Mansfield Town suffered their first league defeat of the season as they fell to a 2-1 loss against Exeter City at One Call Stadium.
The home side dominated much of the first-half but it was the visitors who broke the deadlock. Dean Moxey’s terrific finish just past the half an hour mark ensured they would take a one-goal lead into the break.
It was a lead they soon doubled when Nicky Law bundled home on 57 minutes – before Tyler Walker poked home what would eventually be a consolation. The Stags rued early opportunities as they were never able to muster an equaliser.
David Flitcroft made only a solitary change from his side’s last outing in League Two – Calum Butcher took the place of frontman, Danny Rose.
The Stags’ faithful inside One Call Stadium were in high-spirits from kick-off as they looked to urge their team forward.
And in just the fourth minute the home side responded. A combination of CJ Hamilton and Tyler Walker were able to come away with the ball before the latter was clipped for the game’s first foul.
Otis Khan struck the subsequent set-piece with purpose but it fell comfortably into the arms of the Grecians’ goalkeeper, Christy Pym.
The midfielder was then involved once more in the eighth minute as he set away Hamilton to cross. The winger diverted the ball inside the 18-yard-box but it was turned away smartly by Aaron Martin for a corner.
Khan, who seemed to be involved in all-things Mansfield from the outset, then curled an effort towards goal but could only sting the palms of Pym.
The Stags, clearly in their attacking verve, came forward yet again on 13 minutes. Walker unleashed an effort from the edge of the area, but it was well saved by City’s sprawling ‘keeper.
Exeter began to gain a foothold in the match but were almost undone by a counter-attack soon after.
Calum Butcher released Walker with an early ball over the top and the striker’s effort towards goal was deflected as he watched it loop into the arms of Pym.
In the 23rd minute the visitors began to grow into the game.
Giving the home side an almighty scare, Jayden Stockley was able to rise above Matt Preston at the back-post and guide a looping header, fortunately for Mansfield, onto the woodwork.
Hiram Boateng then had a chance from 11 yards after the Stags were unable to deal with a low cross. The ball fell loosely to the Exeter forward but he struck his effort over Olejnik’s crossbar.
But with just over half an hour on the clock, the pressure told.
Despite his side being second best for large parts of the match, Moxey broke the deadlock in superb fashion for the Grecians. The midfielder curled an effort from 19 yards that clattered the inside of the post before rolling over the goal line.
Moments after the restart it could have been two. Stockley looked to latch onto his teammate’s cross at the back-post but the striker was unable to get his boot to the ball.
Some quick-thinking from the home side could have seen them draw level in the 38th minute. Alex MacDonald played a short pass to Khan, who in turn found the head of Preston, but his downwards header fell short of Walker and was able to be cleared by Jordan Tillson.
Boateng then found himself on the end of Law’s delivery – however he found the ball stuck under his feet before it was cleared away by Ryan Sweeney.
Then it was the turn of Pierce Sweeney to try and double the visitors’ lead. He fired the ball, on the half-volley, towards Olejnik’s goal but the shot-stopper stooped down well to grasp the ball.
Sweeney’s effort signalled the last notable action of the first-half which saw the home side one goal down.
Exeter boasted the better of the early second-half chances as they looked to extend their lead at One Call Stadium.
Law found Lee Holmes with a diagonal pass before the he cut inside and saw his effort deflected over the bar.
Then, moments later, Stockley hit the post for the second time in the match. Olejnik was undecided in whether to stay home or claim the cross, and this allowed Exeter’s striker to nod a free header onto the post.
Mansfield then worked themselves a corner via Hayden White’s blocked cross. Khan swung in a pinpoint delivery that was met by the head of a leaping Krystian Pearce. Unfortunately he could not direct his header goalwards.
And no less than a minute later the Grecians bagged their second of the afternoon. Boateng was found in acres of space inside the Stags’ penalty area and he squared it to Law who was able to bundle it home from close range on 57 minutes.
Four minutes later, though, the Stags cut the two-goal deficit in half. MacDonald provided the cross for substitute Danny Rose who had his initial header saved by Pym, but Walker was on-hand to poke home the rebound from point-blank range.
With just under an hour left on the clock Flitcroft’s men searched for a route back into the match.
Neal Bishop rifled an effort over the bar from the edge of the area and Sweeney was unable to find a teammate with a header back across goal.
Law then surged forward down the left-flank, beating MacDonald, as he fired a cross towards Stockley who glanced it wide.
Stags’ skipper, Pearce, met Khan’s corner on 73 minutes at the front post – but could only direct it into the arms of Pym.
The last 10 minutes saw relentless Mansfield pressure on Exeter’s back-line as the hosts sought to salvage at least a point.
Flitcroft’s second substitute, Timi Elsnik, let fly from the edge of a crowded penalty area but eventually saw it blocked due to the amount of bodies in front of him.
In the 85th minute, Khan won his side a foul after some neat footwork 25 yards from goal – but Mal Benning’s subsequent delivery evaded everyone.
MacDonald then launched a long-throw into the area which was met by Preston. The centre-back hooked an effort towards goal but it rolled harmlessly towards Pym.
Into the sixth minute of added time and the Stags won a foul through Pearce. The ball eventually found its way to Rose whose acrobatic effort was well saved.
Flitcroft and his side’s bounce-back ability will be tested next Saturday when they are next in action away to Cambridge United.
STAGS XI: Olejnik (GK), White (Benning 83’), Preston, Pearce ©, Bishop, MacDonald, Khan, Butcher (Rose 55’), Sweeney (Elsnik 69’), Walker, Hamilton.
SUBS NOT USED: Logan (GK), Atkinson, Gibbens, Graham.
EXETER CITY XI: Pym (GK), Sweeney, Martin, Tillson, Law, Holmes (Martin 72’), Stockley, Moxey, Croll, Taylor ©, Boateng (Ogbene 82’).
SUBS NOT USED: Hamon (GK), O’Shea, Forte, Oates, Abrahams.
REFEREE: Andy Haines.
ASSISTANTS: Declan Ford & Paul Hobday.
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Steven Rushton.
ATTENDANCE: 4,443 (228 away).