Mansfield Town’s mini-revival was halted by a goal in each half by League Two leaders Scunthorpe United as Stags were once again booed from the field after a 10th game without a win at One Call Stadium today.
Unchanged Stags did have their moments in an exciting first half, but trailed at the break to a wonder strike from Paul Hayes on nine minutes.
Mansfield rarely looked like they would come back in a less frenetic second half in which Hayes poached his second from close range to kill off home hopes on 74 minutes.
The game once again underlined exactly what Paul Cox needs to bring into the club in the transfer window, particularly up front.
The in-form Iron had won six and lost two of their previous eight games and brought an army of around 1,200 fans to cheer them on.
Mansfield, meanwhile, were looking to build on their improved form of seven points from the last nine available.
The last times the sides met at Mansfield was back in February 2005 when an Adam Murray goal was all that was needed for a 1-0 win that knocked leaders Scunthorpe off top spot. So Stags were hoping that lighting might twice.
Mansfield might have grabbed a third minute lead from a break down the right by Howell. He laid his final pass perfectly into the path of Rhead to his left and the big striker’s low finish was perfectly placed, low and firm, and brought the best out of Slocombe as he dived full length to his right to tip it round the post.
That brought a corner which was half-cleared. But, as it was lifted back in by Stevenson, Rhead jumped well to divert a header towards the same corner, and again Slocombe was there to make the save.
On seven minutes Stags were close again. This time Rhead nodded down a high Sutton ball into the box and, from on the penalty spot, Mirfin’s challenge was just enough to force Stevenson to blaze a rising shot over the top.
It was a good start by the home side, so it was a shock when the visitors made their first attack on nine minutes and scored an absolute pearler.
A clearance reached Hayes outside the box and he unleashed a memorable, fierce dipping half-volley which soared over Marriott and under the right angle from 25 yards.
The thrills continued as Dempster made a good block on a Hayes shot and then a superb through ball by Clements almost put Stevenson away, the ball rolling through to Slocombe, before Rhead lashed wide from left of goal.
Williams’ run into the left of the home box in 21 minutes saw him evade a lunge from Clements before blazing into the sidenetting.
A Tafazolli tackle saw the ball run the way of Scunthorpe, Sutton happy to head the eventual right wing cross out for the first Scunthorpe corner.
That was cleared to McAllister whose volley from the edge of the box flew high into the stand.
On 27 minutes a Hayes pass put Winnall in down the centre, prodding a finish straight at Marriott as defenders closed in on both sides of him.
Rhead didn’t have the pace to get away from his defender down the centre and, seconds later, he nodded down a great far post Clements cross only to see the ball bounce past Stevenson when the crowd expected the midfielder to shoot.
Ribeiro’s far post cross in 38 minutes almost crept under the far angle, Marriott forced to tip over at the last minute.
When Stags failed to clear properly, Canavan headed onto the top of the net.
A minute later Rhead was only just over with a header from a Jennings free kick.
Clements then set up Jennings for a shot on 43 minutes that was on target but lacked power and was easy for Slocombe.
On 45 minutes Stevenson again had a chance as Rhead and Tafazolli both headed on a Jennings free kick only to see Stevenson snatch at the chance and shoot over the near angle.
A slip by Dempster let in Winnall with only 19 seconds of the second half played, but the striker had run wide on the left and the angle was always against him as he shot across Marriott and wide of the far post.
On 51 minutes the Iron again came close to a killer second as Hawkridge put the ball in from the right and Syers applied the deftest of touches only to see it pass narrowly the wrong side of the post with Marriott beaten.
Stags’ best move of the game saw a string of passes end with Clements finding the feet of Rhead, who controlled well and fired a low shot at Slocombe on 58 minutes.
A minute later a short corner was launched to Mirfin at the far post where his header to Winnall saw the striker head straight at Marriott from eight yards.
On 63 minutes Stags made a double change, bringing off Stevenson and Palmer and sending on Daniel and forgotten man Briscoe.
Stags quickly forced two corners, Dempster seeing a header blocked just in front of the post from the first and the second easily cleared.
Winnall’s 25-yard free kick was straight at the home wall.
But the ball wasn’t cleared and a long cross was launched from the left to the far post where Winnall did well to head the ball back across goal where Hayes buried the bouncing ball from close range.
Clements tried to set up Daniel on the edge of the box, but he was well over with his finish as sections of the home crowd began to vent their anger once again.
STAGS: Marriott; Sutton, Dempster, Tafazolli; Westlake, Clements, Stevenson (Daniel 63), Howell, Jennings; Rhead, Palmer (Briscoe 63). Subs: Deakin, Dyer, Beevers, Meikle, Murray.
SCUNTHORPE: Slocombe, Ribeiro, McAllister, Mirfin, Canavan, Hawkridge, Nolan, Syers (Collins 75), Winnall (Madden 88), Williams (Adelakun 79), Hayes. Subs: Sparrow, Esajas, Severn, Waterfall.
REFEREE: Nigel Miller of County Durham.
ATTENDANCE: 4,115 (1,211). CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Chris Clements.