It was about as far away from the beautiful game as you could get, but Mansfield Town’s impressive away form continued as they battled out a 1-0 win in a bruising clash, thanks to a screamer of a free kick from Junior Daniel, at Morecambe this afternoon.
The home side had Andrew Fleming red-carded seven minutes from the end of a very ill-tempered game in the rain on a muddy pitch with nine other players booked in a game that continually threatened to spill over into a mass brawl.
But Mansfield stood firm and took another massive step closer to safety as they made it four wins and four draws in their last nine away games with the Shrimps now six without a win.
The win left Stags 12th but now only seven points off the play-off spots with five games to go.
The animosity of the game continued afterwards with a Morecambe official allegedly threatening Stags coach Micky Moore.
There will certainly be few Christmas cards going between the two clubs in the future.
But a scrappy game was at least settled by the one genuine moment of class, though home keeper Barry Roche did make two top drawer saves as well.
With Anthony Howell joining James Jennings on the suspended list, Lee Stevenson came in to play the advanced central midfield role.
There was also a change at left wing back where Darryl Westlake, who has usually operated at right wing back, came back in to replace Junior Daniel.
The Shrimps began the day five games without a win against a Stags side that had won three and drawn four of their last eight away games.
However, this was only the side’s fourth ever meeting and the Shrimps had won all three previous clashes.
Westlake coolly headed a high cross back to Marriott as the home side put the first ball into the box.
Riley then allowed the ball to bounce off his shin for a corner as he tried to shepherd it out for a goalkick.
At that point, the game was held up as Beevers had clearly again dislocated his problem shoulder and had to be replaced by Daniel with only four minutes on the watch, Westlake moving to right wing back and Daniel going left.
Murray hooked away the eventual corner.
A dreadful mistake by Riley on nine minutes saw him miscontrol a Tafazolli pass along the edge of his own box and allow Redshaw to nip in and steal the ball.
The Morecambe man was through one-on-one with Marriott and looked a certain scorer, but he somehow managed to slot his low finish inches wide of the post.
Soon after Threlfall had Marriott diving full length to his left with a low 25-yard effort, the ball beating the keeper’s fingertips and the post.
Roche had to leave his box to clear before Palmer could reach a Westlake ball over the top on 12 minutes.
Soon after Ellison was picked out with a through ball and Stags were grateful to see an offside flag.
McGuire conceded a free kick almost 40 yards out which saw Hughes drill a powerful, ambitious low kick through the wall and force Marriott to make a save.
When Rhead headed the ball back across the home box on Stags’ next raid, Sutton had a snapshot charged down.
McGuire then curled a great ball over the top down the left for Stevenson. He controlled on his chest to get himself into the box only for Parrish to slide in and concede the corner just as he was about to pull the trigger.
Murray sent over Mansfield’s first corner of the day from the left, but it was an easy catch for veteran keeper Roche.
Stags almost went ahead on 25 minutes as Rhead shaped to shoot but then sent a disguised pass through to Stevenson who was so close to slipping it under Roche, but the keeper was down well to grab it off his toe.
There was then another hold up as home skipper Highes completely lost his rag as he accused McGuire of throwing an elbow in his face, but the officials had seen nothing.
Hughes left the pitch raging with blood coming from his mouth.
There was more home furore as Rhead caught Kenyon in the face with an elbow as he jumped for a header. A free kick was given but no card produced which saw home boss Jim Bentley erupting on the touchline.
A McGuire through ball saw Palmer chase and win the ball only to drag a dreadful well wide of the target that almost went for a throw.
On 38 minutesDevitt put on a dangerous cross from the left which Daniel confidently blazed over his own bar from close range for a corner.
A clever corner routine saw Redshaw neatly backheel the ball to Devitt who was left free on the by-line and took the ball closer to goal before whipping a powerful shot across the face of goal from a tight angle.
In the Shrimps’ next attack Devitt turned well on the corner of the box only to drag a poor low finish straight at Marriott.
Edwards flattened Rhead from behind on 42 minutes to finally persuade the referee to pull out his cards.
The free kick was over 25 yards from goal, but saw Daniel step up to lash a simply unstoppable finish into the top left corner to break the deadlock.
The Shrimps quickly won two successive corners, the second of which was headed back as far as Devitt whose low angled effort was well held by Marriott at his near post.
Three minutes were added on during which Hughes headed wide from another home corner.
The referee was confronted by angry home players as the sides left the field at the end of an untidy half in which Stags had the advantage from the one moment of brilliance shown in the 45 minutes.
