MANSFIELD Town slumped to a 2-1 Boxing day home local derby defeat by rivals Alfreton Town in driving rain at the One Call Stadium today.
It was Stags’ first loss at home since the 4-3 setback against Newport on the opening day of the season and, apart from the York extra-time play-off defeat, was only their second home loss in 2012.
John Dempster cheered the bumper 4,186 crowd with the opening goal on 35 minutes for Paul Cox’s men.
But sloppy defending allowed Paul Clayton to level it within two minutes before Ben Tomlinson grabbed a 57th minute winner on a sodden surface on which it was hard to play decent football.
That meant the game never reached the heights of the two goal feasts last season in which Stags achieved the double over their neighbours.
However, this time it was Stags’ Derbyshire local rivals who took the honours with the battle resume in the return at the Impact Arena on New Year’s Day following the home clash with high-flying Grimsby this coming Saturday.
Stags were certainly far from their best, but poor home boss Paul Cox even had some boos and shouts to go so soon after he was the hero of the town last week for booking the FA Cup tie with Liverpool.
Cox made one change, bringing in Ritchie Sutton at right back in place of John Thompson to cope with the expected pace of former Stags winger Nathan Arnold down the left.
Mansfield began the day in eighth place, 14 points off top spot with four games in hand and four points off the play-offs with a game in hand.
The visitors showed some early signs of feeling the pressure with Franks making a panicked clearance to offer Beevers the chance to put in a long throw.
Franks then hurled in a long throw of his own which Alfreton fans behind the goal felt bounced up onto the hand of Howell in the box and shouted unsuccessfully for a penalty.
Stags responded with more pressure, the Reds clearing two long throws before Howell headed well wide from a third, sent in by Geohaghon from the right.
There was danger for Stags on 17 minutes when Alfreton broke well with Arnold racing away down the left and then trying to pick out an unmarked Bradley to his right in the box, Meikle tracking back well to intercept the cross with a calm header back to Marriott.
Hutchinson curled a disappointing cross-cum-shot over the far angle in the home side’s next raid.
On 22 minutes we finally got a shot on target as Barnes threw himself to his left to turn aside Clements’ 25-yard piledriver, which looked to be heading for the top corner.
Briscoe’s through ball then sent Green racing clear only to see his shooting chance vanish as he tried to cut inside Killock to make a better angle and the defender did enough to make him turn away.
The ball eventually went to Meikle who was low and wide of the near post.
Stags’ third corner by Clements, from the left, curled through everyone and did appear to cross the line inside the far post before it was hacked clear.
Alfreton broke dangerously again on what was becoming a sodden surface from the incessant rain, this time Beevers putting in a superb tackle to halt Bradley’s run.
Arnold gave home fans a reminder of his capabilities when he cut back inside Geohaghon to fire in a shot that took a big deflection that looped over the bar.
From the corner Clayton sneaked in for a near post flicked header that bounced towards goal and had to be cleared off the line by Sutton.
But it was the home side who grabbed a 35th minute lead.
Beevers put in a dangerous cross from the left which saw Green go up with the keeper right in front of goal and do enough to see the ball roll loose for Dempster to prod home from close range.
But the lead lasted less than two minutes as the home defence went to sleep from a free kick which Law floated in and Clayton, gifted a free header, planted the ball out of reach of Marriott.
The derby was fully alight now and Hutchinson’s ball into space on the right saw Green win the race to the ball before slicing into the sidenetting.
In the last minute of the half Sutton was booked for hauling down Arnold near the halfway line as the winger tried to launch another break.
The half ended all square after one extra minute of play and then ground staff came out to fork in some of the standing water that had begun to accumulate in the dreadful weather.
Hutchinson crashed in the first shot of the second half, the ball seeming to deflect wide for a corner but only a goalkick given.
After 10 minutes of the half, Cox elected to make a change up front, sacrificing the guile of Hutchinson for the bulk of Rhead.
But two minutes later Stags found themselves in arrears for the first time.
Geohaghon felt he was pushed in the back on the right corner of the box as he was out-muscled to the ball by Tomlinson, who then ran on to stroke a low finish inside the far post with Stags players screaming at the linesman.
Clayton’s name was added to the book on 61 minutes for leaving his foot in as Marriott raced out his box to kick clear.
On an increasingly difficult surface, more and more passes were going astray as Stags struggled to get any momentum going with a few boos starting to ring out from the impatient home fans.
Tempers rose on 71 minutes when Green had to ride a nasty lunge from Franks and players squared up, pushing and shoving,
Eventually Franks and Green were both shown a yellow card.
Green was narrowly wide with an 18-yard half-volley on 74 minutes and soon after pulled another low effort well wide from 20 yards.
On 77 minutes Speight replaced Briscoe as Stags pushed three up front. And four minutes later Stevenson took over from Clements, a move that drew a few more boos from the stand as Clements had been doing well.
Rhead’s flick set up Speight for a ferocious shot two minutes from time which Barnes beat away for a corner as the Reds hung on.
Indeed, they might have grabbed a third on the break as Mansfield threw everything forward, Tomlinson firing a low shot wide after a great run and Clayton lashing the ball across the face of goal soon afterwards.
Alfreton, who were obviously in no rush with anything, made two changes in the last minute before it was announced six minutes would be added on.
Green had two late chances to earn a point. But he volleyed acrobatically over from a Geohaghon nod-down and then curled well over from 25 yards as the afternoon ended in disappointment.
STAGS: Marriott; Sutton, Dempster, Geohaghon, Beevers; Briscoe (Speight 77), Howell, Clements (Stevenson 81), Meikle; Hutchinson (Rhead 55), Green. Subs not used: Thompson, Murray.
ALFRETON: Barnes, Law, Quinn, Brown, Clayton, Bradley, Arnold (Wilson 90+5), Franks, Russell, Tomlinson (Emerton 90), Killock. Subs not used: Taylor, Meadows, Harriott.
REFEREE: Seb Stocksbridge of County Durham.