Scintillating Stags destroy Dartford
Magnificent Mansfield Town produced a scintillating second half display as they earned their biggest victory of the season against Dartford at One Call Stadium.
On a bitterly cold afternoon, Paul Cox’s side made their intentions perfectly clear after just six minutes when skipper Adam Murray venomously blazed into the bottom corner from outside the area.
Midfielder Anthony Howell doubled the advantage shortly after half-time, before Luke Jones guided home Junior Daniel’s left-wing delivery to put the result beyond doubt.
Despite the best efforts of Dartford shot-stopper Marcus Bettinelli, who made a series of fine saves, Matt Green slotted in a fourth goal, whilst Lee Stevenson added a fifth in the dying stages.
As a result of their inspired performance, Mansfield move up three places in the Blue Square Bet Premier table, and now sit just three points behind fifth-placed Kidderminster Harriers.
After some tentative opening exchanges, the visitors registered their chance as James Rogers found Nathan Collier with a low through ball, but Alan Marriott rushed from his line and saved well.
The Darts attack provoked an instant response from Mansfield, who soon established an advantage.
Skipper Murray showed unadulterated venom as he won the ball after a crunching challenge with Mark Arber on the edge of the area, before he looked up and unleashed a powerful drive that flew past Bettinelli.
Dartford weren’t deterred at having fallen behind, however, and created another opening as winger Lee Burns wrestled his way past debutant James Jennings on the right flank and flashed a low ball through the six-yard box.
The Stags then came close to doubling their lead on 16 minutes when Jennings’ left-sided corner was met by Jones at the far post, who saw his header drift narrowly wide of the target.
As the first half progressed, the visitors gradually began to enjoy more possession, but lacked a cutting-edge.
Burns teased and tormented Jennings with his intricate footwork and ball control on the right wing, whilst Collier proved to be a handful for Mansfield’s central-defensive pairing of Jones and John Dempster.
On the half-hour mark, the Darts came within inches of a leveller as Burns turned Lee Noble’s left-sided corner goalwards, which forced Stevenson to desperately clear off the line.
And three minutes before the interval, Lee Beevers proved to be the last line of defence as he hooked Danny Harris’ close- range effort away, after the ball squirmed under Marriott’s body.
Mansfield started positively after the break and an unmarked Daniel should have done better when he volleyed over from the edge of the six-yard box following Green’s right-sided delivery.
Jennings almost caught out Bettinelli with an inswinging corner-kick moments later, whilst Jones also flicked a long-throw from Beevers narrowly wide of the target.
The Stags, undoubtedly enjoying their best spell of pressure, then edged further ahead on 54 minutes.
Debutant Jennings superbly cut inside and swung an inviting ball through a crowded area, which eventually found Howell on the edge of the area, who saw his deflected effort fly into the bottom corner.
Dartford looked a pale shadow of the side that had pressed Mansfield with such menace in the first period, and fell further behind midway through the second period.
Daniel’s speculative long punt into the area should have been routinely dealt with, but Jones peeled away from his marker and guided the ball home, beyond a furious Bettinelli.
With the result in little doubt, the Darts shot-stopper then prevented his side from conceding yet another, as he saved two efforts in quick succession from Howell and Daniel respectively.
However, Bettinelli was powerless to prevent Green from extending Mansfield’s lead to 4-0, when the striker latched on to Louis Briscoe’s exquisite defence-splitting ball and calmly slotted home.
The Stags ruthlessly continued to tear holes in Dartford’s backline and came within inches of adding a fifth goal when Jones saw a bullet header palmed over the woodwork by a full-stretch Bettinelli
From the resulting set-piece, Jennings’ near-post delivery was headed goalwards by Stevenson, but just as the net seemed destined to ripple, Bettinelli miraculously managed to palm the ball away.
Nevertheless, Stevenson wasn’t to be denied as Mansfield were awarded a penalty after his tangle with Adam Green inside the area.
The midfield maestro coolly stepped up to take the resulting spot-kick and hammered his penalty venomously into the roof of the net, too record his third goal in as many outings.
Substitute Briscoe could have added a sixth in stoppage-time when his poked effort was saved by Bettinelli, but it mattered little as the magnificent Stags recorded their biggest win of the season.
Attendance: 2,598 (104 away supporters).