Forest Green Rovers missed out on a chance to catch up with the league leaders on Tuesday night as they fought to a goalless draw with Mansfield Town at the One Call Stadium.
The deadlock was not for a lack of chances as the goalkeepers shone at either end to ensure the honours were shared.
Mansfield fielded just a single change as midfielder Stephen Quinn returned to the starting XI – replacing Stephen McLaughlin, who was dropped to the bench. Captain Ollie Clarke was included in the squad in place of injured Montenegrin forward Oli Sarkic.
Mark Cooper announced two changes to the Rovers side that were beaten by Cambridge United on Saturday. Midfield duo Elliott Whitehouse and Taylor Allen came into the line-up in place of Josh Davidson and Udoka Godwin-Malife, each of whom were demoted to the bench. 20-year-old Allen made his first league start.
Story of the match
Mansfield started very brightly. Striker Jamie Reid operated as a target man and he did an exceptional job in keeping the visiting backline on its toes in the opening 10 minutes. Northern Irishman Reid saw two opportunities fall in his favour in this time, but both were tame efforts which an exposed Lewis Thomas could gratefully gather in the Rovers net.
The visitors soon found their feet and the match erupted into life. End-to-end football saw a plethora of chances at either end as the clock ticked past the midpoint of the first period. Town resorted to cynical tackling as they struggled to contain the awesome pace of Forest Green’s forwards.
Such pace crafted an opening for Harry Charsley on the 20-minute mark, when he found himself free at the far post. Smart work wide on the right stretched the defence and the Green exploited a gap as they fired a cross towards the ex-Everton man. Charsley was off-balance when the delivery reached his feet and he miscued his lines by scuffing the shot into the side-netting.
The half ended as breathless as it started but things had begun heating up as pent-up frustrations boiled over. The Stags were starting to play on the back foot when referee David Webb called time on proceedings.
Both sides flew out of the blocks in the second half and, within five minutes, Thomas produced another phenomenal double-save to keep the plundering Stags at bay. The 23-year-old got down well to stop the initial shot from George Maris, and he was up and scrambling moments later to halt the follow-up from Reid.
It was the turn of Mansfield ‘keeper Aidan Stone to come up with heroics of his own minutes later, when he made a brilliant stop on a towering header from Jamille Matt. Stone stretched well, having to dig the ball from behind him as he parried to safety.
True to form of the tie, it was the hosts that saw the next chance go their way. Forward Jason Law executed a sweet one-two with Jordan Bowery as they split the defence in half and got in behind. Thomas was wise to the move and charged off his line, denying Law of his second goal in as many games.
Mansfield thought they had won it right at the death when Thomas denied Bowery from close-range. The ball looped high into the air and Reid took up a position in preparation for a shot at an open net, but an inspired retreat from defender Chris Stokes cleared the ball off the line.
Takeaway from the match
Two points dropped for Rovers, one gained for Town
Forest Green will be kicking themselves that they did not make use of what could have been a routine three points for the Gloucestershire side. Chances came and went for the Green, but they could not make any count as a resilient Mansfield side kept them out.
Man of the match
Jamie Reid – Mansfield Town
Reid was a shining star in the Mansfield attack. His hold-up play created gaps and thus opportunities for his teammates as defenders were drawn to what would transpire to be a losing battle. Reid had several chances to find the net but was bettered by the goalkeeper on each occasion.