Stags back to winning ways - Eastbourne 1 Mansfield Town 3, Saturday 8th January

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A NEW-look Mansfield Town got the club back to winning ways with two goals in the last 16 minutes at struggling Eastbourne Borough on Saturday afternoon, reports John Lomas.

With a side showing six changes, this was by no means a silky display from the Stags, reeling from those two dreadful defeats last weekend.

But they dug in, worked hard and made the long journey home with maximum spoils after sentencing Borough to their sixth straight loss and 12th game without a win.

After the previous two results, one of the lowest ever number of Stags away fans, barely breaking into three figures, braved the long haul to the south coast.

But those that did saw Kyle Nix head the only goal of a scrappy first half.

Borough were level through Jamie Taylor on 54 minutes and Kevin Pilkington had a couple of smart saves to make while Gary Silk had to clear off the line as the desperate home side pressed.

However, Adam Murray edged Mansfield back in front on 74 minutes before Keigan Parker crowned his best display in a Mansfield shirt with the third in time added on.

Parker was delighted as he had missed two great chances earlier in the game.

It was just the tonic boss Duncan Russell needed ahead of Tuesday’s visit of Fleetwood.

The Stags side showed six changes, three enforced by injury.

With Rhys Day and Steve Cook both out with knocks, youngster Naylor and veteran Foster teamed up in the centre of defence.

There were changes too on both wings with Adam Smith injured and Louis Briscoe dropped, Williams making his first start of the season on the left and Cain in on the right for his first start of the season.

Nix replaced Steve Istead in central midfield and Parker took over from Connor up front.

Can provided some superb crosses while Williams worked hard, Nix sprayed some excellent passes about and grabbed a goal, Naylor and Foster largely looked solid with Naylor confident in carrying the ball forward, and Parker edged man of the match.

Stags, playing in a brand new all-navy blue kit, kicked off but caused their own problems in the second minute when Naylor was caught in possession trying to carry the ball out and Norwood whistled a shot wide of the near post.

A minute later Taylor tried to chip Pilkington from 20 yards out on the left of the box, but the keeper comfortably caught the ball.

A misplaced pass from Sandwith again encouraged a swift counter from the home side with Norwood again slicing wide of the near post.

But Parker missed an absolute sitter in the 10th minute for the visitors.

Cain curled in a delightful cross from the right and Parker looked a certain scorer but helped the ball over on the volley from right in front of goal.

Masterton, making his debut on loan from Crawley, drew applause from the home fans for a shot on the turn that flew wide.

At the other end Smart timed his sliding challenge perfectly to halt Parker’s burst into the box and, after keeper Banks had caught the corner, a swift counter saw Walker fire over

Eastbourne continued to cause problems and Walker scuffed an 18 yard shot at Pilkington.

On 21 minutes Masterton let fly from 35 yards with a dipping shot that almost crept under the bar and brought a good tip-over save out of Pilkington.

But a minute later the visitors took the lead. Cain was the provider with another quality cross from the right and Nix stooped to beat Banks with a close range header.

Sandwith sent Parker down the left behind full back Nelson but, after cutting into the box, his low cross was easily gathered by Banks.

Naylor nodded the ball over the far angle from a Nix corner on 41 minutes as Stags continued to look comfortable and apply the pressure.

Defender Elphick did well to put off Duffy as he tried to get a head onto Silk cross and subsequently limped off to be replaced by Baker.

Austin received the afternoon’s first caution for a cynical trip on Nix after the midfielder had gone past him in the centre circle.

Home keeper Banks eventually gathered Mansfield’s third corner in stoppage time as the visitors went in with the advantage.

Williams almost doubled the Stags’ advantage 70 seconds after the restart but hurried his first time shot wide when Silk’s long free kick was headed out to him.

Instead the home side drew level on 54 minutes. Jenkins crossed from the left and Taylor was allowed too much room to cushion a right footed finish wide of Pilkington.

Stung by this reply, Mansfield poured forward with new urgency and Sandwith had a low 20 yard shot saved at full stretch and then saw another effort blocked.

Afforded plenty of room on the right Walker cut inside two defenders before firing just over the home crossbar.

Matt Crabb was narrowly wide from 18 yards from a half-cleared corner as Eastbourne pressed again on the hour. And soon after sub Atkin threw himself at a Walker cross but his head was agonising inches from making contact in front of goal.

Medley took over from Williams on 65 minutes and four minutes later the visitors missed another golden opportunity.

Austin should have cut out Silk’s long ball forward but allowed the ball to squeeze past him and Parker was in on goal. But, instead of shooting, he tried to make a better angle, cut inside a defender and sidefooted his finish wide of a grateful Banks.

Murray was booked for his late tackle on Matt Crabb on 71 minutes. Masterton put the free kick into the box and Pilkington made another superb tip-over to keep out Nathan Crabb’s looping header.

Masterton was well over two minutes later as the home side looked the more likely to snatch a winner.

But it was Mansfield who stunned the home side with a second on 76 minutes. Medley’s poor control in the box saw the ball run to Murray who was onto it like a flash, turning and sweeping it low past Banks from 12 yards.

There was a scare soon after as Walker somehow managed to poke the ball between Pilkington and Naylor on the by-line and forced Silk to kick off the line. Then Smart was just wide from 18 yards as Stags failed to clear the ball far.

Taylor’s looping header had Pilkington stretching upwards but the ball cleared the keeper’s fingers and the bar.

Cain burst into the home box on the right and beat two men only to see his shot blocked for a corner.

The game entered four minutes of stoppage time and in the third of those Parker made it third time lucky as he finally got his goal.

Racing into the box on the right he easily went past two half-hearted challenges and then smashed a low finish from a tight angle under the keeper before celebrating with the away fans behind the goal.

EASTBOURNE: Banks, Austin, Masterton, M. Crabb, Elphick (Baker 44), Jenkins, Norwood (Atkins 52, M. Crabb 65), Nelson, Smart, Taylor, Weaker. Subs not used: Brinkhurst, Strevett.

STAGS: Pilkington; Silk, Foster, Naylor, Sandwith; Cain, Nix (Mills 87), Murray, Williams (Medley 65); Parker, Duffy (Connor 80). Subs not used: Collett, Stonehouse.

REFEREE: John Busby of Oxfordshire.

ATTENDANCE: 903.