There was derby day delight for Mansfield Town this afternoon as Mal Benning scored a 66th minute winner against rivals Chesterfield at the Proact Stadium to give the Stags a deserved 1-0 win.
The opening 45 minutes ended goalless after a tight first-half in which neither side could find the breakthrough. Mansfield’s best chance came in the 19th minute when top ‘scorer Danny Rose was picked out in the centre of the Chesterfield area, where he saw his first-time effort saved by Aaron Ramsdale in the Spireite goal. Chesterfield’s best chance came in the 27th minute when Zavon Hines looked to have been presented with a tap in only for Alfie Potter to slide in and deny the former West Ham youngster.
In the second-half, Mansfield were shooting towards the stands that housed the 2617 Stags fans and David Flitcroft’s men gave those fans something to cheer as they scored 20 minutes into the second period to secure the win. Left-back Mal Benning was denied a crucial winner earlier in the season when his effort against Morecambe was awarded to Jimmy Spencer, but there was no doubt about his decisive strike this afternoon as he charged into the Chesterfield area and finished brilliantly, beating Ramsdale and finding the bottom corner.
Ahead of the crucial derby, Mansfield Town manager David Flitcroft made four changes to the side that drew 1-1 away at Stevenage on Tuesday night. Captain Zander Diamond returned to the heart of defence alongside Krystian Pearce, with Rhys Bennett dropping to the bench. Elsewhere in defence, left-back Benning returned after serving a three-game suspension which meant Johnny Hunt joined Bennett amongst the substitutes. Further forward, there were two more changes in midfield. Central midfielder Jacob Mellis took the place of Joel Byrom whilst Potter came into the eleven over CJ Hamilton.
From the outset, the Mansfield faithful were in fantastic voice as their vocal support for the men in amber and blue took over the Proact Stadium.
Mansfield got the game under way and immediately started on the front foot, having the first chance of the game in the third minute. The ball fell kindly for left back Benning 25 yards out and his dipping drive was parried out by Aaron Ramsdale into the path of Potter, who failed to keep his effort down, firing over the bar.
It was then the turn of striker Kane Hemmings to try his luck for the Stags but his strike from distance went wide of the upright.
Chesterfield’s first chance of the game arrived in the 10th minute when Jacob Brown dragged a shot wide of the target which ‘keeper Conrad Logan watched comfortably past his post.
The game then entered somewhat of a lull with neither team able to create any clear cut chances for the next few minutes. Mansfield had the better of the possession but were unable to really test Ramsdale in the Chesterfield goal.
That all changed in the 19th minute however as the Stags almost took the lead. Benning did well to get down the left and his teasing, whipped cross found striker Danny Rose in the centre of the Chesterfield box, Rose’s first-time effort being met by Ramsdale in the best chance of the game so far.
The Chesterfield fans were on their feet in the 27th minute as they went close to opening the scoring. After Logan had done well to get down to the initial effort by Laurence Maguire, the ball rolled out towards Zavon Hines but a brilliant tackle by Potter prevented the Chesterfield man from finding the empty net, instead shooting wide.
Mansfield were forced into a change just past the half-hour mark as right Hayden White picked up an injury and was replaced by Rhys Bennett.
Logan had to be at his best in the 35th minute as some head tennis inside the Mansfield area ended with the ball dropping dangerously just outside the six-yard box but Logan was off his line quickly and bravely to dive in and claim it.
The Stags had the ball in the back of the net when Hemmings brilliantly brought down Logan’s goal kick with one touch before finishing with another, however, the on-loan Oxford United man was denied by the flag of the assistant referee.
Good passing by Chesterfield on the edge of the Stags area almost led to a chance for the home side but Louis Reed was closed down before his shot from distance could reach its target.
The Spireites did go close moments later however as danger man Kristian Dennis went down the right of the Stags’ area before cutting inside on his left foot and seeing a shot saved by the legs of Logan.
Neither side was able to find the elusive opening goal in the opening half and the deadlock remained as the teams headed into the interval.
The second-half began with some early Mansfield pressure as the Stags got forward and looked to get some balls into the box. A Mansfield free kick near the right corner flag was whipped in by Mal Benning towards the back post but defender Zander Diamond, who scored in the reverse fixture, was just unable to make contact with the ball.
Mansfield made their second substitution of the game in the 53rd minute when flying winger CJ Hamilton was brought on to replace Jacob Mellis.
The Stags were still looking the more likely and just before the hour mark, Bennett almost beat Ramsdale to Benning’s teasing cross before the ball dropped for Rose who calmly teed up Hemmings, the in-form striker seeing his shot blocked.
A swift, Chesterfield counter-attack almost cut the Stags open but a cross from the left, aimed for Chris O’Grady in the middle, was brilliantly cleared by Krystian Pearce.
With over an hour gone in the game, there was nothing to really separate the two sides but that all changed in the 66th minute when the Stags took the lead. Hamilton laid the ball off for Benning and the Mansfield left-back drove into the Chesterfield area before striking the ball across goal and into the bottom corner to spark wild scenes of celebration amongst the 2,617 Mansfield fans in attendance.
Mansfield were looking to extend their advantage as they started to enjoy some dominance in the game. Potter charged down the right wing and cut inside but his effort struck a Chesterfield defender on its way through to goal.
Chesterfield then started to enjoy their own period of pressure and in the 79th minute, Louis Dodds shot from the edge of the box was deflected through to Kristian Dennis and he stuck a leg out to try and divert the ball goalward but his effort went just wide of the post.
The home side were definitely enjoying their best spell of the game so far and Mansfield’s defence were having to be resolute to survive the aerial bombardment facing them. A cross from the right in the 84th minute looked dangerous but Maguire’s header at the back post was easily saved by Logan.
With time running out, Chesterfield’s Jak McCourt tried an optimistic, first-time volley from 25 yards but it flew over the Mansfield bar.
Chesterfield were now throwing everything at Mansfield with experienced centre-half Ian Evatt now operating as a makeshift centre forward. Referee Darren Drysdale then added five more minutes to the end of the game for Mansfield to survive.
Midway through that added time there was a moment of confusion as Chesterfield’s Louis Reed was initially shown a straight red card for pulling back Danny Rose when the Stags striker was through on goal, but the Chesterfield man survived as the assistant referee had his flag up for offside.
Chesterfield continued to send the ball into the Mansfield area but the Stags had an answer for every question the home side asked of them, defender Krystian Pearce even going on a stunning 80-yard run in the dying embers of the game to help alleviate the pressure.
Mansfield survived the late pressure and Benning’s second-half goal proved to be enough as David Flitcroft got his first win as Stags’ manager whilst the Mansfield fans got those much-desired bragging rights.
STAGS’ XI: Logan (GK), Benning, Pearce, Diamond ©, MacDonald, Mellis (Hamilton 53’), Atkinson, White (Bennett 32’), Potter, Hemmings (King 85’), Rose
SUBS NOT USED: Olejnik (GK), Angol, Hunt, Byrom
CHESTERFIELD XI: Ramsdale, Talbot, Evatt, Maguire, Brown (Dodds 69’), Weir © (McCourt 73’), Reed, Smith, Dennis, Hines (O’Grady 59’), Kellett
SUBS NOT USED: Anyon, Rowley, Barry, Nelson
ATTENDANCE: 7967 (2617 away)
REFEREE: Darren Drysdale