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First League Two playoff finalist confirmed following semi final second leg

The first League Two playoff finalist has been confirmed following Wednesday night’s semi final second leg at the Sixfields Stadium.

Northampton Town played out a Mansfield side that held a slender 2-1 lead after the first leg with Cobblers boss Jon Brady wanting his team to get “on the front foot” early in the home leg of their League Two playoff.

If his side can overturn a 2-1 deficit, they will face either Swindon or Port Vale at Wembley on the 28th of May.

They were two goals behind after 32 minutes of the first leg and couldn’t afford another sluggish start.

Mansfield wanted to return to the third tier for the first time since 2003 and manager Nigel Clough cited former club Liverpool as an example of how to rise to a challenge at the end of a long, hard season.

“It’s the teams and the players that put that to one side (that come out on top). I don’t think anyone epitomises that more than Liverpool, they’ve won two cups on penalties and they’ve played more games than anybody,” he told BBC Radio Nottingham.

“Whether it’s penalties or whatever on Wednesday night, that’s the strength you need.”

How did the second leg played out? Take a look for yourself below…

Northampton delivered a fast start with Josh Appiah testing Nathan Bishop with a header a minute in before getting with the first corner of the game, sending the ball in from the left and it was dealt with.

Mansfield got their first corner shortly after, Jon Guthrie got the block in to concede the corner, which came in from Stephen Quinn but was cleared out from deep by the hosts.

Perch made an important clearance on the 12th minute as Hoskins beared down on him in the box but Sowerby was the first to it, and lashed it goalwards from 25 yards. Hawkins took one right in the face to clear it behind for a corner.

Mansfield started to enjoy some time on the ball in the Northampton half, but still couldn’t find that first shot at goal. They got the ball in the box from a throw-in – and it was swiftly ruled offside.

Northampton had some difficulty too in keeping hold of the ball, the match was almost entirely being played in their half.

Then on the 32nd minute, Mansfield finally got a breakthrough from a poor clearance from Koiki which saw the ball fall for Wallace, before Akins threaded it through towards Quinn who was miles offside.

He left the ball and allowed Hewitt to run onto it and knock it into the six-yard box, where McLaughlin finished it off to make it 1-0 (3-1 on aggregate).

Sky Sports’ Lee Hendrie at Sixfields: “Quinn is miles offside, he gets a shout to leave it, puts his arms up, and McLaughlin has been magnificent for goals this season – that could be a massive, massive one in this tie.”

McWilliams squeezed the ball through a small gap behind the Mansfield defence for Eppiah with Bishop fast off his line and quick enough to just get there ahead of him, clearing at full stretch.

O’Toole was hassling Horsfall, who went down in the area and looked straight at the referee.

He waved play on and with chaos in the Mansfield area, Hoskins fired over with Bishop off his line with minutes of the first half remaining.

Quinn played a lovely ball inside to Oates on the edge of the area, and managed to get it into the middle for Akins, who brought it down and had a shot blocked by Guthrie, before O’Toole was denied on the follow-up by another.


Former Northampton and Mansfield manager Keith Curle on Sky Sports Football: “My understanding is when Quinn makes an attempt to go for the ball, the linesman has every right to put his flag up.

“I would, in the circumstances, be asking the fourth official for clarity on the rules.”

Sky Sports’ Aaron McLean at Sixfields: “I can understand why the Northampton fans are unhappy. As the ball is played forwards for the goal, it’s a clear offside in the first instance.

“When it’s played forwards by Akins, Quinn is in an offside position and makes an attempt to go for the ball.”

The second half started and another penalty appeal turned down. Eppiah got away from McLaughlin and put the ball low into the box for Appere, he looked to get a knock on his leg from a Mansfield defender and went down.

The referee gave nothing, and stood motionless after when Hoskins went down too.

Lee Hendrie: “The first one, I felt there was contact – you’ve seen those given. The second one, I definitely don’t feel that one is, he goes down far too easy.”

After a stoppage in play to fix officials’ earpieces, O’Toole got himself booked for flying into McWilliams in midfield.

Lee Hendrie: “Mansfield have had more of the ball since half-time, dictating the battles in the midfield area.

“It feels like it’s going their way at this moment in time. They’re well-drilled and well-organised.”

Frustration set into the Cobblers team as Pinnock couldn’t get the ball on the edge of the Mansfield box and ended up hauling Wallace over.

Wallace went in on McWilliams with real force, sending him flying and was rightfully booked, but could have easily been sent off.

Northampton make their first change in the 65th minute. Rose came on for Mills.

