Northampton 0-1 Mansfield (agg 1-3): Steve McLaughlin's winner secures League Two play-off final

Steve McLaughlin scored his eighth goal of the season to restore Mansfield's two-goal cushion in the tie
Steve McLaughlin scored his eighth goal of the season to restore Mansfield’s two-goal cushion in the tie

Mansfield Town booked their place in the League Two play-off final at Wembley as they won at Northampton to complete a 3-1 aggregate victory.

Stags left-back Steve McLaughlin’s controversial first-half winner completed a disappointing 11 days for the Cobblers, after being dramatically denied automatic promotion.

Nigel Clough’s Stags meet the winners of Thursday’s Port Vale-Swindon tie.

Josh Eppiah came closest to scoring for Jon Brady’s Cobblers on the night.

But the on-loan Leicester City striker’s header was brilliantly saved by Mansfield’s on-loan Manchester United keeper Nathan Bishop inside the first minute of the match.

The Cobblers can also point to what might have happened had Mansfield midfielder Kieran Wallace received more than just a yellow card for a wild, late second-half challenge on Eppiah.

But the hosts’ real grievance had been the manner of how this game was settled, by the only goal of the night.

The Cobblers were two goals behind after 32 minutes of the first leg on Sunday and, although Ali Kolki’s second-half goal halved that first-leg deficit, they were again back to two down in the tie after 32 minutes of the second leg too, as right-back Elliott Hewitt set up left-back McLaughlin.

But the controversy came as Lucas Akins steered a pass through the inside-right channel and a clearly offside Stephen Quinn was first to respond.

Quinn then stopped and was overtaken by fast-moving full-back Hewitt, who had come from an onside position, reached the ball first and squared across for McLaughlin to get in ahead of a flat-footed home defence to steer home at the near post for his eighth goal of the season.

The Stags will now visit Wembley on 28 May – their first appearance at the home of English football since losing the FA Trophy final to Darlington in 2011.

No coming back for Cobblers

The Cobblers looked down and out at this same stage two seasons ago when Keith Curle’s side lost 2-0 at home to Cheltenham in the first leg, only to then win 3-0 at Whaddon Road in the second leg before going on to hammer Exeter City 4-0 at Wembley.

But this time there was no coming back as the Stags, who only got back into the English Football League in 2015 after seven seasons in non-league football, continued on their journey under Clough to bring back League One football to Field Mill for the first time since 2003.

A 14-game winless run in all competitions between mid-August and late October left the Stags languishing in the relegation places and there was little suggestion that they might go on to mount a promotion challenge.

But a club record 11 home league wins in a row between 30 October and the 1-0 win over Northampton on 2 April was the cornerstone of their improvement.

In the end they won just three of their last eight games to finish only seventh but they cashed in on the downward curve the Cobblers suddenly found themselves on after letting automatic promotion slip away.

Northampton missed out on automatic promotion on the last day of the 46-game League Two season when they won their final game 3-1 at Barrow, but were dramatically bettered on goals scored when Bristol Rovers netted three times in the final 14 minutes to thump already relegated bottom club Scunthorpe United 7-0.



Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Roberts
  • 23MillsSubstituted forRoseat 65′minutes
  • 6HorsfallBooked at 90mins
  • 5Guthrie
  • 14Koiki
  • 4Sowerby
  • 17McWilliams
  • 21Felix-EppiahSubstituted forZimbaat 68′minutes
  • 11PinnockBooked at 87mins
  • 7Hoskins
  • 24Appéré


  • 2Harriman
  • 8Lewis
  • 18Zimba
  • 19Kanu
  • 26Maxted
  • 32Rose
  • 35Dyche


Formation 4-3-3

  • 1Bishop
  • 4Hewitt
  • 12Hawkins
  • 14Perch
  • 3McLaughlin
  • 35O’TooleBooked at 53mins
  • 23WallaceBooked at 63minsSubstituted forO Clarkeat 85′minutes
  • 16QuinnSubstituted forLapslieat 83′minutes
  • 34Akins
  • 18Oates
  • 9Bowery


  • 6Rawson
  • 7Murphy
  • 8O Clarke
  • 24Stech
  • 25Stirk
  • 32Lapslie
  • 44M Longstaff

Robert Madley


Live Text


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.