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16:55 8th February 2014
By  Andrew Webb

Report: Stags 2-1 Shrimpers

Mansfield Town produced a magnificent performance to pick up three vital points with a 2-1 victory over Southend United at One Call Stadium.

In horrendous swirling winds, the Stags went 1-0 up through Sam Clucas, who slotted home on 34 minutes following a superb long ball forward by Martin Riley.

James Jennings doubled the Stags’ lead after the re-start – emphatically firing home from just two yards out after Dan Bentley spilled Matt Rhead’s bullet-header.

Southend substitute Conor Clifford hit the upright prior to being sent-off for a wild lunge on Rhead, before the Shrimpers’ finally netted deep into added time through Ryan Leonard.

But it mattered little as the Stags held on to register an important three points, which moves them away from the drop zone in Sky Bet League Two.

Strong winds made conditions difficult for both teams, but with the wind in their favour, the Stags shaded the early exchanges in the first period.

Paul Cox’s team thought they had made a breakthrough when Matt Rhead latched onto a defence-splitting low ball from Sam Clucas and tapped home, but the frontman was judged to be offside.

The Stags went even closer on 12 minutes as Darryl Westlake’s pin-point right-wing cross was volleyed goalwards by Clucas, but Shrimpers’ keeper Dan Bentley produced an instinctive reaction save.

Southend enjoyed a couple of corners in quick succession around the quarter-hour mark and Ryan Tafazolli had to acrobatically hook the ball away on one occasion.

The visitors had a penalty appeal turned down moments later as Bentley’s long punt downfield reached Barry Corr, who took a tumble under Martin Riley’s challenge inside the area.

Phil Brown’s team looked comfortable in possession, but it was the Stags that forced the next chance.

James Jennings’ long set-piece ball fell kindly for Rhead around 20 yards out, but his bouncing snap-shot through a packed area was straight at the Shrimpers’ keeper.

Lee Stevenson was off-target with an audacious 25-yard shot on 32 minutes, following a quick downfield ball by Alan Marriott and some fantastic hold-up play by Clucas.

Nevertheless, Mansfield continued to press forward and soon reaped the rewards.

The swirling winds held up the ball midway inside the Stags’ half and Riley was able to launch a long ball towards Clucas, which put the frontman into a one-on-one.

Clucas showed great composure to accelerate away from the Southend defence, before slotting home from a tight angle for his 12th goal of the campaign.

The Stags attacked in search of a second goal and forced three quick corners in the immediate minutes before the interval, as Southend were forced to defend deeply.

In the only minute of added time at the end of the first period, Tafazolli should have made it 2-0 when Jennings’ corner reached him just a few yards out, but his header went over.

Southend picked up the momentum after the re-start as they sought to maintain their good recent form.

On 56 minutes, an unmarked Lee Barnard spurned a great opportunity to equalise, when he drilled an eight-yard attempt yards wide, following a well-worked set-piece from deep on the right flank.

The Shrimpers chose to bolster their attacking options on the hour mark with the introduction of Freddy Eastwood and Conor Clifford in favour of Michael Timlin and John White respectively. 

However, before either player had a chance to get warm, Mansfield doubled their advantage.

Clements’ in-swinging corner found Rhead, whose bullet-header was spilled by Bentley and Jennings pounced just a few yards out to put the Stags in a commanding position.

Buoyed on by a vociferous home crowd, the Stags could have made it 3-0 on 68 minutes when Clements cut inside and flashed a shot just over the woodwork.

The Shrimpers weren’t done though, as they almost reduced arrears when Clifford’s delicate 20-yard chip beat a back-peddling Marriott, but ricocheted off the upright.

The ball fell for Eastwood just a few yards out, but the experienced striker was unable to turn it goalwards as Mansfield held on to their two-goal cushion.

Southend enjoyed more chances during the next few moments as Eastwood drove an effort into the body of Marriott, before Ben Coker curled a 30-yard free-kick over the target.

With 12 minutes left to play, Eastwood cut inside from the left flank and unleashed a 25-yard shot which sailed yards over the woodwork and didn’t trouble Marriott. 

The visitors’ miserable afternoon went from bad to worse when Clifford was shown a straight red card, after he scythed down Rhead just infront of the Stags’ dugout.

In the fourth of five minutes of injury-time, Corr hit the foot of post with a 20-yard drive, before Leonard reduced arrears with a powerful shot seconds later.

Nevertheless, the goal was too little too late as the Stags held on to record a vital three points.

Attendance: 3,055 (484 away supporters).