Report: Saints 1-8 Stags
Sam Clucas scored four times in a 17-minute spell as Mansfield Town cruised into the Second Round of the FA Cup at the expense of St Albans City.
The Stags produced an emphatic performance in front of goal and showed no mercy towards their Southern Premier League counterparts.
St Albans went ahead thanks to an eighth-minute header by Darren Locke, and harboured hopes of a cup shock, as they held that lead for over half-an-hour.
But quick-fire strikes by Lee Stevenson and Anthony Howell on the brink of half-time put the Stags in control.
Junior Daniel added a third on 70 minutes, and from that moment onwards it was one-way traffic, as Mansfield tore St Albans to pieces.
Clucas scored the first of his four goals on 77 minutes, before Palmer added a fifth just three minutes later.
Clucas, who has taken his tally for the campaign to nine goals, then struck on three more occasions to earn us a magnificent 8-1 win.
In wet and windy conditions, the Stags made the worst possible start in Hertfordshire as St Albans took the lead after just eight minutes.
Jamie McGuire tripped David Keenleyside midway inside the St Albans half, which allowed the Saints to whip a teasing ball into the box.
The Stags only partially cleared the resulting danger and eventually Keenleyside collected possession and crossed towards Locke at the far-post.
Locke rose highest and planted a firm header beyond Alan Marriott, which nestled in the bottom-corner and sent the home crowd into celebration.
With most of the Clarence Park crowd now dreaming of a cup shock, matters were almost made worse for the Stags just a few moments later.
Mark Nwokeji ran at a back-peddling Stags defence and slipped a clever ball towards strike-partner John Frendo, who saw his low 20-yard drive saved by Marriott.
Mansfield then enjoyed a flurry of quick chances in which they were extremely unfortunate not to draw level.
Clucas was just inches away to connecting from a fine back-post cross by Daniel, before he fired into the side-netting in a separate move.
Ollie Palmer came even closer to a leveller with a stunning lob-shot over Paul Bastock, which agonisingly ricocheted off the up-right.
On 24 minutes, James Jennings whipped a vicious in-swinging corner right under the target, which had to be parried away by Bastock.
The Stags remained on the front-foot against the Southern League opponents, but struggled in their quest to create clear-cut chances.
Clucas was a constant nuisance for the hosts and his right-wing cross on the half-hour mark, narrowly evaded an unmarked Palmer at the far-post.
Bastock then produced an excellent diving save to keep out a powerful low 20-yard strike by Clucas, following Jennings’ long set-piece forwards.
However, the Stags made a mess of the resulting corner and Frendo found himself breaking clear with only Ritchie Sutton and Marriott ahead of him.
Frendo squared a simple pass towards an advancing Nwokeji, who was just about to unleash a shot when Daniel’s last-ditch challenge denied him.
McCombe’s intervention proved invaluable as the Stags drew level on the brink of stoppage-time at the end of the first period.
McGuire provided a defence-splitting low through ball towards Stevenson, who in a one-on-one with Bastock, nonchalantly stroked home.
Mansfield were rejuvenated and completed a remarkable turnaround only a minute later, which left St Albans cursing their luck.
With the home defence stretched, Palmer broke through on the inside-left and passed to an advancing Clucas, entering the area.
Clucas looked up and rolled the ball across the face of goal, beyond the reach of a flat-footed Bastock, allowing Howell to stroke home at point-blank range.
The Stags led 2-1 at the interval, but to their credit, St Albans looked fired up ahead of the re-start, determined to get back into the tie.
They almost did so within three minutes as Lee Chappell drifted inside and hit a speculative 30-yard drive straight at Marriott.
At the other end, Stevenson tested the reflexes of Bastock with a strike from distance, which was well-held by the veteran shot-stopper.
Bastock’s agility prevented St Albans from falling 3-1 behind as he produced a fine fingertip stop to keep out a bullet-header by Palmer on 55 minutes.
The Saints then enjoyed a bright spell, in which Frendo should have done better as he fired over from the edge of the area, following Sutton’s partial clearance.
Frendo thought he had equalised for St Albans on the hour-mark when he crashed a superb 20-yard volley into the bottom-corner.
The striker wheeled away in celebration, but his joy was short-lived due to a linesman’s flag – raised because the ball had gone out of play in the build-up.
After that, St Albans attacks were sparse, as Mansfield assumed a firmer grip on proceedings and began to look more threatening.
On 65 minutes, Clucas went close as he beat two men to drift inside from the right flank, and sent a swerving shot just wide of the target.
Moments later, St Albans’ spirits were dampened as Mansfield added a third goal, which all but sealed their passage to Round Two.
Clucas again tormented his marker on the right flank and delivered a back-post ball towards Daniel, who crashed a thumping volley into the bottom corner.
The Stags then quickly struck again, with the same duo involved in the third goal, influential again – but the opposite way round.
This time, Daniel played a low right-wing ball to Clucas, who yet again skipped away from his marker, prior to sending a curling low drive beyond Bastock.
By this stage the floodgates had well and truly opened for St Albans, and Palmer was next to add his name to the score-sheet.
The striker ran at a back-peddling St Albans backline and hit a perfect 30-yard shot into the bottom-right corner.
Substitute Lindon Meikle was then involved as Mansfield made it 6-1 on 81 minutes, slipping a perfect ball over the top for Clucas, who duly fired home.
Clucas was the star of the show and having already run the hosts ragged, he completed his hat-trick with five minutes remaining.
This time, Meikle put him through on goal yet again, and Clucas produced an exquisite dink over a grounded Bastock.
St Albans’ misery didn’t end there, however, as even though Meikle was unable to find the net in a one-on-one, Clucas scored again in added time.
Howell’s low ball pierced the Saints backline and with Bastock way out of position on the edge of the box, Clucas’ nonchalant chip found the net.
The score-line was harsh on St Albans, who were ultimately resigned to their second-biggest loss in the history of the competition.