BEN Hutchinson’s early goal proved enough to secure all three points for Mansfield Town against Southport at the One Call Stadium this afternoon.
Hutchinson’s second minute strike eased any nerves Stags may have had playing at home after a couple of poor results, though decent performances.
Indeed, in that first half Stags played with confidence and flair and Nick Wright could have had a hat-trick by the interval.
With no second goal arriving, nerves occasionally jangled after the break. However, Stags held on for only their third win in 10 games.
The Stags were unchanged on the day. That meant fit-again Jake Speight and Adam Murray along with last season’s top scorer, Matt Green, had to be content with a place on the bench.
Stags made the perfect start to the afternoon with a goal after just 93 seconds.
Meikle began the move after winning a superb tackle on Whalley deep in the Stags’ half. Wright and Briscoe swapped passes and Wright got the right by-line before drilling a powerful low ball across the box which flew toward Hutchinson who had time to control before smashing the ball into the net from just six yards out.
Wright then tested McMillan with a low finish on seven minutes after another series of swift one-touch passing, also involving Briscoe and Hutchinson as the home side made one of their brightest starts for a while.
Southport tried to get back into the contest and Whalley had a shot blocked by Clements while Tames blazed a low ball across the six yard box from the right but was unable to find a team mate.
The Sandgrounders were furious on 12 minutes when Whalley went down in the box under Dempster’s challenge and the referee booked Whalley with the player screaming for a penalty.
Meikle again did well to win the ball during some Southport pressure and then break quickly down the middle. He finally released Wright to his left who cut inside only to let himself down with an horrendously sliced finish.
Geohaghon was booked for blocking Whalley on 21 minutes, though it looked like the Southport man had played for it, and Moogan was too high with the 25 yard free kick.
An ambitious Hutchinson was wide with an quick shot from 20 yards as he tried to catch McMillan off guard.
The visitors were almost level on 28 minutes as Tames sent a glancing header wide at the far post from Whalley’s free kick with Tames complaining he had been impeded.
But it was the home side playing some highly attractive stuff and when Clements curled a good ball across the box, Howell looked to be coming in at the far post at just the right time to finish before Wright intervened with a flicked header wide.
Stags then broke quickly again when a Southport free kick was cleared and this time Wright showed electric pace down the centre to get into a shooting position before sidefooting a finish too near the keeper to beat him.
Briscoe overhit his next cross, which Meikle rescued beyond the other post, and the ball eventually fell to Beevers who was well off target with his finish from the edge of the box.
Had Tames’ first touch been better from Moogan’s through ball been better two minutes into the second half, Southport might have been quickly level.
But Wright came even closer a minute later for Mansfield as Clements floated the most inviting of crosses from the right and Wright’s glancing header from six yards somehow passed wide from just six yards.
Sutton did well to swap passes with Briscoe to break into the box but then sent a tame low ball straight to the keeper.
Howell rose well to head a Clements free kick straight at the keeper as Stags continued to search for that killer second.
Another Tames break into the home box looked menacing. But his first touch was heavy and Geohaghon was able to concede a corner.
Clements was added to the book for a 53rd minute foul on Moogan which almost led to an equaliser. Moogan floated in the free kick and Grand found himself all alone for a free header from seven yards which he somehow planted wide.
Already booked, Clements might have been sent off on 62 minutes when he caught Parry Late 20 yards from goal, the referee thankfully keeping his cards in his pocket and Moogan too high with the free kick.
Soon after he was given a final warning for another foul as the youngster walked a tightrope.
Good control from Briscoe saw him lay off a quick pass to Meikle who, spotting the keeper off his line, tried a quick lob but lifted the ball over the angle.
Sensibly, Murray went on for Clements with 19 minutes to go.
Stags’ defence had to block two quickfire shots, the visitors complaining the second hit Dempster’s hand.
A great flick and turn by Hutchinson saw him draw warm applause as he won a corner which Murray over-hit.
Hutchinson flicked a header over from a Briscoe free kick as the clock ticked down with the home side holding onto a slender lead.
Murray was cautioned for his challenge on Lever six minutes from the end.
Howell was then just unable to finish a superb move involving a great exchange of passes between Meikle and Hutchinson on the left.
Speight did well to control a clearance on the halfway line, turn well and beat three men before lifting a finish over from 20 yards.
With the fourth official’s electronic board not working, it was announced over the tannoy that four minutes had been added on.
Dempster conceded a free kick near the home side’s left corner flag in the second of those which Hutchinson headed clear.
With the last kick, Geohaghon headed clear a Whalley free kick with the home fans holding their collective breath.
It was a nervous finish but Stags held on comfortably against a side that failed to find a shot on target all afternoon.
STAGS: Redmond; Sutton, Dempster, Geohaghon, Beevers; Briscoe, Howell, Clements (Murray 71), Meikle; Hutchinson; Wright (Speight 66). Subs not used: Thompson, Green, Rhead.
SOUTHPORT: McMillan; Lynch, Parry, Smith, Grand, Lever; Whalley, Benjamin (Almond 65), Moogan (Chalmers 88), Ledsham (Stephenson 79); Tames. Subs not used: Hibbert, Willis.
REFEREE: Declan Ford of Lincoln.
ATTENDANCE: 1,918 (83 away).