Chapman hat-trick sinks Stockport
Adam Chapman grabbed a stunning hat-trick on his home debut as Mansfield Town moved level on points with Wrexham and Kidderminster Harriers at the top of the Blue Square Bet Premier.
Chapman, who became the first player to achieve such a feat since Keith Cassells on the opening day of the 1984/85 campaign, proved to be a constant nuisance for the hapless Hatters.
The 23-year-old broke the deadlock on 13 minutes after Stockport ‘keeper Richard O’Donnell only parried Matt Green’s initial attempt from a Lindon Meikle cross.
Chapman then capitalised on some slack defending to add a second midway through the half, as the direction of the three points was never in any serious doubt.
Green added a third shortly after half-time, before County fabulously reduced arrears through substitute Paul Marshall with 22 minutes remaining.
But Chapman completed his hat-trick with a sumptuous thunderbolt strike, to make it yet another memorable afternoon at One Call Stadium.
Manager Paul Cox made two changes to the side that defeated Woking in midweek, as John Dempster and Meikle replaced Exodus Geohaghon and Louis Briscoe respectively.
Midfielder Chapman also made his home debut and buoyed by the news that title-rivals Wrexham had lost at Dartford in the day’s early kick-off, the Stags enjoyed plenty of early possession.
Nevertheless, Stockport created the first chance on a drizzly afternoon in North Nottinghamshire as Jon Nolan fired into the arms of Alan Marriott following Sean Newton’s in-swinging corner.
At the other end, Mansfield were only inches away from an opener on nine minutes when Lee Beevers’ long-throw was flicked goalwards by Luke Jones, forcing James Tunnicliffe into a last-ditch clearance.
Lindon Meikle’s teasing cross-cum-shot also forced a fine full-stretch save from Hatters custodian O’Donnell, before Chapman’s resulting corner came to nothing.
The Hatters looked lively on the break, and in particularly the pacey Danny Whitehead, but eventually fell behind after 13 minutes.
Meikle’s intricate low through-ball split the County defence and found an advancing Green, whose shot from inside the area was parried by O’Donnell, only for Chapman to tap home.
With the One Call Stadium crowd in full voice, the Stags looked resurgent and chased every loose ball as they made life difficult for their relegation-threatened counterparts.
And Mansfield almost doubled their advantage when Lee Stevenson’s cross following a quick long-throw, fell at the feet of Green inside the area, but his snap-shot was blocked superbly by Tunnicliffe.
But Stockport’s respite was short-lived as Chapman cheekily capitalised on some slack defending, in order to double the lead on 22 minutes.
Chapman, who was signed on loan from Oxford United in midweek, caused pandemonium as he squared a fabulous pass to Stevenson on the edge of the area.
Stevenson’s low shot through a crowded six-yard box was only partially cleared and after the ball fell to Jones, the centre-back found Chapman, who fired into O’Donnell’s bottom-left corner.
The Hatters were almost plunged into further misery close to the half-hour mark when O’Donnell had to rush from his line in order to prevent Adam Murray’s long ball over the top reaching Meikle.
It was unsurprising that after 30 minutes of being outplayed and outclassed, Stockport boss Darije Kalezic made a tactical change as Paul Marshall replaced Matt Mainwaring.
After a quiet period of play in which the Hatters saw plenty of the ball in the final third, they almost reduced arrears as Newton’s close-range header drew a save from Marriott.
But Mansfield continued to look the more threatening and Stevenson should have done better with an effort he scuffed into O’Donnell’s arms following Meikle’s lay-off on 38 minutes.
Junior Daniel then whistled an attempt over the woodwork, but the winger came even closer when his vicious low drive had to be palmed clear by O’Donnell on the cusp of the interval.
Hatters full-back Andy Halls was also cautioned for simulation, as the dominant Stags strode off to rapturous half-time applause having established a comfortable two-goal advantage.
Jon Macken replaced the ineffective Adnan Cirak at the start of the second period, and County almost found a route back on 52 minutes.
Halls showed quick-feet as he worked his way down the left flank and his inch-perfect pull-back picked out Whitehead, who woefully tapped wide from only yards out.
Mansfield were soon sparked back into life and James Jennings’ right-sided corner towards the back-post led to a goalmouth scramble in which Jones almost bundled home a minute later.
However, Stockport broke quickly on the counter-attack and after a free-flowing move, Nolan ultimately saw a low shot towards diverted wide by a back-tracking Beevers.
Whitehead was also denied by Marriott, but on 57 minutes, the Stags struck for a third time, which effectively put the direction of the three points beyond doubt.
Once again, Meikle, a constant instigator of trouble for the hapless Hatters, split the defence with a wonderful through ball to put Green into a one-on-one.
Bearing down on goal, Green outmuscled Newton and nonchalantly retained his composure to slot past an on-rushing O’Donnell for his 16th goal of the league season.
Green then nearly doubled his tally for the afternoon when he forced the County custodian into a fingertip save, following Jennings’ teasing right-sided corner moments later.
Just as it appeared Mansfield would ease to a routine victory, Stockport made the encounter more interesting as they reduced arrears against the run of play on 68 minutes.
Whitehead’s inside-pass to Marshall saw the substitute unleash a thunderous right-footed drive from 30 yards, which flew into the top corner and gave Marriott no chance.
But Whitehead’s power-drive held nothing in comparison to the way that Mansfield extended their lead in the closing stages.
Skipper Adam Murray released Meikle with a superb cross-field ball from right to left, which led to the tricky winger carving his way into a crowded area.
With nowhere to go, Meikle played a simple backwards pass towards Chapman, who, from 25 yards, looked up and unleashed a sumptuous pinpoint drive, to complete his hat-trick.
The Stags then saw out the closing stages without any real incident to record their 11th win in 12 Blue Square Bet Premier games.
Attendance: 2,628 (196 away supporters).