Mansfield Town once again flopped against bogey side Accrington Stanley as they lost 1-0 and had skipper Adam Murray controversially sent off at One Call Stadium this afternoon.
Stags have now not beaten Stanley in seven League outings and, although a far cry from last season’s five-goal thriller, this time they went down tamely to a 10th minute penalty from Accrington skipper Luke Joyce.
It was little more than the in-form visitors deserved after a first half in which they dominated and could have been out of sight were it not for a string of saves from returning Swiss keeper Sascha Studer.
Mansfield were better after the break and gave it a go with a 4-3-3 formation, but the visitors dug in to make it three wins out of three for returning boss John Coleman and five wins out of six overall.
That saw Stanley leapfrog Mansfield into 11th, Stags dropping to 16th and more boos at half-time and the end for Paul Cox and his side.
There was also controversy as referee Scott Mathieson sent off Murray for sliding into the back of Rob Atkinson near the end as he saw the ball over the line for a goal kick.
It barely looked a booking so a straight red may prompt Mansfield to appeal once they have studied the DVD for evidence.
Mansfield made four changes. Keeper Dimitar Evtimov had been nursing a slight groin injury so he dropped down to the bench and Studer brought back in.
Keiron Freeman, back for a second loan spell with Stags from Derby, went straight in at left wing, back, Lee Beevers moving across to right wing back and Liam Marsden dropped to the bench.
The talented Freeman looked far from match fit after only two 90 minute games all season and will need to time to get back up to speed.
In midfield there were two changes as Fergus Bell, despite his injured shoulder, came back in along with Jamie McGuire, Reggie Lambe and Simon Heslop making way.
Stags were looking for revenge for last season when Stanley produced stoppage time goals home and away to take four points just when Mansfield looked to have victories in the bag.
Accrington began on the front foot, Carver bustling his way into the box for a blocked shot in the opening seconds.
But Mansfield might have gone ahead when Aldred allowed a tame low McGuire cross to get past him and Bingham hurried a tame 10-yard finish wide, taken by surprise that the ball had reached him.
Stanley came even closer as Carver blazed a low finish across the face of goal on four minutes after Maguire picked him out on the right of the box.
Stags were outnumbered at the back again a minute later as Maguire threaded Naismith in on goal, Studer standing his ground and making a good save with his legs.
Freeman shouted hopefully for a penalty after going down in a tussle for the ball in the Stanley box no no avail.
But Accrington were rewarded for their positive start with a 10th minute lead from the spot.
Studer was fractionally late in going down at the feet of the onrushing Carver, who just managed to prod the ball wide of the keeper before contact was made.
Referee Scott Mathieson had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Stanley skipper Joyce stepped up to bury the kick inside the left post, out of Studer’s reach.
On 18 minutes tenacious work from O’Sullivan on the right saw him lose the ball to Freeman but then fight back to dispossess the defender again and get in a cross from the by-line that Maguire bundled just wide.
On 24 minutes Carver headed the ball over Riley to give Maguire a brief sight of goal, launching a powerful blast which Studer blocked and then grabbed at the second attempt.
Mansfield almost levelled on 28 minutes as Rhead simply controlled a long Studer ball down the centre and got in a low shot which Chapman safely gathered – Stags’ first on-target effort of the afternoon.
A short back header from Riley left Studer in trouble on 29 minutes, the keeper just managing to hook clear with two opponents steaming in on him.
Accrington came even closer to a second goal on 33 minutes. Great skill from Naismith saw him trick his way past two opponents on the left by-line and then pull an intelligent pass back for Maguire, who forced Studer into a save with his finish from 10 yards.
At this point of the game the sun finally broke through the clouds, but Stags were still searching for some sparkle to their performance.
On 40 minutes Beevers failed to find the net on the right of the box after Rhead and Bell had created the opening, Beevers, under pressure, sending his finish wide.
Beevers was booked for bringing down Carver in the second of the two added minutes, then Rhead collided with team mate Bingham to sum up a dire first half for Stags which ended with boos from the stands as they left the field.
Stags came back out a couple of minutes after the eager visitors with much work to do.
Tafazolli, already playing on with a shoulder injury, could not continue after the break with a hamstring problem, so it was all change again.
Lambe came on to play wide on the left of a front three as Stags went 4-3-3.
Lambe immediately had a half-chance as Rhead nodded a high ball from Murray into his path. But the ball got caught between his legs at the vital moment and he was crowded out.
Rhead’s challenge for a long, high Sutton ball, saw the ball drop towards bell, who lashed a first time effort wide.
But at least Mansfield were taking the initiative in the early stages of the half.
On 53 minutes a long Freeman throw from the left was allowed to bounce and Murray hooked an acrobatic shot on the turn just over the top.
Seconds later the skipper slid in and somehow, while still on the floor, won possession and fed Bingham, who flashed a first time finish wide of the near post from close range.
Accrington survived a Mansfield corner with ease and then won one of their own, which was cleared.
Rhead guided a header well wide from a Murray free kick which was his last contribution as Palmer replaced the big striker on 68 minutes.
Naismith’s skills won Stanley another corner on 71 minutes and Stags were glad to see the back of him when he was substituted two minutes later.
Bingham sent a long searching ball in from the right which skidded across the six yard box, too far from Palmer at the far post.
Then Bingham was well over with a 25-yard snapshot as we entered the last 15 minutes.
Palmer’s persistence almost paid off as Atkinson tried to shepherd the ball to his keeper and Palmer stretched out a leg past him to poke the ball at the oncoming keeper.
Bell went on a promising run down the centre, his eventual shot tame and straight to the keeper.
The home side turned up the pressure and forced two corners, Palmer seeing a close range effort blocked from the first and Riley penalised for pushing from the second.
There was uproar on 82 minutes as Murray was red-carded for next to nothing.
He hadn’t been booked and, when he slid into Atkinson as he tried to see the ball out for a goalkick, at worst it looked a booking.
But out came a shock red with Murray and Mansfield dumbfounded.
The decision at least raised the noise level from the home fans and Stanley had to survive a scramble from another home corner.
Every time an Accrington player went down he stayed down promoting boos from the home crowd.
An Accrington break ended with Windass firing well over with four minutes to go.
Bell had a shot cleared back to him on 88 minutes, his second attempt too high.
As we entered five minutes of stoppage time, Atkinson got in a goalbound header from a corner which Bell headed off the line.
Palmer then sent a tame low shot at Chapman.
Proctor dived into a tackle on McGuire in the last of the minutes, but he was only booked to the crowd’s anger.
After treatment McGuire had to go off, leaving Heslop to come on for the dying seconds as bell blazed the 25 yard free kick from the foul well over.
The final whistle brought some boos for the side for the loss and plenty for the referee for his decisions, but in the end Stags could have no one to blame but themselves.
STAGS: Studer; Sutton, Riley, Tafazolli (Lambe HT); Beevers, Murray, Bell, McGuire (Heslop 90+6), Freeman; Rhead (Palmer 68), Bingham. Subs not used: Evtimov, Fisher, Marsden, Thomas.
ACCRINGTON STANLEY: Chapman, Joyce, Aldred, Winnard, Naismith (Windass 73), Carver (Molyneux 58), Hunt, O’Sullivan, Maguire, Proctor, Atkinson. Subs not used: Simpson, McCartan, Hatfield, Mingoia, Bowerman.
REFEREE: Scott Mathieson of Cheshire.
ATTENDANCE: 2,699 (125 away). CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Adam Murray.
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