TOP scorer Paul Connor was once again Mansfield Town’s hero with his stoppage time winner against battling bottom side Histon at Field Mill on Saturday afternoon.
Histon arrived with a record of 10 games without a win and rarely looked like scoring on the day, Neil Collett pocketing a clean sheet on his full league debut.
But Stags laboured to find a way through, despite dominating possession in a drab and frustrating game, until the second minute of stoppage time at the end when Connor headed his 13th goal of the season to break the Stutes’ hearts
Stags were unchanged which meant reserve keeper Collett kept his place following his fine display in the FA Trophy last weekend.
The game had survived two pitch inspections earlier in the day after a week of heavy frosts and it began with a bitter wind blowing across the ground.
In a tentative start Stags first threatened with a good run down the left by Connor only to see Briscoe unable to reach his square pass inside the box.
After an uneventful first 12 minutes, Stags forced the game’s first corner on the left which Murray prompt over-hit for a goalkick.
Two minutes later a superb curling through ball from Murray gave Parker sight of goal. The striker needed to hit it first time but tried instead to check inside a defender to create a better angle and was quickly crowded out and the moment was gone.
It took 20 minutes for a real threat on goal to materialise as Cain launched a hanging cross from the right to the far post where Connor rose to send a header back across goal only to see it come back off the top of the post.
Parker was wide at the far post from a lofted Briscoe ball forward, then Connor was well wide on the turn as the home side continued to plug away, looking for the opener.
On 32 minutes Briscoe forced Welch into a flying save to his left to turn aside a powerful shot after Briscoe had come inside from the left unchallenged.
Next, Stonehouse went on a good run down the left, checked inside and drilled a low shot wide, the ball passing just too far in front of Connor to get what would have been a decisive touch in front of goal.
It took Histon 39 minutes to fashion a chance as Atwood blazed a 25 yard free kick well over and soon after Briscoe was too high with a free kick from a similar range for Mansfield.
Histon almost stole a march on the Stags seven minutes into a lacklustre second half as Mills was allowed to run between three opponents and poke a low shot goalwards which needed Collett to dive full length to his left to turn away.
Clerima was booked for bringing down Parker whose disappointing afternoon was brought to an early end soon after when he was replaced by Mitchley, Parker clearly upset by the decision to withdraw him.
The visitors suffered a blow on 64 minutes when midfielder Attwood stayed down after a challenge with Silk in agony and was eventually stretchered off.
Mansfield were struggling to get going and might have been punished on 69 minutes when Stevenson got a glancing header wide onto a Smith corner, the Stutes’ fourth of the half after not winning one in the first 45 minutes.
Foster headed powerfully wide from a Cain corner on 73 minutes.
The biggest cheer of the afternoon so far came when it was announced there were eight Histon fans in the crowd of 1,880.
Cain provided Stags’ best moment of the half to date as he raced away down the right just inside the Histon half, cut inside and fired over from 18 yards.
But Thompson was well wide a few minutes later after being found lurking just outside the box from Cain’s square pass.
Nix replaced Murray for the final eight minutes. But Stags continued to labour.
A minute from time a far post corner reached Sandwith who knocked the ball to the near post where Silk poked first time wide.
It seemed Histon were going to escape with a hard-earned point. But they had reckoned without goal ace Connor.
Nix sent in a right wing corner in the second of four stoppage time minutes and Connor buried an unstoppable header past Welch from six yards.
As Histon pushed forward desperately Mitchley broke clear with no offside flag only to see Welch deny him with his legs with the four minutes up. But it didn’t matter as the points were in the bag.
STAGS: Collett; Silk, Sandwith, Foster, Stonehouse; Cain, Thompson, Adam Murray (Nix 82), Briscoe; Parker (Mitchley 54), Connor. Subs not used: Pilkington, Naylor, Istead.
HISTON: Welch; Okay, Oyebanjo, Clerima, Mills; Smith, Wootton, Stevenson, Attwood (Sparkes 64); Rize, Antonio Murray. Subs not used: Lawton, Taffe, Livermore, Okojie.
REFEREE: Ross Joyce of Middlesbrough.