akinfenwa joined Paul Hayes and Paris Cowan-Hall in attack.
Mansfield were forced to leave star striker Matt Green on the bench due to illness, while September’s player of the month Jamie McGuire was sidelined after suffering a nasty reaction to a leg injury in midweek.
Cowan-Hall burst into the box to win a corner in the opening minute as he and Akinfenwa showed good awareness to create the opening, while Dominic Gape had the ball nicked off his toes and Matt Bloomfield couldn’t quite stretch to send a header goalwards as the Wanderers’ attacking movement caused problems for the home defence.
Then it was the visiting backline which was breached when Anthony Stewart bravely won a tackle only for the ball to land kindly for Danny Rose, who played the ball through for Pat Hoban to bear down on goal. The forward took the ball past Jamal Blackman but his strike couldn’t beat the covering Danny Rowe, who’d raced back to make a vital clearance from within the six-yard box.
Mansfield enjoyed a bright spell before Gape forced an important save from Scott Shearer in the Mansfield goal, rifling a clean hit towards goal after the hosts had struggled to clear a spell of head tennis inside the area.
Another opportunity presented itself moments later, this time to Cowan-Hall, who slid in at the back post to meet Paul Hayes’s clever cross but couldn’t quite get his foot around the ball to hit the net, instead turning it inches wide.
But the pressure ultimately paid off midway through the first half when Matt Bloomfield put the Bleus ahead, meeting Hayes’s clever pass to run from deep and finish calmly past his old team-mate Shearer.
And the goal helped to put Wycombe right in the ascendancy, as they twice went close to doubling their lead through Akinfenwa. The ‘Beast’ headed over from Joe Jacobson’s deep free-kick before finding the target with a back-post header, only to see Shearer produce a fine fingertip save to divert it away from the top corner.
The Stags gradually improved as the half neared its conclusion and came close when Danny Rose lashed wide of the near-post from a promising position just outside the box, before Krystian Pearce collected the first card of the game for chopping down Cowan-Hall.
There was just time for a long-range effort from Danny Rowe to fly over the bar before the half-time whistle, which was met with discontent from the home fans who’d seen their side outplayed for much of the opening period.
Boss Adam Murray reacted by making a double change at the break, introducing Matt Green and Jack Thomas for Danny Rose and Oscar Gobern, and the hosts showed signs of improvement, although Wanderers retained their threat in attack and looked to be in control of their advantage.
Green and Rhys Bennett both missed the target with opportunities from set-pieces before the game entered a scrappy spell with both midfields cancelling each other out.
Mansfield introduced their final sub midway through the second half, with Darius Henderson taking the place of Pat Hoban in attack, before Mal Benning drilled a long-range effort just high and wide with Blackman reasonably calm at seeing it whistle into the stand.
The keeper was called upon to tip behind a more precise effort from Benning moments later, before Krystian Pearce headed wide from the resulting corner, while Gareth Ainsworth made his first change on 77 minutes with the introduction of Garry Thompson for Paul Hayes.
But the next action came at the other end, and it was a valuable contribution from that man Green who smashed home the equaliser on 83 minutes after a route one approach paid off from the hosts. A long ball from Benning was flicked down and the Stags’ hero was in the right place to blast it home on the half volley.
All of a sudden Mansfield had burst to life and the game developed an edge, with the hosts arguably looking the more likely to go on and win it. Mal Benning came close with a free-kick and then a piledriver into the side netting, while Wycombe responded by bringing on Sam Wood for Matt Bloomfield for the four minutes of stoppage time.
And those final few moments were packed with drama, with both sides going close to snatching all three points. Firstly Anthony Stewart headed into the side netting from Jacobson’s corner before Darius Henderson was denied by a miraculous full-length save from Jamal Blackman at the other end.
Then Wanderers were livid when Dominic Gape broke free only to be punished for an apparent foul, leaving Ainsworth perplexed with the latest of odd decisions on a day when the Blues may feel it was a case of ‘two points dropped’ after leading for much of the game.
Wycombe: Blackman, Harriman, Jacobson, Stewart, Pierre, Rowe, Gape, Bloomfield (Wood 90), Cowan-Hall, Hayes (Thompson 77), Akinfenwa.
Unused subs: Richardson, Jombati, Bean, Weston, Freeman.
Mansfield: Shearer, Bennett, Benning, Pearce, Howkins, Collins, Clements, M. Rose, Gobern (Thomas 45), D. Rose (Green 45), Hoban (Henderso 67).
Unused subs: Jensen, Hurst, Hamilton, Hemmings.
Referee: Brett Huxtable
Attendance: 2,898 (252 from Wycombe)