Mansfield Town’s four-match unbeaten run came to an end at Home Park as second-placed Plymouth Argyle defeated the Stags 3-0.
Manager Adam Murray, who was watching from the directors’ box as he served a one-match touchline ban, made one change to the side which drew 2-2 with Oxford United on Tuesday night, with striker Chris Beardsley returning to the side in place of winger Reggie Lambe, who dropped to the bench.
It was the Devon side who had the better of the early exchanges and led 2-0 at half-time through goals from Gregg Wylde and Ryan Brunt. As the Stags looked to find a way back into the game, Brunt’s second of the game secured a 3-0 victory for the Pilgrims.
The first chance of the game came to the home side after eight minutes when the ball bounced off defender Krystian Pearce and fell to Ryan Brunt inside the area, but the Argyle striker dragged his shot wide of Scott Shearer’s left-hand post. Minutes later, Argyle had another chance when Craig Tanner worked his way into some space on the edge of the box, but was unable to guide his shot on target.
The Stags’ first chance came in the 13th minute, which occurred after a forty-yard run by Mal Benning, whose shot from twenty-five yards curled just outside of Luke McCormick’s left hand post. Mansfield came close again a minute later when Chris Beardsley and Matt Green combined well, but Tanner had tracked back well and nicked the ball from Green’s feet.
Green had another chance in the 22nd minute when Matty Blair played him in on the edge of the box, but Carl McHugh blocked well to deny the Stags’ striker.
Argyle then came close on the counter as Gregg Wylde broke forward on the left-hand side. The winger found Brunt in the box, but Ryan Tafazolli slid in well to deny the Plymouth forward. The corner that followed saw the ball bounce just in front of Shearer, who was fouled by Curtis Nelson and required treatment on a head injury.
The Pilgrims took the lead in the 34th minute when a 25-yard drive from Gregg Wylde beat Shearer despite the ‘keeper getting a hand to it.
Argyle then doubled their lead a minute later from the spot when Pearce was controversially adjudged to have fouled Peter Hartley inside the box.
The referee initially waved away the protests, but after discussion with the assistant, Brendan Malone pointed to the spot. Ryan Brunt stepped up and beat Shearer on his right-hand side to give Plymouth a 2-0 lead.
Plymouth dominated the next five minutes with numerous chances created by Wylde and Graham Carey and striker Ryan Brunt was the man on the end of most of the chances. However, a combination of the bar, Shearer and Tafazolli denied the Pilgrims a quick-fire third goal.
In the 40th minute, Stags won a free-kick thirty yards from goal and Mal Benning played the ball just too far, but a fumble from Luke McCormick gave the Stags a corner. Ryan Tafazolli’s header hit the inside of the post and somehow stayed out before McCormick pounced to gather the ball.
Stags made a change at half time with James Baxendale being replaced by loanee Daniel Alfei as skipper Lee Collins became part of a back three with Mal Benning and the in-coming Alfei given a more attacking role.
Adam Murray’s side came close to pulling one back in the 52nd minute when a Benning corner looked to be going all the way in before McCormick tipped it over the top of his bar.
Stags again came close from the resulting corner but Brunt kept the two-goal lead intact by heading Tafazolli’s effort onto the bar whilst stood on the line.
Striker Adi Yussuf replaced Chris Beardsley in the 54th minute and was immediately involved as Green came in from the left to find the Tanzanian, but the substitute’s effort sailed over the bar.
Town used their final change of the game just after bringing on scorer of Tuesday’s last gasp equaliser at Oxford, Jack Thomas, for Matty Blair.
The Pilgrims were a constant threat and twice nearly extended their lead, but Shearer was equal to much that was thrown at him.
Plymouth were going in search of a third, which saw manager Derek Adams bring on top scorer Jake Jervis for Craig Tanner.
In the 71st minute Jordon Forster’s cross from the right found Brunt in the middle, but again the Argyle striker was unable to score from open play as Shearer tipped his effort round the post.
Forster was a constant threat and four minutes later played in another right wing cross, but Shearer saved well from Wylde’s effort to deny the Pilgrims a third.
The Scottish stopper again denied Argyle two minutes later after Graham Carey broke away and forced an opening, striking from 25-yards but Shearer outstretched a strong hand to beat away.
A similar move a couple of minutes later saw Chris Clements bring down Carey on the edge of the area, which saw the midfielder receive a yellow card. It was Carey who took the free-kick, but the Irishman curled it past Shearer’s left-hand post.
Brunt had been a constant threat for the Mansfield defence and in the 84th minute, he put the game beyond doubt for the home side.
Another Jordon Forster cross from the right was slid home by the Argyle striker following neat build-up play by the hosts.
Ryan Brunt could, and probably should, have made it 4-0 in the 89th minute when Carey’s cross from the right picked out the striker, but he put his header wide in what was his last touch of the game, with Reuben Reid his replacement.
Stags had a chance to pull one back when Benning crossed from the left looking for Yussuf, but McCormick gathered the ball well in what was the last meaningful effort of the match.
Mansfield Town: Shearer, Collins, Pearce, Tafazolli, Benning, McGuire, Clements, Baxendale (Alfei 46’), Blair (Thomas 56’), Beardsley (Yussuf 54’), Green.
Subs not used: Jensen, Chapman, Lambe, Kavanagh.
Plymouth Argyle: McCormick, Sawyer, McHugh, Nelson, Hartley, Carey, Wylde (Purrington 85’), Brunt (Reid 89’), Threlkeld, Tanner (Jervis 65’), Forster.
Subs not used: Mellor, Nardiello, Bittner, Rooney.
Attendance: 7,494 (190 away).