Report: Stags 4-0 Hartlepool
Mansfield Town moved into the Sky Bet League Two play-off places with an emphatic 4-0 drubbing of Hartlepool Unied at One Call Stadium this afternoon.
Manager Steve Evans' men are now eight games unbeaten in Sky Bet League Two - six victories and two draws - and this afternoon's clean sheet was their third in as many games.
After a scrappy opening few exchanges, Mansfield took the lead superbly in the first-half itself as midfielder Ben Whiteman and striker Danny Rose scored in close succession to take a 2-0 lead into the break.
And Stags built on their successful opening 45 minutes in the second period as substitute Alex MacDonald’s goal and Whiteman’s second of the afternoon capped off a quite brilliant Stags' performance.
Searching for their third consecutive victory, the Stags made one change to the starting line-up that defeated Barnet 2-0 last time out.
New arrival in the attacking third of the pitch, Alfie Potter, replaced winger CJ Hamilton, who took his place on the bench.
Well-complemented by a vociferous support from both sets of fans, the game swung from box-to-box right from the offing, but the two goalkeepers had little to do except catch a few harmless balls and recycle possession.
For Mansfield, Potter made a couple of darting runs down the left early on, but his deliveries failed to find a blue-and-amber shirt at the end of it.
On eight minutes, Stags’ frontman Shaquile Coulthirst did well to out-muscle his marker, making a run towards the opposition goal and having a low drive from 20-yards, but it trickled a yard off target.
The visitors soon looked to rally their troops up field, forcing Stags’ custodian Jake Kean and centre-back Krystian Pearce to do some mopping up.
While Kean came out of his line to head a loose ball, Pearce was on hand to keep the Andrew Nelson-Louis Rooney pairing at bay from the subsequent attacking move.
Six minutes later, Mansfield fans had their hearts in their mouths as Hartlepool’s Padraig Amond looped a ball over Kean’s gaping goal.
Stags’ centre-back Rhys Bennett had scuffed a clearance, with an onrushing Kean caught in no-man’s land. But the Pools’ top scorer Amond missed a glorious chance from the edge of the area as his attempt landed on the roof of the net.
There was a sombre moment on 16 minutes as One Call Stadium broke into applause in memory of 16-year-old Lewis Crouch, who tragically lost his life in a road accident last week.
On 19 minutes, a moment of magic from the Hayden White-Coulthirst duo set up the Stags’ opening goal from the right.
After receiving right-back White’s pass, Coulthirst turned his marker inside out magnificently to feed the ball into the danger zone. Amid the goalmouth melee, Sheffield United loanee Whiteman reacted quickest to rifle the ball home from 12 yards out as the Pools' defence stood watching.
While it was the 20-year-old’s fourth goal in Mansfield colours, it marked the Stags’ 3,000th league goal at One Call Stadium.
The hosts were 2-0 up on 26 minutes, when striker Rose exposed the opposition backline with his persistent pressure and stole possession from Pools’ defender Matthew Bates.
It was then a matter of simply rounding stopper Adam Bartlett and the former Barnsely man calmly rolled the ball into the empty net.
Just past the half-hour mark, Steve Evans’ men looked to hit their stride again as a Joel Byrom free-kick from deep down the middle of the park was met by Bennett, whose firm header forced a diving save from Bartlett.
The home faithful were in full voice now, and on 39 minutes, Whiteman was teed up by Coulthirst, and the Stags’ midfielder curled a shot from distance into the gloves of Bartlett.
Moments later, the youngster looked to return the favour to Peterborough United loanee Coulthirst, but the ball was diverted for a corner. Byrom swung one in from the corner arc, and Bennett headed just wide of the near post.
The home side went into the half-time break clearly in the box-seat, and their North East-based opponents having it all to do to possibly overturn the 2-0 deficit.
The second-half began with the visitors looking to turn the screw early down their left channel, as wideman Nathan Thomas slipped a pass for an overlapping Sean Kavanagh to cross in, but Mansfield right-back White calmly shepherded the ball to safety for a goal-kick.
After the restart, the Stags prioritised on maintaining their shape, and soaked up the Pools’ initial intent to pile pressure forward.
On 55 minutes, from a throw-in routine along the near touchline, Whiteman received White’s pass and set up Byrom, whose chipped attempt went above the crossbar.
The game then saw a flurry of substitutions from both managers, who looked to infuse some inspiration onto the pitch.
And it did the trick for the Stags, who made it three via substitute MacDonald on 71 minutes, who had replaced attacking midfielder Alfie Potter moments earlier.
MacDonald raced past his marker with the ball at his feet and his pinpoint drive from 22 yards landed in the bottom-left corner past the flailing arm of Bartlett.
Five minutes after, the Stags killed the game off with Whiteman bagging his second goal of the game when he headed home from eight yards out from Coulthirst’s left-footed cross.
Soon after, the Manchester United youth player unleashed a fine goal-bound effort from 25 yards, which Pools’ goalkeeper Bartlett had to paw away from goal with an acrobatic save.
Mansfield kept up their pressure and another substitute Matt Green earned a flag-kick via a deflected effort in the stoppage time, but midfield ace Byrom’s delivery was cleanly handled by Bartlett.
This proved to be the last major action of the game and with this outstanding success over the Pools, Mansfield have now climbed into the Sky Bet League Two top seven, leapfrogging Wycombe Wanderers into the seventh spot.
Stags XI: Kean, Bennett, Benning, Collins, Pearce, Coulthirst (Arquin, 78’), Potter (MacDonald, 65’), White, Byrom, Whiteman, Rose (Green, 70’)
Substitutes not used: Shearer, Baxendale, Hamilton, McGuire
Hartlepool XI: Bartlett, Featherstone, Bates, Thomas (Oates, 75’), Walker, Amond (Alessandra, 55’), Nelson, Harrison, Rooney, Donnelly (Richardson, HT), Kavanagh
Substitutes not used: Fryer, Woods, Hawkins, Smith
Attendance: 4,309 (331 away)
Referee: Andrew Madley