Eppiah couldn’t continue having been Northampton’s most creative player of the night. Zimba came on in his place.

Another long Pinnock throw is knocked down to Hoskins, who is denied by an important Hawkins block.

Pinnock saw his delivery was half cleared to Sowerby, whose effort from 25-yards was deflected behind for a corner.

Mansfield cleared the corner, and went straight back on the attack before winning a free-kick in a decent position on the right.

It was lifted into the box where Bishop flapped at the ball under pressure and Mansfield scrambled it away.

In the 73rd minute, Ben Toner had a bit of a shocker in the middle as Quinn ran past McWilliams and caught him in the face just after that free-kick. 

The referee gave a foul, leaving Mansfield lucky to still have 11 on the pitch by this point.

Lee Hendrie: “Tell you what, there’s a hand, a fist in the face isn’t there? That’s why everyone was so furious. Very lucky.”

Quinn tried to double their lead on the night with a bicycle kick, though could only send it over.

A loose ball fell in the Mansfield box, which saw no Northampton player meet with it and Bishop managed to collect it.

Zimba looked across the six-yard box when Horsfall found him with a ball outside McLaughlin, but Hawkins blocked it and handed Northampton another corner which saw Bishop punch clear.

Lapslie came on for the final seven minutes, replacing Quinn. Another Mansfield change saw Wallace off for Clarke.

87th minute saw it threaten to boil over as Pinnock went in hard and late on McLaughlin. Just a yellow handed.

Lee Hendrie: “It’s been a painful couple of weeks for Northampton. The areas that you look at and the question will be asked by Jon Brady is whether everyone has given everything.

“They’ve given everything this season, he’s done a super job, they have to get over that disappointment quite quickly. 

“There’s no doubt about it, the way it happened there’ll be disappointment throughout the side. But you have to respond – and they haven’t.”

A yellow was handed out to Horsfall for dissent towards the referee.

Then some pitch invaders ran on, and whilst getting removed, there’ were reports that a couple of other Northampton fans had been squaring up to Mansfield players.

The full time whistle blew, meaning Mansfield are now just a game away from promotion to League One, knowing they would play either Swindon or Port Vale. The Robins led the first leg 2-1.

Aaron McLean: “They could never have imagined when Nigel Clough came into the club he would take them to Wembley.

“The job that he’s done has been brilliant. Now they’ve still got one more game – he’ll be reminding the players to enjoy tonight, but they want to feel it again.”

Aaron McLean: “They could never have imagined when Nigel Clough came into the club he would take them to Wembley.

“The job that he’s done has been brilliant. Now they’ve still got one more game – he’ll be reminding the players to enjoy tonight, but they want to feel it again.”

Former Northampton and Mansfield manager Keith Curle on Sky Sports Football: “It’s going to hurt. What I would say about the football club is it’s a very honest, well-structured club.”

Twitter users reacted with the first League Two playoff finalist confirmed following Wednesday’s semi final second leg…

@TonyHulatt: Congratulations Stags 👏 Nottinghamshire double at Wembley, let’s finish the job in style 👍

@OldChannel10: Hope you lot get promoted to league 1 good luck from a forest fan

@stockhambrfc: Congratulations stags from a happy gashead 😀 @mansfieldtownfc @brfc

@Joanne_Scott1: Congratulations Mansfield from a Leeds fan 💛💙

@garibaldidaz: Nice one #stags. Let’s hope you and #nffc make it a weekend to remember 👊 🔴⚪️🟡🔵

@staniforthsc: Well done Stags. Great grandad (Christopher Staniforth) would be proud of you. Now go finish the job.

@richardevans76: My team. A real team. Fighters and players. Wembley. Count me in @mansfieldtownfc #yellows #COYStags 🟡🔵🟡

@CottonSoft: Thanks for the chants at the end there Stags! All the best of luck in the final. From a gashead

@BEN2911: The way so called notts fans are sucking up to forest and mansfield due to them making a final is embarrassing! Honestly makes me sick! 🤮

@markdonnyiron: Congratulations. A well deserved victory. 👏🏼 Enjoy Wembley! Pity some @ntfc idiots shame their club. Just sour grapes.

@wadeycobbler: Can’t knock the Cobblers efforts and passion but Mansfield’s roughhouse tactics, strong defending and some questionable officiating won the tie. Big summer now to keep the better players. #ntfc

@tstafford1986: Fantastic tonight, @mansfieldtownfc. Bishop, Hawkins and JJ in particular put in unbelievable performances.

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