Mansfield Town’s new era under boss Steve Evans began with a comprehensive 3-1 victory against Crawley Town at One Call Stadium this afternoon.
An outstanding double from midfielder Chris Clements, combined with striker Pat Hoban’s third goal of the campaign fashioned today’s triumph. Defender Rhys Bennett headed in to his own net in the second half as Crawley got a consolation on a day which was dominated by the Stags.
Manager Evans made two changes to the team which was beaten at Portsmouth last week, with striker Hoban and right-back Mitch Rose replacing midfielder James Baxendale, who dropped to the bench, and defender Kyle Howkins who was missing through suspension.
The former Rotherham United manager, who received a rapturous welcome from the Stags’ faithful for his first game, saw his new charges almost go ahead in the third minute. Striker Matt Green pressured the opposition goalkeeper Glenn Morris following a defensive mix-up, but the ball was somehow cleared and Hoban hit his shot over the bar from 25 yards.
On seven minutes, the home side threatened once again; this time striker Matt Green laid off an inch-perfect pass for the onrushing Hemmings, whose right-footed volley was well-gathered by Morris.
Green himself was at it moments later as the 29-year-old’s daisy-cutter forced a finger-tip save from Morris which resulted in a corner, however that was cleared to safety by the Crawley defence.
The Stags’ early onslaught continued as tenacious midfielder Jamie McGuire headed the ball goalwards from 20 yards out, but it went narrowly wide of the target.
On 26 minutes, Evans’ men piled on the pressure as full-back Malvind Benning overlapped down the left before setting up Hemmings, whose firm strike was blocked by Crawley defender Mark Connolly inside the 18-yard area.
A total domination from the Stags’ forward players was admirably complemented by their rearguard, which staunchly bottled the visitors’ threat up front and limited them to a handful of half-chances in the first-half.
With three minutes left before the break, Hemmings worried Morris with a promising goal-bound shot from the edge of the area, which the Crawley shot-stopper tipped away at full stretch.
In spite of controlling large swathes of possession and registering more shots on target, the Stags went into the interval locked at 0-0.
Mansfield took the initiative after the restart with two quick chances, but the game still remained scoreless.
Irish striker Hoban earned a corner for the Stags through a deflected effort from outside the penalty box, and towering centre-back Krystian Pearce saw his header from the flag-kick hacked off the line.
The much-deserved opening goal came for Steve Evans’ side on 50 minutes through Clements, who hammered the ball in to the back of the net from eight yards out to break the deadlock.
The Stags quickly doubled their advantage as Hoban volleyed home the second goal of the afternoon after Green’s pin-point header down from Benning’s angled cross in from the left.
Stags were well on top and they could have extended their lead even further when Clements was brought down on the edge of the area.
Frontman Green unleashed a rifling low free-kick from 25-yards, which punctured the Reds’ wall and drew a crucial save from Morris.
The Green-Clements combination carved Mansfield’s third goal on 65 minutes after the away side’s backline was caught napping.
Ex-Newport County and Birmingham City striker Green cleverly dinked the ball over Morris on the left-hand side, who had come charging out of his goal, and the frontman curled a beautiful low cross with the outside of his right foot to Clements on the edge of the box and he rifled a half-volley high in to the net.
Chief Evans celebrated the goal with a zealous fist-pumping, while the players executed a perfect ‘mannequin challenge’ in front of the home faithful of the Ian Greaves Stand.
Substitute James Baxendale then came close to increasing the home side’s lead on 80 minutes as he sweetly laced his shot from the right of the six-yard-box, but Morris staved him off with a strong save.
Dermot Drummy’s Crawley grabbed a late consolation on 82 minutes via defender Rhys Bennett, as he glanced a header off a Bobson Bawling cross inside the six yard box.
Stags saw out the rest of the game comfortably to hand Evans the perfect start as Stags’ boss as they now turn their attentions to Tuesday’s home game against Blackpool.
Stags XI: Shearer, Bennett, Benning, Pearce, Clements (C), Hoban (Henderson 90’), Green (D. Rose 84’), M.Rose, Hemmings (Baxendale 72’), McGuire, Gobern.
Subs: Jensen, Thomas, Hamilton, Law.
Crawley XI: Morris, Young, Connolly (Davey 34’, Djalo 65’), Boldewijn (Bawling 57’), Smith (C), Harrold, Roberts, Blackman, Garnett, Clifford, Collins.
Subs: Beeney, Payne, Tajbakhsh, Henderson.
Attendance: 2,984 (72 away)
Referee: Carl Boyeson