Mansfield Town stretched their unbeaten league run to six matches with a comfortable 2-0 win over Leyton Orient at One Call Stadium this afternoon.
Both Stags' goals arrived in the second half, with young midfielder Ben Whiteman scoring one and setting another up for striker Danny Rose.
The Stags’ starting line-up was unchanged from their outstanding victory over Cambridge United last time out in the league, with the four new signings – striker Shaquile Coulthirst, midfield duo of Joel Byrom and Whiteman, and right-back Hayden White – all returning to the side after missing the mid-week Checkatrade Trophy defeat to Wycombe Wanderers due to being cup tied.
Following a minute’s applause in memory of former Stags' player Lindy Delapenha, who sadly passed away this week, Stags got the game underway and were immediately on the front foot.
The Stags earned two successive free-kicks around 30-yards out, as well as a corner on the left-hand side, but all three deliveries from midfield general Byrom were dealt with by the Orient rearguard.
The early threat was not quelled fully though, as right-back Nicky Hunt’s backpass to his goalkeeper Alex Cisak was pounced on by Coulthirst, and striker Danny Rose rushed in with an angled effort that went agonisingly wide on four minutes.
Steve Evans’ side continued to probe for an opening using the flanks to their advantage, and on 12 minutes, left-back Malvind Benning drove forward to unleash a stinging shot from inside the 18-yard box, which Australian stopper Cisak pawed behind for a corner.
Striker Rose, who had been lively since the first minute, then tried his luck with a low effort from the edge of the area four minutes after, but it was comfortably gathered by Cisak when he could have used Hamilton, who was free to his left.
The O’s remained under the cosh and on 23 minutes, 20-year-old Whiteman executed some fancy dribbling skills to evade three defenders, but his right-footed attempt flew just above of the crossbar.
For Orient, skipper Hunt led a counter-attack on 34 minutes and spread the play to his right for the onrushing Gavin Massey, whose cross-cum-shot went wide of Kean’s far post.
The Stags continued to maintain their upper-hand over proceedings and moved the ball well, which led to winger CJ Hamilton’s fine lay-off for Benning on 40 minutes, who tested Cisak for the second time this afternoon, but the stopper dealt with his shot well.
With half-time inching closer, the O’s forced a corner via Sam Dalby off centre-back Rhys Bennett. Full-back Callum Kennedy delivered from the corner arc, but Paul McCallum’s header was well intercepted by Krystian Pearce, and the sides went into the dressing room evenly-poised at 0-0.
The Stags came out firing on all cylinders after the change of ends, and on 46 minutes, Whiteman fed Coulthirst, who ran down the right to tee up Hamilton at the far post, whose shot across the face of the goal went back to Coulthirst, but his subsequent cross was cleared.
But it was Sheffield United loanee Whiteman himself who opened the scoring on 48 minutes. A free-kick from Byrom along the far touchline was headed out by the Orient backline to Whiteman 22-yards out, and he struck a sweetly-timed left-footed half volley which beat Cisak to give Stags the lead.
The Mansfield faithful were in full voice now, as moments after the opener, frontman Coulthirst let fly with a volley from distance which went beyond Cisak but crashed off the upright.
The visitors were now having to cope with the Stags’ incessant pressure, who won two successive corners which were well dealt with.
On 57 minutes though, the O’s were powerless as Whiteman turned provider this time. Hamilton did well to keep the ball alive on the left and played it to Byrom, who in turn fed the ball inside to Whiteman. The Sheffield United loanee drove into the box and played a lovely ball across the six-yard box where Rose slid in at the far post to angle the ball into the roof of the game for Mansfield’s second goal.
Although the home side dictated the tempo of the game after two quick goals, the O’s launched a rare attack of their own on 76 minutes when left-winger Semedo swung a cross in for McCallum, who beat his man to the header but could not keep it on target.
However, Steve Evans’ men were quick to respond as the ever-impressive Whiteman lead by example to test Cisak once again with a low drive on 83 minutes.
With three minutes remaining and the Stags’ fans continuing their joyous support, 22-year-old Coulthirst showed great tenacity to dispossess a Leyton defender and drive into the box before aiming his shot straight at Cisak.
Orient striker Paul McCallum was forced off after being brought down by Krystian Pearce on the edge of the box and he left the field of play on a stretcher as a result.
From the resulting free-kick from full-back Kennedy, the ball first crashed off the Stags’ wall, while the follow-up trickled wide of the mark after brushing against the outside of the post.
Substitute Matt Green almost gave Stags a third goal in the dying seconds of the game, as he out-muscled his marker to shoot beyond the far post from the right of the penalty area.
With Stags continuing to press until the final whistle, the referee called time on the occasion as Steve Evans' men's unbeaten run continues.
Stags XI: Kean, Bennett, Benning, Collins, Pearce, Coulthirst (Arquin, 90+5’), White, Hamilton, Byrom, Whiteman (Baxendale, 85’), Rose (Green, 73’)
Subs not used: Shearer, Hoban, Thomas, Hemmings.
Leyton XI: Cisak, Kennedy, Parkes, M. Collins, McCallum (Adeboyejo, 90’), Massey, Moore, Hunt, Mezague, Semedo, Dalby (Palmer, 57’)
Subs not used: Sargeant, Atangana, Moncur, Judd, Clark
Attendance: 3,925 (279 away)
Referee: Graham Salisbury