Mansfield Town picked up their first points of 2016 with a 2-1 victory over Stevenage at One Call Stadium this afternoon.
The Stags took the lead just before half-time through a fantastic free-kick from Chris Clements, which he curled into the top left-hand corner after 42 minutes.
Debutant James Baxendale doubled the Stags’ advantage in the second half with an effort from 20 yards which beat Stevenage ‘keeper Chris Day and nestled into the bottom corner.
Substitute Arman Gnanduillet scored a consolation goal deep into injury time to halve the deficit, but Stags were good value for their win on an entertaining afternoon at One Call Stadium.
Adam Murray made four changes to the side which were defeated by Accrington Stanley last week, with Nicky Hunt making his return from injury alongside forward Craig Westcarr, defender Ryan Tafazolli and new signing James Baxendale. They replaced Mitchell Rose, Lee Collins and Reggie Lambe, who all took their places on the bench, while Nathan Thomas wasn't involved through illness.
The first chance of the game came after 10 minutes when Baxendale was released through the middle after a lobbed ball from Jack Thomas, but the Walsall loanee was unable to beat ‘keeper Chris Day after being put under immense pressure from defender Fraser Franks.
Stevenage very nearly took the lead two minutes later when Charlie Lee was fouled on the edge of the box, but Michael Tonge’s curling free-kick hit the outside of the post and rolled away to safety.
The hosts grew into the game as the half went on and nearly took the lead on 26 minutes when Chris Clements’ deft header was tipped over by ‘keeper Day.
The Stags then went close again after some good work from Craig Westcarr and James Baxendale. Westcarr played a defence-splitting pass through to Baxendale, but the loanee’s pull-back towards the former was cut out by a last-ditch tackle from Connor Ogilvie.
Then came the opening goal. Chris Clements picked up the ball on the edge of the box and looked to weave between Franks and Jamie McCombe, but was brought down as he looked to progress into the box.
The midfielder picked himself up and despatched the set-piece into the top corner for the second week running to give the Stags a half-time lead.
The second half started with manager Adam Murray bringing on winger Reggie Lambe for Jack Thomas as the Stags looked to add more natural width to their side.
Mansfield almost doubled their advantage as the ball broke for Craig Westcarr after an Adam Chapman corner was cleared. The forward hit a rasping volley towards the bottom corner but saw two Stevenage defenders throw their bodies in front of it deflect it over for another corner to the Stags.
The Stags’ pressure paid dividends 20 minutes into the second half when the energetic Baxendale marked his debut with a goal.
The 23-year-old latched on to a flick from Matt Green before advancing towards the area and curling a brilliant right-footed shot beyond Day and into the bottom corner of the Boro goal.
Stags began to look comfortable after securing their second of the afternoon, but Stevenage came close to pulling one back on 73 minutes when Armand Gnanduillet broke into the box, but left-back Blair Adams cleared after a moment on hesitation from the Ivorian.
Mansfield looked dangerous every time they went forwards in the second half and they almost scored a third when Blair Adams’ cross was met at the back post by Mitchell Rose, but the midfielder’s stupendous header was well saved by Day.
The hosts again came close with 10 minutes left of the match when Matt Green attempted to lift the ball over Day from an acute angle, but the ball clipped the roof of the net as it lopped over the bar.
Adam Murray decided to make his final change with five minutes to go, bringing on Matty Blair in place of James Baxendale who received a standing ovation on his debut after an influential first performance in a Stags’ shirt.
The fourth official indicated there would be four minutes of added time at the end of the game and those four minutes had elapsed when Boro scored their late consolation.
Armand Gnanduillet prodded the ball past Brian Jensen at the second attempt after the stopper had done well to save the striker’s first attempt.
The referee blew for full-time immediately after Stags had restarted the game and Adam Murray’s men picked up their first points of the calendar year.
Stags: Jensen, Hunt ©, Pearce, Tafazolli, Adams, Chapman, Clements, J Thomas (Lambe, 46’), Baxendale (Blair, 87’), Westcarr (Rose, 69’), Green.
Subs not used: Shearer, Collins, Beardsley, McGuire.
Stevenage: Day, Henry, McCombe, Franks, Ogilvie, Tonge, Pett, Gordon (Conlon, 69’), Lee, McFadzean (Gnanduillet, 57’), Matt.
Subs not used: Crowe, Hughes, Johnson, Gorman, Akinyemi.
Attendance: 3,126 (112 away)