Stags defeated at Dartford
Mansfield Town suffered more away day misery as they were beaten 2-0 by Dartford at Princes Park.
Elliott Bradbrook claimed his fourth goal of the campaign as the hosts took charge, before Ryan Hayes doubled the advantage with a contender for ‘Goal of the Season’.
On a bitterly cold night in Kent, Dartford almost grabbed an opener after only four minutes when Hayes saw a powerful effort deflected over the woodwork by John Dempster.
Ryan Tafazolli saw a toe-poked attempt scrambled clear as Gary Roberts caused havoc inside the area with Mansfield’s first corner of the game, before Anthony Howell was cautioned for a late challenge on Jon Wallis.
Exodus Geohaghon sliced a shot wide on 13 minutes, whilst Andy Todd warmed the hands of Darts shot-stopper Marcus Bettinelli with a dangerous cross midway through the first period.
Stags keeper Liam Mitchell raced from his line and denied Danny Harris a shooting opportunity as the hosts began to dictate the play, before Lee Burns fired wide from distance.
Dartford then enjoyed two opportunities in as many minutes close to the half-hour mark.
Bradbrook saw a tame header comfortably gathered by Mitchell, whilst an unmarked Adam Birchall blazed wide from close range after he reached Hayes’ fabulous back-post cross.
Despite having to defend for much of the first period, Mansfield almost claimed an opener on 38 minutes when Matt Rhead saw a powerful right-foot shot tipped over by Bettinelli.
Tony Burman’s play-off chasers then came exceptionally close through Birchall, who turned away from Tafazolli in fine style on the edge of the box and drew a near-post save from Mitchell.
Nevertheless, the hosts went ahead on the cusp of half-time as Bradbrook whistled a low 25-yard drive into the bottom left-hand corner after an intricate lay-off from Wallis.
Mansfield’s misery was then further increased as Dartford struck again in stoppage-time.
Hayes intercepted Jake Speight’s intended pass to Junior Daniel and carved his way towards goal with a swashbuckling run, which ended as he unleashed a sumptuous left-foot shot that curled beautifully into the top-right hand corner.
Stags boss Paul Cox made a double substitution ahead of the second period as Tafazolli and Rhead were withdrawn in favour of Ritchie Sutton and Lindon Meikle respectively.
But it was the hosts who continued to attack with venom and moments after Richard Rose had fired over from a free-kick, Birchall’s back-post attempt was saved by Mitchell.
On the cusp of the hour mark, the creative Birchall was put clean through on goal by Wallis, but was unable to extend Dartford’s advantage as his low shot ricocheted off the post.
Substitute Louis Briscoe fired over moments later as Roberts employed the short-corner routine in an attempt to help Mansfield find a route back into the game.
Despite being largely restricted to shooting from distance as the minutes ebbed away, the Stags enjoyed a prolonged period of possession and came close on 72 minutes when Meikle’s speculative long-range drive skimmed the side-netting.
Lee Noble went close for Dartford with a well-struck shot in the dying stages, though it ultimately mattered little as the hosts comfortably held out to record a victory that moves them into the Blue Square Bet Premier play-off zone.