MANSFIELD Town revved up for their big midweek FA Cup replay with Lincoln with a comprehensive 4-1 home win over Ebbsfleet United this afternoon.
With all the talk of Lincoln and Liverpool, it was vital the Stags didn’t take their eye off the promotion battle today. And they came through this game with flying colours, backed by some enthusiastic noisy support from the stands on a freezing afternoon.
It was also sweet revenge for the 3-1 loss at Ebbsfleet earlier in the season when Stags felt aggrieved by a red card for Matt Green.
So it was appropriate Green put the seal on the win with a 78th minute penalty.
The outstanding Ben Hutchinson had put Stags ahead on 15 minutes only for Liam Enver-Marum to level against the run of play nine minutes later.
However, Louis Briscoe’s deflected effort restored Mansfield’s advantage on 36 minutes as Stags dominated the game.
Anthony Howell’s low shot made it 3-1 on 70 minutes to give breathing space before Green crowned a good afternoon’s work for Mansfield.
Alan Marriott made his long-awaited return in goal. Marriott had been sidelined with a dislocated shoulder since late September but was declared fit to replace Shane Redmond.
Anthony Howell also came into central midfield to replace skipper Adam Murray, who has been ill all week.
Hutchinson won Stags a second minute free kick, centrally just outside the box, which Clements sent straight into the Ebbsfleet wall.
Mansfield had begun the game well and quickly forced three corners on the trot without being able to test keeper Edwards.
Indeed, the first shot came from United as Enver-Marum broke down the left, Dempster missing his tackle as the striker got away a deflected shot that Marriott reached up to comfortably take.
Clements was well wide at the other end soon after from 25 yards.
Ebbsfleet defended a long thrown and another corner before the game was held up for a second time for treatment to Bellamy, who was angry when the referee refused to allow him to walk across the pitch and made him go off near where he was injured, leaving the visitors temporarily with 10 men.
He was finally replaced by Azeez on 13 minutes.
Fleet almost struck soon after when they put a short corner into the six-yard box, where the ball bounced through everyone for a goalkick,
Instead it was Mansfield who went ahead on 15 minutes.
Briscoe’s backheel found Green who laid the ball inside to Clements. He shaped to shoot but instead squared the ball to Hutchinson who took the finish in his stride, curling the ball wide of a rooted Edwards from just outside the box.
Azeez’s run won Ebbsfleet a free kick at which the home wall did its job, blocking Godden’s kick and then Carew’s follow-up.
Clements’ pass put Green in space on the right where, from a tight angle, he forced Edwards down into a save, the ball then hooked clear for the first of two corners as Stags kept the pressure firmly on.
Green was constant torment to United and, when Meikle sent him into space, he lured two defenders before firing over the bar.
However, Fleet levelled against the run of play on 24 minutes from the goalkick. Edwards launched it long down the centre, Godden helped it on, and Enver-Marum got to it fractionally before Dempster to stab a low finish past an exposed Marriott.
Green did well to win the ball at full stretch to the right of the box to nudge it towards Briscoe whose ambitious low blast from a tight angle was wide of the far post.
From a Geohaghon clearance, Walsh was even more ambitious, crashing a first time effort well over from 45 yards.
Mansfield had continued to plug away, despite the shock of the equaliser, and were rewarded on 36 minutes.
Hutchinson found Meikle on the left who sent a deep cross towards an unmarked Briscoe. He met it with a half-volley that took a deflection off Stone before flying past Edwards into the net.
Edwards made a double save on 42 minutes to keep United in touch at the break. Hutchinson’s ball set Green on his way down the left before cutting inside and shooting low, Edwards down to his left to block the first shot and then there again to keep out Hutchinson’s follow-up.
In the first raid after the break, Meikle’s cross was just too far in front of Green for him to be able to finish.
Then Hutchinson got too much under a first time snapshot when a Beevers throw was cleared to him and sliced it well over the bar.
United suffered a blow six minutes into the half when keeper Edwards had to go off injured. No one saw the incident but it looked to be a hand problem.
On came German-born Canadian keeper Menz in his place.
A deft flick by Howell on the edge of the box helped a low ball in on to Briscoe behind him whose vicious angled shot was held onto by Menz.
Enver-Marum was off target with a near post header from an Azeez right wing cross as we reached the 65th minute mark.
Azeez and the away bench were then screaming for a penalty after going down under Green’s challenge in the box with nothing given.
Instead it was 3-1 on 70 minutes. Howell picked up the ball midway in the Ebbsfleet half and, with Briscoe making what became a dummy run outside, him, Howell instead rifled a low 20 yard finish from just outside the box which crept inside the post.
Soon after Green thought he was away but up went an offside flag, the striker’s protests earning him a booking.
Blake was also booked on 74 minutes for halting Briscoe with a foul on the right. Clements launched the free kick into the box where Howell nodded just wide at the far post.
It was all over with 12 minutes left as Green made it 4-1 from the spot.
Hutchinson drew the foul from Walsh to earn the kick which saw green exact some revenge for his disputed red card at Ebbsfleet as he sent Menz the wrong way with a confident low finish.
Fleet forced two corners in response, Barrett’s header on the second carrying no threat to Marriott.
Stevenson was given the final nine minutes in place of Hutchinson and immediately pulled a low shot wide of the near post from 25 yards.
Speight took over from Green on 83 minutes with Wright also getting a run-out for Briscoe four minutes from the end of a highly satisfying afternoon.
STAGS: Marriott; Thompson, Dempster, Geohaghon, Beevers; Briscoe (Wright 86), Clements, Howell, Meikle; Hutchinson (Stevenson 81), Green (Speight 83). Subs not used: Sutton, Rhead.
EBBSFLEET: Edwards (Menz 51); Stone, Blake, Walsh, Howe; Bellamy (Azeez 13), Barrett, Phipp, Carew; Enver-Marum (Ashikodi 83), Godden. Subs not used: Greenhalgh, Folkes.
REFEREE: Brett Huxtable of Devon.
ATTENDANCE: 1,845 (44 away).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Ben Hutchinson.