Cheltenham Town climbed out of the bottom two with this valuable point against Mansfield Town at Whaddon Road.
The first half wasn’t one for the purists, but Wes Burn’s third goal since his arrival from Bristol City on Deadline Day, two minutes into the second half, handed Russell Milton’s side a priceless lead.
The Stags responded to the goal with changes and a tweak in formation which resulted in substitute Billy Kee levelling the match 16 mintues after his introduction.
The Robins looked more likely to grab a winner in the closing stages, but they couldn’t find a way past a well-drilled Mansfield side, fighting for their own survival.
So that’s four points from three games against relegation rivals in seven days, and despite the return there are real signs of quality and resilience.
Now Milton will prepare his side for tricky trips to Newport and Portsmouth over the next the days, hoping to convert the promise and positivity into points on the board.
Milton made two changes to the side that made the longest trip home empty-handed from Carlisle on Tuesday night.
In came Mathieu Manset, who was rewarded with his second start after making the difference on Tuesday as a second half substitute. He replaced Shaun Harrad in attack.
Danny Haynes came in for his debut in place of Eliot Richards, who dropped to the bench, and the former Charlton Athletic, Ipswich Town and Hibernian wideman showed his pedigree from the outset with some darting runs and neat touches to unsettle the Mansfield defence.
However the the first half was attritional, and the first real chance of the afternoon arrived with 28 minutes on the clock in the visitors’ first meaningful foray forward.
Junior Brown glanced Lee Beevers’ delivery from the right onto the crossbar, then Trevor Carson dropped to instinctively block the winger’s follow-up. Then Troy Brown made sure he was between Simon Heslop’s effort and the goal before the danger was frantically cleared to safety.
Cheltenham’s first effort fell to the centre half, who arrived at the far post to meet Matt Richards’ corner from the right but Lenny Pidgeley tipped over the effort at full stretch.
Wes Burns pickpocketed Nathan Elder to fashion a good opportunity from nothing five minutes before the break, but the pacey winger dragged his left footer a foot wide of the right post.
There was half a chance for Ryan Tafazolli from six yards, but the centre half’s looping header was easily taken by Carson on the stroke of half-time.
Burns got the second half off to a flier, scoring within two minutes of the restart to hand Milton’s side a priceless goal.
The winger forced the initial throw-in, which was sent into the box by Craig Braham-Barrett from the left. Manset flicked it on into the path of Burns who swivelled and fired home from 12 yards.
Heslop shaved the right post with a 20-yard free-kick almost immediately, after a coming together between Brown and Cadaine Oliver on the edge of the box, and it turned out to be his last contribution of the afternoon.
A minute later Kee was pressed into action by Adam Murray, the youngest manager in the Football League, as Mansfield switched their tactics to deploy two up front. Kee, who saw an initial chance fly over from 12 yards, was later joined by Jeffrey Monakana on the right (for Brown) and the changes saw Mansfield enjoy their best spell of the game.
They were back on terms with 23 minutes remaining when Lambe escaped down the left and centred a low ball and Kee planted a measured side-footed finish beyond Carson and into the top right-hand corner of the goal.
Another break resulted in a free-kick for Chris Clements, but Carson was equal to it.
Burns’ fired one wide in his last action of the game, replaced by Eliot Richards with eight minutes to play. Sparrow also made way for Jordan Wynter as Cheltenham finished the stronger of the two sides.
Harrad’s cute effort rolled across the face of goal, then his free-kick from 20 yards was blasted into the defensive wall in the closing stages.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (4-5-1): Carson; Vaughan, Brown, Taylor (c), Braham-Barrett; Burns (E Richards 82), Sparrow (Wynter 82), Mills, M Richards, Haynes; Manset (Harrad 67). Subs not used: Gould (Gk), Deaman, Hanks, Berry.
MANSFIELD TOWN (4-5-1): Pidgeley; Beevers, Riley, Tafazolli, Elder; Brown (Monakana 65), Heslop (Kee 52), Ravenhill (c), Clements, Lambe; Oliver. Subs not used: Studer (Gk), Sutton, Rhead, Bingham, Thomas.
REFEREE: T Kettle
ATTENDANCE: 2,597 (283 from Mansfield)