Stags fan could be forgiven for wondering where this team has been hiding as Mansfield saved their best away performance until the end, strolling to a 3-0 win at Port Vale.
They could have been further ahead than the two-goal cushion they established in the first period but the lead they did have was fully deserved for a dominant showing.With just 10 minutes played Stephen McLaughlin drilled in the opening goal.
After countless slips from both sets of players on the sodden turf, it was always likely to pay dividends if anyone could use the pace on the pitch to their advantage. And McLaughlin did just that.
Close to 30 yards from goal, he sent an unerring shot skimming across the ground, beyond Vale keeper Scott Brown and into the bottom corner.
And it was almost 2-0 within a minute when James Clarke sent a shot narrowly over the bar.
Town went closer still on 13 minutes. McLaughlin teased a free-kick into the box and Jordan Bowery’s glancing header was almost perfect but clipped the outside of the far post with Brown helpless.
Bowery had two further chances in quick succession. After his shot on the turn was deflected over, he was denied by Brown’s smart save when Ollie Clarke threaded a ball through for him.
It was Stephen Quinn who finally doubled the lead, but the goal was all about the brilliant assist by George Lapslie.
He intercepted Shaun Brisley’s pass in midfield and charged half the length of the pitch, drawing in Brown before laying it into Quinn’s path for a simple finish from six yards.
The Valiants did rally before the break though, and McLaughlin brilliantly cleared Harry McKirdy’s chip off the line, with Devante Rodney’s follow-up deflected just wide.
And in stoppage time, Alex Hurst produced a brilliant long-range effort that crashed back off Jamie Pardington’s crossbar.
As the second half got under way James Clarke had to react quickly to snuff out the danger with a fine block to thwart Hurst after Pardington had parried Tom Conlon’s shot.
And on 63 minutes McLaughlin sealed the Stags’ win with a delightful free kick, stroking it neatly into the bottom corner of the goal.
Perhaps the only disappointment for the Irishman was that he was denied a hat-trick by Brown from an identical situation shortly after.
Trying to find the opposite corner he forced Brown into an excellent stop at full-length.
Substitutes Harry Charsley and Jason Law could also have added Mansfield’s fourth but each was wasteful and should have done better.
To get too critical about such matters after such a fine team performance would be churlish, though.
It was a job well done for Nigel Clough’s men as they saw out their fourth victory in five games to end a tricky campaign on a real high note.
Port Vale: Brown, Olagunju (Whitehead 57), Smith, Brisley, McKirdy (Swan 67), Hurst (Worrall 67), Joyce (Robinson 67), Conlon, Burgess, Pope (Amoo 67), Rodney. Subs not used: Guthrie, Scott.
Mansfield: Pardington, J Clarke, Sweeney, Perch, McLaughlin (Charles 82), O Clarke (Charsley 75), Maris (Ward 82), Lapslie, Quinn (Law 50), Sinclair, Bowery (Reid 75). Subs not used: Gordon, Stone.
Referee: Sam Allison.
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