Adam Chapman was an instant hit with the Mansfield Town faithful today when he bagged a hat-trick on his home debut as Stags swept Stockport County aside 4-1 to join Wrexham and Kidderminster on 68 points at the top of the BSBP with their seventh straight win.
Stags sit third only on goal difference but have three games in eight days coming up against title rivals which could make or break their hopes of a return to the Football League.
But today was all about Chapman, who arrived on a month’s loan from Oxford United in midweek, made an impressive start in the midwek win at Woking, and today went home with the match ball.
He struck twice in the first 20 minutes to put the young, struggling visitors on the back foot and, after Matt Green had grabbed his 18th goal of the season to kill of the Hatters on 57 minutes, Chapman picked out the top corner on 78 minutes to seal the win, Stockport sub Paul Marshall having bagged a peach of a consolation on 69 minutes.
Now Stags, who have won 11 of their last 12 games, prepare for the visit of Grimsby Town on Tuesday night with a TV date at Forest Green Rovers on Friday before a trip to Wrexham the following Tuesday.
John Dempster returned from injury to replace Exodus Geohaghon at centre half while a tight glute muscle ruled out Louis Briscoe, Lindon Meikle taking over on the wing.
On a wet surface, Stockport had two early chances. On six minutes Mark Cullen left Luke Jones for dead down the centre only to see Lee Beevers make the most of the conditions to slide in and rob him before he could go clear.
Soon after Jon Nolan fired straight at Alan Marriott from 20 yards.
But two minutes later, on nine minutes, visiting keeper Richard O’Donnell made the first of several good saves, tipping over Meikle’s 30-yard dipping shot.
However, he was beaten on 13 minutes as Chapman opened his Mansfield Town account.
Meikle set up Green for a shot that O’Donnell could only block, the ball running loose towards the perfectly-placed Chapman, who easily found the gaping net.
Lee Stevenson set up Green for a shot that saw James Tunnicliffe make a fine block.
But Chapman struck again on 20 minutes when he instigated a scramble that saw Stevenson pull the ball back from the right by-line and Luke Jones choose to square to Chapman instead of shooting, Chapman finding the bottom corner with a perfect first time finish.
Sean Newton sent a powerful 20-yard header straight at Marriott as Stockport tried to find a way back into it.
But they were grateful for a superb save from O’Donnell a minute from the break as he got in the way of a close range Junior Daniel finish after Meikle’s right wing cross had skimmed off a defender’s head and caught both Daniel and the keeper by surprise.
The visitors were galvanised by that save and some half-time words from their manager, though Darije Kalezic struggles with his English, and came back out to cause a few early problems.
Had Danny Whitehead taken either of his opportunities in the first 10 minutes, we might have had a game on our hands.
But on 55 minutes he turned the ball first time inches wide of the far post from sub Jon Macken’s ball in, and soon after he sidefooted a tame finish at Alan Marriott from a half-cleared throw-in.
Two minutes later it was all over. Meikle tried to thread a through ball down the centre which any one of three defenders could have cut out. But, it somehow still found Green who accelerated and clipped another cool-as-a-cucumber finish past the keeper into the net. That sparked an exodus of County fans, who had seen enough as their side slid further towards the drop zone.
Green almost doubled his tally six minutes later as he got his head to a James Jennings free kick four yards from goal, only to see O’Donnell make another agile save.
The away fans who had stayed at last had something to cheer on 69 minutes as sub Marshall bagged the game’s best goal with a 25-yard scorcher into the top left hand corner.
But Chapman’s hat-trick goal on 78 minutes was also a pearler as he found the top right corner from 20 yards with a first time shot. Adam Murray had switched play to the left to Meikle, who ran at the defence before teeing up Chapman.
Home fans began to cheer each pass as they enjoyed the rest of what was a comfortable win on a freezing, damp afternoon with the club now hoping for a big turn-out from the town to back them in Tuesday night’s crunch clash with title rivals Grimsby.
STAGS: Marriott; Beevers, Jones, Dempster, Jennings (Sutton 82); Murray, Chapman, Stevenson; Meikle, Green (Rhead 82), Daniel (Wright 67). Subs not used: Clements, Geohaghon.
STOCKPORT: O’Donnell; Halls, Hammar (Fagbola 60), Tunnicliffe, Newton; Whitehead, Kenyon, Nolan, Mainwaring (Marshall 28); Cullen, Cirak (Macken ht). Subs not used: Ormson, Hackney.
REFEREE: Ross Joyce of Co Durham 6/10.
ATTENDANCE: 2,628 (196 away).
CHAD STAG MAN OF THE MATCH: Adam Chapman.