Stags ease to fourth straight home win
Mansfield Town earned their fourth consecutive home success with victory over Braintree Town at One Call Stadium.
Lee Stevenson fired the Stags ahead with a close range finish on the cusp of half-time, before Jake Speight sealed the points late on with his fourth strike of the season.
On what was a warm and glorious afternoon in North Nottinghamshire, Mansfield created the first opportunity after only two minutes when midfielder Chris Clements fired over from 20-yards out, after a dangerous long throw from Exodus Geohaghon was only partially cleared by the Iron defence.
James Mulley scuffed a six-yard shot straight into the arms of Alan Marriott the other end, before Speight angled a low shot wide of the target after capitalising on Matt Paine’s poor attempted clearance.
Braintree acquitted themselves well in the early exchanges and again came close when talisman Sean Marks connected with a fabulous right-wing cross from Brad Quinton and flicked a near-post header narrowly over the target.
Nevertheless, the Stags should have opened the scoring on 21 minutes as bustling striker Matt Rhead powered a header straight at Iron shot-stopper Danny Naisbitt, despite being left unmarked inside the area as Clements delivered a corner from the right.
Chances proved to be few and far between until the half-hour mark when Marriott expertly tipped a powerful near-post volley from Adam Bailey-Dennis round the woodwork. From the resulting corner, Marks flicked a header just wide of the target as Braintree began to enjoy their best period of the game.
Less than a minute later, Speight thought he had fired the Stags ahead. The striker crashed a low left-footed shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the area, but was denied his fourth goal of the campaign as the linesman had judged him to have strayed into an offside position.
The visitors from North Essex created a golden opportunity shortly before half-time, from which they should have scored the opening goal.
Debutant Ryan Tafazolli lost possession on the halfway line, which allowed Marks to pick up the ball and set about on a driving run through the middle. The Braintree front man then somewhat selfishly hit a low 20-yard shot wide of the target, much to the anger of his team-mates, two of whom had been left unmarked either side of him.
Braintree paid the ultimate price only three minutes prior to the interval as Mansfield went ahead.
The industrious Clements sent a long clearance down the right-flank, which inadvertently put Speight through on goal. After crafting his way into the area, Iron centre-back Paine managed to halt the run of the Stags striker with a well-timed challenge, but Stevenson was on hand to fire the resulting loose ball into the bottom corner.
Rhead almost doubled the advantage when he attempted to chip an out-of-position Naisbitt five minutes after the re-start, but Braintree carved out an opportunity of their own soon afterwards, as Bailey-Dennis powered a 30-yard shot high over the woodwork.
Naisbitt saved well from Speight just before the hour-mark as Mansfield again threatened to double their lead, yet it was their opponents who saw the majority of the ball as the second half progressed.
However, despite all their possession and movement in and around the Stags box, Alan Devonshire’s outfit proved unable to create any clear-cut opportunities and claim the equaliser they so desperately craved.
As the game meandered towards its inevitable conclusion, Clements drove a low effort wide of the target from 25-yards out, whilst Naisbitt was forced to scurry across goal in order to keep out a teasing cross-cum-shot from Junior Daniel.
With less than five minutes on the clock, Speight killed off any lingering hopes that Braintree might have had of a comeback by netting the second goal of the afternoon.
The impressive Daniel, who earned the fans’ ‘Man of the Match’ accolade, played Speight into a one-on-one with Naisbitt, with a fabulous long cross-field ball out of defence, and the striker maintained his composure as he advanced goalwards and coolly slotted beyond an advancing keeper.
The Stags have now moved up to eighth position in the Blue Square Bet Premier table.
Attendance: 2,049 (32 away supporters).