Late Reuben Reid penalty sees City collect all three points
Exeter City staged another remarkable comeback as they scored two late goals to beat Mansfield Town at Field Mill.
Steve Evans' Stags had led from the 38th minute of the match as Mal Benning curled home, but a strong second-half performance saw City create numerous chances to get back into the match. And, off the bench, Matt Oakley and Reuben Reid played crucial roles in helping City turn the match around. Ryan Harley levelled in the 84th minute and then, with the final kick of the game, Reid converted a penalty he had won to give City all three points.
Grecians manager Paul Tisdale made three changes to the starting line-up. In came Luke Croll for the injured Craig Woodman, while Jack Stacey and David Wheeler – following their substitute appearances in the 3-3 draw with Yeovil – came back into the team at the expense of Jordan Tillson and Liam McAlinden.
Reuben Reid, who scored the equaliser in that match, was only fit enough for a place on the bench following illness in the week.
Mansfield started brightly and had the ball in the back of the net in the opening two minutes, but Shaq Coulthirst effort from inside the box was correctly ruled out for a handball in the buildup.
It took City until the 10th minute to register their first effort at goal as Wheeler headed a Lloyd James cross off target, but it was still the hosts who were looking the more threatening with Jordan Moore-Taylor putting in a good block to deny Coulthirst and Matt Green having a header saved by Christy Pym.
City then came into the game a bit more as Watkins picked up a long ball from Pym and broke forward but couldn’t find Wheeler in space on the edge of the box.
Jack Stacey’s final ball was also not up to standard as he got in down the left, but failed to pick out with Watkins or Wheeler in the centre.
Mansfield then up the pressure again as Watkins blocked a shot from Ben Whiteman and Danny Rose sent a header, from the resulting corner, crashing against the crossbar.
Watkins then volleyed another effort just wide but, on the balance of play, it was Mansfield who took a deserved lead when Benning took down a crossfield ball from Joel Byrom, stepped inside Pierce Sweeney and found the bottom corner.
Watkins then had another chance just before the break as he fired a shot from eight yards right across the face and wide with Jake Kean, in the Mansfield goal, helpless to stop it.
City started the second half with plenty of attacking intent as well and Watkins was cynically taken out by Benning as he got played in on goal by Wheeler. It resulted in a booking for the Mansfield Town goalscorer, but a free-kick in a poor position for the visitors that they were unable to make anything of.
Jack Stacey was then denied a tap-in on 58 minutes as Krystian Pearce got his long legs to a ball across the face of goal from Watkins. Paul Tisdale then made his first substitution on 64 minutes taking Lloyd James off for Reuben Reid. That saw City switch to a 4-4-2 diamond formation with Reid partnering Wheeler up front.
It brought a chance for City four minutes later as Jack Stacey ran onto a flick on and hit a shot at goal from 12 yards but Jake Kean had stood up well and blocked superbly.
However, as the game went end-to-end, Christy Pym had to be super quick off his line to dive at the feet of Coulthirst to prevent him from making it 2-0 to the hosts.
Matt Oakley then came on for City with 15 minutes to go and got the visitors going again with some patient, controlled possession in midfield. Watkins again was the dangerman as Oakley and Harley set him up with a shot in the left corner of the net but his curling effort was well saved by Jake Kean.
Then on 84 minutes City were level as Watkins played the ball to Reid on the edge of the box and his hold-up play set Ryan Harley with a sight at goal and he drilled a shot past Kean from just inside the box.
Three minutes later and Watkins had a great chance to put City in front as he turned his man 30 yards from goal but his shot was off target. However, as six minutes stoppage time went up on the clock, Ben Whiteman had a shot through a crowd of players forcing Pym into an outstanding one-handed save.
That proved to be a crucial moment in the match - and possibly City's season - as a moment later Reid latched onto a wonderful crossfield ball from Oakley, burst past Mal Benning who brought him down in the box. Referee Ben Toner pointed to the spot and Reid fired home from 12 yards to win the match with the final kick of the match.
Mansfield Town (4-4-2): Kean; Bennett, Pearce, Taft (Howkins, 60), Benning; MacDonald (Collins, 72), Byrom, Whiteman, Green; Coulthirst, Rose (Potter, 79). Subs not used: Jensen, Collins, Potter, Howkins, Hamilton, McGuire, Hakeem.
Booked: Benning, Rose.
Exeter City (4-5-1): Pym; Sweeney, Brown, Moore-Taylor, Croll (Oakley, 75); Stacey (Grant, 79), James (Reid, 64), Taylor, Harley Watkins; Wheeler. Subs not used: Olejnik, Tillson, Grant, Oakley, McAlinden, Ampadu, Reid.
Attedance: 3,878 (379, away)