Leaders AFC Mansfield moved a step closer to their goal of Central Midlands League promotion with a steady 3-1 Black Dragon North Division win at Brodsworth Welfare.
Goals from Darren Bettison, Joe Naylor and Danny Wiltshire were enough to seal the points, despite Shane Carver equalising for the home side, and set up AFC nicely for this Saturday’s possible title showdown with second-placed Westella Hanson.
All the goals came in the first half although the Bulls had plenty of chances to increase the winning margin in the second half.
Phil Buxton’s rather tame effort was all there was to show for an uneventful first 15 minutes in a game played in bright sunshine.
Five minutes later, though the visitors took the lead. Buxton picked the ball up on the left and found Naylor with a neat pass. Naylor then set up Bettison, who drilled the ball past Chris Yates to put AFC Mansfield ahead.
This lead was short-lived as indecision at the back saw the ball drop to Shane Carver in the visitors’ box, and the striker hit a powerful drive past Dale Sheppard to bring the scores level.
Mark Carter had the ball in the back of the net on the half-hour mark, after getting on the end of a free kick, but was adjudged offside and the score stayed at 1-1.
Brodsworth worked hard for the next 20 minutes and looked as if they could go in at half-time on level terms and it would have been deserved.
But the momentum was building and the breakthrough came on 42 minutes. Mark Carter’s through ball found Buxton, who advanced into the box and forced a superb save out of Yates. Unfortunately for the keeper the ball fell to the feet of Naylor who could not miss from six yards.
A minute later came the third, again good work from Buxton down the right flank delivering the ball to Naylor who chested the ball on for Wiltshire to smash the ball past Yates from 12 yards.
The Bulls applied enormous pressure on the home goal at the start of the second half but wayward shots and some great handling from Yates kept the hordes at bay.
Brodsworth were thrown a lifeline on 57 minutes when left back Brad Wilson dangled a leg out in the box and Carver went down.
Carver stepped up and struck the ball well down the middle of the goal, but it crashed against the bar and was cleared by Sam Holmes.
Carl Haslam saw his effort saved by Yates on 67 minutes after coming on as a sub two minutes earlier.
A fine run from Haslam on 70 minutes took him past four players but, as he shaped to shoot, Carter claimed the ball and fired high over the bar from 15 yards.
Haslam went close again two minutes later, latching onto a Danny Tighe through ball, his effort from a tight angle turned around the post by Yates.
Yates was in inspired form when another flowing move saw Naylor set up Wiltshire seven yards out. Somehow Yates managed to get a leg to the striker’s shot and force it over the bar while diving the wrong way.
Naylor, amongst others, put shots wide of the mark in the final 10 minutes, but could not breach Chris Yates’ goal and the match ended in AFC Mansfield’s favour
AFC Mansfield welcome rivals Westella Hanson to The Forest Town Stadium in what promises to be an enthralling game with the league championship resting on the result.
BRODSWORTH WELFARE: Yates, Hodgson, Bottomley, Sieradzki, Starbuck (c), Irwin (Exley 77), Maddison, Smith, Abbott, Carver, Mowall (Bockarie 65). Subs not used: Bentham & Fisher.
AFC MANSFIELD: Sheppard (Fletcher 88), Cantrell, Wilson (Tighe 65), Holmes, Timons (c), Naylor D, Buxton, Bettison (Haslam 65), Naylor J, Wiltshire, Carter. Subs not used: Clarke & Brewin.
REFEREE: Kenwyn Hughes.
BULLS MAN OF THE MATCH: Phil Buxton.