Mansfield Town 2, Wycombe Wanderers 2.
OLLIE Palmer scored a late equaliser as Wanderers had to settle for point after giving away a two goal lead.
He netted against Blues for the second time this season as he again came off the bench to prove a scourge for Gareth Ainsworth’s side.
Wanderers had looked on course for a deserved and much needed victory against their fellow strugglers as Josh Scowen and Stuart Lewis both scored to put Wycombe 2-0 ahead.
But Lee Stevenson pulled a scrappy goal back for the Stags and it was down to Palmer to snatch a point for the hosts with a poacher’s finish five minutes from time.
It was rough justice on Wanderers as Palmer scored from the rebound after visiting keeper Matt Ingram made a stunning save to turn a shot onto the crossbar.
Wanderers handed a start to new signing Reece Styche in attack and he proved a handful for the home defence all afternoon with his ability to hold the ball up.
He was brought in to add goals to a misfiring Wanderers attack but it was both members of the midfield engine room, Lewis and Scowen, who fired them in front.
But the Stags came roaring back to steal a point, just as Wycombe had looked set to leapfrog their opponents in an end-to-end encounter.
Darryl Westlake managed to wrongfoot debutant Jordan Mustoe before firing in a shot from the edge of the box that Ingram did well to bat away, with the Wanderers keeper then recovering his ground swiftly to block a follow-up strike from the burly Matt Rhead.
Mansfield’s first good chance came thanks to a momentary lapse from one player, but the home side collectively switched off to allow Wanderers to take the lead. Nobody reacted to a quickly taken free-kick and the ball found Lewis in acres of space just outside the box, and the Wanderers skipper curled it round a statuesque Alan Marriott and into the net.
The hosts thought they were going to level as Anthony Howell lofted the ball over the Blues defence to the back post for an unmarked Rhead to smash a thumping drive towards goal from four yards – but the expectant cheers from the home fans anticipating an equaliser turned to stunned silence as Ingram showed lightning reactions to fling out an arm and somehow keep out Rhead’s shot.
Blues looked to press home their advantage against a sluggish home defence, with Nick Arnold flashing a 20 yard shot wide and Matt McClure having a header from a corner plucked out the air by Marriott.
But Mansfield were still in a competitive game and Ingram excelled again as he clawed over a dipping shot from Ross Dyer to keep his side in front.
Much of the Stags’ attacking play centred around Rhead, with the striker heading an early second half chance over.
Wanderers woke up from that as they swept down the other end to double their lead. Arnold hared away down the right and played in McClure, whose delayed his shot too long and offloaded for Scowen to have an effort blocked.
The ball was returned to Arnold who once more crossed into the middle, where Scowen was on hand to emphatically crash a volley past Marriott for his first goal of the season.
It was an outstanding strike but Mansfield hauled themselves back into the game with a scrappy effort, as the visitors struggled to clear their lines at a corner against their tall and muscular hosts and Stevenson was on hand to steer home from close range.
Manager Paul Cox had responded to going two down by bringing on star man Sam Clucas, back from injury, and the attacker skewed a header off target from the corner of the six yard box as the ball dropped out of the sky and onto his forehead.
Clucas was given a free role and proceeded to breathe new life into the home side’s attack, meaning Wanderers needed a third goal to steady the ship. They should have had one as McClure produced a glaring miss, blazing over from inside the six yard box from an accurate Arnold delivery.
The Stags cranked up the pressure but despite the number of crosses being fired into the Wanderers area they were unable to create much in the way of clear opportunities thanks to dogged and resolute defending from the visitors, with a free kick from Chris Clements that was always rising over the bar the sum total of their efforts.
That was until Palmer took full advantage of being in the right place to bring the game all square again. Ingram had pulled off a fantastic full length diving save to turn a shot from Clements onto the bar, but the ball bounced down and back into play and Palmer was on hand to stroke the ball home from three yards to secure a share of the spoils.
It could have been all three points for the hosts, had Ingram not done magnificently to turn away Clements’ piledriver.
Wanderers: Ingram, McCoy, Johnson, Doherty, Mustoe, Arnold, Lewis, Scowen, Wood, McClure (sub Hause), Styche (sub Jeffrey). Substitutes not used: Horlock, Kewley-Graham, Stewart, Kretzschmar, Kuffour.
Attendance: 2,789 (258 from Wycombe)