Two goals from Jamie Cureton helped Cheltenham Town to a comfortable win over Mansfield Town on a humid, but windy, afternoon at One Call Stadium.
The 38-year-old opened the scoring on the hour-mark following some excellent work by strike-partner Byron Harrison, before capitalising on a defensive mix-up to seal the points late on.
The visitors got proceedings underway in North Nottinghamshire and attacked towards the noisy Quarry Lane End in the first half.
However, it was Mansfield who began brightly and they enjoyed a half-chance in just the second minute.
Stags’ skipper Adam Murray whipped a teasing long free-kick towards the back-post, but Matt Rhead and Ryan Tafazolli, both stretching, were unable to bring the ball under control and get a shot away.
At the other end, the Robins thought they had taken the lead when Byron Harrison headed home a superb right-wing cross by Sido Jombati, but the flag was raised for offside.
The next opening came on eight minutes, as Murray’s long left-wing ball was headed goalwards by Rhead, but a back-peddling Cheltenham ‘keeper made a comfortable save.
Mark Yates’ men were marginally shading possession and gradually started to turn that into pressure, but the Stags held firm and dealt with no fewer than four corners in the opening 20 minutes.
David Noble then flashed a speculative low drive well wide– mostly out of frustration than anything else, as clear-cut chances were at an absolute premium.
The Stags should have done better with their first corner midway through the first half.
James Jennings delivered an inviting ball into the six-yard box, but a rising Tafazolli lacked accuracy with his powerful header, which flew well over the woodwork.
The match had already become a scrappy affair by the time Sam Deering had the first attempt on target with a scruffy, low 25-yard shot that was comfortably gathered by Lewis Price on 27 minutes.
Moments later, only a miraculous point-blank save by the Stags loanee ‘keeper kept his team on level terms.
Jermaine McGlashan did fantastically well to work his way inside from the right flank and his piercing low cut-back found Matt Richards just two yards out.
The odds seemed destined on Richards opening the scoring, but his effort ricocheted off a grounded Price and went up in the air, which allowed the grateful Stags’ defence to clear the danger.
Cheltenham then enjoyed a couple more corners, but they continued to be foiled by a resolute Mansfield back-line.
The Stags began to press forward more in the closing stages of the first period and Darryl Westlake curled a left-foot shot over from 25 yards, having skipped past his marker.
Jennings also sliced an effort harmlessly wide from the edge of the area, before he provided a great set-piece for Rhead whose scruffy attempt from six yards was easily saved by Brown.
Mansfield made one change at half-time as Lindon Meikle replaced Westlake.
The Stags initially looked brighter after the re-start, but a blustery breeze – far stronger than it had been in the first 45 minutes – made playing conditions difficult for both teams.
Despite this, the visitors broke the deadlock with the first chance after the re-start on 58 minutes.
Harrison, who had posed a threat throughout, showed good footwork and upper-body strength as he fended off two challenges to drift inside, before his perfectly weighted pass released Cureton.
With only the ‘keeper to beat, the veteran forward made no mistake from eight yards as he rifled an unstoppable drive into the net and put the visitors on course for a victory.
Before play re-started, the Stags made their second change as Anthony Howell was replaced by Ollie Palmer, who instantly took up a position alongside Sam Clucas and Rhead in attack.
However, minutes began to ebb away for Paul Cox’s team and they couldn’t benefit pose any questions of the Robins’ defence, despite enjoying their third corner just after the hour mark.
The Stags struggled to turn their superior possession into clear-cut goalscoring opportunities and a half-opening came to pass on 68 minutes, when Palmer headed harmlessly wide from Ritchie Sutton’s cross.
At the other end, only a last-ditch block from Martin Riley prevented Harrison from getting a six-yard shot away, as the visitors threatened in a rare counter-attack.
With less than a quarter-of-an-hour left to play, Mansfield made their last substitution when Jake Speight, fresh from scoring at Accrington Stanley on Good Friday, replaced Jennings.
Riley was the first player to be cautioned following a poor tackle on Cureton on 79 minutes, but Richards played the resulting free-kick along the floor to Deering, who was unable to get the ball into the area.
Nevertheless, just a minute later, the Robins made it 2-0.
Deering’s pass led to confusion in the Stags’ defence and Cureton took complete advantage as he got between Riley and Price, and took full advantage to slip the ball home from a tight angle.
Although it was a case of too little, too late, Mansfield showed spirit in the closing stages as they refused to go down without a fight and Speight had a goal disallowed for offside.
Attendance: 3,586 (134 away supporters).