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Stags hit 50 points mark

Posted onPosted on 29th Mar

Mansfield Town 1
AFC Wimbledon 0

IT wasn’t pretty but the Stags secured back-to-back wins for the first time since September to hit the 50-points mark that is usually enough to secure a club’s Football League status.

Captain Adam Murray’s early 20-yard free kick crept past the keeper, who was unsure whether to dive as he waited for Ollie Palmer to get a possible touch, giving the Stags the perfect start.

But they looked tired after their fantastic four points earlier in the week and were unable to build on the early goal, although Matt Rhead’s clever shot and turn tested the keeper.

The Stags could not find any quality going forward, struggled to put passes together and created few chances. They were also guilty of giving away possession and the initiative too often through careless play.

However, their workrate was enough to close out a scrappy 1-0 win and three more points towards survival.

AFC Wimbledon also looked poor, but should have equalised through three good chances. Substitute Kwesi Appiah mishit a close range finish in the first half and in the second half George Francomb fired hopelessly over when unmarked and Alan Bennett’s header was cleared off the line by Jamie McGuire.

McGuire’s battling work at the heart of the midfield epitomised the home side’s never-say-die attitude.

Manager Paul Cox again switched to a 4-4-2 midway through the second half and substitutes Lindon Meikle, Sam Clucas and Jake Speight all offered pace as the home side at last created a few chances in the closing stages.

Matt Rhead’s low shot was saved, Meikle fired over from distance, Clucas headed at the keeper and Murray fired narrowly wide, but in the end the captain’s first goal of the season was enough.

The win took the Stags into the top half of the table for the first time since October and closer to the play-offs than the relegation zone.

Importantly, the bottom two clubs, Northampton and Torquay both lost, although Bristol Rovers, Accrington and Portsmouth all picked up three points.

After the game Cox praised the vocal fans for their support, warned the Stags were not yet safe and said the players had earned a couple of days off.

He said: “I would love to think we are now safe but mathematically we are not.

“It is not over until the fat lady sings and we will carry on right to the end. I want us to keep working hard and keep winning football matches. Nothing has been achieved yet.

“I am not going to be arrogant and say we are safe. I would rather we finished the season on an incredible high, though I would like to give some of my younger players some experience when I can.

“Come the end of the season we will finish where we deserve.

“I am proud of this football club tonight. Home and away the supporters and players are working towards each other and it is putting a big smile on my face.

“Sometimes I get frustrated with this football club because I know there will be bad times during a season and some of our supporters get frustrated with that.

“But when they are in the mode they were in today there is no better place to be as a player or a manager. It was such a cauldron of noise, which is so invigorating it makes me smile.

“The crowd have played a massive part in our resurgence since Christmas and have got behind the boys.

“Quite a few of the players were running on empty out there towards the end and they will get a couple of days off to recharge and then we will see who is fit for Saturday.”