Stags slip to Ebbsfleet defeat
Mansfield Town slipped to a disappointing defeat against Ebbsfleet United at Stonebridge Road.
The Stags took the lead on the stroke of half-time through a penalty from Louis Briscoe but goals from Nathan Elder, Phil Walsh and Liam Enver-Marum earned the hosts their first victory since the opening day of the season.
On what was a tumultuous and boiling hot day in Kent, striker Matt Green also received a straight red card for an innocuous off the ball clash with Fleet skipper Paul Lorraine.
With pitch-side temperatures exceeding 30 degrees at kick-off, the game unsurprisingly began in a slow fashion as both teams struggled to create any clear-cut goal scoring chances.
The Stags were awarded their first meaningful free-kick after eight minutes when Lorraine dragged Green to the floor midway inside his own half. However, Lindon Meikle was unable to test Fleet ‘keeper Preston Edwards with the set-piece opportunity and the early danger came to pass.
Exodus Geohaghon flashed a header wide of the target following a corner from Adam Murray, whilst at the other end Enver-Marum twice fired into the Stags defensive wall as the hosts enjoyed a rare first-half foray into their opponents half of the field.
Murray and Green almost linked up to great effect on 18 minutes, but a superb sliding challenge from Lorraine denied Green the opportunity of breaking through on goal and into a one-on-one with Edwards.
Despite the Stags being awarded a free-kick for a foul on Matt Rhead, the bustling striker was surprisingly cautioned by referee Chris Knowles; an incident which came moments before Mansfield nearly opened the scoring.
Inside the six-yard box, Rhead connected with a pinpoint left-wing cross from Ritchie Sutton and guided a header towards Green who was lurking dangerously at the near post, but the Stags talisman failed to connect and the temporary danger came to pass as the hosts breathed a huge sigh of relief.
On the half-hour mark, Mansfield were reduced to ten men as talisman Green was shown a straight red card following another off-the-ball tussle with Lorraine.
The pair went to ground together as they attempted to connect with a long ball over the top and despite the Stags being awarded a free-kick, everyone inside Stonebridge Road was left bamboozled when the referee pulled a red card from his pocket and ordered Green off the field of play
As the hosts started to enjoy the superiority of having an extra man, Paul Cox’s side delivered a sucker-punch on the cusp of half-time when Briscoe fired his side ahead from the penalty spot.
Ebbsfleet’s defence had held firm against a vast number of crosses into their own area, but finally came unstuck when Liam Bellamy’s reckless lunge brought down Meikle inside the area, leaving the referee with no other choice than but to award a penalty.
In the absence of Green, spot-kick duties were left to joint-longest serving player Briscoe and the winger made no mistake at all with a powerfully driven penalty that gave Edwards little chance.
Mansfield could have then been awarded a further spot-kick before the interval when Luke Jones ended up with a bust lip after catching a sly elbow from an opponent inside the area. However, despite vociferous appeals for another spot-kick, the referee ordered play to continue on this occasion.
Rhead volleyed wide of the target as the Stags threatened to double their advantage shortly after the re-start, but Cox’s men were soon hit by a double sucker punch as the hosts netted two goals in the space of three minutes which completely turned the game on its head.
Elder drifted into empty space on the edge of the six-yard box and stooped low to head home an intricate right-wing cross from Joe Howe on 58 minutes, before Walsh capitalised on some poor defending and lashed home from a similar position on the hour-mark.
Jake Speight and Nick Wright replaced Rhead and Briscoe in a double substitution made after 65 minutes, though it was Neil Barrett who had the next opportunity, when he whistled a low shot wide of the target from 20-yards out after ‘keeper Alan Marriott had parried straight into his path.
Speight came close to an equaliser on 74 minutes as he picked up possession in the middle of the park and set about on a weaving run, which saw him drift into the box from the inside-right channel. Despite scuffing his shot into the side-netting from an acute angle, a furious Edwards nevertheless ordered his defence to tighten up.
Mansfield continued to dictate possession as the game meandered towards its conclusion, but it was Ebbsfleet who grabbed the fourth goal of the game from the penalty spot.
The hosts launched a quick counter-attack, which saw Sutton and Elder go shoulder-to-shoulder at the by-line after the Fleet attacker had beaten Sutton for pace, to cut inside from the left flank.
Just as Elder looked up and was about to drive a low cross through the six-yard box, play was brought to a halt and the referee pointed to the spot to award Ebbsfleet a spot-kick, which Enver-Marum successfully converted to effectively kill the game off and leave the Stags stunned.
Ebbsfleet again had the ball in the net again in the dying stages when Enver-Marum fired home from the edge of the box, though his strike was ruled out as he was judged to have strayed into an offside position.
Nevertheless, the hosts saw out the four minutes of additional time with little difficulty, thus recording their first home win of their Blue Square Bet Premier campaign in the process.
Attendance: 828 (120 away supporters).