In the opening seconds of the second half Stevenson went up for a header with Roche and the keeper landed on top of him with Stags screaming for a penalty to no avail.
It didn’t take long for the rough stuff to kick off again and when Sampson caught Sutton fractionally late, the pair squared up, bumping heads and shoving.
The referee calmed things down and had a word with both but kept his cards in his pocket.
On 48 minutes Stags almost doubled their lead.
Murray’s free kick was headed on by Rhead towards the far post where it just floated wide, Westlake coming in fractionally late and collided painfully with the post.
Stevenson was rightly booked on 50 minutes for a dive on the edge of the home box.
Fleming was well over with a first time 20 yard shot after Murray and McGuire had both failed to win the ball off Sampson on 53 minutes.
Seconds later Rhead headed on for Palmer in the box and Roche did just enough as he challenged Palmer as he tried to hook it over him, his touch conceding a corner.
The Shrimps won corner number seven on the hour which was cleared easily allowing Rhead and Daniel to quickly counter, Parrish producing a crucial tackle as Rhead tried to send Daniel clear.
The rain had been falling throughout the second half and the floodlights had to be switched on to help illuminate proceedings on a dank afternoon by the sea.
Fleming controlled a loose ball well in the box but miscued his finish to give Marriott as easy take wide of his right post.
At this point in the game, the visitors were starting to defend deeper and deeper on a cloying pitch, inviting pressure.
Edwards went down with an audible scream of pian when clattered by Rhead though was quick to jump up soon after, the Stags striker lectured.
Rhead’s stray elbow caused more consternation as he jumped with Kenyon on 64 minutes, leaving the Morecambe man with a nosebleed, the yellow card produced but Stags relieved to see no red.
With 20 minutes to go, Morecambe made a double change as top scorer Amond and Beeley came on for Sampson and Parrish.
Rhead was clearly fouled on 73 minutes, but the home side did not agree and keeper Roche was booked for angrily kicking the ball away.
Daniel eventually took the kick from 25 yards out and again sent a scorcher on target, this time Roche happy to palm it away for a corner, from which Tafazolli nodded tamely wide.
Marriott clearly appeared to be shoved at Morecambe’s next corner, the ball thankfully bouncing through everyone and going wide of the far post as, had anyone put it in the net, it would have stood and Stags would have been furious.
Amond put in a decent cross from the left on 77 minutes which Ellison jumped well to reach only to power his header straight at Marriott.
With 12 minutes to go Murray launched a free kick to the far post where Rhead met it with what looked like the perfect headed finish back across the keeper like at Hartlepool last week. But Roche did supremely well to dive to his left and somehow manage to claw it away for a corner.
The referee again had to get involved as Ellison dumped Tafazolli to the turf after he had shepherded the ball out for a goalkick, the cards again staying in the pocket.
But on 83 minutes the inevitable red card that had been brewing all game was shown to Fleming as he slid into Murray with studs showing.
The home side were incensed and players from both sides were squaring up with arguments also raging in the technical areas.
Ellison was eventually booked with 85 minutes showing for dissent.
Sutton tripped Threlfall in full flight a minute later to see a deserved yellow card, Murray also added for something he said.
Mustoe and Clucas came on for their respective sides on 87 minutes and within a minute Mustoe clattered into Clucas to see the game’s eighth yellow card.
One minute into the eight minutes added, Clucas was also booked for delaying the game.
Amond flicked a header wide from a long cross as we reached the sixth of the eight long minutes of stoppage time in which Stags tried to waste as much time as possible.
Then Hughes stretched out a leg to meet a Mustoe cross and the ball looped up and over Marriott but onto the roof of the net.
Agonisingly Morecambe a corner in the last of the minutes which Stags laboured to clear, the whistle finally sounding once it was hacked away to signal three more precious points won at the end of a bruising encounter.
MORECAMBE: Roche, Threlfall (Mustoe 87), Keynon, Hughes, Redshaw, Sampson (Amond 70), Ellison, Devitt, Fleming, Parrish (Beeley 70), Edwards. Subs not used: Arestidou, Diagne, Williams. STAGS: Marriott; Sutton, Riley, Tafazolli; Beevers (Westlake 4mins), Murray, Stevenson, McGuire, Westlake; Rhead, Palmer (Clucas 87). Subs not used: Dempster, Briscoe, Speight, Clements, Meikle. REFEREE: Darren Deadman of Cambridgeshire.
ATTENDANCE: 1,772 (345 away).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Ritchie Sutton.