SECOND half goals from Conor Higginson and Kyle Nix at last gave Stags fans something to cheer about as their tired side, playing a third game in six days, saw off Bath City at Field Mill on Thursday night..
It was also a welcome first clean sheet in 10 games. But it could all have come at a cost as striker Luke Medley limped off with a hamstring strain after only 15 minutes with the FA Trophy final at Wembley just over three weeks away.
Again it wasn’t the best of first half displays as Stags tried to find their first win in four successive games with struggling side.
And a few fans booed as they left the field goalless at half-time with manager Duncan Russell feeling the pressure growing on him to earn a new deal in the summer and potential replacements Dave Penney and Martin Foyle watching from the stand.
But Stags somehow managed to up a gear on their weary legs for a better second half and youngster Higginson, on for Medley, broke through on 62 minutes before Nix’s 74th minute free kick sealed it.
A £5 admission offer also boosted the crowd over the 2,000 mark but, with Paul Connor suspended and Medley injured, Stags will be sparse up front for Saturday’s mouthwatering rematch with Luton Town.
The evening began with two Stags strike stars on the field as Richie Barker handed Paul Connor a trophy for most man of the match awards for the season.
However, that was Connor’s only on-field involvement as he sat out the second of his three match ban.
Despite saying he would be rotating his squad, Russell’s only change was at centre half where Foster returned after Kevin Sandwith hurt a knee on Tuesday night.
Stags almost swept into a second minute lead after Murray found Medley wide on the right and he clever turn sent him racing to the by-line.
Once there he drilled the ball hard and low past the keeper across goal and, only needing a touch into the empty net, Briscoe found Watkins doing just enough to get a touch.
Stonehouse then found Mitchley who turned well enough but sliced horribly wide.
On seven minutes the visitors won a corner and Canham’s kick ricocheted around before bouncing for Burnell whose low on-target effort was blocked by the legs of Grof.
But Stags suffered a real blow on 14 minutes when Medley pulled up with a pulled hamstring. He hobbled around for a short time but finally had to go off to be replaced by Higginson.
Higginson was soon into the action from a flick by Mitchley. But he was unable to break free from the chasing Clough though did think he had won a corner to no avail as the referee pointed for a goalkick.
Enterprising Bath played some neat football and failed to make anything of a second corner while a cross from trick winger Watkins flew straight to Grof.
Briscoe, as always trying to make things happen, lashed a low 25 yard shot wide.
Bath threatened again when Canham’s free kick was headed into the six yard box by Jones and the alert Naylor had to hook clear.
A curling Stonehouse cross finally produced a first corner of the night for Stags on 31 minutes, but the catch was easy for keeper Robinson.
Bath broke downfield to win two flag kicks of their own, Grof forced to claw away the second as it bent it the air above him.
Briscoe delayed a shooting chance too long after good work from Cain and Mitchley, gaining only a corner in the end.
On 41 minutes Connolly turned on the edge of the Mansfield box and curled a delicious chip just over the far angle, clipping the back stanchion.
A minute from time Briscoe went on a powerful burst down the right and crossed to the near post where Mitchley, facing away from goal, did well to improvise and get a firm touch goalwards, but was unable to guide the ball on target as the half ended without a goal.
Mitchley was well over with the first shot after the restart.
Stags had a let-off when Phillips chased a through ball, Grof left his box to clear but completely missed his kick and was relieved to see the ball bobble out of reach of Phillips.
At the other end Murray burst into the box only to be robbed by Jombati who was tackled by Briscoe who lashed a shot over.
Mitchley’s persistence won corner number three for the home side which Naylor failed to get over and saw his header loop well over.
A great turn from Briscoe on the left saw him loose his man and drill a low ball across the face of goal where Higginson couldn’t get a touch as it bounced for a corner.
But Higginson was the hero with a goal from the resulting 62nd minute corner. It was sent long from the right by Nix where Foster headed it goalwards at the back and Higginson turned it on target from close range only to see it handled on the line.
Before Stags could get a penalty decision out of the referee, the alert Higginson rammed the loose ball home at the second time of asking.
On came Bath sub S. Murray and found Grof behind his low 20 yard shot a few minute later.
A short free kick from Cain cued up Briscoe with a well-struck low shot that Robinson had to make the save from.
But Mansfield were 2-0 up on 74 minutes.
Mitchley’s clever flick gave Nix sight of goal but, as he pulled his foot back to shoot from 20 yards, he was crudely fouled by Connolly who was lucky not to be booked.
But Nix had the last laugh as he curled the free kick up and over the wall and wide of Robinson’s fingertips.
Cain picked out Briscoe with a right wing free kick that offered a free header which he planted powerfully wide.
Grof kept out Harris’ 20 yard shot and soon after Higginson was too high from the same range for Mansfield.
Phillips couldn’t find a way past Grof with a low shot at the near post and Lennox also saw the Hungarian down and in his way as Bath plugged away for a consolation in vain.
STAGS: Grof; Silk, Foster, Naylor, Stonehouse; Cain, Nix, A. Murray, Briscoe; Mitchley, Medley (Higginson 15). Subs not used: Collett, Smith, Preece, Istead.
BATH: Robinson, Simpson, Jones, Connolly (Lennox 75), Phillips, Mackie (S. Murray 62), Canham (Canham 78), Burnell, Jomabti, Clough, Watkins. Subs not used: Henry, Webb.
REFEREE: Jez Simpson of Carnforth.
ATTENDANCE: 2,026 (59).