Crawley Town v Mansfield Town
Reds came from 2-0 down to earn a deserved draw against Mansfield in a rousing season’s finale at the Checkatrade Stadium.
Matt Harrold’s stint as caretaker boss looked like ending in anti-climax when Danny Rose and Ben Whiteman put the Stags 2-0 ahead midway through the first half.
But Dean Cox pulled one back and Jordan Roberts equalised ten minutes into the second half with a stunning finish from outside the box.
James Collins was then denied twice by Mansfield keeper Jake Kean before hitting the inside of the post as Reds dominated the second half.
Roberts was making his first start since February as caretaker manager Matt Harrold made one change to the side beaten at Cambridge last Saturday, in Dermot Drummy’s last game in charge.
The atmosphere at the start was the best it had been for weeks with vocal support for Harrold from the South Terrace and even some good-natured exchanges with former Reds manager Steve Evans, who was making his second return as a boss to his old club.
Dean Cox, playing in a more central role to accommodate Roberts, flashed an early drive wide after Enzio Boldewijn had set up the chance before Mark Connolly had to make a timely interception in the box to deny Hayden White a shot at goal. Alex MacDonald then cut inside but curled a left-foot effort well over the target.
The visitors went in front in the 12th minute. The ball was lofted through by Joel Byrom and Rose slid his shot past Glenn Morris as the home players – and fans – appealed in vain for offside.
Reds squandered a great chance to equalise six minutes later. Enzio Boldewijn was brought down by Krystian Pearce and Roberts’ free kick found Jimmy Smith unmarked but he headed wastefully wide from a good position.
Mansfield had two good chances to double their lead shortly afterwards. Ben Whiteman headed over the target from 12 yards after Alfie Potter’s cross had found him then Glenn Morris got down to keep out Whiteman’s low drive after Matt Green had beaten the offside trap.
But Whiteman was not to be denied a third time. On 23 minutes, he burst down the left and from just outside the box found the bottom corner with a low shot.
The Stags, who needed a win to retain their slim play-off hopes, were a danger going forward every time and Mal Benning flashed a volley on the run from the left-hand side just wide after the lively Whiteman’s cross-field ball had found him.
Morris saved Reds again on the half-hour, keeping out Matt Green’s shot on the turn with his legs, and it proved to be a crucial moment when Reds pulled one back four minutes later. Andre Blackman’s cross from the left dropped to Cox, who volleyed low past Jake Kean for his second goal of the season.
The half ended with James Collins’ head swathed in badges after a clash of heads as Reds defended a corner.
Reds levelled ten minutes into the second half and it was a stunning strike too. Boldewijn won a corner which Cox played short to Roberts and he beat Kean with a powerful left-foot effort inside the right-hand post from 20 yards.
Cox had half a chance to put Crawley in front on the hour after he was found by Collins, but dragged his effort wide but the hosts now had the bit between their teeth.
Cox’s free kick found Smith whose looping header was nodded off the line then Collins robbed Hayden White and was in on goal but his shot was kept out by Kean’s legs.
Connolly came off with 20 minutes to go and was replaced by Josh Yorwerth and Collins was denied by Kean again moments later when his low effort from Cox’s corner was kept out at the post by the Stags’ keeper. With 15 minutes to go the Reds’ top scorer had another go, this time from 25 yards but his shot flew just wide of the right-hand upright.
Mansfield had been second best in the half but substitute George Taft had a great chance from a rare Stags’ corner which he lifted over the target.
If Collins had the feeling it wasn’t his day it was confirmed with seven minutes to go when his volley from the right-hand side of the box beat Kean but came back out off the inside the post.
Krystian Pearce headed just wide with a powerful header for the Stags before Billy Clifford replaced Cox with two minutes to go. Harrold made a late cameo to end what was one of the most enjoyable games of the campaign.
Reds: Morris; Young, Connolly (Yorwerth 71), McNerney, Blackman; Boldewijn, Djalo, Smith, Roberts; Cox (Clifford 87); Collins.
Attendance: 2635 (387 away)