Mansfield Town made it two wins in two matches as they beat Newport County 1-0 at One Call Stadium on Tuesday night.
Chris Clements’ second-minute goal was enough to beat a determined Exiles side in what was an end-to-end game.
Paul Cox made one change to the Stags starting xi that beat Oxford United on Saturday, with Matt Rhead returning from suspension to replace Sam Clucas up front. Dimitar Evtimov, signed on loan from Nottingham Forest was named amongst the substitutes.
It was a lively start with Newport midfielder Mark Byrne stinging the hands of Sascha Studer with a 25-yard drive after being played in by Lee Minshull after just 60 seconds.
The Stags then went straight up the other end and scored what turned out to be the winner. A right-wing cross by Lee Beevers towards the head of Matt Rhead narrowly evaded the frontman as the ball fell to Chris Clements who nipped in front of County defender Darren Jones and managed to bundle the ball home at the second attempt.
The following ten minutes saw Newport desperately try to get straight back in to the game with the Stags back three of Ritchie Sutton, John Dempster and Ryan Tafazolli continually being put under pressure by balls in to the box from wide areas, but the trio stood firm to keep the Stags in front.
The Stags could have doubled their lead in the 13th minute when Simon Heslop did well to turn Newport defender Ismail Yakubu on the by-line before pulling the ball back towards Matt Rhead who would’ve had the chance to put the Stags further ahead if not for a vital interception from Darren Jones.
The Mansfield onslaught continued as Alex Fisher broke away down the right before squaring the ball to Chris Clements on the edge of the box who saw his curling shot saved by Lenny Pidgeley in the Newport goal.
As the game became more open the Stags had their Swiss goalkeeper, Sascha Studer to thank for keeping them level. A flurry of corners for the away side were defended well by the Mansfield defence before the ball fell to Chris Zebroski five yards out who lashed his shot straight at Studer as the keeper stood tall in the Mansfield goal.
Newport continued to threaten from corners and the Stags could count themselves lucky to still be ahead after Robbie Willmott’s in-swinging corner flashed across the edge of the six yard box and only needed a touch to draw the Welsh side level, but the ball evaded everyone and rolled out for a goal-kick.
The Stags then had another great chance to double their lead in the 26th minute thanks to some great link up play down the right-hand side. Lee Beevers fed the lively Alex Fisher who cut the ball in to Simon Heslop running in-behind the Newport defence however he was thwarted by another good save from Pidgeley in the Newport goal.
From the resulting corner, John Dempster surely thought he’d scored when he rose to meet Rob Taylor’s corner three yards out but was just beaten to it by Darren Jones who headed the ball behind for another Stags corner which was dealt with well by the County defence.
Newport then had a great chance to equalise when they were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the Stags box as Ryan Tafazolli was judged to have fouled Zebroski. Newport captain Andy Sandell stepped up and curled the ball around the wall to produce a fantastic save by Studer, diving to his right to keep the scores level.
The last ten minutes of the half saw the game turned in to a scrappy affair with neither side managing to carve out any chances of note, with the referee awarding a number of free-kicks for innocuous-looking fouls. The game ended 1-0 to the Stags at half-time.
The One Call Stadium crowd had to wait eight minutes before the first chance of the second period as the half started much like the first half ended with both sides failing to get a grip of the game. Lee Beevers played a one-two with midfielder Simon Heslop before whipping a brilliant ball in behind the Newport defence to Matt Rhead at the back post who couldn’t keep his shot down when the goal was at his mercy.
The game then sparked in to life as the Newport front-line linked up well as Andy Sandell fed Chris Zebroski down the left-hand-side who clipped a cross to the back post where Rob Taylor did well to head the ball behind for a Newport corner under pressure from Aaron O’Connor.
Newport continued to press as Kevin Feely’s shot from the edge of the box deflected out for a corner off Ritchie Sutton which Studer came to punch away to safety.
The 60th minute saw the Stags make the first substitution of the game with Ollie Palmer replacing Alex Fisher and immediately having an impact, winning a corner which eventually amounted to nothing as Newport broke away on the counter-attack but Robbie Willmott could only put his shot wide of Sascha Studer’s goal.
Newport made a double substitution in the 65th minute with Rene Howe and Ryan Jackson coming on to replace Chris Zebroski and Andy Sandell, respectively.
Clements was presented with a golden opportunity to double both his, and the Stags’ tally in the 67th minute when Ollie Palmer did well to hold the ball up before setting Clements clear of the County defence, but the midfielder got the ball stuck under his feet and could only curl the ball in to the body of the retreating Darren Jones after cutting back on to his left foot.
Ollie Palmer, who looked lively after coming on, did well to create an opportunity after beating Ismail Yakubu down the left and cutting inside on to his right foot, but the forward’s shot was easily saved by Pidgeley in the Newport goal.
The 75th minute saw the introduction of Stags’ club captain/assistant manager Adam Murray who came on to replace goalscorer, Chris Clements.
The Welsh side almost created an opportunity to equalise with Rene Howe dispossessing Ritchie Sutton and running down the left before rolling the ball in-between the Mansfield defence and goalkeeper where Ryan Tafazolli was on hand to clear under pressure from Aaron O’Connor.
The visitors then opened Mansfield up with a neat passing move in the 77th minute. Mark Byrne did well to find Adam Chapman in the area who flicked the ball in to Howe whose first-time effort flew just inches wide of Studer’s right-hand post.
As the game entered the final ten minutes, Newport made their third and final change with Yan Klukowski replacing Lee Minshull and Paul Cox responding by bringing on Sam Clucas in place of Matt Rhead just a minute later.
Newport then had their best chance yet of drawing level with Pidgeley’s long goal-kick finding substitute Yan Klukowski who fed the ball in to the path of Rene Howe who again lashed his shot just wide of Sascha Studer’s post with the Swiss ‘keeper at full-stretch.
The final five minutes arrived and the Stags did well to nullify the threat of Newport as they pushed to find a late equaliser. Sam Clucas won a free-kick in the corner of the Newport half which was taken short before Rob Taylor found Adam Murray on the edge of the box who scooped the ball in to the path of Ollie Palmer who couldn’t find the target with his left-footed shot from the left of the goalmouth.
With just two minutes of injury time to play, Mansfield had a golden opportunity to seal all three points after Sam Clucas dis-possessed the Newport midfield and fed in Rob Taylor down the left-hand-side. Taylor, who was a threat all night forced Ismail Yakubu back in to his own box before accelerating past the centre-half and crossing the ball straight to the head of Ollie Palmer who couldn’t direct his header on target.
The Stags then let the game fade out without a final, late scare to make it two wins out of two at One Call Stadium this season.
Attendance: 2448 (98 away).