Ollie Clarke’s first goal of the season helped Mansfield continue their unbeaten start to the campaign with a gutsy 1-0 win at home to Barrow.
The Stags midfielder rifled home a low drive on 72 minutes to send the home fans into raptures in an otherwise low-key affair at One Call Stadium.
Stags were not at their free-flowing best but will take heart from earning maximum points against a spirited Barrow side who had two real chances of their own.
The Cumbria outfit ended the game with ten men when Junior Tiensia was given his marching orders for a late tackle on midfielder Aaron Lewis.
Two changes were made from last Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Colchester. Midfielder Ollie Clarke and forward Will Swan replaced Hiram Boateng and James Gale in the line-up.
Barrow carved out the game’s first opening inside two minutes. Jamie Proctor took a nice touch to drive through the middle and find Emile Acquah, who laid it to Robbie Gotts on the left to arrow a shot over from 20 yards.
Stags began to press and midfielder Louis Reed came close to a breakthrough on 10 minutes when he burst into the box, only to see his left-footed effort deflect behind for a corner.
The Bluebirds charged forward to create a chance of their own two minutes later. Junior Tiensia sped away on the inside left before firing narrowly beyond the post.
Barrow had the better of the early opportunities and Emile Acquah curled an unlikely effort into the palms of Christy Pym with 19 minutes played.
Midway through the first-half, defender Aden Flint uncharacteristically misplaced a forward pass, but he made amends moments later by flying in the way of Gotts’ thunderous strike.
The visitors continued to threaten and missed a gilt-edge chance on 24 minutes when Acquah skied over from eight yards following Gotts’ assist on the left.
The game entered its slumber in the next 20 minutes as neither side were able to force a serious opening.
Six minutes after the restart, Stags showed greater attacking intent and Flint found the advancing Bowery with a good ball on the right channel, but Mansfield’s number nine directed his cross to close to the goalkeeper at the near post.
On 55, Barrow made a double change before the visitors squandered a real chance from a corner. After Dean Campbell drifted in from the right, Rory Feely headed over from close range to let Stags off the hook.
At the other end, Mansfield saw their best opportunity fly over the bar as Bowery prodded it for Swan to hit a venomous 15-yard shot goalwards, which whizzed into the Quarry Lane End with the aid of a deflection.
Aaron Lewis endeavoured to get Stags on the front foot with a perfectly timed challenge outside his own box before slipping it to Davis Keillor-Dunn on the right. And his searching pass looked to seek out Swan who – blinded by the sun – took a heavy touch which allowed visiting goalkeeper Paul Farman to race out of his goal and gather in the nick of time.
Stags’ goalkeeper Christy Pym was called upon on 67 minutes when he got down low to substitute Ged Garner’s low drive from outside the box.
Lewis then played a short pass infield on 70 minutes and Macdonald received the game’s first yellow card when he went in late on Feely.
The match exploded into life as Stags took the lead on 72 minutes.
Swan did well on the left to hold the ball before picking out the onrushing Ollie Clarke who lashed the ball low into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
With 13 minutes remaining, Clarke received a standing ovation as he was replaced by George Maris while Macdonald made way for Baily Cargill.
Lewis and Gotts were both entered the referee’s notebook after an altercation before Barrow made another double substitution.
And Barrow then had a mountain to climb as the visitors were reduced to ten men on 84 minutes when Junior Tiensia saw red for a late challenge on Lewis.
Stags made another two changes as Lewis and Swan made way for Boateng and Gale.
In time added on, Keillor-Dunn produced a fine stop with a well-hit attempt from 20 yards and later on, Akins saw an acrobatic shot blocked. And after seven minutes of injury time, Stags professionally saw it out until the final whistle.
STAGS: Pym, Bowery, Flint, Brunt, Macdonald (Cargill 77), Reed, Lewis (Boateng 85), Clarke (Maris 77), Keillor-Dunn, Swan (Gale 85), Akins
UNUSED SUBS: Flinders, Williams, Cooper
BARROW: Farman, Campbell (Campbell 82), Ray, Canavan, Worrall (Garner 56), Spence (Foley 73), Proctor, Gotts (Telford 82), Acquah (Chester 56), Feely, Tiensia
UNUSED SUB: Lillis
REFEEE: Marc Edwards
ATTENDANCE: 6,714 (156 Barrow fans)