Mansfield Town slipped to defeat in their final match of 2014 – losing 2-0 to Bury at the JD Stadium.
In a game of few clear-cut chances, Bury took the lead through Ryan Lowe in the latter stages of the first half, before Danny Mayor sealed their win with a fine solo effort late on.
Manager Adam Murray made four changes to his starting line up following the 1-1 draw with relegation-threatened Hartlepool United just two days earlier.
Martin Riley returned to skipper the Stags in place of Ryan Tafazolli, who was serving a one-match ban, whilst Lee Beevers, Simon Heslop and Rakish Bingham were also recalled to the xi, in the places of Reggie Lambe, Chris Clements and Matt Rhead, respectively.
On a frosty day in Greater Manchester, Bury got proceedings underway.
However, after less than 40 seconds the contest was halted for six minutes as Nathan Cameron required treatment after being clattered by team-mate Kelvin Etuhu, whilst attempting to win a header just inside the hosts’ own half.
Stags goalkeeper Dimitar Evtimov was called into action on 11 minutes, when he parried away a corner from the left-side with Hallam Hope unable to get a shot away in the aftermath.
Mansfield’s then tested Bury custodian Rob Lainton for the first time on the quarter-hour mark as he held Kieron Freeman’s long set-piece cross towards the edge of the six-yard box.
After largely scrappy early exchanges, Bury’s Hope tried to win a penalty on 17 minutes – going to ground inside the area after knocking the ball past Riley, but the referee, in a good position and unconvinced, waved play on.
The Shakers stepped up their pressure and their were soon some nervous moments for Mansfield’s defence as Hope drifted past Ritchie Sutton inside the area and reached the by-line, but his cut-back was cleared by Waterfall.
Within a matter of seconds, Danny Mayor picked up possession and beat two players prior to threading a low ball towards Ryan Lowe, whose shot-on-the-turn was straight at Evtimov.
Lowe then turned provider on 26 minutes as he played a well-weighted pass towards goal, which resulted in Evtimov having to hurry off his line to reach the ball ahead of Hope.
The Shakers, searching for a first home win since a 3-1 success over Hemel Hempstead Town in the FA Cup in November, continued to play on the front-foot and pose the bigger threat.
On 27 minutes, Lowe could have done more when he took up a position on the inside-left and latched onto a long ball, but the frontman rushed a shot and Evtimov saved with ease.
Less than three minutes later, the hosts almost took advantage of a rare error by Evtimov as the Bulgarian dropped a back-post cross by Mayor, following a short-corner, but Waterfall was able to clear the loose ball.
Mansfield soon carved out a half-opening at the other end as Junior Brown showed quick feet and good movement to get into a crossing position deep on the left flank, but his delivery was claimed by Lainton at the near-post.
Nevertheless, Bury still looked the more likely of the two teams to open the scoring and they nearly did so on 38 minutes, when Hope’s 25-yard snap-shot deflected off Riley towards Andrew Tutte, whose half-volley from a similar distance flew just a couple of inches wide of Evtimov’s left-hand post.
Bury soon reaped the rewards for their efforts, however, as just two minutes later they took the lead.
Evtimov could only parry a swerving effort from 25 yards by Hope and the experienced Lowe reached the subsequent rebound ahead of everyone else and showed composure to knock the ball home.
The goal was a body blow to the Stags, but during eight minutes of first half injury-time they mustered up a couple of efforts as McGuire had an effort deflected wide, whilst a long-throw by Freeman caused momentary panic in the Shakers’ defence, after Lainton had flapped at the ball.
The Stags also began brightly after the half-time interval and squandered a golden opportunity to equalise within two minutes, as Simon Heslop blazed horribly over from six yards following some excellent work by Brown, who beat two players, kept the ball and then played it invitingly across the goalmouth.
Freeman then drew a routine catch from Lainton with a delivery towards the back-post from a corner a few minutes later, as Mansfield continued to pose more questions than they had done in the entirety of the first half.
Bury always looked dangerous whenever they broke forward and that’s exactly what the hosts did on 55 minutes, when Nicky Adams broke down the left and flashed an inviting ball across the goalmouth, which Freeman was forced to head behind.
Waterfall dealt with the danger from the resulting set-piece and the Stags dictated play for the next few minutes, but they were still unable to properly test Lainton in the hosts’ goal.
On the hour mark, both teams made their first changes as Reggie Lamve replaced Rakish Bingham, who just moments earlier had tried to put Heslop through, whilst Danny Rose was brought on for Hope for Bury.
Within a few moments of each other around the midway point of the second half, McGuire and Tutte were both cautioned following tough challenges on opponents.
The Stags then made their second change as Rhead replaced Beevers and immediately took up an attacking position to bolster the attacking threat.
After being frustrated in their efforts for long periods, Mansfield eventually carved out a chance when Freeman’s long-throw again caused problems and Brown volleyed high over the target from eight yards.
Chances had been sparse at both ends during the course of the match, but with less than a quarter of an hour left to play, the visitors struck a dagger-blow into the hearts of the Stags, by making it 2-0.
Mayor showed great individual to keep the ball and ride a couple of challenges inside the area, before being able to get it onto his favoured right-foot and smashing a powerful shot past Evtimov.
The Stags immediately made their last available change in a result to try and come up with an opening to get something from the contest as Ollie Palmer replaced fellow frontman Vadaine Oliver.
Palmer took an attempted clearance from Lainton full in the face within three minutes of his introduction as he tried to reach a long ball forwards, but with little success.
Mansfield pressed Bury back in the final five minutes of normal-time and Brown was unlucky as his powerful shot found the side-netting, via a deflection, after he was allowed space inside the area.
Two minutes later, the on loan winger got to the by-line and attempted a cut-back which ricocheted off a defender and was heading for the back of the net, until Lainton somehow turned it around the post.
No comeback materialised, however, as the Stags lost their final match in 2014.