Saturday, 8th February 2014: Mansfield Town 2 Southend United 1

Mansfield Town ended their home misery at last with a gutsy 2-1 victory over promotion-chasing Southend United in strong, swirling winds at One Call Stadium.

Goals in each half from Sam Clucas and James Jennings sealed their first home win in 12 outings, United also having sub Conor Clifford sent off 10 minutes from time before they grabbed a late consolation through Ryan Leonard with almost the final kick.

Stags had not won at home since 21st September while Southend arrived eight unbeaten and only one loss in 15 League outings.

The game’s quality was never going to be high in those conditions, but Stags again played some good football at times and gained their just desserts in the end.

Ryan Tafazolli had a superb game in defence while Anthony Howell and Matt Rhead were also up there in the man of the match chase.

United did hit the woodwork twice and also had a couple of decent penalty shouts turned down. But they could have few complaints over 90 minutes in the end as they looked a pale shadow of the side that beat Stags 3-0 at Roots Hall earlier in the season in a game in which they had a man sent off and Stags finished with nine men.

Stags have now lost just once in eight games and now face another home game on Tuesday with Bury the visitors.

Mansfield’s starting XI was unchanged. But, with Lee Beevers out with a dislocated shoulder, he was replaced on the bench by Ben Hutchinson, who is fit again after injury.

Stags began the afternoon playing with the strong wind though it swirled badly, neither side threatening until the eighth minute when Rhead was caught offside as he tried to latch onto a Stevenson through ball.

But Clucas almost grabbed Stags a 12th minute lead. He sneaked through a square defence and, onside and with only Bentley to beat from five yards, saw the keeper beat away his first time finish from Westlake’s right wing cross.

The visitors hit back with a couple of corners, which were defended, and Marriott was then out of his box well to kick clear before Hurst could reach a flick-on.

On 19 minutes Corr went shoulder to shoulder with Riley chasing a long through ball down the centre and Corr finally went down under the defender’s challenge in the box, no penalty awarded.

Seconds later the ball caught on the wind in favour of Leonard who shaped to test Marriott from six yards only for Tafazolli to stretch out a leg and nick it away from him.

Phillips was relieved when his clearance, that struck the blocking Stevenson, flew straight to Bentley.

Rhead then shot straight at the keeper from 16 yards after a long Jennings free kick dropped for him.

Neither side was able to get a grip on proceedings in the conditions, Stevenson next to try his luck on 32 minutes but bundling a 20-yard shot well over.

But a poor game sprang to life on 35 minutes as Mansfield went ahead.

Riley hooked a long ball forward from his own half and Clucas gave chase, outpacing two defenders and, despite a tight angle on the left, managed to slot a firm, low finish underneath Bentley’s dive for his 12th of the season.

Barnard screamed hopefully for a penalty on 40 minutes as he went down in a melee in the home box, but nothing was given and frustrated skipper White then hacked down Clucas to earn a yellow card.

A Clements free kick was headed out for Mansfield’s first corner of the game on 44 minutes. That was headed towards goal by Tafazolli, Coker just able to clear for a second corner almost on the goal line.

Clements needed three attempts to steady the ball for a free kick as it blew away in the wind. When it finally went in it was headed away for a corner.

That was sent in by Jennings in the one minute of added time and Tafazolli was offered a free header seven yards from goal which he went over the bar.

It was a cushion Stags desperately needed on a foul afternoon and a chance you hoped they wouldn’t come to rue later on.

United came back out on the front foot, Stags having to defend a couple of corners.

The Shrimpers also threatened on a breakaway which saw Leonard show superb pace only to see his final ball float harmlessly behind for a goal kick.

Stags were furious when Clucas was twice given offside inside 60 seconds, both looking very dubious decisions.

Jennings then brought down Leonard on 55 minutes on the right to earn a booking.

The free kick was pulled back low into the box, Corr dummied and let it run to Barnard who swept a low first time finish wide from almost on the penalty spot

It was the visitors’ first attempt on goal in the game and came after 56 minutes.

Barnard followed through with his challenge on Riley after the defender had cleared the ball on 62 minutes which saw the game’s third yellow card produced.

The visitors made a double change on 63 minutes, but a minute later Mansfield doubled their advantage.

Clements curled in a left wing corner which Rhead headed at goal. Bentley was in the way but failed to hold it and Jennings was on hand to ram the loose ball high into the net from point blank range for his first goal for the club.

The home fans were now loudly behind their side and Clements zipped a powerful shot over from 25 yards.

United almost pulled one back on 72 minutes as Marriott left his line to punch a cross clear and Clifford tried to lob the retreating keeper only to see it come back off the bar.

Eastwood headed tamely at Marriott soon after as the desperate visitors threw everything forward.

Howell was booked for a foul on 74 minutes, but Coker skied the free kick well over the top.

Stevenson was screaming for a penalty as his near post cross struck a hand, but nothing was given.

Southend’s frustration boiled over on 80 minutes as sub Clifford dived into a studs-showing tackle on Rhead to earn a red card, some unpleasant scenes unfolding as players squared up in front of the dug-outs.

United called for another penalty as the 10 men poured forward, but the referee decided it was ball to hand and Tafazolli was not guilty.

Shrimpers keeper Bentley was booked for dissent as we entered the last three minutes.

Corr hit the Stags post with a low shot five minutes into stoppage time and seconds later Leonard finally found a way past Marriott with a low 18 yard shot, but it was too late for them.

STAGS: Marriott; Dempster, Tafazolli, Riley; Westlake, Clements, Stevenson, Howell, Jennings; Rhead, Clucas. Subs not used: Sutton, Dyer, Hutchinson, Meikle, McGuire, Daniel, Palmer.
SOUTHEND UNITED: Bentley, White (Eastwood 62), Coker, Phillips, Timlin (Clifford 62), Corr, Atkinson, Hurst (Laird 83), Leonard, Thompson, Barnard. Subs not used: Smith, Straker, Payne, Gomis.
REFEREE: Simon Hooper of Wiltshire.

ATTENDANCE: 3,055 (484 away).