New loan signing James Alabi was sent off after just 31 minutes of his debut, Lee Beevers also dismissed in the last minute, as nine-men Mansfield Town’s fine run of away form shuddered to a halt and the goal drought reached 428 minutes at Southend United tonight.
United also had a player sent off as the game ended nine on 10!
Alabi, signed for a month from Stoke City yesterday, was shown a straight red for his challenge on Luke Prosser to start the rot.
Beevers joined him for a second bookable offence just before the end of a disappointing night in the Essex rain.
Referee Darren Drysdale did even things up nine minutes later when he decided Conor Clifford had gone in too high in a 50-50 challenge with Calvin Andrew but, in truth, both red cards looked harsh at first glance.
Aside of the cards, the game was won in the first half with an excellent display by the Shrimpers that could have seen them score several more.
Anthony Straker netted from close range on 24 minutes before a bizarre second goal on 43 minutes saw Mansfield keeper Alan Marriott catch a header from team mate Jamie McGuire over his own goalline.
The Stags had much more of the ball in the second half and created the better chances, but Southend were content with their first half work and had only their second home win in six games at Roots Hall in the bag when a stoppage time Kevan Hurst shot deflected past Marriott.
For Mansfield it was the end of their six-game unbeaten away run, their last away loss being at Scunthorpe on the opening day of the season, and also a sixth League game without a win.
Amazingly it was also a sixth successive Mansfield away game in which a red card had been shown.
Alabi went straight in for his full League debut after signing on a month’s loan yesterday.
Keeper Marriott also returned after his back spasm last weekend, having a good game aside of the second goal, while Calvin Andrew was restored to the Stags’ attack.
Out went Liam Mitchell, Sam Clucas and Matt Rhead.
Manager Paul Cox was forced to watch the game from the stand after being served with a one match touchline ban following his row with the referee at the end of the Bury away game last week.
The evening began with a Remembrance Parade with a march onto the pitch by the Armed Forces and full ceremony which left the match kicking-off seven minutes late.
Stags might have gone behind in only the second minute after no defender reacted to a low cross from the left by Atkinson and the ball was allowed to roll to Clifford who forced Marriott to beat away his fierce 16-yard finish before the loose ball was hooked away to safety.
Two minutes later Hurst forced Marriott into another save from a firmly struck 25-yard free kick, the keeper grabbing it at the second attempt.
On eight minutes Alabi had his first attempt at goal in a Mansfield shirt, stabbing Hutchinson’s near post cross narrowly wide.
Straker chipped in an inviting left wing cross on 10 minutes which saw Atkinson power a header that beat Marriott but also beat the post.
A minute later Hurst wasted a great chance as Stags failed to clear another left wing cross and Hurst blazed the loose ball over from seven yards.
Andrew almost opened the scoring on 14 minutes as he lashed a low 20-yard left foot shot inches wide after swapping passes with Hutchinson in a neat build-up.
Tinwin tested Marriott with a low shot from 25 yards which the keeper blocked and then dropped onto the loose ball as Hurst tried to follow up.
Hutchinson almost got Alabi in, but the ball just ran through to the keeper as the Stags new boy powerfully held off the challenge of White as the two tussled to get there first.
After McGuite clerared the first corner of the night, the Shrimpers were again denied by Marriott on 21 minutes after Hurst was able to drill in a low cross from the right which Leonard eventually sidefooted at the keeper.
But the inevitable Southend goal they had threatened all night finally came on 24 minutes.
Hurst whipped in a right wing cross right in front of goal where Straker was able to simply turn the ball over the line from close range.
The goal immediately lifted the home side to start knocking the ball around with some confidence.
Stags were then stunned on 31 minutes as they were reduced to 10 men with a red card for new boy Alabi.
He make a shuddering body challenge that left Prosser on the floor just outside the home box.
But it was hard to see if he had done anything that actually merited a red and the youngster was clearly distraught as he was calmed down and led down the the tunnel.
A Straker cross almost drifted over the busy Marriott at the last minute as he clawed it out of the air at the last minute.
Then Sutton slid in with a superb last ditch tackle to stop Corr getting a finish away from eight yards.
The sides were evened up by another debatable red card on 40 minutes as Clifford and Andrew flew into a 50-50 tackle and the Stags man came off the worst.
But it seemed harsh to see referee Drysdale again wave a red card.
The evening took an even more farcical turn on 43 minutes.
Leonard floated in a cross from the right which McGuire got a header on that sailed towards Marriott.
The keeper caught the ball, but straight away the home players were screaming that the ball was over the line as the keeper caught it and the linesman agreed.
Mansfield looked on in shock and disbelief as referee Drysdale pointed to the centre and gave the goal.
But photographs suggested Marriott had caught the ball over his line and the goal was valid.
After so many first half talking points, stewards rushed to protect the referee as representatives of both sides waited to have a word with him.
Stags tried to make a positive move at half-time with Clucas and Rhead on for Palmer and Hutchinson.
McCombe was booked for a clumsy challenge on Timlin on 50 minutes.
Coker took the free kick and Leonard’s backheader was just too high.
Straker showed superb pace to get down the left and Beevers’ late challenge on him was always going to earn him a booking too.
Marriott threw himself to his right to turn away the goalbound 20-yard Coker free kick and then grabbed Hurst’s resulting corner.
Coker showed sublime skills to drag the ball inside Clucas but, from a tight angle, shot straight at Marriott.
Stags replied with two successive corners but failed to test Bentley.
As the rain began to pour down, Mansfield’s final throw of the dice was to send on Meikle for Daniel on 62 minutes.
Hurst lashed a volley wide from 16 yards after more magic on the left from Coker, drifting between two defenders.
Beevers picked out Rhead with an excellent far post cross on 66 minutes, and his firm header bounced across goal and wide of the far post.
Clucas then tried to beat Bentley with a firm half-volley from a tight angle on the left of the box two minutes later, the ball cannoning off the keeper’s well-placed legs.
Coker’s neat pull-back set up a chance for Straker, but he scuffed it and it proved easier for Marriott than it might have been.
Rhead did well on 72 minutes to control and then send a backheel into the pat of Clucas, but his finish was disappointingly wide of the near post.
McGuire brought down Leonard in full flight on 75 minutes to earn himself his seventh booking of the season.
Clucas wasn’t far wide with a rasping low shot from 25 yards as Mansfield continued to look for a way back into the contest.
The game was held up for a clash of heads between Rhead and Prosser, the Shrimpers’ defender eventually having to be substituted to have a head wound tended to.
With time running out, Southend had a couple more efforts as Leonard saw a low cross-cum shot skid across the face of goal while Atkinson sent a shot on the turn at Marriott.
But Marriott was beaten with what proved to be the last kick of the game as Hurst shot goalwards and a wicked deflection, possibly off Sutton, left the keeper helpless to cap a disappointing night.
SOUTHEND: Bentley, White, Coker, Prosser (Keirnan 79), Timlin, Corr, Straker (Laird 80), Atkinson, Hurst, Clifford, Leonard. Subs not used; Smith, Reid, Payne, Auger, Woodrow.
STAGS: Marriott, Sutton, McCombe, Beevers, Hutchinson (Clucas HT), McGuire, Andrew (Rhead HT), Blake, Pilkington, Alabi, Daniel (Meikle 62). Subs not used: Murtagh, Stevenson, Clucas, Rhead, Jennings, Palmer.
REFEREE: Darren Drysdale of Lincolnshire.
ATTENDANCE: 4,824 (199 away). CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Ritchie Sutton.