DESPITE Adam Murray’s late reply, Mansfield Town were well beaten by Kidderminster Harriers’ play-off chasers at Field Mill this afternoon, reports John Lomas.
The Stags had in-form keeper David Grof to thank for being a single goal down at the break, the Hungarian loanee making a string of early saves as Kidderminster set off in top gear to try to extend their unbeaten streak to 12 games.
But he could do nothing to keep out Chris McPhee’s 15th minute finish.
Stags were second best in every department in a poor first half, played in cold, windy conditions.
After harsh words at half-time in the dressing room, Mansfield came out with more fire in their bellies and created chances.
But, unable to put one away, almost inevitably ex-Stag Keith Briggs crashed home a second goal on 63 minutes to all but seal the points.
Mansfield rallied again near the end and skipper Adam Murray pulled one back 11 minutes from time to give them an unlikely chance to grab a point.
But it wasn’t to be as Stags once again flopped against a side in the top six and Kidderminster were a class above Mansfield on another disappointing day at the Mill.
Stags were forced into two changes through injury as Dan Spence (hamstring) and Danny Mitchley (groin) were ruled out.
Silk returned from injury at right back while up front teenager O’Rafferty came in for his home debut alongside Connor.
Grof was down to his right to block one-handed a Blair drive after he had cut in from the left in the second minute. And Stags eventually cleared the resulting corner after a few nervy seconds.
Canham’s 25 yard pot shot was then straight at Grof.
The visitors continued to threaten as Blair came inside Naylor and fired a powerful shot that Grof beat away for a corner on seven minutes.
From that corner Blair had a free header which again Grof beat away.
Stags were gifted an 11th minute corner to relieve the pressure but keeper Lewis gathered unchallenged.
On 13 minutes Blair’s flick past Naylor gave Shaw sight of goal from 12 yards and Grof again produced the goods, getting his body behind the powerful finish.
Naylor had to produce a great tackle to stop Canham going through from Blair’s flick-on.
But on 15 minutes the pressure finally told as Wright latched onto a loose pass by xxx and helped the ball on through a square defence and McPhee bundled the ball low under the helpless Grof from six yards.
It had been one way traffic to that point and Stags could have no complaints.
The goal provoked Stags’ first shop in anger on 18 minutes as Lewis parried Stonehouse’s 25 yard blast.
A persistent O’Rafferty then did well to slide in as a defender shepherded the ball out for a goalkick and hook it back across goal where it took a smart block by Michael Briscoe to deny Connor from eight yards.
A second Mansfield corner saw Naylor flick his header well over from Smith’s kick.
Wright lashed a half-volley over Grof and just wide of the far angle from 25 yards in the 26th minute as Mansfield continued to labour.
Great approach work from Louis Briscoe a minute later set up a shooting chance from 20 yards for O’Rafferty who pulled a tame low finish wide of Lewis’ right hand post.
O’Rafferty was shown a yellow card on 32 minutes after leaving his foot in on a tackle on Shaw.
Grof showed neat footwork coming out his box to sidestep an opponent and launch the ball upfield where Louis Briscoe’s attempted curling effort into the far top corner caught on the wind and sailed well over.
Another Harriers move saw Blair cross from the right and Wright soar above a rooted silk to power an almost free header over the top.
A poor backheader from Naylor almost sold Grof short but he managed to get his body in the way of Wright’s poke at goal.
At the other end Rafferty delayed too long with a shooting chance from a poorly cleared cross and Murray sent the follow-up well over the top.
Ex-Stag Shaw limped off on 44 minutes to be replaced by Gittings.
Two minutes were added on but Stags could still make no headway in their second dismal first half of the week.
They came out energised and almost levelled within the first minute as Smith twisted and turned on the left before crossing from the by-line.
It reached Louis Briscoe at the far post who controlled and then sliced a finish off the outside of his left foot across the face of goal back to Smith.
He then found Stonehouse whose shot was blocked.
A minute later another Smith centre found the head of Murray who could not direct the ball out of the reach of Lewis.
Good skills from Briscoe saw him juggle the ball into position for a dipping half-volley that dropped wide of the far post.
On 52 minutes Connor sliced wide from 20 yards. Then passes from Murray and Connor worked the ball to Smith who cut inside four opponents before seeing his finish deflect wide.
An intelligent chip on the turn by Connor was only just too high from 20 yards as Stags continued to harry the Harriers.
But there was a let-off as Vaughan crossed long from the right towards Canham and Naylor did well to get up and head the ball onto the waiting Harrier and out for a goal kick.
Unable to find a goal during their spell of pressure, Stags were punished by a second Harriers goal on 63 minutes.
They were down to 10 men at the time with O’Rafferty on the floor at the other end after taking an accidental kick in the ribs in a challenge.
Kidderminster broke down the left and, when Wright rolled a pass inside, Briggs blasted an explosive first time finish past Grof from 16 yards.
Lewis smothered a Connor effort from close range from a tight angle after Murray tried to put him in on goal.
So for the second time in five days, Mansfield were two goals behind with a massive task ahead.
On 67 minutes Gittings found himself clear on goal with only Grof to beat and the Hungarian did superbly well once more to block his low finish.
O’Rafferty came off on 68 minutes to allow Nix into the action, Louis Briscoe pushing up front and soon firing over after a one-two with Silk on the edge of the box.
Sub Morris saw Canham headed wide after the visitors’ fifth corner was taken short.
Nix’s 20 yard thunderbolt brought an acrobatic tip-over save out of Lewis on 76 minutes.
Tempers flared on and off the field as the referee turned down a call for handball only to book Louis Briscoe seconds later for showing his studs in a high challenge.
But Stags were given a lifeline 11 minutes from the end as Louis Briscoe fed Murray scampering into the box and he dispatched an excellent finish across Lewis and inside the far post.
Frustrated Stags began to pick up yellow cards near the end, three in 12 minutes, as decisions continued to go against them.
STAGS: Grof; Silk, Naylor, Sandwith, Stonehouse; L. Briscoe, Murray, Thompson, Smith (Istead 84mins); Connor, O’Rafferty (Nix 68). Subs not used: Marriott, Foster, Preece.
KIDDERMINSTER: Lewis, Vaughan, Williams, Shaw (Gittings 44), Albrighton, Briggs, McPhee, Wright (Morris 73), M. Briscoe, Blair, Canham. Subs not used: Byrne, Matt, Stevens.
REFEREE: Steve Martin of Staffordshire.
ATTENDANCE: 2079 (350 away).
GOALS: Stags – Murray 79mins. Kidderminster – McPhee 15mins, Briggs 63mins.
CAUTIONS: Stags – O’Rafferty 32 mins (foul), Briscoe 78 (foul), Thompson 85mins, Naylor 90mins (dissent). Kidderminster – Vaughan 81mins (foul).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: David Grof.