TWO early goals in as many minutes saw a classy Kidderminster Harriers blow Mansfield Town’s unbeaten home record out of the water on an afternoon to forget at Field Mill today.
Trailing 3-0 at the break, there was no way back for Paul Cox’s side who also had Louis Briscoe dismissed for a dangerous tackle on 68 minutes to rub further salt into their wounds.
Mansfield can have no excuse for the defending that saw Kyle Storer (six minutes) and Nick Wright (seven minutes) put the visitors firmly in the driving seat with their front three running rampant.
Then, on a day when little seemed to go for them in terms of the run of the ball or refereeing decisions, Stags went further behind on 23 minutes as Lee Vaughan buried a penalty and that was pretty much game, set and match.
It was an impressive comeback for a Kidderminster side who were shocked 5-2 at Fleetwood in midweek and underlined Cox’s statement that any team can beat any other in what he feels in set to be the most open league in years.
Stags at least had a good go at it in the second half but found the Harriers’ back four and, in particular, keeper Daniel Lewis, in magnificent form.
The result dropped Stags down to eighth with a trip to leaders Wrexham on the horizon this Tuesday.
And it ended a disappointing week in which Mansfield have taken a single point from two home games when within touching distance of top spot.
Cox named an unchanged side for the sixth game while Harriers named ex-Stags Luke Jones and Luke Medley in their starting line-up, which showed six changes from their midweek beating at Fleetwood.
Stags were almost caught cold inside the opening seconds as Matt wriggled into a goalscoring position inside the right of the box, Kendrick sliding in with the saving tackle, Vaughan eventually lifting the loose ball well over from 20 yards.
But they were undone after six minutes as Gittings pulled back a short corner to Vaughan who floated a cross to the far post where Storer was allowed to bury a header past Marriott.
Incredibly Harriers doubled their lead within a minute. Gittings threaded a perfect through ball down the centre and Wright ran on to slot home a calm low finish.
Stags hit back with a right wing raid that ended with Futcher nodding wide at the far post.
But it was Kidderminster who were looking like the home side and Medley nipped inside Kendrick to fire straight at Marriott while, a minute later Byrne drilled in a low 30 yard shot that Marriott had to turn aside for a corner.
Vaughan dragged a low shot wide of the keeper’s right hand post on 19 minutes after racing past Meikle with home fans growing quickly irritated by Kidderminster’s dominance.
On 22 minutes Harriers played a succession of neat passes which ended with a backheel sending Williams into the box where he was brought down by Meikle.
Vaughan sent Marriott the wrong way from the penalty spot and Stags were staring down the barrel.
Briscoe finally got an effort on target at the other end, albeit with the help of a deflection, only to see Lewis push it away for a corner.
Another Medley run saw his shot deflect off Kendrick’s toe and Marriott threw himself to his left to hold onto the ball.
Harriers were completely in charge at this stage so Paul Cox decided on a double substitution on 32 minutes as he threw on wily, experienced midfield campaigners Worthington and Bolland in place of Howell and Meikle.
Matt was off target with a flying header from Medley’s teasing right wing centre.
But, with the new faces in midfield, Stags did have a little more possession than before only to find the Harriers’ defence firmly shut.
There were a few boos from a section of home fans as the half-time whistle blew though the majority tried to lift the players as they walked off.
Stags needed a tonic as soon as possible on the restart, and it almost came within three minutes as Dyer’s 20 yard half-volley struck the underside of the crossbar and bounced down.
Mansfield were convinced the ball was over the line but the assistant referee disagreed.
That seemed to lift the home side and fans and soon after Briscoe’s ball inside for Green saw him quickly change direction and get away a low shot that Lewis saved.
However, Harriers were still dangerous and Gittings’ rising 15 yard blast beat Marriott but also bounced down off the underside of the crossbar and was hooked away to safety.
It should all have been over on the hour when Wright looked offside from Byrne’s pass, but the flag stayed down. With Marriott advancing he chose to try to square to Matt in front of goal instead of shooting and over-hit the ball, allowing the defenders to get back.
A 25 yard Storer free kick sailed into the North Stand.
Stags continued to give free kicks away and Murray was given a final warning while Bolland was also lucky to escape a yellow card.
But the frustration finally boiled over as Briscoe flew in, studs showing on Vaughan on 68 minutes and out came the automatic red card as players from both sides jostled each other.
Stags went for broke and came desperately close on 75 minutes.
But ex-Stags Jones twice blocked in the line, keeping out shots by Dyer and then Bolland and seconds later keeper Lewis smothered a Murray shot from close range.
On 79 minutes Lewis made another great stop as Green’s backheel sent Kendrick into the box for a low shot.
But Harriers, exploiting the wide open spaces appearing at the back could have added more goals near the end, Marriott saving from Matt and then Wright drawing Marriott on a breakaway before squaring to sub Demetriou in front of goal whose finish struck O’Neill on the line.
Green hooked one wide from Bolland’s head-on as we entered the last two minutes.
STAGS: Marriott; O’Neill, Sutton, Futcher, Kendrick; L. Briscoe, Murray, Howell (Worthington 32), Meikle (Bolland 32); Green, Dyer. Subs not used: Redmond, Naylor, Connor.
KIDDERMINSTER: Lewis; Vaughan, Jones, Sharpe, Mike Williams; Byrne, Storer, Gittings; Wright, Matt (Demetriou 85), Medley (Marc Williams 78). Subs not used: Lyness, Phelan, M. Briscoe.
REFEREE: Scott Duncan of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
ATTENDANCE: 2,522 (117).