A brace of penalties for Hartlepool United captain Billy Paynter was enough to consign luckless Mansfield Town to defeat at Victoria Park this afternoon.
Paynter opened the scoring from the penalty spot for the Pools midway through the first-half when Scott Shearer in the Stags’ goal was mightily unlucky not to keep the spot-kick out as the ball just squirmed under him.
Defender Krystian Pearce brought down Pools’ midfielder Nicky Featherstone in the box as he was clean through on goal, which resulted in him being given his marching orders to leave the Stags to play the remaining 70 minutes with ten men.
Substitute Colin Daniel got the Stags back on level terms 15 minutes from time when he emphatically volleyed the ball home after Matt Green’s effort had been blocked following Adam Chapman’s long throw.
But Paynter, who was making his 500th career appearance, stepped up to hand the home side the win seven minutes from time after full-back Carl Magnay was brought down just inside the penalty area by Mal Benning.
Mansfield boss Adam Murray made one enforced change to his side that drew with Northampton Town, the suspended Jamie McGuire being replaced by fellow midfielder Adam Chapman.
They were looking to build on the point they earned against run-away leaders Northampton Town on Easter Monday, in contrast to the hosts who hadn’t lost in six, keeping four consecutive clean-sheets in the process.
Match-winner Paynter had the first chance of the match when he headed over Nathan Thomas’ whipped delivery from the left-hand side.
The visitors hit back immediately though when Matty Blair collected centre-half Ryan Tafazolli’s knock down, created a yard of space and crossed the ball towards striker Matt Green, but he could only glance his header wide of the far post from close range.
Pools' skipper Paynter then played a neat one-two with full-back Jake Carroll before his effort flashed across Shearer’s goal.
Then the first big talking point of the game occurred. The impressive Paynter threaded through a brilliant pass towards Featherstone, who carried the ball into the box and was brought down by Pearce as he went to shoot.
Referee Graham Salisbury had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and showing Pearce a red card, before Paynter slammed his penalty into the bottom corner, despite Shearer getting a big hand to it.
Skipper Lee Collins and former Stag Nathan Thomas were both cautioned in the aftermath of the opening goal when Thomas celebrated Paynter’s penalty a little over-enthusiastically in-front of the travelling Stags’ faithful much to the dismay Collins.
Following the sending off, manager Adam Murray brought on full-back Daniel Alfei in place of Mani Dieseruvwe with Collins moving across to centre-half.
Pools’ winger Thomas, who left the Stags earlier this season, looked like the home side’s most dangerous player out on the left-wing and crossed again for Paynter, whose effort on the turn was deflected onto the post by Ryan Tafazolli.
The visitors were soon dealt another blow when midfielder Chris Clements was forced off with an injury as Colin Daniel came on in place of him to join Matt Green up front.
Stags came out for the second-half and were on the front foot immediately, but found Trevor Carson in the Pools’ goal in inspired form as he made a string of fantastic saves.
Midfielder Adam Chapman’s long throws were causing chaos in the hosts’ defence and Green almost profited when he poked the ball towards goal following Daniel’s flick, but Carson was equal to it as he pawed the ball off the line.
As Stags piled on the pressure, Chapman swung in a corner from the left-hand side and defender Ryan Tafazolli powered a header goalwards, but somehow Carson got down to scoop the ball off the line and away from danger.
Then the Stags got back on level terms. Another Chapman throw was flicked on by Collins at the front post and the ball fell to Daniel who found himself in space at the back post and he slammed the ball into the roof of the net, sending the travelling fans into raptures.
Stags then began to pile even more pressure on the hosts with a number of crosses and throw ins being delivered into the box, but Carson and the Pools’ defence were standing tall to prevent the Stags from taking the lead.
Launching a rare breakaway, Pools were given an opportunity to retake the lead. Left-back Benning dangled out a leg on the edge of the box which substitute Carl Magnay duly tripped over and Pools were awarded their second penalty of the afternoon.
Captain Paynter stepped up and slammed the ball into the middle of the net, giving Shearer no chance.
With Stags desperate to get back into the game, Hartlepool did their best to kill the game and keep possession for as long as they could.
Minutes before the end, an in-swinging cross from full-back Mal Benning fell at the feet of substitute Chris Beardsley, whose snapshot was again brilliantly kept out by Carson from close range, consigning Stags to an unfortunate defeat.
Pools’ XI: Carson (GK), Magnay, Bates, Jackson, Carroll, Featherstone, Hawkins, Gray (Woods 80’), James (Bingham 82’), Paynter, Thomas (Jones 68’).
Unused subs: Bartlett, Richards, Walker, Oates.
Stags’ XI: Shearer (GK), Collins (C), Pearce, Tafazolli, Benning, Chapman, Blair, Clements (Daniel 39’), Thomas, Dieseruvwe (Alfei 29’, (Beardsley 85’)), Green.
Unused subs: Jensen (GK), Rose, Baxendale, Lambe.
Attendance: 3893 (314 Away fans)