Ten-man Mansfield Town rose to fifth in Sky Bet League Two with a dramatic 3-2 victory over Dagenham & Redbridge at One Call Stadium this afternoon.
Daggers’ striker Oliver Hawkins handed the away side the lead, before midfielder Matty Blair and substitute Adi Yussuf had put the Stags 2-1 ahead.
But Adam Murray’s legion had a man sent off when defender Krystian Pearce was shown a red card for a last-ditch foul on veteran striker Jamie Cureton, but the latter couldn’t convert from 12 yards out and the result appeared to be well away from the Daggers’ grasp as Matt Green handed the Stags a 3-1 lead two minutes later.
However, there was still time for Cureton to hand John Still’s outfit a glimmer of hope, but that is all it turned out to be as Mansfield fought strongly in the latter stages to grab the three points.
Boss Adam Murray made two changes to the side that suffered defeat to Plymouth Argyle, with midfielders Jamie McGuire and James Baxendale both taking a place on the substitutes’ bench. Adam Chapman came into the middle of midfield, while Daniel Alfei was handed his full debut at right wing-back.
Before the game, a one-minute silence was impeccably observed to remember former Stags’ winger Johnny Miller, who died this week aged 65.
Mansfield’s players donned black armbands to further mark Miller’s sad passing, but it was the visitors who had the first half-chance of the encounter as Oliver Muldoon saw his free-kick fly wide of Scott Shearer’s right-hand post.
The Stags were lining up in a new-look 3-5-2 formation and they soon responded with a thumping 30-yard drive from Alfei, although goalkeeper Liam O’Brien held smartly. Not long afterwards, Chris Clements whipped in a fine set-piece which was met deftly by Ryan Tafazolli’s head, but it went inches wide of the mark.
Despite their lowly position in the division, the East Londoners looked spirited without really getting efforts on target, as Murray’s men looked more dangerous going forward with Matt Green running the channels, and Matty Blair putting in an energetic display.
But it was left-back Mal Benning who would have the next opportunity to give the Stags the advantage with a free-kick from distance which was palmed away by O’Brien at full-stretch.
With just over half-an-hour on the clock, Blair was once again in the action when he cut in from the left onto his right foot, but the Stags’ number 17 saw his rifled attempt deflected away for a corner.
The rain teeming down onto the field of play appeared to hamper the quality of the game on the eye, with both sides struggling to get the ball on the floor to sustain threatening attacking periods.
Former Leicester City trainee Ashley Chambers found himself beyond Mansfield’s backline momentarily, and the 25-year-old launched a left-footed drive towards goal which Shearer parried away from danger.
As time ticked on towards half-time, the away side took the lead. Left winger Joe Widdowson delivered a tenacious ball across the box and it found its way to the back post where it was met by Oliver Hawkins’ side-footed finish.
The second period brought a change of shape from Mansfield, preferring a 4-4-2 system with Alfei moving to right-midfield and experienced defender Lee Collins reverting to full-back, as the hosts looked to assert more of an authority on the match.
And Murray’s outfit began the half in positive fashion with Alfei having another crack from range, but ‘keeper O’Brien continued to be his nemesis as he claimed it at the second time of asking.
Stags’ manager Murray made an early substitution, with Adi Yussuf coming on to take his place alongside Green up top, replacing the physical Chris Beardsley.
And that injected some life into the home side, who drew level in the 54th-minute. The ball fell to Blair on the edge of the area who instinctively hit it with his right foot and it rifled into the net via the post.
Despite Stags drawing level, the Football League’s bottom club carried on fighting and fortuitously almost regained the lead, but Josh Passley’s cross was expertly tipped over the crossbar by Shearer as it looked destined to drop past the 34-year-old Scotsman.
Alfei continued to impress down the right and tried yet another effort from range after bursting forward with urgency, although O’Brien stood firm to prevent the Welshman from putting the Stags ahead.
Upping the ante, more and more chances were being created by Mansfield as Benning drifted over a cross for Krystian Pearce whose goal-bound header was superbly tipped away by the Daggers’ goalkeeper.
Benning nearly conjured up one of his special wonder-strikes, but his 35-yard hit evaded the post by a small margin.
And then, the Stags finally got the reward for their dominance. Clements dinked a ball over the top of the defence for birthday boy Yussuf to race onto, and the Tanzanian made no mistake as he kept his composure to place it into the corner.
Dagenham had a wealth of experience on the bench in the shape of 40-year-old Jamie Cureton, who was brought on by John Still with 19 minutes remaining, in a bid to salvage something to increase their survival hopes.
But it was Mansfield who were still offering the greater threat, and Benning’s fierce free-kick was brilliantly pushed away by the heavily-involved O’Brien. Yussuf’s pace was forcing the Daggers back, allowing Murray’s side to push up a bit more.
Chapman’s corners had been a source of interest throughout the encounter, and it was nearly the route for a fourth goal in the match, but Collins’ header was tipped away.
But just as the Stags seemed to be running away with it, controversy meant the hosts were reduced to ten men. Cureton’s wise run beyond the defence was halted when Pearce brought the Football League’s oldest outfield player down, and referee Seb Stockbridge pointed to the spot, despite the foul appearing to take place outside the area. Pearce was given his marching orders and Stags would have to see out the remaining seven minutes with ten men.
Cureton looked assured in his run-up, but skewed his spot-kick high and wide of Scott Shearer’s goal, much to the relief of the home fans inside One Call Stadium.
However, the drama didn’t end there as Mansfield looked to have sealed the match moments later. Blair squared the ball across the box to Green who took his time to look up and pick his spot, which he did with confidence for his 11th goal of the season.
The frantic final ten minutes continued as the Daggers fought bravely, and Cureton redeemed himself for the earlier miss as he blasted home from close range after the initial cross had been nodded down by Hawkins.
Seeking the equaliser, several balls were pumped into the Stags’ box for Dagenham’s forward players to pounce on, and Chambers did exactly that, but Shearer was perfectly placed to maintain his side’s advantage and hold on to all three points.
Stags’ XI: Shearer, Alfei, Collins (C), Pearce, Tafazolli, Benning, Chapman, Clements, Beardsley (Yussuf 51’), Green (Lambe 88’), Blair
Subs not used: Jensen, Thomas, Kavanagh, McGuire, Baxendale
Dag & Red XI: O'Brien, Passley (Jones 78’), Worrall, Dikamona, Hyam, Widdowson, Labadie, Chambers, Muldoon (Richards 71’), Hawkins, McClure (Cureton 71’)
Subs not used: Cousins, Doidge, Hemmings, Hoyte
Attendance: 2,822 (129 away)