AT last Mansfield Town gave their suffering home fans something to cheer today as they scored four times to see off Newport County and book a place in the FA Trophy Round Three at windswept Field Mill on Satuurday, reports John Lomas.
Tuesday night’s 5-2 home hammering by Fleetwood and a recent record of one win and one draw in seven home games resulted in only just over a thousand home fans turning out on a cold, windy afternoon.
But those that did must have been pinching them at half-time as Mansfield looked to have all but won the tie already with Paul Connor taking his season’s total to 12 with goals on 12 and 22 minutes before he set up Keigan Parker for the third on 38 minutes.
The Exiles were struggling to find a way back in until Gary Silk, in trying to head out for a corner, found his own net on 59 minutes.
Mansfield lost their way for a while as Newport pressed and the gap was reduced to a single goal when Robbie Matthews headed home at the far post 10 minutes from time.
Thankfully Louis Briscoe calmed home nerves with a match-clinching fourth on 84 minutes as, for once, Stags left the Field Mill pitch to applause and smiling faces.
The Mansfield side saw five changes from the midweek humiliation against Fleetwood.
The first change was in goal where Neil Collet was given his second chance of the season as Luton Town did not want on-loan Kevin Pilkington cup-tied.
Tom Naylor (hamstring) and Rob Duffy (suspended) were also automatically ruled out while Ryan Williams and Kyle Nix were dropped to the bench.
Paul Stonehouse came in at left back to allow Kevin Sandwith to move across to partner Steve Foster in the centre. Briscoe took over from Williams on the wing, Thompson from Nix in the centre and top scorer Connor up front in place of Duffy.
Stags signed goalkeeping coach Chris Adamson on as cover for the bench today but illness confined him to home, leaving Mansfield without cover between the posts.
Visiting Newport, who has Tim Harris in charge as caretaker manager after Dean Holdsworth’s midweek departure, and had Gary Warren and Jamie Collins suspended.
Before kick-off a minute’s silence was observed for the late Richard Butcher, the former Notts County and Macclesfield striker whose untimely death provided such a shock last week.
The game began in high, blustery wind and it soon played its part in some messy defending by Mansfield which ended in a corner from which Connor kicked away Fowler’s header from in front of goal.
Soon after Foley tumbled in the Mansfield box but won only a corner.
But the Stags were ahead on 12 minutes, turning defence into attack after Sandwith cut out a low Reid cross.
Stags broke down the middle and Murray’s pass sent Parker on his way. The keeper got a hand to his low finish which turned it onto the post, but Connor was there to stab home the rebound.
Collett made his first major contribution when he confidently punched away a free kick.
Connor almost doubled his tally but just failed to get his head on an excellent Cain cross.
The young winger put another good ball in which Murray controlled and fired goalwards and Connor helped it on, but the wrong wide of the post.
But Connor did find the net again on 22 minutes. Briscoe switched play to the right towards Parker who cross low in front of goal and Connor was on hand to poke past Thompson from close range.
Collett was down to his right to turn aside Rose’s 20 yard free kick on 26 minutes. And soon after he made a superb point blank range save to deny Matthews though an offside flag was raised after Rose had initially drilled the ball across.
The visitors won another corner which sparked an almighty scramble in front of goal and ended with Fowler lifting the ball over for a goalkick as he screamed for a corner.
Stags went direct for goal number three on 38 minutes. Connor helped on Collett’s long kick to send Parker clear and he dispatched a powerful low finish from 15 yards.
Murray was booked for persistent fouling and soon after he was brought down by Todd after turning him with a near bit of skill to even up the cautions.
The rattled Exiles made two changes at the break, sending on Hughes and Rogers for McDonald and Odhiambo.
Parker might have made it 4-0 in the first minute of the second half but, after racing away onto Connor’s through ball, the ball bobbled as he tried to chip Thompson and his finish sailed over the bar.
County might have pulled one back from a 51st minute Rose corner but Todd headed over from 10 yards after no one picked him up.
Morgan was late with his challenge on Cain on 55 minutes to earn himself a booking.
But Morgan was instrumental in opening Newport’s account on 59 minutes. A partially cleared corner came out to Morgan 25 yards out who shot powerfully at goal and saw Silk get a head on it but only able to divert it high into his own net with Collett unable to adjust.
Collett seemed to be charged by an opponent after catching a free kick shortly afterwards and dropped the ball, sparking momentary panic, Connor blocking one effort before it was finally hooked clear.
Clearly encouraged, the visitors came close again as Foley fired a first time 18 yard effort over from a headed clearance.
Then Collett was down again to his left to block Morgan’s low effort from outside the box.
A similar chance presented itself to sub Rogers but he sliced the ball well over goal to the jeers of the home fans.
Morgan limped off injured 11 minutes from the end which brought summer Stags transfer target Knights into the action for Newport.
A minute later the Welsh side were right back in the tie.
Rose sent his corner long from the right, Reid played it right back across the face of goal from beyond the far post and Matthews was there to head in on the other post.
Collett as quickly and bravely down at the feet of Reid after a stumble by Silk almost let the visitors in again.
Anxiety levels were fast rising among the home fans as Stags hung on in a game that looked so comfortably won at half-time
However, Connor almost wrapped things up as he powered a close range header at goal from Cain’s curling right wing cross only to see Thompson pull off a superb save.
Instead the final nail in the Exiles’ coffin came on 84 minutes came from Briscoe, who had had a quiet afternoon.
The winger cut in from the left and from 20 yards drilled in an unstoppable low finish beyond Thompson’s grasping fingers.
Nix was booked for his foul on Rose in the four minutes of added time.
And soon after Collett crowned a decent afternoon with a great reaction save to turn over a Todd header at the far post from a right wing free kick.
There was still time for Rose to curl a free kick over the home wall and wide.
STAGS: Collett; Silk, Foster, Sandwith, Stonehouse; Cain, Murray, T. Thompson, Briscoe; Connor (Nix 85), Parker. Subs not used: Williams, Medley, Smith, Mitchley.
NEWPORT: G. Thompson; Bignot, Fowler, Todd, McDonald (Hughes HT); Morgan Knights 79), Rose, Odhiambo (Rogers HT), Morgan, Foley; Reid, Matthews. Subs not used: Garner, Leary.
REFEREE: Andrew Madley of West Yorkshire.
ATTENDANCE: 1,137 (121 away).
CAUTIONS: Stags – Murray 39mins, Nix 90(+2)mins. Newport – Odhiamo 42mins, Morgan 55mins.
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Paul Connor.