Mansfield Town got back to winning ways this afternoon after an impressive 3-1 victory away at Barnet.
Winger Reggie Lambe fired the Stags in front after finishing off a well-worked move with a well hit volley, before Josh Clarke of the Bees saw red for a second bookable offence before the interval. Matt Green doubled the scoreline on the hour mark before John Akinde’s penalty set up a tense finale at the Hive.
Mansfield were reduced to ten men with ten minutes remaining after Chris Clements received his second yellow card for a foul on the left-side, but the result was put beyond all doubt with two minutes left on the clock – Michael Nelson turning the ball into his own net to ensure the win for the visitors.
Adam Murray made three changes to the side that fell to a 2-0 defeat against Exeter on Tuesday night. In came defender Lee Collins, midfielder Chris Clements and forward Craig Westcarr, with midfielders Jamie McGuire, Jack and Nathan Thomas taking their place on the substitute’s bench. Alongside the trio was striker Chris Beardsley who has recovered from a shin injury that had kept him out since September.
Stags started the stronger of the two sides as they looked to make amends for their midweek loss. Left-back Blair Adams’ marauding run down the wing saw him jink past three players before trying his luck, but his tame effort was comfortably gathered by Bees’ ‘keeper Jamie Stephens.
Bermudan winger Reggie Lambe was next to try his luck after running on to Westcarr’s dink over the defence, but blazed wide after struggling to make a real connection on the ball.
Mansfield’s first clear-cut chance came through Westcarr just after the ten minute mark when the 30-year-old found himself one-on-one with Stephens. The ball broke to the experienced forward who just had the Barnet goalkeeper to beat, but after picking his spot to the left of Stephens, the young shot-stopper dived low to palm away the shot.
A goal had been a long time coming, and it was bang on the half-hour mark that Stags opened the scoring with a terrific team goal. Matt Green swivelled smartly before using the outside of his foot to curl the ball wide towards Clements, who intelligently headed the ball on to Lambe nine-yards out from goal.
Without the ball hitting the ground from the start of the move, Lambe took the ball over his shoulder and laced a volley past the helpless Stephens and into the inside of the left-hand post.
Fantastic build-up play with an exquisite finish to match, one almost became two 60 seconds later when Clements let fly with a thumping shot towards Stephens’ top right-hand corner – pulling off a terrific double-handed save to keep the hosts in the match.
Bees’ defender Josh Clarke had been treading a fine line ever since he picked up a yellow card on the left touch-line when he brought down Adams, and Barnet’s uphill task of getting something from this match became a lot harder when Clarke received his marching orders.
The on-loan Brentford man scythed down Lambe on the half-way line after lunging for the ball, with referee Trevor Kettle brandishing a red-card after being left with little option but to send the 21-year-old off.
That was the last action of the first-half with the 1-0 lead and the extra man giving the Stags the encouragement to go on and finish strongly after the interval, and they did that just before the hour mark.
Westcarr received the ball in a central area and 20 yards from goal, he then slipped through Green, who beat the offside trap before calmly striking the ball past the committed Stephens who got a touch on the ball on the way into the net.
The game began to plateau a bit with a lot of the play taking place in the heart of midfield. Green had a fantastic chance one-on-one with Stephens who did well to smother, with Lambe failing to get the ball out of his feet from the rebound.
Barnet had struggled for chances all afternoon, but looked more threatening up front when John Akinde came on for Jack Stacey. The ex-Bristol City forward came particularly close with just over 15 minutes left on the clock, beating Brian Jensen to the ball just inside the penalty area but his header went agonizingly wide of the post.
With 12 minutes left, the ten men of Barnet dragged themselves into the affair through the right boot of Akinde. After the forward was felled in the area by Jensen, referee Kettle pointed to the spot to hand the hosts a much needed lifeline.
Up stepped Akinde, who dusted himself down before slowly walking up to the ball before and placing it to the right of Jensen, who had already committed himself to his left.
The goal stung the Stags into action with their lead cut to just one, with Lambe the first to try his luck with a curling effort from 25-yards that just evaded the top corner of Stephens’ net.
Barnet’s chances of getting level were given huge boost when Clements saw red for a second bookable offence, just after Jensen had produced an unbelievable flying stop to keep out full-back Elliot Johnson’s
With all of the pressure on Mansfield, substitute Matty Blair produced the goods to set the visitors on course for another big victory on the road.
After originally heading for the corner, Blair managed to use his pace and trickery to nip between two defenders before pulling the ball back at the by-line for Green to swing his boot at.
Stephens pulled off a solid save to keep out the Stags’ front-man, the ball was turned into his own net by centre-half Michael Nelson as he attempted to clear.
With striker Chris Beardsley making his long-awaited return to action in stoppage time, one final reflex stop by Jensen to deny Shaun Batt ensured Mansfield would be returning from London with all three points.
Barnet: Stephens, Johnson, N’Gala, Nelson, Weston ©, Gambin, Gash (Batt, 72), McLean, Clarke, Bailey (Muggleton, 60), Stacey (Akinde, 56).
Substitutes not used: McKenzie-Lyle, Hoyte, Togwell, Champion.
Mansfield Town: Jensen, Collins, Pearce, Tafazolli, Adams, Rose (Blair, 58), Chapman ©, Clements, Lambe, Westcarr (McGuire, 67), M. Green (Beardsley, 90).
Substitutes not used: Shearer, N. Thomas, Yussuf, J. Thomas.
ATTENDANCE: 1,775 (299 away).