McGeehan strike makes it seven unbeaten for Town
LUTON TOWN 1
MANSFIELD TOWN 1
Att: 7,787 (295 away)
A week after his celebrating his goal at Leyton Orient with a trip to see Justin Bieber in concert, Cameron McGeehan played the right tune once again to earn the Hatters a deserved point at home to Mansfield this afternoon.
The midfielder netted his eighth goal of the season to cancel out Matt Green’s early opener and stretch Nathan Jones’ men’s unbeaten run to seven matches in all competitions.
Six of those have come in the league, and the Town remain fourth in the Sky Bet League Two table after a match in which they dominated possession, but failed to convert a host of chances that came their way in the second half apart from McGeehan’s 25-yard shot in the 76th minute.
Boss Jones made one enforced change to the starting line-up from last week’s 2-1 victory in east London, with Jake Gray coming in for Danny Hylton, who was suspended after picking up a yellow card.
There was also a return to the substitutes' bench for Craig Mackail-Smith after his 45-minute run-out in the development squad at Barton Rovers on Tuesday night, seven months since he suffered a broken leg in the 1-0 win at Plymouth last March.
The Hatters owned the ball in the opening stages in a slightly difference formation, with full-backs Stephen O’Donnell and Dan Potts pushed high on up the flanks and Mansfield barely getting a kick in the first five minutes.
It was from an O’Donnell raid down the right that the first chance came, the Scot combining with Jack Marriott and Alex Gilliead to set up a shooting opportunity for Jordan Cook, who couldn’t keep his effort down.
It was the visitors who took the lead in the ninth minute, however, when – from their first corner of the game – Rhys Bennett headed towards goal and Green diverted it into the roof of the net from almost on the line.
Three minutes later the Stags had another sight of goal, Kevan Hurst volleying over on this occasion.
But the Hatters were soon threatening at the other end with the lively Gilliead once again teasing left-back Mal Benning and crossing low for Marriott, whose initial effort as blocked by Pearce, with his follow-up in a goalmouth scramble claimed by keeper Scott Shearer.
Hatters keeper Christian Walton was forced to make his first save in the 17th minute when Chris Clements caught one sweetly on the half-volley from 20 yards out.
Marriott was looking sharp at the point of the Town attack and he was next to send a shot goalward, but Kyle Howkins stuck out a leg to deflect it wide for a corner, from which O’Donnell was off target after a lay-off from McGeehan on the edge of the box.
On the half-hour Cook, playing in a more advanced role up front with Marriott, linked up with his partner to latch onto a great lay-off by the latter, but unfortunately his low curling effort did not bend back enough.
Walton had to be alert again on 38 minutes when Benning tried his luck with a free-kick from 30 yards, but the England Under-21 stopper was equal to the left-back’s effort.
Two minutes before the break, the Town pieced together their most fluent attacking move of the half when Gray, Glen Rea and McGeehan combined to work the ball infield from the left touchline, but the latter’s 20-yard shot wouldn’t dip enough to trouble Shearer.
It took until the seventh minute of the second half for either side to register an interest, and it was Marriott who was once again carrying the Town threat, battling his way through a couple of challenges along the 18-yard line before letting fly with a left footer that was deflected just wide of Shearer’s left post.
Gilliead soon had the ball glued to his boot on another driving run to the visitors’ byline, this time on the left, but Gray couldn’t arc his curling shot into the top corner after the Newcastle loanee had cut the ball back.
The Hatters had won a host of corners in the opening exchanges of the half, and from the fourth – an inswinger from Alan Sheehan – his centre-half partner Scott Cuthbert got a clear head on the ball, only for a Mansfield defender to block and smother the danger inside the six-yard box.
Mansfield sub Jack Thomas went into referee Graham Salisbury’s book on the hour for a late challenge on Gray, then – after Cook had been brought down – Sheehan swung in a free-kick from deep on the right that just evaded Cuthbert’s head, and the far post, as the Town sought an equaliser.
The Town’s best chance of levelling it to that point fell to Sheehan in the 66th minute, when Rea headed Gray’s deep cross back across the centre-of the penalty area and it fell to the unmarked Irishman eight yards out, but he didn’t connect with his usual conviction, and the ball drifted wide.
Jones brought Isaac Vassell into the attack, with Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu in midfield, on 68 minutes with left-back Potts and Cook making way.
Rea dropped to centre-half with Sheehan moving out to the left side of defence, but it was Mansfield who soon reminded the Town of their ability to extend the lead when Walton scrambled across his goalline to field Clements’ 25-yard free-kick.
Gray had the home crowd on their feet a couple of times as the final quarter-of-an-hour approached, but his driving runs to the heart of the Stags’ penalty area came to nothing until, on 76 minutes, the pressure told.
The game had truly opened up and when Marriott laid the ball back to McGeehan 25 yards from goal, to the right of the area, the midfielder did not need a second invitation to take a touch and hammer it across Shearer and into the bottom corner for the equaliser.
As Town turned the screw, Shearer had to be at his best to push away a curling shot from Cuthbert, shortly before a looping, deflected cross from Sheehan just evaded the captain and McGeehan at the far post, before McGeehan fizzed another 25-yarder narrowly wide as the Hatters sensed a winner.
Two minutes into time added on, Rea saw a header from a Gilliead corner blocked and then his second follow-up shot smuggled away by the Stags defenders, who were almost caught out by a quick free-kick from Olly Lee right at the death, but Marriott’s shot on the turn flew inches wide of the top corner.
TOWN: Walton, O'Donnell, Cuthbert (c) Sheehan, Potts (Vassell 68), Rea, Gray (Lee 81), McGeehan, Gilliead, Cook (Mpanzu 68), Marriott. Subs: Smith, Mullins, Mackail-Smith, King (GK)
STAGS: Shearer, Bennett, Benning, Collins (c), Pearce, Clements, Hoban (Thomas 55), Green, Hurst (Iacovitti 58), Hawkins, M Rose (Hamilton 72). Subs: Jensen, D Rose, Henderson
Yellows: Thomas, M Rose, Benning