A Matt Green double and a sumptuous strike from Adi Yussuf wrapped up a well-deserved 3-1 for Mansfield Town over Hartlepool United this afternoon.
Green opened the scoring midway through the first half, turning home from three-yards out after Nathan Thomas’ low cross, with Yussuf putting the Stags back in front with an outrageous bullet into the top corner after Hartlepool got an equaliser through a Krystian Pearce own goal.
Green grabbed his second of the afternoon and Mansfield’s third with nine minutes left to play, finishing smartly on the edge of the six-yard box after Yussuf went from scorer to provider with a clever through ball.
Manager Adam Murray made five changes to the Stags’ starting eleven after the trip to Oldham Athletic on Tuesday. In came the quintet of Brian Jensen, Mitch Rose, Chris Clements, Reggie Lambe and Craig Westcarr, with Scott Shearer, Lee Collins, Jack Thomas and Matty Blair and Jamie McGuire all dropping to the bench.
Captain for the afternoon was Adam Chapman, with the disappointing news earlier in the morning that right-back Nicky Hunt could be out for up to two months with a hamstring injury.
With both sides showing significant attacking intent from the off, it was the Pools who registered the first real chance of the match just after the ten minute mark.
It was a real let off for the hosts after Hartlepool winger Kudos Oyenuga whipped in a tantalising cross in from the left for former Stag Rakish Bingham.
The forward superbly flicked the ball goalwards, with ‘keeper Jensen producing a superb reflex save to tip the ball on to the cross-bar and away to safety.
The chance for Bingham seemed to sting the Stags into life after coming so close to conceding, with full-back Mitch Rose fizzing a wicked strike over the bar after dodging the half-hearted challenge of Oyenuga.
Moments later it was the visitors who were really riding their luck after some sloppy defending. Winger Nathan Thomas was given all the time in the world to whip in a cross to the back-post with the Pools’ defence back-tracking, but striker Matt Green couldn’t find the telling touch after coming within inches of making the connection.
Westcarr was next to try his luck for the home side after Rose twisted and turned away from his man inside the penalty area; but after being teed up, the ex-Portsmouth attacker scuffed his strike into the ground and away for a goal-kick.
With Mansfield firmly on top, their pressure finally paid off after 24 minutes. Nathan Thomas, who had been a constant menace down the left-hand side, curled in a lethal ball across the face of goal for Matt Green to attack. Green dived foot-first towards the incoming ball, sending it goal-bound with the power too much for goalkeeper Trevor Carson to keep out.
Nathan Thomas seemed to be at the centre of everything good for the home side in the first half and he tried his luck after waltzing into the box. Born less than 17 miles from Hartlepool’s ground, Thomas cut on to his left before shooting low through a series of legs, with Carson getting down quick to parry away.
Mansfield had their tails up and they couldn’t have been any unluckier as the Pools dragged themselves level with an unfortunate own-goal by defender Krystian Pearce. After the ball was floated into the box from a free-kick, left-back Blair Adams jumped highest to head clear - but accidentally headed it onto the head of Pearce which as a result spun up and over Jensen’s sprawling hand.
The first-half came to a close, but Murray’s men came out for the second period inspired to try and regain the lead. Nathan Thomas was the first Mansfield player to try his luck after showing his turn of pace to gain that extra yard on his marker, but drilled his venomous strike across the face of goal and just past the post.
Stags brought on Adi Yussuf in place of Westcarr and within two minutes of being on the pitch, the Tanzanian made an instant impact with a scorching effort from the edge of the penalty area. The forward picked his spot before letting fly with a sensational strike which flew past the helpless Carson and into the top right-hand corner.
Matty Blair and Lee Collins came on for Lambe and Nathan Thomas as Murray opted to change his side’s shape as they looked to hold on to their lead. Mansfield were seemingly having the better of the play as the clock ticked away, but neither team could lay acclaim for any noteworthy chances.
With nine minutes to play, the Stags’ two goalscorer’s combined to put the result to bed. After a marauding run by Collins along the edge of the box, the defender fed Yussuf who held the ball up well before poking through to Matt Green – and Green did the rest by calmly stroking the ball beyond Carson in the Pools’ goal.
There was a little rebuttal from the Pools as midfielder Kal Naismith rattled the cross-bar with a free-kick, but Jensen always looked like he had it covered.
The Stags saw out the remainder of the game with relative ease, passing the ball around the back line before referee David Coote brought the game to a close and the Stags secured all three points.
Mansfield Town: Jensen, Rose, Pearce, Tafazolli, Adams, Clements, Chapman, N. Thomas (Blair, 73), Lambe (Collins, 64), Westcarr (Yussuf, 55), M. Green.
Substitutes not used: Shearer, J. Thomas, McGuire, Fitzpatrick.
Hartlepool United: Carson, Magnay, Carroll, Harrison, Bates, Bingham, Oyenuga (Oates, 57), Jackson, Gray, Mandron (Fenwick, 70), Naismith.
Substitutes not used: Bartlett, Walker, Featherstone, Jones, Smith.
ATTENDANCE: 3,031 (358 away).