A red card after only half an hour for two yellow cards in three minutes for Jamie McGuire ended any hopes Mansfield Town had of halting in-form Shrewsbury as they went down 2-0 at Greenhous Meadow this afternoon.
The home side were in top form, having a 100 per cent home record in the League and this was their sixth straight League two win.
However, they had started slowly and rarely looked like troubling Sasha Studer in the Mansfield goal until a rush of blood for McGuire saw him involved in three rash challenges in a few minutes.
The latter two saw his afternoon ended early and left his team mates right up against it as they went an eighth game without a victory and slip to 19th.
Stags’ 10 men defended valiantly with debutant Luke Waterfall and the returning Ryan Tafazolli outstanding and Studer pulling off some good saves.
But with the home side having the man advantage and ex-Stags legend Liam Lawrence pulling all the strings after the break, Stags eventually succumbed to two second half strikers.
Bobby Grant scored a thunderbolt of an opener on 59 minutes and James Collins sealed the win from close range on 75 minutes.
In the end the afternoon couldn’t end soon enough for Mansfield, whose 10 men were given a real run-around by the Shrews.
The Mansfield line-up showed five changes. There was a debut for loanee centre half Waterfall and a return alongside him from injury for Tafazolli.
There was a surprise at left wing back where Keiron Freeman returned having been given little chance in midweek of being fit.
Also coming back in after injury were midfielder Chris Clements and target man Matt Rhead.
Out went Rakish Bingham, Liam Marsden, Rob Taylor, Vadaine Oliver, and Jamie Sendles-White.
The afternoon got off to a bad start for Mansfield after the coach driver inadvertently took them to the Shrews’ old Gay Meadow ground instead of their smart new Greenhous Meadow.
The game featured two Swiss keepers which must be a first for the lower divisions. And the Shrews were skippered by ex-Mansfield Town legend Liam Lawrence.
Stags had a glimmer of hope in the second minute as Rhead won the ball and slipped it wide to Freeman with the home side calling for offside.
The flag stayed down and Freeman whipped a low ball across the box, but there were no Stags players anywhere near to capitalise.
Shrewsbury created danger a minute later as Grant tried to curl a 20-yarder inside Studer’s far post but was wide of the target.
Soon after Grant again tried his luck from distance, this time too high.
On six minutes poor control from Tafazolli gifted the ball to Lawrence, who ran forward and picked out Akpa Akpro to his left who saw a low shot deflect dangerously across the Stags goalmouth before going out for a corner, which was headed away by Tafazolli.
Riley did well to clear a flicked-on Lawrence free kick for a corner before anyone could get on the end of it.
Studer then got a punch onto the corner before Murray completed the clearance.
McGuire and Grant were warned after shoving each other the halfway line with Grant left on the floor, but no cards came out for either.
In Stags’ first real spell of pressure, Murray had a shot blocked as he took the ball off the toe of Freeman in the home box.
On 26 minutes there was a flare-up as Lawrence was upset by the ferocity of a McGuire tackle and flicked out a foot to trip up McGuire.
The pair squared up face to face and after a lengthy discussion with his assistant the referee ended the row with a yellow card apiece.
McGuire further endeared himself to the home fans after he and Collins threw themselves into a tackle in the middle of the park, both needing treatment.
The referee eventually decided McGuire’s challenge deserved a second yellow and out came the red, leaving Stags to face an hour with 10 men.
Suddenly the home side were lifted and quickly forced two successive corners.
Another followed on 35 minutes, taken short, which saw Lawrence float the ball in and Akpa Akpo head over.
The home side really should have gone ahead on 37 minutes as Grimmer worked his way into the Stags box and pulled back a low ball to Collins almost on the penalty spot who blazed a finish wide when he looked certain to score.
Palmer replaced Rhead up front on 39 minutes.
Then Freeman was booked on 40 minutes for bringing down Lawrence, Waterfall heading away the free kick.
A minute later Collins planted an 18-yard volley sraight at Studer after Akpa Akpro had chested the ball down for him.
Stags then tested Leutwiler for the first time on 42 minutes as Carr twisted and turned on the left of the box and got in a low on-target shot from a tight angle that the keeper was happy to block.
Lawrence made space for a shot on 44 minutes, choosing to try and chip Studer from 20 yards but sending the ball over the top.
Three minutes were added on, in the second of which Clements was booked for tripping Grant.
But Stags’ 10 men reached the break still in the game at 0-0.
During the break the crowd were treated to a performance from Pearl of Africa Ugandan choir as the sun sank and gave way to a chillier second half.
The first home attack of the second half saw Riley go down holding his face after a challenge with Akpa Akpro, but the referee saw nothing untoward.
On 48 minutes to Shrews won their first corner of the half which Studer punched away only to see Demetriou file the loose ball back over his head and the bar.
Palmer won a Stags free kick on 50 minutes which was cleared for the visitors’ first corner of the afternoon.
That was cleared and the home side launched a counter-attack which saw Studer forced to superbly tip over a dipping blast from Akpa Akpro.
The pressure stayed on as Lawrence floated in a ball from the left that saw Grant outjump Beevers to send a header wide.
Waterfall got a brave head in the way of a Lawrence shot and then blocked a Grant shot as the home side settled into their dominance of possession.
Grant was booked for his collision with Freeman on 56 minutes.
But Stags’ resistance was broken on 59 minutes as Grimmer did well to get to the right by-line and pull back a low pass towards Grant who met it with an absolute thunderbolt of a left foot finish that zipped past a helpless Studer and high into the net.
Stags quickly sent on Bingham for Carr for the last half-hour.
Tafazolli was winded getting himself in the way of a Grimmer blast, and Stags survived the ensuing corner.
Grant was inches over the bar from 20 yards with a great dipping shot on 69 minutes.
The home side were close again after Akpa Akpro did well to stretch his neck and keep a long cross ball in play and Collins met it on the volley as it dropped but was just wide.
Just as a few shouts of ‘Cox out’ rose from the away end, it was game over for Mansfield as the home side scored a killer second goal on 75 minutes.
A right wing corner was hit goalwards by Knight-Percival and Collins was on hand to hook it past Studer en route from close range.
Collins thought he’d added a third on 78 minutes but was penalised for climbing at the far post.
The final whistle couldn’t come fast enough for Mansfield as the home side piled on the agony with three more corners.
Then Grimmer blasted a loose ball into the sidenetting as Collins screamed for a penalty against Riley.
Soon after Studer had to beat away a vicious 20-yard effort from Collins and then watched gratefully as a Lawrence free kick was curled over the wall and wide.
In the three minutes of stoppage time, some sloppy play from the home side offered Palmer time and space and he did get a shot on target which Leutwiler pushed away.
That gave Stags the first of two corners.
But it was Studer who had a save to make, diving to his right to keep out Clark’s 20-yarder just before the whistle.
There was a lovely touch on the whistle as Lawrence ran to acknowledge the Stags fans and threw his short into the crowd to huge applause.
SHREWS: Leutwiler, Grandison, Demetriou, Goldson, Collins, Lawrence, Wesolowski, Knight-Percival, Grant (Clark 79), Grimmer, Akpa Akro (Vernon 83). Subs not used: Halstead, Ellis, Vincent, Wildig, Griffith.
STAGS: Studer; Riley, Waterfall, Tafazolli; Beevers, McGuire, Murray, Clements, Freeman; Rhead (Palmer 39), Carr (Bingham 60). Subs not used: Bell, Lambe, Marsden, Oliver, Sendles-White. REFEREE: Darren Handley of Bolton.
ATTENDANCE: 5,001 (356 away). CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Ryan Tafazolli.
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