Mansfield Town moved five points clear of the relegation zone as they recorded a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Luton Town.
The only goal of the match came in the 32nd minute after Jack Thomas’ floated pass found substitute Rakish Bingham, who finished well and ultimately earned the Stags a valuable three points.
After pushing a lot of players forward in the second half, Luton were unable to find an equaliser and lamented a massive missed chance with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining as Mark Cullen was unable to hit the target from five yards.
Adam Murray made just the one change to his starting line-up as Callum Elder returned in place of Lee Beevers at left-back.
Mansfield dominated early possession with some slick passing and interplay between the midfield and forward line. Junior Brown, playing as an attacking midfielder, was a key instigator of the Stags’ positive play early on. Luton could barely get a foot on the ball as Mansfield pressed on.
The Hatters slowly started to find their feet and in the 12th minute Jayden Stockley played a long-range pass to find team-mate Mark Cullen who was denied by a good sliding challenge from Ryan Tafazolli.
The Stags were forced into an early substitution as Reggie Lambe suffered an injury. Bingham came on in his place and the striker was immediately thrust into action. He was able to find space up front and put pressure on Hatters’ keeper, Mark Tyler.
Mansfield defended resolutely to limit the Hatters’ attacking space in the first half and looked good when they themselves pressed forward.
Lenny Pidgeley had a rare save to make in the 30th minute, forcing the ball out for a corner, following a long-range shot from Jonathan Smith which nearly deceived him.
The home fans erupted in the 32nd minute as the Stags put the ball in the back of the net for the opening goal. Jack Thomas was given space to move on the left wing. He played a pin-point lofted pass to substitute Bingham who finished expertly past Tyler to make it 1-0.
A great move prevailed for Mansfield in the 40th minute as Callum Elder slipped a great through ball to Bingham, who flicked it on to Junior Brown. The midfielder’s shot was blocked by the Luton defence, but it was positive signs for the Stags.
Despite a late surge forward by the Hatters after Jake Howells put his header wide of goal, the Stags defence held strong and the home side took a deserved 1-0 lead in with them at half time.
Luton manager John Still made two changes at half time with Nathan Oduwa and Shaun Whalley coming on in place of Robinson and Howells respectively.
The Hatters had their hearts in mouths five minutes after the break as a cross-cum-shot from Thomas almost left Tyler red-faced as the ball rebounded off the crossbar.
Mansfield continued to press forward and after a good pass from Brown, Vadaine Oliver was able to play a sleek back-heel into the path of an on-rushing Thomas, who couldn’t quite add the finishing touches from his position on the edge of the area.
With half-an-hour remaining in the match, Mansfield’s defence was able to remain strong as they attempted to hold onto their slender lead. Thomas continued to look a composed figure in the centre of the Stags midfield.
The dynamic Luton front-pairing combined well in the 68th minute as Stockley sent Cullen forward with a well-timed pass. The striker’s shot took a nervous bobble off the surface, but ended up safely in the hands of Pidgeley.
As the match entered the final 20 minutes, both teams changed their personnel as Luton’s Stockley made way for Guttridge and Clements replaced Heslop in Mansfield’s midfield.
The Stags were thrown a lifeline in the 74th minute when Cullen broke away from the defence, only to uncharacteristically miss what seemed like a certain goal from close-range with only Pidgeley to beat, having spun away from his marker to carve out the opportunity.
After fending off quite a few Hatters attacks, the Stags were able to garner some positive possession under pressure with less than 10 minutes to go. After another impressive performance up front, Oliver received a warm ovation from the Stags fans as he made way for Matt Rhead.
With Luton committing numbers forward, Mansfield threatened to score again on the counter-attack, as Bingham beat no less than four defenders before being tackled. The home side could taste victory. There were nervous moments for the Stags towards the end of the match as Luton continued to push forward looking for the equaliser.
After over four minutes of stoppage-time, the Stags were able to hold onto their lead and the score finished 1-0 as the home supporters rejoiced an important three points.
Attendance: 2,998 (801 away supporters).