Magnificent Mansfield Town recorded a superb away win this afternoon as Danny Rose's first half strike moved them to fourth in Sky Bet League Two with a 1-0 triumph against Exeter City.
Stags dominated for large spells at St James Park and they deservedly took home three points from a ground where Exeter City have been very strong all season.
It was top scorer Danny Rose who again proved to be the difference, as he dispatched a clinical finish in the 38th minute to score his 17th goal of the season and secure a fine away win.
Stags’ boss Steve Evans named an unchanged side for this afternoon’s fixture following the exceptional 5-0 victory over Newport County in mid-week. Hat-trick hero Alfie Potter retained his place on the right-hand side of midfield, with winger CJ Hamilton on the bench.
The bench also remained the same, with midfield duo Paul Digby and Joel Byrom travelling with the squad but not being named in the 18.
Stags started well and it was Potter, fresh from his hat-trick in mid-week, who asked the first questions of the Exeter back-line as he whipped a cross in from the right, but Grecians’ skipper Jordan Moore-Taylor cleared the danger.
In the fourth minute, left-back Mal Benning slipped the ball through for flying winger CJ Hamilton, and he drove into the box before having a shot deflected out for a corner.
And from that corner, Stags had their best sight of goal in the opening stages. After good play by midfielder Alex MacDonald, Stags forced their way into the six-yard box and top scorer Danny Rose stabbed an effort against the post, via what looked like an intervention from goalkeeper Christy Pym.
Stags were in the driving seat but they were reminded of their defensive duties in the eighth minute when Kane Wilson drove into the box, but Hamilton produced a good tackle to dispossess him and come away with the ball.
Steve Evans’ men continued to ask questions of the Exeter defence and the impressive Alex MacDonald fired a superb pass into the feet of Rose in the box, but he couldn’t set himself for a shot and Exeter cleared the danger in the 14th minute.
Top scorer Rose then had two headers in the space of two minutes which went straight at Pym as Stags continued to knock on the Exeter door, without forcing Pym into anything more than a textbook save.
In the 19th minute, midfielder Adam King cleared an Exeter throw and Rose combined with the impressive Hemmings on halfway and the Oxford United loanee carried it forward before releasing Potter, whose shot from the edge of the box went out for a corner following a deflection from Exeter’s Troy Brown.
Exeter were being restricted to shots from range and in the 23rd minute, the ball fell nicely for Grecians’ midfielder Lloyd James 25 yards from goal, but he lashed a volley wide.
In the 25th minute, Stags created the best chance of the game so far. The ball fell for CJ Hamilton in the box and he cut inside onto his right foot and curled an effort which looked destined for the far corner, but it was blocked by Moore-Taylor.
Stags were continuing to dominate proceedings and were enjoying particular joy down the left-hand side.
In the 31st minute, Mal Benning again played a ball down the line for Hamilton, whose clipped cross into the box was headed away by Troy Brown.
The game entered a slight lull as possession changed hands in midfield, but Stags came out of that lull with a bang.
The visitors took the lead in the 38th minute and it was top scorer Rose who bagged his 17th goal of the campaign.
Winger Alfie Potter continued his good form as he darted into the box and angled an excellent cross into the six-yard box where the incoming Kane Hemmings volleyed against the bar but it came out to Rose who fired it past Pym from around eight yards out.
Stags saw out the remaining six first half minutes without too much trouble, with just a penalty appeal from Jayden Stockley the only moment of note.
When Stags came forward, they looked dangerous. A minute before the break, the energetic Alex MacDonald overlapped Hemmings but the loanee’s return ball was slightly over-hit and the ball went out for a goal kick.
Following their lacklustre first half performance, Exeter boss Paul Tisdale introduced Ryan Harley and Hiram Boateng in place of Lloyd James and Ryan Loft.
Within a minute of the second half starting, Stags had an opportunity to double their lead.
Goalscorer Rose clipped the ball over the top for Kane Hemmings to run onto and he reached it in the box and held it up superbly, before laying it off for his strike partner, who fired an effort wide of the far post.
The hosts played with more purpose following the half-time changes and it was one of those, Ryan Harley, who was the architect of their best chance of the game so far. He played a nice ball to Kane Wilson, who then fizzed a low cross through the Stags’ box and out for a throw on the near side.
Harley was impressing after coming on and he got on the ball on the byline and won a corner as Rhys Bennett deflected his cross behind. Former Rochdale man Bennett was then on hand to head the resulting corner away.
In the 62nd minute, manager Steve Evans made his first change of the game with midfielder Will Atkinson replacing Kane Hemmings, marking a change in shape for the Stags.
Stags had a glimpse of goal in the 65th minute when marauding left-back Mal Benning drove into the box before his shot flicked off the leg of Troy Brown and out for a corner.
Exeter were more competitive in the second period but Stags were still dominating the game.
In the 71st minute, Alex MacDonald picked the ball up and drove towards the box before being hacked down by Grecians’ skipper Jordan Moore-Taylor 25 yards from goal.
MacDonald picked himself up and curled a wonderful delivery towards the back post, where Moore-Taylor vitally headed behind with the powerful Krystian Pearce waiting to pounce.
Two minutes later, Conrad Logan was furious with Exeter frontman Jayden Stockley. The physical striker chested the ball down in the area and as he got to the ball ahead of the on-rushing Logan, Stockley threw himself to the ground as he expected the touch from Logan. When no foul was forthcoming, Stockley quickly got to his feet but Logan told him in no uncertain terms what he thought of him.
With 75 minutes on the clock, boss Steve Evans replaced goalscorer Danny Rose with Jimmy Spencer.
As the game ticked into the final ten minutes, Exeter were starting to assert some pressure on the Stags’ back-line as the Grecians attempted to rescue their unbeaten home run which dates back to October.
Half-time substitute Hiram Boateng sent a defence-splitting ball through to Kyle Edwards but Conrad Logan was quickly off his line to clear the danger in the 85th minute.
Ryan Harley then went into the book for a foul on Potter as Stags valiantly continued to see the game out.
As the clock ticked to 90, Stags introduced Zander Diamond in place of Alex MacDonald, who had put in a typically energetic shift.
There was to be one heart-in-mouth moment – and it came in the 94th minute.
Exeter left-midfielder Dean Moxey went down in the box under the challenge of Krystian Pearce and St James Park held its proverbial breath as the referee waved away the appeals, before Moxey earned himself a yellow card by hacking down Pearce as he carried the ball away.
With over a minute of the allotted four played, referee Chris Sarginson brought proceedings to a end and Stags secured a fine away win, climbing to fourth in Sky Bet League Two.
EXETER XI: Pym, Woodman, James (Harley 46), Tillson, Stockley, Moore-Taylor ©, Moxey, Wilson, Taylor, Loft (Boateng 46), Brown
SUBS NOT USED: Jones, Archibald-Henville, Simpson, Holmes, Edwards
STAGS’ XI: Logan, Anderson, Bennett, Pearce (C), Benning, King, MacDonald (Diamond 90), Potter, Hamilton, Rose (Spencer 75), Hemmings (Atkinson 62).
SUBS NOT USED: Olejnik, Mellis, Penney, Miller.
ATTENDANCE: 3,680 (224 away)
REFEREE: Chris Sarginson