Report: Exeter City 2-0 Stags
Mansfield Town slipped to a 2-0 defeat to Exeter City at St James Park on Saturday afternoon,despite dominating for much of the second half.
A goal in each half from attacking midfielder Ollie Watkins was enough to earn the Grecians all three points.
Stags' boss Steve Evans made two changes from the line-up that drew 0-0 with Colchester United last weekend, with striker Pat Hoban and midfielder Kevan Hurst being called into the starting XI. Midfielders CJ Hamilton and James Baxendale dropped to the substitutes' bench.
Defender Jordan Moore-Taylor came in to the Exeter City side to replace the experienced Matt Oakley; the only change from the side that won 3-1 at Cheltenham Town last Saturday.
The game started at a high pace, with referee Kevin Johnson waving away an early appeal for an Exeter penalty in the second minute, with striker Reuben Reid going to ground too easily after a challenge from Stags’ defender Krystian Pearce’s challenge.
The first effort of the first half came for the Stags just a minute later, with attacking midfielder Ashley Hemmings cutting inside from the right and bending a 20-yard curler over goalkeeper Christy Pym’s goal.
But it was the Grecians who had the first goal-scoring opportunity on four minutes. Reid once again burst into the Mansfield area, to the touchline, but the incoming striker Jack Stacey could only put Reid’s cross behind for a goal kick.
A Mansfield free kick from the halfway line on six minutes was floated in by Hemmings, but after a scramble and two blocked shots from midfielder Chris Clements and Pearce respectively, the Exeter defence managed to clear.
But it was the home side who took the lead on 19 minutes. Exeter talisman Lee Holmes drove down the left channel and into the area before cutting a pass back to Watkins who was waiting to fire home from 12 yards out.
It was Exeter again with a chance to double their lead just four minutes later. A cross-field pass found David Wheeler down the right-hand side, he got the better of left back Mal Benning and then ran into the box and cut a ball across goal, but a fantastic touch from defender Rhys Bennett just took the ball away from the incoming Reid.
Another good chance fell for the home side on 26 minutes, and it came from a throw-in from the right touchline. The throw was laid off to Holmes on the corner of the area who fired a fierce left-footed volley narrowly past goalkeeper Scott Shearer’s post and into the side netting.
The first caution of the game came on 28 minutes. Benning lost the ball to Watkins, and pulled the attacker’s shirt out of frustration, earning himself a place in Mr Johnson’s notebook.
It was another Exeter City cutback after 36 minutes which almost caught the Stags' defence out. This time, Watkins tried to find Holmes in the area, but as he tried to backheel the ball into the net, it ended up going harmlessly through his legs.
The Exeter pressure continued for the rest of the first half, notably on 41 minutes. Holmes played a one-two down the right with Watkins, before cutting inside and bending a shot just past the far post from 20 yards.
Two minutes later, a long ball over the top caught Collins out, leaving Reid enough space to turn and play a pass back to Watkins but again, Exeter couldn’t double their lead with Watkins firing wide.
Steve Evans made two changes at half-time in an attempt to bring the Stags back into the game, with Hurst and Hoban making way for midfielder CJ Hamilton and striker Darius Henderson.
The first chance of the second half came for the Stags four minutes in. Substitute Henderson made an immediate impact as he flicked on a throw-in into the path of Green in the area, who laid the ball back to McGuire and his 18-yard half-volley grazed the top of Pym’s crossbar.
Another good chance for the Stags came from Hemmings on 56 minutes. Henderson was involved again, knocking a long ball down for the incoming Hemmings, who carried the ball into the home side’s box before unleashing a shot from 30 yards, which flew just past the right-hand post.
Mansfield increased the pressure on the home side, with Green laying the ball down the left-hand side for Hamilton, whose dangerous cross was headed behind by a red and white shirt.
Hemmings took the resulting corner, playing a one-two with Clements before firing into a crowd of players and out for another corner. This time Clements played the one-two with Hemmings, with the latter playing a cross which was cleared as far as McGuire and he hit a stinging shot from 25 yards. That effort hit a crowd of players and fell for Collins, whose rushed shot sailed harmlessly over from eight yards in what turned out to be the Stags' best chance of the game.
But it was another long ball from Exeter that almost caught out the Mansfield defence. A free-kick was pumped forward to Wheeler who found himself in behind the defence, Shearer came rushing out but Wheeler beat him to the ball but saw his resulting shot end up wide of the mark.
The second booking of the afternoon came Stags’ way, after Pearce was booked for dissent after Exeter were awarded a corner.
On 70 minutes, Clements floated a long ball across to Collins down the right hand side. His pass was met by Green on the edge of the area, who had plenty of time to settle himself but he curled his 25 yard shot inches wide of the right-hand post.
The Grecians made their first substitute of the night in the resulting break in play, with midfielder Lloyd James making way for Jordan Tillson, in a like-for-like change.
Just a minute later, Exeter were in the Stags’ box again, as Watkins took the ball to the byline, right up to Shearer’s goal but could only hit a shot straight at the Stags’ number one.
Another good chance for Mansfield to level the game up came on 71 minutes when Hemmings burst into the opposition area from the right hand side before laying the ball off for Henderson, whose shot was closed down quickly and cleared by the home defence.
Another good chance for the Stags came two minutes later when Henderson chested a cross into the path of McGuire who shot from 20 yards, but his effort was saved by the excellent Pym.
Both sides made their final substitutions, with Mansfield replacing McGuire with midfielder Jack Thomas on 74 minutes. Exeter also brought on Matt Oakley for Holmes at the same time, and Liam McAlinden on for Reid with ten minutes until full-time.
Exeter had another great chance to kill the game off with three minutes remaining. Wheeler found himself with the ball down the left side, and after playing a pass to Watkins in the area, the striker couldn’t manoeuvre himself enough to make room for the shot and was ultimately closed down by the Stags’ defence.
And again, a minute later, Stacey found himself away with two defenders with him, but his low shot was fired harmlessly past the far post from the corner of the box.
But it was two minutes later, in the final minute when that man Watkins finally doubled the lead for the home side, sealing all three points for Exeter. A lapse of concentration from Benning, and arguably a foul in the build-up, sent Watkins through with just one defender ahead of him before calmly placing his shot inside the far post.
A frustrating afternoon for the Stags was capped off when Benning was given his marching orders two minutes into stoppage time for a second bookable offence near the left hand touchline.
EXETER CITY: Pym, Stacey, Moore-Taylor, Brown, Woodman, Wheeler, James (Tillson 70), Taylor, Holmes (Oakley 74), Reid (McAlinden 80), Watkins.
UNUSED SUBS: Hamon, Harley, Grant, Croll.
MANSFIELD TOWN: Shearer, Collins, Pearce, Bennett, Benning, Clements, McGuire (Thomas 74) Hurst (Hamilton 45), Hemmings, Hoban (Henderson 45), Green.
UNUSED SUBS: Jensen, Mitch Rose, Danny Rose, Baxendale.
REFEREE: Mr Kevin Johnson
ATTENDANCE: 3,626 (124 Stags’ fans)