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Howells hits late winner

Posted onPosted on 8th Mar
Howells hits late winner

Mansfield Town 2
AFC Newport 1

Midfielder Anthony Howell struck an injury-time winner to clinch the Stags’ third home win in four matches and move them up to 18th place, seven points clear of the relegation zone.
Howell’s dramatic late winner was not in keeping with a poor, scrappy match, but the result was far more important to Mansfield than the performance – and cheering fans gave the players a standing ovation after the vital win.
Substitute Lindon Meikle’s clever pass from a partially-cleared free kick picked out Sam Clucas, his deep cross was knocked back across the face of goal by Matt Rhead and Howell pounced from close range.
With other teams in the relegation fight also picking up points, Howell’s last-gasp goal was all the more important.
The Stags, with assistant manager Adam Murray and Ben Hutchinson replacing Jamie McGuire and Lee Stevenson, struggled to create chances and find any rhythm in a strong wind. Newport, still looking to make the play-offs, were equally poor but posed a greater attacking threat with former Stags loanee midfielder Adam Chapman going close with three long-range shots.
Defender Ryan Tafazolli headed the home side in front with his first Mansfield goal, but keeper Elliott Parish should have held his flicked effort from Hutchinson’s well-flighted free kick.
The only other notable moments in the first-half came from Rhead again winning most of his headers and Sam Clucas being booked for diving when he appeared to be impeded and stumbled.
Newport edged the second-half and levelled when Stags keeper Alan Marriott dropped a free-kick under little pressure and Rene Howe stabbed in the loose ball. The visitors should have gone on to win the game, but failed to capitalise on several crosses from dangerous wide areas and a series of corners.
The Stags finally posed a threat in the final 15 minutes, with substitute striker Ollie Palmer helping to retain possession more often and chase apparent lost causes.
Howell went close when his close-range flick from another Rhead knock down went narrowly over. But he had the last laugh a minute into injury time.
Howell’s late winner was in contrast to many matches this season when Mansfield have conceded vital last-minute goals, notably at home to Accrington Stanley and Plymouth, and at Fleetwood.
The only black mark for the Stags came when defender Ritchie Sutton went off a few minutes from time with what looked like a hamstring injury, although his injury led to the introduction of Meikle who helped to create the matchwinner.
Afterwards Paul Cox gave an honest assessment and admitted the home side showed little quality.
I don’t think we played very well in the second half.
“Overall it was a scrappy game. There was a blustery wind and the ball was bobbling all over the pitch,” he said.
“They camped in our half for 20-plus minutes (in the second-half), so to win was excellent.
“I am not bothered about performances now, just the results.
I was pleased with our endeavour and our work ethic. But the quality wasn’t there. Both teams struggled to put two passes together.
“But the boys have got a bit of character. These are the games you just have to grind it out.”