Ebbsfleet 0 Mansfield Town 3, Saturday 28th January

STAR man Gary Roberts netted twice as Mansfield Town continued their current fine run of form with a splendid 3-0 success at Ebbsfleet United that keeps play-off hopes firmly alive.

The win meant Stags moved up to ninth but just four points off the play-off spots with a game in hand.

It was a sixth game unbeaten and the first league away win in nine since the victory at Wrexham in late October, though Stags had only lost one of those nine games.

After the midweek draw at Luton, Stags boss Paul Cox had been keen to stress how much of a banana skin this game at mid-table Ebbsfleet could be.

But he needn’t have worried as first half strikes from Matt Green and Roberts all but sealed a win as Stags thoroughly dominated.

To their credit Ebbsfleet dug in and fought back hard after the break with Mansfield having a lot of defending to do.

Late on Ross Dyer wasted two good chances to ease the pressure before Roberts settled it deep into stoppage time at the end.

It was the first time Mansfield had managed back to back clean sheets since that early season unbeaten run.

New boy Paul Edwards had to be content with a place on the bench as Stags remained from Wednesday’s 0-0 draw at Luton.

Hutchinson almost gave Stags a lead after only 26 seconds, allowed room outside the box to whip in a low finish that passed narrowly wide of the left post.

Soon after Green got to the right by-line where he tried to pull a low ball back and saw the ball hit the hand of Lorraine as he slid in to block. But it was ball to hand and no penalty was given.

A great move between Roberts and Hutchinson saw Mambo make a great tackle on Roberts in the box as the home side creaked under Mansfield’s early probing.

United finally threatened on 10 minutes a loose clearance in the Stags box saw Dempster given the ball to Enver-Marum only to see his low shot hit fallen team mate Willock before it could test Marriott.

On 13 minutes Enver-Marum put a dangerous low ball across the box where only Willock was waiting but unable to reach it.

Willock was also just short of reaching the ball as he jumped for a right wing cross by Stone.

A poor ball in the box from Dempster gifted the ball to Enver-Marum who saw his shot deflect wide for a corner at the near post.

Stags had let their early momentum ease off and had allowed the home side into the game.

So it was a relief when on 22 minutes Stags took the lead through goal machine Green.

It was route one stuff, too, as Marriott’s long kick was helped on by Dyer towards Green who lashed a low right-footed finish inside the left post.

A minute later Green went down under challenge from Phipp in the box but again the referee waved play on.

United came close on 27 minutes as Pinney was stronger in the tackle then Murray just outside the box and squared the ball to Enver-Marum for a low shot that Marriott got down to gather.

Ebbsfleet won their second corner of the game on 33 minutes from which Stags broke quickly, Murray finding Roberts whose pass offered Hutchinson a chance that Edwards did well to turn away with a good save.

Edwards was also in he way of a rasping low 20 yard drive from Roberts after Dyer had done well to retrieve a lost cause near the corner flag.

Phipp was also straight at Marriott from 25 yards after Murray had failed to get any distance on a clearance.

But on 38 minutes Roberts doubled Stags’ lead with a high quality finish.

Green and Hutchinson worked the ball to Roberts 20 yards from goal and he made space before rifling in a superb low right-footed finish that gave Edwards no chance.

Mambo was booked for bringing down Roberts 30 yards from goal on 45 minutes which then saw O’Neill curl a free kick over the wall and bar.

In stoppage time Willock wasn’t far away with a surprise half volley from 30 yards when he spotted Marriott off his line.

But Mansfield went into the break with a comfortable and deserved 2-0 advantage.

In the opening minute of the second half we had a hold-up for treatment to Barrett after he felt the full force of a tackle by Roberts.

On 53 minutes Riley conceded a foul five yards outside the box for which he was fouled and West’s ferocious free kick found it way on target, Marriott down to make the save.

Green, already carrying a knock for a couple of games, was clearly in pain after a challenge and, with Stags in command, it was decided to replace him with Briscoe just 10 minutes into the half.

On 58 minutes Smith hauled down Phipp to earn himself a caution, neither Marriott nor Dempster dealing with the free kick as it came at the first time of asking, but no Fleet player close enough to punish them.

On 65 minutes Hutchinson worked himself an opening on the right from a tight angle which was blocked, Briscoe crashing the follow-up straight at Edwards.

Marriott had to get down well to his right to block an unexpected Enver-Marum shot from 35 yards.

Desperate Ebsfleet peppered the visitors’ goal with Enver-Marum and sub Azeez off target.

A rare loose pass by Roberts gifted Ebbsfleet possession which saw Enver-Marum’s shot take a nasty deflection and loop up and over Marriott, thankfully bouncing wide for a corner.

Stags survived two home corners as Fleet built up a head of steam, then Enver-Marum headed tamely at goal before Stags gave themselves a much-needed energy boost for the last 12 minutes with the introduction of Meikle for Smith.

Almost immediately he set up an 81st minute sitter for Dyer with an inch-perfect cross which Dyer somehow headed wide from six yards.

Dyer had worked so hard all afternoon with some sterling defensive work. But, like last week, it was a chance he should have put away.

On 83 minutes one of the home side’s most fluent passing moves ended with Enver-Marum firing into the sidenetting.

Howell replaced Hutchinson for the final six minutes with the finishing line in sight.

As we entered the last minute, Meikle took a pass in the box, drew two defenders and squared to his right where Dyer, in space, saw his first time shot hit the outside of the post.

Four minutes were added on at the end in which Sutton was booked for taking his time over a throw.

But the visitors put the icing on the cake with a third goal in the final minute of stoppage time.

Briscoe crossed from the right of the box where the incoming Roberts saw his volley saved, but tucked the loose ball away at the second time of asking.

EBBSFLEET: Edwards, Stone, Lorraine, West (Azeez 68), Willock, Phipp, Howe, Enver-Marum, Mambo, Barrett (Shakes 58), Pinney. Subs not used: McNeil, Smith, Stavrinou.

STAGS: Marriott; Sutton, Riley, Dempster, O’Neill; Murray, Hutchinson (Howell 84), Roberts; Dyer, Green (Briscoe 55), Smith (Meikle 78). Subs not used: Edwards, Redmond.

REFEREE: Justin Amey of Bournemouth.