Report: Barnet 0-2 Stags
Mansfield Town's unbeaten start to 2017 continued with a sensational 2-0 victory away at play-off chasing Barnet.
Stags have now won five matches from their last six league games played - the other a 0-0 draw at Notts County. The gloss is added by the fact that in that period, only one goal has been conceded.
The stat underlines a remarkable turnaround under manager Steve Evans, who has inspired this new look squad to a flirting relationship with the play-offs.
Stags enjoyed the better of the exchanges in a first half played in blinding sunshine, but Barnet also threatened in spells.
Mansfield’s defence, however, rock solid in the month of January, continued their imperious form into February.
And much like last Saturday's win at home to Leyton Orient by the same scoreline, Stags commanded the second half from start to finish in boss-like fashion.
The damage was done with a goal in the first half from in-form midfielder Ben Whiteman, followed by a second-half penalty from Shaq Coulthirst.
Steve Evans named an unchanged line-up from the side which comprehensively beat Orient.
New signings Alex MacDonald, the winger from Oxford United and Alfie Potter, the diminutive midfielder formerly of Northampton Town, were amongst the substitutes.
After a scrappy start, Barnet plotted the first meaningful attack on goal inside the 10th minute, which ended with Mauro Vilhete’s curling effort flying past the post.
Vilhete began a move two minutes later. In a central position, the midfielder released Jamal Campbell-Ryce on the right, but his inviting cross along the Stags’ goal area was hacked clear by a well-positioned Hayden White.
Mid-way through the contest, Stags’ sprung into life.
After striker Danny Rose cutely won a free-kick 30 yards from goal, Joel Byrom’s delivery drew a punch from goalkeeper Josh Vickers.
Momentarily, midfielder Ben Whiteman collected to advance goalwards before rifling a shot from outside of the box against the upright. Shaq Coulthirst smashed forward a follow-up effort, but Vickers threw himself at the ball to force a corner.
In the 25th minute, Whiteman again tried his luck on goal following promising build up play, but it was blocked by a Barnet player inside the box amidst a sea of bodies.
Whiteman, however, was to find his reward later.
A three minute stoppage then transpired after it appeared that Barnet frontman John Akinde connected with goalkeeper Jake Kean when the two challenged in mid-air for a high falling ball outside the Mansfield penalty area.
After receiving treatment, Kean continued.
Stags maintained good pressure on the home goal and Vickers had to claw away Pearce’s strike from inside the area after a Byrom corner.
At the other end, Kean produced a magnificent save for Mansfield in the 32nd minute. Kyei wriggled on to the right of the Mansfield box to pick out Campbell Ryce, but his shot was denied at point blank range by the legs of Kean.
But it was Stags who broke the deadlock on 37 minutes through Whiteman.
After lovely work in the build up from Danny Rose, Mal Benning took over to swing the ball into the box from the left side. Shaq Coulthirst, the recipient with his back to goal, laid it to Whiteman whose first-time effort sent the net bulging from 18 yards.
In time added on at the end of the 45, Pearce again connected with a Byrom flag-kick, but it flew wide.
Barnet made a double change at the break as Ruben Bover and Ephron Mason-Clark replaced Tom Champion and Jamal Campbell-Ryce.
Stags mounted early pressure at the home goal in the early minutes of the second period, with Coulthirst spearheading the encouraging attacks, but Barnet held firm.
In the 56th minute, Kyei’s wild effort from outside of the area cleared the stadium.
Three minutes later, Stags won a spot kick, which ultimately sealed their terrific victory.
Coulthirst, Stags’ chief tormentor, raced away from the home defence to latch on to a high forward pass. And after opting not to shoot first time, the ex-Peterborough marksman was driven wide of goal only to be bundled to the ground by Santos.
And with an hour played, Stags doubled their lead as Coulthirst placed it straight down the middle to send the 391 Stags’ fans behind the goal into raptures.
At the other end, Stags’ goalkeeper Jake Kean, relatively unemployed for much of the contest, dived to his right to save routinely from Kyei’s floated try.
Matt Green then entered the fray in the 67th minute, replacing Danny Rose, who will have been pleased with another performance which contributed much.
Stags were now bossing the contest in all areas and Barnet made a final change in a desperate attempt to change their fortunes, with Luke Coulson taking to the field at the expense of Ricardo Santos.
Akinde, Barnet’s star man, had been well-monitored by Stags all afternoon and defender Rhys Bennett had the better of him again when he charged down the forward’s shot from the edge of the area.
In the 75th minute, Barnet came close to reducing the deficit when Bover’s sweetly-hit free-kick from the point of the penalty area cannoned back off the post.
Stags’ striker Coulthirst made way for Alfie Potter to make his Stags’ debut in the 77th minute.
Barnet defended a Potter strike just minutes after his entrance, following good work by an advanced Mal Benning.
The midfielder then forced a save from Vickers after Collins threaded it through to him in the area in the 83rd minute.
The hosts launched a swift attack a minute later, and as Stags retreated in haste, Kean was withdrawn from goal. But Barnet failed to make the most of it as it came to Kyei inside the area who planted it over with the goal almost-gaping.
With two minutes of normal time remaining, Alex MacDonald made his first appearance in Stags' colours, coming on for Joel Byrom.
In the closing moments, Barnet were by now clearly sapped of confidence. In contrast, Stags saw out the game in professional fashion to cap off another big victory.
BARNET: Vickers, Clough, Nelson, Santos (Coulson 73), Johnson, Campbell-Ryce (Mason-Clark HT), Weston, Champion (Bover HT), Kyei, Vilhete, Akinde
UNUSED SUBS: McKenzie-Lyle, Dembele, Taylor, Sweeney
STAGS: Kean, White, Pearce, Bennett, Benning, Collins, Whiteman, Byrom (MacDonald 88), Hamilton, Coulthirst (Potter 77), Rose (Green 67)
UNUSED SUBS: Shearer, McGuire, Baxendale, Arquin
ATTENDANCE: 1,859 (391 Stags’ supporters)
REFEREE: Lee Collins