Mansfield Town’s annoying habit of giving away early goals at home came back to haunt them once more on Saturday as Luton Town registered their first ever League win at One Call Stadium with something to spare.
The Stags also have a habit of flopping when they have managed to attract a larger than average crowd – and this was again the case on Saturday before their biggest crowd of the season who booed them off at the end.
Mansfield had so much of the ball on the day, but lacked a spark and a cutting pass.
Adam Murray’s men went into this one – for once – as favourites.
That was certainly not based on the quality of Luton’s players or the size of the Hatters’ budget. It was based purely on how poor their recent results had been – one win in nine League games and no goals in the last four.
But Mansfield shot themselves in the foot by conceding a sloppy goal after just six minutes to give Luton and their new boss Nathan Jones a massive injection of confidence.
Any rousing words from Murray at the break were then ruined by letting in a second goal nine minutes into the second half and the game was effectively over.
Both were perfectly-timed goals for the visitors as they sat out the rest of the game in comfort against the home side’s toothless response.
Murray had rung the changes pre-match, giving Scott shearer only his second League outing of the season in goal, new signing Sean Kavanagh, on loan from Fulham, began the game at left-back following the return of loanee Blair Adams to Notts County, and midfielder Mitch Rose was in for Craig Westcarr.
Shearer could do nothing with the two goals but made two fantastic saves to keep Stags in the game in the first 20 minutes as he twice thwarted Cameron McGeehan.
However, it was a debut to largely forget for Northern Ireland U21 Kavanagh.
Although he put some good crosses over and made a crucial sliding tackle on Ruddock in the box, the pace and power of League Two was an eye-opener to him.
For the first goal he was caught a little to far forward as the ball was placed over his head to allow Pelly Ruddock to pull a low ball back from the right by-line for Paddy McCourt to sidefoot home.
Then for the killer second he allowed Ruddock to control a McCourt cross from the left and turn him far too easily to send a rising shot past Shearer from 10 yards.
Mansfield dominated possession in a decent first half display in which they held the ball well but lacked courage with the final pass, too often going sideways or backwards, frustrating home fans as Luton defended well.
Matt Green was too high from outside the box, Reggie Lambe and Chris Clements both shot at the keeper, and Krystian Pearce headed over from a corner.
After the second goal Luton were able to sit back and Stags rarely looked capable of piercing them, Green scuffing a near post effort from a tight angle and Adi Yussuf sending a header over the bar.
Murray rang the changes in the second half, Adam Chapman subjected to cruel and unnecessary boos and jeers as he left the field as if he was the only one having a bad day, but the performance remained flat.
Fans’ patience with the side’s attempts to keep playing football ran thin as they urged their side to get the ball forward quicker and Murray’s attempts to get the supporters onside with his vision last week fell on deaf ears as the team were booed off the field at the end of a miserable afternoon.