Mansfield Town slipped to a 2-0 defeat at home to Luton Town in this afternoon’s Sky Bet League Two clash at One Call Stadium.
Northern Ireland international Paddy McCourt opened the scoring for the visitors after tucking home Pelly Ruddock’s cross from the byline.
The Hatters made it 2-0 nine minutes into the second half, again through the lively duo of McCourt and Ruddock. This time the roles were reversed as McCourt played in Ruddock who rifled home from the edge of the six-yard box.
Stags’ boss Adam Murray made three changes to the side that were defeated 3-1 away at AFC Wimbledon last Saturday.
Goalkeeper Scott Shearer and midfielder Mitch Rose came in for Brian Jensen and Craig Westcarr, while at left-back Murray brought in Irishman Sean Kavanagh on loan from Fulham to replace Blair Adams, who returned to parent club Notts County during the week.
Despite starting brightly, Stags found themselves behind inside seven minutes as they were caught on the counter-attack.
Luton winger Pelly Ruddock sprinted down the right touchline before pulling the ball back towards the edge of the area, with former Celtic midfielder Paddy McCourt applying the finishing touch by sweeping home.
The Hatters had found their feet in the match and came close to doubling their lead a few minutes later.
Midfielder Cameron McGeehan’s venomous strike from the edge of the area was heading into the roof of the net before Shearer got his fingertips to the ball to divert it over the bar.
The Stags tried to make their pressure show and find an equaliser before the interval, but an in-swinging free kick from Adam Chapman and a speculative effort from Reggie Lambe weren’t enough to find a way past Luton ‘keeper Eliott Justham.
With the whistle about to go for half-time, Stags carved out their best chance of the half as the looming figure of Krystian Pearce met Chapman’s corner but he couldn’t keep his header down.
Unfortunately, the Stags were made to pay for the miss just nine minutes after the restart as Luton doubled their lead.
McCourt went from scorer to provider as he fizzed a ball across the box to Ruddock, who coincidentally was the architect of his goal, with the former West Ham trainee lashing the ball into the roof of the net.
With Matty Blair and Adi Yussuf sent on to add that extra bit of pace in the final third, Murray brought off Rose and Lambe as he looked to force a way past the Hatters’ resolute defence.
The hosts looked more and more threatening up top following the change and striker Matt Green almost wriggled his way into the six-yard box before tumbling inside the area after getting the better of Luton skipper Scott Cuthbert.
However, in the melee of legs trying to get a toe on the ball, the forward swung his leg at it but could only ripple the side netting.
The elusive goal that would haul to the Stags back into the match seemed closer than ever, with Yussuf coming desperately close to reducing the arrears.
Up from the back, defender Pearce did well to flick the ball into the danger zone from Adam Chapman’s long throw and into the path of the unmarked Yussuf – but the Tanzanian striker couldn’t keep his header on target as he looped it just over the bar.
The final change for the home side came seven minutes from the end as Jack Thomas replaced Chapman in midfield and immediately had the chance to make his mark.
With the ball only half-cleared by the Luton defence, it fell nicely to Thomas on the edge of the area who hit the ball on the half-volley but saw it fly high over Justham’s goal.
Referee Ben Toner blew his whistle for the final time after four minutes of injury time had elapsed as Stags look ahead to an away double-header with trips to Morecambe and Crawley Town ahead in the coming week.
Mansfield Town: Shearer, Rose (Blair, 56), Pearce, Chapman (Thomas, 83), Clements, Green, Tafazolli, Hunt ©, Lambe (Yussuf, 58), Kavanagh, Baxendale.
Substitutes not used: Jensen, Collins, Beardsley, Westcarr.
Luton Town: Justham, O’Donnell, Smith, Cuthbert ©, Lawless, McGeehan, McCourt (Lee, 74), Ruddock (Musonda, 90), Mackail-Smith (Marriott, 85), Howells, Sheehan.
Substitutes not used: King, Potts, Benson, O’Brien.
Attendance: 4,245 (739 away).