A clinical Mansfield Town side produced a sensational 4-0 victory over League Two rivals Crawley Town this afternoon.
Nathan Thomas, Mitch Rose, Matt Green and Craig Westcarr were all on the scoresheet as the Stags recorded a resounding win, with the Red Devils playing most of the second half with 10 men after Gwion Edwards saw red after a rash challenge.
Manager Adam Murray made one change to the side that held AFC Wimbledon to a 1-1 draw last Saturday, with winger Nathan Thomas coming in for Reggie Lambe on the left.
The visitors kicked off proceedings shooting towards their fans in the North Stand, but were immediately put on the back foot as the Stags peppered ‘keeper Freddie Woodman’s goal in the opening exchanges.
Striker Craig Westcarr found himself through on goal before Woodman sprang off his line to close him down and give the Stags their first corner. Ryan Tafazolli knocked the ball down with his head from Chapman’s ball in for the prowling Matt Green, but the centre-forward couldn’t get enough contact on the shot.
There was no stopping the home side as they continued to cause the Crawley backline a number of problems, as midfielder Adam Chapman cleverly chested the ball down before sending a wicked volley towards Woodman’s far right-hand post. The 18-year-old shot-stopper was beaten all ends up as he stretched out his arm, but fortunately for him it whistled inches past the woodwork.
Clear-cut chances were hard to come by for the following 15 minutes, with both sides cancelling each other out as the tempo remained high.
The Red Devils lost striker Matt Harrold to injury after the frontman seemingly damaged his hamstring as he overstretched for a ball when closing in on goal and things almost got worse moments later.
The Sussex club failed to clear their lines after Chapman floated in a threatening cross with the ball eventually falling to the lurking Chris Clements, but the Stags number eight dragged his shot wide of the mark.
On to replace the injured Harrold, Lee Barnard registered the visitors first shot on target as he took aim from 18 yards. The striker dropped his shoulder before picking his spot, but Brian Jensen was alert to produce a comfortable, well-held save to his left.
With the home side the far stronger in the first half, their efforts were duly rewarded right on the stroke of half-time. A loose pass from Barnard 25-yards out from goal was picked up by the returning Nathan Thomas. The winger jinked his way around three challenges before shrugging off the final defender to lash the ball beyond the helpless Woodman from eight yards out.
With the referee giving the away side 15 minutes respite after the late goal, the Stags struck a second within two minutes of the restart.
An early corner in front of the Ian Greaves Stand from Mal Benning was whipped in with pace, but after the ball bobbled out to Mitch Rose on the edge of the area the combative midfielder drilled his shot through the crowd of players and past the unsighted Woodman.
Two goals to the good and full of confidence, the Stags were in their groove as they controlled play in the middle of the park, but tempers began to flair over as Crawley winger Gwion Edwards was shown a straight red-card just minutes later.
Edwards was dismissed for a two-footed stamp on Stags’ full-back Nicky Hunt right in front of the dug-out, with referee Andrew Madley showing little hesitance in sending off the Welsh under-21 international.
In control of the game, Mansfield continued to mount pressure on Mark Yates’ side as they kept the ball consistently inside the opposition half. Their third of the afternoon would’ve come in the 66th minute if it wasn’t for the frame of the goal, as Matt Green outmuscled defender Jon Ashton before unleashing a strike that flicked off the goal post with Woodman beaten.
With more goals seemingly inevitable, the Stags notched twice in the space of two minutes to increase their lead to four goals.
After coming agonisingly close moments earlier, Green grabbed his first league goal at One Call Stadium after re-joining the club from Birmingham City when he turned home a low Westcarr cross from a couple of yards out. The roles were then reversed as Green turned provider by sliding through the former Portsmouth attacker, beating the offside trap before producing an experienced finish by placing his shot coolly around the fingertips of Woodman.
Wave after wave of attack from the home side, with Green scratching his head wondering how he didn’t add to his tally for the afternoon after sending a tantalising Nathan Thomas cross over the bar with his head.
With Mansfield in full control, Murray sent on defender Lee Collins, winger Reggie Lambe and striker Adi Yussuf in place of Nicky Hunt and goalscoring duo Rose and Westcarr as they looked to see out an inspiring victory.
Substitute Lambe forced Woodman in to another save after the Bermudan winger’s run ended with a venomous strike being parried by the Crawley ‘keeper, with Nathan Thomas seeing his follow up strike land gratefully in to the teenager’s chest.
With the three minutes of added time up the referee blew for full-time on an afternoon that many Stags fans didn’t want to end, with Adam Murray’s men producing a stunning display that lifts them in to the play-off positions.
Mansfield Town: Jensen, Hunt (Collins, 80), Tafazolli, Pearce, Benning, Rose (Lambe, 68), Chapman, Clements, N. Thomas, Westcarr (Yussuf, 82), M. Green.
Substitutes not used: Marsden, Beardsley, J. Thomas, McGuire.
Crawley Town: Woodman, Scales, Walton, Bradley, Edwards, Smith, Young (Rooney, 55), Ashton, Harrold (Barnard, 24), Deacon, Donnelly (Bawling, 73).
Substitutes not used: Preston, Henderson.
ATTENDANCE: 2,524 (110 away).