AFC Mansfield 3 Garforth 1
Town edged out in four-minute goal blitz
A Mark Simpson equalizer provided only the briefest of hope as two quickfire goals from the Bulls condemned The Miners to another away defeat.
Town started on the front foot, but the first good chance fell to the home side on 7 mins when Oliver Fearon forced a good stop from Pete Lawrie; ex-Garforth defender Matt Plummer earning a corner from the rebound. Down the other end there were claims for handball three minutes later when a good move down the left saw Luke Kitson supply Mitch Hamilton who's shot looked to have struck a defender's arm, but the referee chose instead to give a free-kick for dissent.
Rob Hunter's side have looked suspect from set pieces lately and so it proved again on 12 mins when our opponents gave themselves the lead. An in-swinging corner to the back post found Plummer who slid in to score against his old club. Rudi Funk's team went in search of a second and we had goalkeeper Lawrie to thank moments later when he made an excellent stop with his feet to deny Cameron Dear. Fearon was unlucky on 21 mins when getting on the end of a corner to the near post and rifling against the post. He came close again moments later after a good foray down the right; his effort from a narrow angle finding the side netting.
Town have had little luck on the injury front in recent weeks, and there was more on 24 mins when full-back Kitson was forced off after taking a knock. Mark Simpson replaced him and a Garforth defence already missing Jack Lazenby and Ryan Donoghue was forced into a reshuffle.
The home side kept up the pressure and some dangerous play in the left corner between Phil Buxton and Connor Smythe saw the latter's strike deflected wide for a corner on 33 mins. Shortly after, an unmarked Jimmy Ghaichem shot wide of the far post from 18 yards. Garforth did better on the counter towards the end of the half, however the finish was lacking. Lee Turner struck just wide of the far post on 36 mins when supplied by Calum Ward, before the latter shot well wide from 20 yards three minutes later. In between those chances were two saves in quick succession from Lawrie, palming away from goal a Buxton effort before saving from Dear. In injury time Fearon came close again from a long throw, rising highest to head wide of the target.
With The Bulls unable thus far to put themselves out of sight, Town were still in the game and started the second half brightly. Ward headed wide James Beaston's delivery on 48 mins, before Ward did well to pick out Hamilton but his low shot was easily gathered by home stopper Jason White. The pressure paid off on 52 mins with a goal of the season contender from Simpson. With two defenders closely watching him around 20 yards out, he did brilliantly to make space for himself and score with a cracking strike off the underside of the bar.
Sadly parity was to last only two minutes, as akin to Saturday at Handsworth, the home side scored two goals in quick succession to seal the points. Dear made a run down the left and delivered a low ball to Nicholas Guest who nipped in at the back post to restore his teams' lead. Two minutes after that, a counter attack ended in Fearon finally getting his goal with a fine strike over an onrushing Lawrie.
Ghaichem and Dear were causing us problems on the right wing and the former shot wide of the far post after making a run through a hesitant Town defence on 63 mins. There were yet more chances for Fearon - who should've had a hat-trick - around the 80 min mark, failing to get his foot around Smythe's corner to the back stick, then putting a free header just wide from sub Liam Marsden's delivery. He was then denied by Lawrie at point blank range when picked out from the left.
A great move by Ward and Sean Hunter down the left flank almost saw Town reduce the arrears on 84, Simpson just failing to connect with Ward's low ball to the back post. On 90 mins Turner was similarly unlucky when his audacious strike from 40 yards struck the crossbar.
Another match where Town battled and tried to play football against top opponents, but with goals seemingly drying up in recent weeks small errors at the back, particularly from set pieces, are proving costly. Garforth return to the Supply Chain Network Stadium on Saturday when we host neighbours Harrogate Railway (kick-off 3pm).