Stags hold on for a point as Town boss Field Mill draw

Blue Square Bet Premier

Mansfield Town 0 (0) Luton Town 0 (0)

DRAW specialists Luton claimed the fifth stalemate of Gary Brabin’s six-game reign as Town were held to a goalless draw by Mansfield at Field Mill this afternoon, writes Mark Wood.

The Stags certainly didn’t miss an opportunity to rub in their FA Trophy final Wembley appearance, playing Que Sera Sera and their Wembley song Blue and Yellow to remind the Hatters of their semi-final defeat.

Mansfield may be heading to the home of football, but Town dominated this game as they worked Stags keeper David Grof throughout, while Mansfield hardly managed a meaningful shot all afternoon.

The Hatters made three changes from the side that held champions Crawley to a 1-1 draw on Tuesday night. Adam Newton, Robbie Willmott and Paul Carden dropped to the bench and into the starting XI came Dan Gleeson, Keith Keane and Amari Morgan-Smith.

The two sides got off to an even opening and after Claude Gnakpa had been clattered into a couple of times, Town finally got a sight of goal on 11 minutes. Tom Naylor struggled to deal with Gleeson’s ball over the top and Morgan-Smith got in-between him and Grof, but by the time he got the ball under control his shot was blocked.

And more haphazard Stags defending almost gave Luton a chance again four minutes later. Naylor again struggled to deal with a Gleeson pass, allowing Morgan-Smith to skip through, but Steve Foster threw himself at the ball and did just enough to put the Town striker off at the vital moment.

A lovely Luton move saw Gnakpa whip a cross across the face of goal on 20 minutes, before some indifferent defending almost let Paul Stonehouse in seconds later. With the ball looking like it had run out on the left, the Stags left-back got a fortunate rebound off the corner flag and cut in from the byline before being denied by a number of Luton players who flung themselves in the way of his effort.

Town crafted another great chance moments later when Jake Howells’ cross was flicked on by a defender’s head into the path of Alex Lawless, but he could only sidefoot straight at Grof.

Jason Walker was marginally twice offside when presented with great heading opportunities at the back post before Gnakpa had a shot blocked and Lawless’ heavily deflected follow-up was easily snaffled by Grof.

And with three minutes to go another glorious chance went begging for the Hatters. Gleeson’s canny pass allowed Lawless to nip to the byline where he hung it up to the back post, but this time Walker could only send his downward header wide.

Barnes-Homer replaced Morgan-Smith at the break and almost made an instant impact. Lawless seized on a poor clearance and slid Barnes-Homer through the middle but Grof was able to beat away his blast.

Foster did well to take the venom out of a Gnakpa wallop, but the Frenchman took a heavy knock in the process and was replaced by Willmott.

The towering frame of Zdenek Kroca could only send Walker’s chipped cross over, while Walker stabbed a good chance well wide after good work by Lawless on 63 minutes.

Mansfield finally managed a spell of pressure but a still failed to muster a shot on or off target, while Barnes-Homer had a snapshot saved by Grof’s legs on 72 minutes.

Some good build-up play ended in Grof parrying away Willmott’s 20-yarder, while Conor Higginson finally had the Stags’ first effort on 77 minutes but Mark Tyler easily gathered his off-target effort.

Town went close again with four minutes to go when Barnes-Homer produced some good hold-up play and Lawless burst through but was again denied by Grof.

Walker planted a header over the bar from Howells centre in stoppage time, but that was the last real chance in a sorry game that ground to a goalless draw.

Stags: David Grof, Gary Silk, Steve Foster (C), Louis Briscoe, Kyle Nix, Tom Naylor (Mark Preece 34), Paul Stonehouse, Steve Istead, Conor Higginson, Ashley Cain, Danny Micthley (Adam Smith 58). Substitutes not used: Neil Collett, Tyrone Thompson, Dan Spence.

Hatters: Mark Tyler, Dan Gleeson, Freddie Murray, Keith Keane, George Pilkington (C), Amari Morgan-Smith (Matthew Barnes-Homer 46), Zdenek Kroca, Alex Lawless, Jake Howells, Claude Gnakpa (Robbie Willmott 53), Jason Walker. Substitutes not used: Kevin Pilkington, Adam Newton, Paul Carden.

Booking: Nix 57; Higginson 71; Willmott 80; Keane 86.

Referee: Seb Stockbridge.

Assistant referees: Paul Brown and Geoffrey Liddle.

Fourth official: Duncan Carratt.

Attendance: 2,203 (Luton 424).

Star Hatter: Alex Lawless. Was the game’s most consistently creative influence.

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