Jack Thomas’ sublime 25-yard thunderbolt wasn’t enough to earn Mansfield Town any points, as they slipped to a 2-1 defeat against Portsmouth at One Call Stadium.
The visitors took a controversial lead in just the second minute when Sky Bet League Two’s top scorer Matt Tubbs sent Lenny Pidgeley the wrong way with a spot-kick, after Ritchie Sutton was sent-off for a challenge inside the area.
Jed Wallace doubled Pompey’s advantage early in the second half, before teenager Thomas netted from 25 yards with a quarter of the game remaining to give the Stags hope.
However, it wasn’t enough as the visitors held onto record their first victory in four outings.
Stags’ boss Adam Murray made six changes to the starting line-up that began last weekend’s 3-1 defeat to Cambridge United with Lenny Pidgeley, Matt Rhead, Rakish Bingham, Liam Marsden, Callum Elder and Joe Fitzpatrick replacing Sascha Studer, Michael Raynes, Lee Beevers, Ricky Ravenhill, Terry Hawkridge and Vadaine Oliver in the eleven, respectively.
Murray saw his side endure the worst possible start when 41 seconds into the encounter, Ritchie Sutton was adjudged to have brought down Jed Wallace inside the area after a one-two by the visitors and was shown a red card by referee, Graham Horwood. To add to the Stags’ misery Matt Tubbs then stepped up to convert the spot-kick confidently into the left-hand corner of Pidgeley’s net.
The Stags attempted to bounce back from the early set-back and nearly found the perfect response in the ninth minute, Thomas ran onto a Matt Rhead knock down, but smashed his half-volley just wide of the target.
As you would expect from a team playing against 10-men, Pompey began to take control of possession but it was the Stags who nearly caught the visitors on the counter-attack. A nuisance throughout, Rhead flicked the ball on to Bingham, who fired just over the bar from inside the area.
Mansfield nearly found themselves two goals down when Callum Elder miscontrolled and the ball found its way to Craig Westcarr who ran away down the right but his shot found Pidgeley in fine form.
Despite being down to 10 men Mansfield continued to work hard to stay in the encounter with Ryan Tafazolli and stand-in centre half, Fitzpatrick dealing with everything Pompey threw at them.
After managing to stay in the game after the first third of the game, Mansfield began to work themselves into the game and nearly found their equaliser when Rhead flicked the ball on again, this time from a throw, the ball found its way to Bingham in the area but his effort was foiled by Paul Jones in the Pompey goal.
After being pushed into a striker role by Murray, Bingham again found himself with a chance to equalise just moments later when he worked the ball brilliantly on to his left foot but hammered the ball just wide of the target.
Murray made one change at half-time with Reggie Lambe replacing the impressive, Bingham for the Stags.
Within seconds of the restart the Stags nearly levelled the scoreline when wonderful play by Lambe picked out Brown with a back-heel, but the substitute’s shot was met by a strong right-hand from Pompey’s custodian Jones, before Rhead pounced on the rebound only to find Jones in the way again.
Despite the Stags’ fast start to the second half, Portsmouth responded well and nearly doubled their lead when link-up play between Wallace and Tubbs found James Dunne free in the area but he blazed his effort wide of the target.
In response to Pompey’s goal, Murray made his second change of the afternoon with Liam Hearn replaces Liam Marsden
It didn’t take the visitors long to double their lead after that opportunity with Wallace finding the net with a speculative effort from 30 yards out that bounced horribly in front of Pidgeley, who was left helpless as the ball span over him despite getting his hand to the effort.
The visitors nearly made it three but a brilliant save by Pidgeley to tip over Close’s effort from the edge of the area, kept the Stags in the game.
Inspired by that wonderful save, Mansfield pulled one back when a tremendous 25-yard curling effort from Jack Thomas left Jones with no chance of stopping the ball from nestling in the net.
Pompey striker, Westcarr then looked to emulate the effort Thomas produced minutes earlier but saw his attempt fly over the bar.
Thomas nearly capped off his outstanding performance when he closed down Webster whose clearance then cannoned off the Stags youngster and wrong-footed Jones but unfortunately flew narrowly wide of the post.
In his attempts to get that equaliser, Murray made his last change with Jamie McGuire replacing Chris Clements for the Stags.
Stags’ desire to get the equaliser was evident as they piled on the pressure onto their opponents, making their opponents look like the team who have been a man down for 89 minutes of the game.
Pompey made two changes to deal with the hard-working efforts of the Stags with Westcarr and Close replaced by Conor Chaplin and Nicky Shorey.
As Mansfield applied more and more pressure to the Pompey rear-guard, the visitors found space on the counter and nearly sealed victory when the ball found its way to Chaplin but the substitute couldn’t beat Pidgeley with his effort.
Despite five minutes of added time, Mansfield couldn’t quite find that illusive equaliser but that performance will have impressed the Stags’ faithful fans.
Attendance: 4,222 (1091 visiting supporters).