Walsall 1 Mansfield 2 - Report and pictures
Walsall were left rueing their missed chances when they fell to a fifth defeat in a row at home to Mansfield.
Striker Rory Gaffney spurned several clear-cut opportunities in both halves as the Saddlers lost 2-1.
Former Walsall frontman Andy Cook opened the scoring with a header before Elijah Adebayo equalised with a header of his own on the stroke of half-time.
After Walsall didn’t capitalise on more chances in the second 45, the visitors won it with a goal from Alex McDonald.
Darrell Clarke made four changes to the side that lost 2-0 away at Oldham on Tuesday, starting in a 5-3-2 formation.
Cameron Norman, Callum Cockerill-Mollett and Kory Roberts all came into the defence - with the latter making his first league appearance since he broke his leg in summer before the 2018/19 season.
Cockerill-Mollett started as one of three centre-backs.
Liam Kinsella also returned to the side, after being suspended for the defeat at Oldham, starting in left-wing-back.
Captain James Clarke and fellow defenders Zak Jules and Cameron Pring missed out after picking up injuries in midweek.
Danny Guthrie made his return from injury, making the bench.
John Dempster’s Mansfield started in a 4-4-2 formation with an unchanged side to their 2-1 loss at home to Salford in midweek.
Former Saddlers players Mal Benning and Andy Cook started the game, while another familiar face, Matty Preston, was named on the bench.
Despite the cold and wet conditions, Walsall started the game brightly, pressing intently when Mansfield were on the ball.
That pressing forced an error in the visitor’s backline, gifting Walsall a corner and the first chance of the game.
Roberts won the header from Alfie Bates’ cross and goalkeeper Conrad Logan had to save from close range after Cockerill-Mollett poked the ball towards goal.
Mansfield grew into the game and almost went ahead themselves shortly after, through veteran striker Nicky Maynard.
The striker’s headed attempt from a cross was straight at Jack Rose, but the goalkeeper still had to react well to palm it away.
In an equal first 20 minutes, that saw chances at either end, Rory Gaffney almost put the hosts ahead.
A long ball over the top from Scarr put the striker through on goal but his shot was straight at Logan, with the resulting corner coming to nothing.
The breakthrough came on the half-hour mark as returning striker Cook headed home from a cross by Otis Khan.
The winger did well to get to the byline and lift a cross over everyone, apart from Cook who was waiting at the back post.
But Walsall should have equalised instantly.
Elijah Adebayo, who came on after Josh Gordon picked up a knock, did the hard work by out-muscling the defender before laying the ball into Gaffney.
The striker is on the edge of the box, the goalkeeper is in no-man’s land, but Gaffney’s shot was blocked by Benning on its way into the net.
The Irishman had another good chance in the 43rd minute but he hesitated from gambling on a superb inswinging cross from Kinsella, before the goalkeeper collected the ball.
But on the stroke of half-time it was substitute Adebayo who levelled the score for Walsall.
The 21-year-old initially won a free-kick on the right side of the box and after a wonderful cross from Holden, Adebayo is at the back post to head home.
The first-half ended with both sides level, with the home fans buoyed by the late Adebayo goal.
After scoring at the end of the first half, Walsall started the second half with the momentum.
Spurned on from his goal, Adebayo was running himself into the ground to win the ball back for his team, constantly harassing defenders and charging the ball down.
Within five minutes he was given an opportunity on goal when he found space on the left of the box. His curled shot was well saved by Logan.
On the 68th minute Gaffney spurned another golden chance. Kinsella did incredibly well to win the ball high-up and play in Gaffney.
The striker had a one-on-one chance and hit it low at the goalkeeper - to the detriment of his side because Mansfield counter attacked straight away and took the lead.
The ball came in from the left and after a scramble in the box, it popped up to Alex MacDonald who hit it low past Rose.
With 10 minutes remaining, Rose kept Walsall in the game with a strong, instinctive save from close-range.
But Walsall didn’t muster any meaningful chances on goal in the closing stages and fell to another home defeat.
Walsall: Rose, Norman, Scarr, Roberts, Cockerill-Mollett, Holden (McDonald 72), Bates (Guthrie 62), Sinclair, Kinsella, Gordon (Adebayo 25), Gaffney.
Subs: Roberts, Liddle, Facey, Hardy.
Mansfield: Logan, Benning, Pearce (Preston 58), Bishop, MacDonald, Khan, Maynard (Hamilton 87), Shaughnessy, Sweeney, Cook, Gordon.
Subs not used: Olejnik, Tomlinson, Afolayan, Knowles, Smith.
Attendance: 4,521 (877 away).