Mansfield Town 1 Fleetwood Town 1
ROSS Dyer’s second-half strike cancelled out another set-piece special by Jamie Milligan, meaning a Highbury replay tomorrow will determine which side hosts League One Wycombe Wanderers in the first round of the FA Cup on Saturday week.
Town returned to the scene of one of last season’s greatest triumphs for this fourth qualifying round tie, having trounced the Stags 5-2 in Field Mill that day in the Blue Square Bet Premier.
Magno Vieira, who scored a hat-trick in that game, was back on the bench after missing the last six games with a hamstring injury.
Micky Mellon did make three changes to his starting side from the previous weekend’s 4-1 victory over Bath City as his three latest loan signings all missed out.
Glenn Wilson and Ryan Jackson were excused as their clubs, Crawley and Wimbledon respectively, did not want them cup-tied, while Wilson’s clubmate Charlie Wassmer was injured in training.
In the back four, Shaun Beeley returned to right-back after injury and skipper Steve McNulty at centre-half after suspension, while Gareth Seddon stepped up from the bench to take his place in an attacking line-up.
Keith Briggs was a suprising inclusion among the substitutes so soon after his knee problem, but just as Town appeared to be putting their early-season injury woes behind them Junior Brown suffered another blow in this game.
Having gone down in a challenge on the edge of his own penalty area, Brown returned to the action somewhat gingerly but was replaced by Alan Goodall after 14 minutes.
After a quiet start, the game came to life when Richard Brodie found the net from a Milligan free-kick but was ruled offside.
Mansfield came forward confidently and won three successive corners. Top scorer Matt Green looked dangerous and a Beeley slip in front of goal after ten minutes almost gave Lindon Meikle an opportunity to open the scoring.
Town’s own top scorer, Jamie Vardy, released Seddon after 16 minutes. The striker cut inside and his left-foot shot grazed Alan Marriott’s left-hand post.
Fleetwood enjoyed a period of neat build-up play but were unable to apply the final touch. Seddon almost created a chance on the half-hour, when his shot deflected off a defender but bounced behind the supporting Vardy.
Mansfield’s Anthony Howell came forward threateningly on the 36th minute, supplying Green to his left but keeper Scott Davies snuffed out the danger.
Brodie was in the thick of the action, his combative style not endearing him to the home crowd, and his eighth booking of the season brought a massive cheer in the 41st minute.
Yet it was Town who broke the deadlock just before the break. Vardy was tripped on the edge of the area and Milligan wrong-footed Marriott with the 43rd-minute free-kick, his third goal of the season.
Vieira replaced Brodie after the break, while Beeley showed his return to fitness with some sterling work in attack. Town’s defence kept Mansfield at bay despite a 58th-minute scare when Green, unmarked on the back post, couldn’t get a boot to a teasing cross from Meikle on the left.
Louis Moult replaced Paul Bolland after 63 minutes as sounds of frustration were heard among the Mansfield fans in the 1,725 crowd.
But the atmosphere around Field Mill changed in the 70th minute when the Stags equalised. A cross from O’Neill on the left was headed back across goal by Moult and Dyer slid the ball home from close range.
The home joy was almost short-lived as Nathan Pond rose high two minutes later to steer a header against Marriott’s crossbar, directly in front of the 134 travelling Cod Army members. Two minutes later, Vardy forced the Mansfield keeper to save from a narrow angle.
Town’s final substitution saw Sean Clancy replacing Andy Mangan in the 81st minute. The midfielder was brought down soon after, earning O’Neill a booking. Milligan could not repeat his feat of the first half, his free-kick deflecting off the wall for a corner.
Vardy had a chance to seal the tie with four minutes to go, racing into a one-on-one situation but Marriott denied him with a tremendous save.
McGuire then hit the woodwork with a shot moments later as Town looked intent on avoiding a replay.
A further opportunity came with two minutes left, Vieira shooting wide after receiving the ball from Vardy. Mansfield’s Howell landed the ball on the top of the net in added time and both sides will feel they did enough to fight another day.
Mansfield: Marriott, Sutton, Riley, Futcher, O’Neill, Bolland (Moult 62), Murray, Howell, Dyer, Green, Meikle; not used: Somes, Redmond, Connor, Bell, Todd, Day.
Fleetwood: Davies, Beeley, McNulty, Pond, J Brown (Goodall 15), Vardy, McGuire, Milligan, Mangan (Clancy 81), Brodie (Vieira 46); not used: St Louis-Hamilton, Briggs, Cox, S Brown.
Ref: I Smedley; Att: 1,725