Report: Mansfield 1-0 Stevenage
Substitute Reggie Lambe netted the winner as Mansfield Town picked up a precious three points with a 1-0 victory at home to Stevenage.
The Bermudan winger, who came on at half-time for Billy Kee, scored from close-range after Matt Rhead flicked on a long ball forward by Lee Beevers.
Debutant Lenny Pidgeley also enjoyed the perfect debut as he kept a clean-sheet.
Mansfield made five changes to their starting line-up following a 2-1 defeat at Carlisle United the previous week – with Lenny Pidgeley, Lee Beevers, Chris Clements, Billy Kee and Vadaine Oliver all coming into the team.
However, Ricky Ravenhill pulled his hamstring during the warm-up which meant that there was a sixth change as Jamie McGuire took his place in the starting xi.
The Stags got proceedings underway on a bitterly cold afternoon in North Nottinghamshire and immediately put the hosts under pressure, but neither Rhead or Oliver could get a shot away, despite having the ball inside the Stevenage area inside the first 30 seconds.
Graham Westley’s team then had a spell of pressure – forcing a couple of corners in quick succession as both Queen’s Park Rangers loanee Bruno Andrade and Chris Whelpdale, returning to the side after injury, looked threatening, but on both occasions Stags’ new custodian Pidgeley showed a safe pair of hands to bring an end to the danger.
On 10 minutes, Andrade had the first shot of the afternoon when he latched onto a pass inside from team-mate Ben Kennedy, but lacked accuracy with a 25-yard effort which sailed high over the woodwork.
After a Stags corner by Clements came to nothing, Stevenage created another half-opening on the quarter-hour mark when Kennedy picked up possession around 30 yards out and meandered goalwards, but his weak effort from the edge of the area was straight along the floor and easy for Pidgeley.
The visitors continued to have the lion’s share of possession. However, they squandered a good chance to cause some danger midway through the first half when they opted to not put a ball into the box – and ultimately gave the ball away straight from a free-kick – after Clements brought down Andrade on the angle of the area.
Stevenage won their third corner of the game on 26 minutes, but couldn’t make it count as Whelpdale was involved in a short-corner routine, before Danny Johnson put a ball into the box for Bira Dembele, who headed yards wide of the target from about eight yards out.
Although ‘Boro remained on the front foot in terms of possession, it was the Stags who were the first team to enjoy a meaningful attempt on target.
Kennedy pushed McGuire over in a central position around 30 yards out and from the resulting free-kick, Clements lifted the ball over a five-man wall towards goal, where veteran shot-stopper Chris Day dived full-stretch and tipped the ball wide for a corner.
Clements was again left with duties from the resulting set-piece and although his initial delivery was cleared away by a defender on the line at the near-post, the ball reached Lee Beevers on the edge of the area, who was narrowly off-target with a speculative volley.
Mansfield were building up a head of steam and a minute later, only a well-timed challenge from Dean Wells stopped Ryan Tafazolli from carving out a clear opening – and the possibility of a shot on goal.
At the other end, Stevenage nearly opened the scoring less than 60 seconds later as an unmarked Andrade capitalised on a mis-placed pass from Kee and then showed some quick footwork to get past Callum Elder and advance into the box, but with a clear sight of goal, the youngster screwed a shot horribly wide of the target.
Mansfield then dictated things up to half-time and were extremely unlucky not to go ahead on the stroke of half-time injury.
Day, who just a few moments earlier had claimed crosses by both Clements and Lee Beevers right under his crossbar, pulled off a terrific save from a powerful headed by Tafazolli, following a great ball into the area by Clements.
At the start of the second half, Mansfield boss Adam Murray opted to make a tactical change as Kee was withdrawn for Lambe.
The Bermuda international had only been on the field for seven minutes when he opened the scoring and gave Mansfield a much-needed advantage.
Clements started the move with a low pass to Beevers, who then delivered a sublime ball towards the angle of the six-yard box from near to the halfway line. Rhead showed great strength to outmuscle his marker and head the ball invitingly across the face of goal for Lambe, who couldn’t miss from around six yards.
Now in a good position, Mansfield weren’t done there and they continued to probe and press in an effort to double their advantage.
Stevenage were being pushed back, but mustered up a chance out of nothing just shy of the hour mark, when Johnson latched onto a long ball forward and in a flash, he hit a shot into the side-netting.
Dembele, who saw a strong challenge on Beevers in the first half, then went in with another tough tackle – this time on Rhead, who required treatment from physio Matt Fenney as a result.
It proved to be Dembele’s last meaningful contribution of any sort to the match as he was replaced by Joe N’Guessan on 66 minutes.
In the meantime, Mansfield put their counterparts under pressure with a couple of quick corners, whilst there was a mini-opening after Rhead beat two men, including Day, to reach a long ball forward and Lambe played the ball back across the goalmouth from a tight angle, but Wells cleared the danger.
On 68 minutes, the Stags nearly doubled their lead when McGuire whistled a shot with pure venom into the side-netting after Callum Elder caused all sorts of problems amongst the Stevenage defence with one of his looping long-throws.
As the game wore on, the visitors began to press forward with more frequency as they searched for an equaliser and although they mustered up a series of corners, the Stags defence dealt with them well.
Charlie Lee also tried his luck with an effort from 30 yards, but his shot was high and massively inaccurate – so high that it sailed over the North Stand, which housed the travelling fans from Hertfordshire.
Ex-Stag Chris Beardsley came on for Johnson for the final quarter-of-an-hour, whilst Mansfield also made a change in the last five minutes as Junior Brown came on for frontman Rhead.
On 81 minutes, Whelpdale, who scored two goals in the reverse meeting at the Lamex Stadium in September, had a shot which curled well wide of the target, as ‘Boro still looked for a leveller.
Due to second half stoppages, there were five minutes of injury-time at the end of the game – and still, the Stags continued to defend well.
Stevenage showed bad sportsmanship when Pidgeley kicked the ball out of play so that Lambe could receive treatment for an injury, but instead of giving it back, they kept possession and tried to launch an attack.
Beevers got a yellow card in the fourth minute of injury-time, before Mansfield saw off further late pressure to record a precious three points.
Attendance: 2,436 (160 away supporters).