Magnificent Mansfield Town made it a Derby Day to remember with a comprehensive 3-1 victory over league-leading local rivals Notts County on a bright autumn day at One Call Stadium.
It was goalless at the break, however both sides had chances with Mansfield creating the more clear-cut opportunities. Stags’ striker Kane Hemmings had two good chances in quick succession whilst Magpies’ winger Lewis Alessandra blasted over the bar from 10 yards just before half-time.
The Stags took the lead on 47 minutes when frontman Danny Rose capitalised on a defensive error to lob County ‘keeper Adam Collin. He had this second just before the hour when strike partner Kane Hemmings saw his headed effort tipped onto the post by Collin, but Rose was the first to react to fire in from close range.
Rose also played a part in the Stags’ third, drilling a ball across the face of goal which was turned in by County captain Richard Duffy.
Stags were dominant from then on but County managed to claw a late goal back as left-back Carl Dickinson curled in a 25-yard free-kick in the dying embers of the game.
Manager Steve Evans made four changes to the side which lost at Cheltenham in mid-week. Wingers Alfie Potter and Alex MacDonald were named in the starting XI alongside midfielder Calum Butcher and striker Kane Hemmings. They replaced defender Rhys Bennett, midfielders Jacob Mellis and Paul Digby and frontman Lee Angol, with Bennett and Angol not fully recovering from viruses.
Not only was the game being played for a vital three points and the local bragging rights, but the winner would also receive The Matt Salmon Trophy, in memory of the former Stags’ physio who tragically passed away aged 25 in May. Matt had undergone work experience at County during his career and his family were in attendance to watch both clubs pay tribute.
There were 7,072 in attendance at One Call Stadium and from the first minute, the game was played to the backdrop of a terrific atmosphere with both sets of fans getting into the spirit of a local derby.
It was County who got off on the front foot and striker Jon Stead earned an early corner, seeing his attempted cross deflected out off Paul Anderson, who was occupying a slightly unfamiliar right-back position. The corner came to nothing as Stags earned a free-kick after centre half David Mirfin had his shirt pulled.
Magpies’ skipper Richard Duffy was punished twice early on for fouls on Stags’ strike partnership of Danny Rose and Kane Hemmings and from the latter incident, the Stags nearly took the lead. MacDonald whipped the set play into the area but as the ball fell kindly for Rose, he was just unable to bring it under control and it ran away from him.
After joining on loan from Nottingham Forest, winger Jorge Grant has been the star man for the Magpies so far this season, firing in eight goals. He looked lively early on as he cut inside and saw an effort deflected over the bar.
County probably shaded it in terms of the early pressure but the Stags were looking dangerous on the break and Rose nearly exploited that after goalkeeper Conrad Logan had sent him clear with a superb long ball, but Rose saw his shot blocked by right-back Matt Tootle.
The visitors were presented with a good opening after Grant was blocked off by Stags’ skipper Krystian Pearce just on the edge of the area. It was Grant who stepped up but his low effort was cleared away for a corner.
Mansfield were awarded a dangerous free-kick moments later after a foul on midfielder Will Atkinson. MacDonald took it and his effort was much more of a tester than Grant’s, forcing Collin into a terrific save as he palmed it away from the top corner.
The best chance of the opening stages fell to Mansfield on 21 minutes. Midfielder Calum Butcher beat the entire County defence with a looped ball over the top which found Kane Hemmings, but the Oxford United loanee man failed to make proper contact and his first time effort skewed off target.
Both sets of fans paid a moving tribute to Matt Salmon with a poignant minute’s applause on 25 minutes and with all four corners of the ground on their feet, Mansfield nearly took the lead. Following a corner, Pearce fired a ball across the face of goal which found Hemmings at the far post but he failed somehow volleyed the ball over the bar from a few yards out.
Mansfield were dealt a blow on 33 minutes as winger Alfie Potter was forced off with an injury and gaffer Steve Evans brought on attacker Omari Sterling-James in his place.
With five minutes left of the first half, County threatened again. After patient build up, the ball ended up at the feet of Lewis Alessandra but from a central position, he smashed a shot over the bar.
The last outing between these two sides ended 0-0 but this always looked like a game that had goals in it. Thankfully for the Stags, it was they who struck first with the second half only two minutes old.
After Duffy mistimed a header back to his own ‘keeper, Danny Rose was onto it like a flash and he lofted the ball over Collin and into the back of the net to send One Call Stadium into mayhem as the strong home support celebrated taking the lead.
County were left wondering how they hadn’t drawn level as the half continued at a frenetic pace. A goalmouth scramble saw the ball land at the feet of striker Jonathan Forte but his effort hit Mirfin on the line and bounced into the welcome clutches of Logan.
That proved to be crucial as just before the hour, Mansfield added a second. Sterling-James whipped a ball across the face of goal and after Hemmings saw his header saved well by Collin, who turned it onto the post, Rose was on hand to turn the ball in from almost under the bar for his fourth goal in as many games.
Mansfield were soon in dream land as they went 3-0 ahead against the league leaders. Rose was well and truly proving to be a thorn in the side of County as his fizzed cross was turned into his own net by Duffy who didn’t adjust his feet in time.
Staring down the barrel of his side’s first defeat since the opening day, Magpies’ boss Kevin Nolan made a triple substitution on 67 minutes bringing on defender Elliott Hewitt, striker Shola Ameobi and former Stag Terry Hawkridge.
The home side were now dominant and their supporters were in a buoyant mood. After 74 minutes, MacDonald delivered a free-kick from the right and though Pearce climbed highest, he couldn’t direct his header on target.
Referee Darren Drysdale waved away County protests for a penalty in the 82nd minute after Matt Tootle went to ground, with the visitors looking to set up a tense finale to the game.
The Stags were not content with their three goal lead and looked to rub further salt in the wounds of County. Rose found space on the left wing and he lofted a ball into the box but under strong pressure, Hemmings couldn’t find the target with his diving header.
Stags were purring and a few moments later, Rose’s brilliant back-heel put MacDonald clear but his curled effort went just wide of the upright with Collin stranded.
As the fourth official indicated there would be four minutes of time added on, County got themselves a late consolation. Left-back Carl Dickinson curled in a terrific free-kick from 25 yards as he whipped the ball beyond Logan and inside the post.
County did have another late chance to reduce the deficit but Shaun Brisley hit the bar in the last meaningful moment of the game.
The victory was the perfect remedy for the Stags as they reclaimed a place in the Sky Bet League Two top six before the 3.00pm games got underway and extended their unbeaten home run to six matches.
STAGS’ XI: Logan, Pearce ©, MacDonald, Anderson, Atkinson, Potter (Sterling-James 33’), Mirfin, Hunt, Hemmings (Spencer 86’), Butcher, Rose (Angol 89’)
SUBS NOT USED: Olejnik (GK), Bennett, Mellis, Hamilton
COUNTY XI: Collin, Tootle, Dickinson, Duffy © (Hewitt 67’), Alessandra (Hawkridge 67’), Grant, Forte (Ameobi 67’), Brisley, Yates, Milsom, Stead
SUBS NOT USED: Pindroch (GK), Smith, Hunt, Walker
ATTENDANCE: 7,072 (1644 away)
REFEREE: Darren Drysdale