Liam Hearn once again showed his X-factor with two goals in six minutes in another stunning display as the Stags won 3-1 at Conference neighbours Lincoln City in their penultimate pre-season friendly tonight.
Stags’ big summer signing continues to make small but significant steps on his comeback from serious injury, this time managing 45 minutes after two half-hour cameos.
Against Leeds last week he changed the game as he came on and scored both goals and at Sincil Bank tonight he netted twice and could have easily had three or four as he looked every inch the perfect goalscorer Stags have been yearning for.
Fergus Bell had scored a peach of an opener on 29 minutes only to see Hamza Bensharif level 10 minutes later.
But Hearn turned the tide back Mansfield’s way in a full-blooded game that showed how well fitness is coming on against a decent Imps side.
The team sheet finally confirmed that Stags’ two ‘mystery trialists’ were Port Vale pair Rob Taylor and Anthony Griffith.
Both came on and did well as substitutes, though Griffith’s was a late cameo, and both still appear firmly in Paul Cox’s thoughts if he can afford their services.
The ‘derby’ atmosphere was helped by incessant drumming from the main Co-op Stand on a bright, warm evening.
Bencherif flicked a header at the Mansfield goal from a long Newton throw in the opening minute, but it was never going to trouble Studer.
Fergus Bell pulled a tame low left-footed shot wide from 20 yards on seven minutes as the sides sized each other up.
Murray got his foot in the way of a Burrow effort, then Studer was down to smother a low Bencharif cross from the left before Tomlinson could capitalise.
Sutton had to concede a corner on 19 minutes as Tomlinson tried to get a head on a cross, bit it was easily cleared.
Fergus Bell and Fisher set up Heslop for a low effort on 23 minutes that took a slight deflection which drew the sting out of it and Farman comfortably clutched it.
A minute later Fisher might have broken through as he turned superbly from Amari’i Bell’s low left wing cross, only to narrowly miss the target from 12 yards.
Ledsham was well wide with a low first time shot from inside the D for City soon after.
By now the home drummer seemed to have given up as we continued to wait for the first goal.
A mistake by Mendy almost sent Fergus Bell on his way, Brown racing across to make the challenge.
When the first goal did come on 29 minutes it was something quite special.
Amari’i Bell crossed long from the left towards Fisher on the edge of the box. He chested the ball off into the path of Fergus Bell just over 20 yards out to the left of the D, who controlled and steadied himself before rifling home an unstoppable half-volley under the far angle.
Stags almost struck again on a break down the centre which saw Fergus Bell race on and play what looked the perfect through ball to Palmer, who allowed Caprice to dispossess him at the last minute.
Stags paid the price seconds later on 39 minutes as Ledsham made the left by-line and sent in an inch-perfect cross to the far post where Bencherif could hardly miss with a header from almost on the goal line.
Studer then had to grab a rising Kabba shot as the home side clearly had their tails up.
Hearn took over up front for Palmer for the second half.
Fergus Bell was first to try his luck, hurrying a shot well over the Lincoln bar from 18 yards.
Home sub Robinson should have scored for City on 49 minutes as he was left alone at the far post. Picked up by a long Bencherif cross from the left he failed to get over the ball and sent a free header over from close range with Studer helpless.
Soon after Stags almost broke through themselves as a sublime ball from right to left by Beevers put Hearn in space. He cut back an intelligent path into the incoming Heslop who was inches wide with a low first time finish.
Studer took no chances in punching away a Newton free kick.
Beevers ball in from the right found Hearn inside the box who crashed a vicious rising shot over the bar.
Stags made a triple change on 62 minutes with Rhead, Taylor and Marsden replacing Palmer, Amari’i Bell and Beevers.
Then Clements took over from Fergus Bell four minutes later.
Stags fans were then treated to another glimpse of Hearn’s capabilities as Stags retook the lead on 70 minutes.
Heslop put the ball into his path with a superb ball.
The striker was then faced with defender Brown but nonchalantly put the ball past him, left him for dead and drilled the ball home under Farman from a tight angle.
An eager-to-please Hearn forced Farman to save with his feet with another powerful low blast four minutes later, and soon after controlled 20 yards out before crashing a powerful effort over the top.
Hearn grabbed his deserved second on 76 minutes.
Put in by a delightfully weighted Taylor, Hearn looked up and made no mistake from 16 yards with a vicious low finish across the keeper.
On came Griffith, Riley and McGuire for Murray, Tafazolli and Heslop with 12 minutes to go.
Stags continued to press as Taylor had a powerful shot blocked while Hearn, at stretch, hooked a low finish wide and Taylor was well over from 30 yards.
As we entered stoppage time, Stags’ Vale combination almost came up trumps as Griffith headed wide from a Taylor corner.
Taylor was then narrowly wide with a low 20 yard shot just before the end.
But the night belonged to Liam Hearn as Stags again showed rich promise for the forthcoming campaign.
LINCOLN: Farman, Caprice, Newton, Brown, Diagne, Mendy (Trialist 84), Bencherif, Tomlinson, Ledsham (Everington 72), Kabba (Robinson HT), Burrow (Simmons 84). Subs not used: Chambers, Jordan.
STAGS: Studer; Sutton, Tafazolli (Riley 78), Dempster; Beevers (Mardsen 62), Murray (Griffith 78), Heslop (McGuire 78), F. Bell (Clements 66), A. Bell (Marsden 62); Fisher (Rhead 62), Palmer (Hearn HT). Subs not used: Thomas.
REFEREE: Declan Ford. ATTENDANCE: 924 (181 away). CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Liam Hearn.