Two goals in seven first half minutes proved enough for promotion-chasing Southend United togun down gutsy Mansfield Town 2-0 in the Roots Hall rain this afternoon.
It was far from a Good Friday for the Stags as they worked hard and turned in a far better showing then the previous weekend’s farce, but were sloppy at times, Chris Clements giving the ball away for Barry Corr’s 21st minute opener.
Then Lenny Pidgeley could only parry a 28th minute shot to the feet of Will Atkinson to sweep home the second.
It could have been more as Corr stood on the ball when one-on-one with Pidgley after a loose Simon Heslop backpass and then Corr fired another great chance over from close range.
Stags’ best moments fell to Vadaine Oliver, who hooked an acrobatic volley just over in the first half and headed against the bar.
Mansfield played much better after the break, keeping the ball for long spells, and created several half-chances, but the damage was already done and home keeper Dan Bentley wasn’t seriously tested.
The defeat dropped Stags another point towards the drop zone, a six point cushion there now with six games remaining and high-flying Shrewsbury Town the visitors to One Call Stadium on Monday.
Murray was livid after last week’s 4-1 home capitulation against York City so out went Rakish Bingham, Billy Kee, Jamie McGuire, Michael Raynes and Ryan Tafazolli.
In came Ritchie Sutton, Reggie Lambe, Terry Hawkridge, Ricky Ravenhill and Simon Heslop.
In the second minute Stags took a nervous eternity to finally get the ball back to Pidgeley as they struggled to clear a long Leonard throw from the right.
At the other end ex-Stag Barrett slid in well in the box to rob Lambe of a shooting chance.
Sutton apologised to Pidgeley after a risky backpass that the keeper ended up screwing into the stand.
We had a hold-up on six minutes as Thompson went down after a challenge with Oliver and seemed to have dislocated his shoulder.
It was put back in but he withdrawn to be replaced by Bolger on 11 minutes.
Southend created the first danger on 11 minutes as Barrett fed Carr to his right, who cut inside and tried to finish beyond Pidgeley, Riley in with a timely header to concede a corner.
From that, Ravenhill and Carr both needed treatment for a clash of heads at the near post.
McLaughlin tried to speed past Riley and went down, but the referee said Riley’s challenge was good.
However, Stags fell behind on 21 minutes.
Riley picked out Clements with good pass out of defence. But Clements then gave the ball away with a poor pass and United made him pay as Timpin threaded the ball to the left of the box through the defenders where Corr curled a great finish across Pidgeley and inside the far post. It was his 14th goal of the season.
On 24 minutes Pidgeley had to be alert to get down and block a low 20-yard blast from Leonard as the Shrimpers went for the jugular. Stags struggled the clear another home corner, Pidgeley choosing eventually to punch when he could have caught the ball.
Heslop was too high with a free kick from over 30 yards on 27 minutes after Hawkridge had been pushed over.
Instead the Shrimpers made it 2-0 on 28 minutes.
Leonard drilled in a low shot from the edge of the box that Pidgeley could only parry straight out in front of himself where Atkinson was waiting to bury his first goal for his club.
On 31 minutes, from a corner, Oliver’s nod-down found Lambe, whose low finish deflected wide for another corner.
From the second corner, now on 32 minutes, it was sent deep towards Riley, who headed it back into the centre and Oliver sent an acrobatic volley over the top, hurting himself in the process.
It was a far from easy chance but was Mansfield’s closest moment to scoring in the half.
On 39 minutes Clements made space for a shot on the edge of the home box, but couldn’t keep it down.
It should have been 3-0 in the second of three added minutes as Heslop rolled a backpass towards Pidgeley and everyone stood and stared as Corr nipped in only to stand on the ball before testing the keeper.
Four minutes into the second half, Mansfield won a corner, but a great catch and throw from home keeper Bentley turned it into a great counter-attack, too many defenders around McLaughlin to make it count in the end.
Another defensive lapse almost proved costly on 51 minutes as White launched the ball long into the Stags box, Barrett made a nuisance of himself, and the ball was allowed to bounce through to Corr, who should have hit the target from six yards, but drove over.
Stags hit back with another corner which Hawkridge took from the left, Leonard blocking Heslop’s diving header and clearing his lines.
Stags swapped to 4-4-2 with Bingham on for Heslop on the hour.
United wanted a red card for Riley as his elbow caught Pigott, but it was decided it was unintentional and a free kick was given, Coker well over from 25 yards.
On 66 minutes Oliver again came close as he rose to head a Hawkridge corner against the crossbar, Bingham sending the follow-up wide.
Soon after Clements was wide from outside the box.
The Shrimpers enjoyed a spell of pressure, ending with Timlin firing well over.
Rhead took over from Oliver on 73 minutes.
A minute later a long Leonard cross almost caught Mansfield out as it came back off the bar, Pidgeley then having to block a powerful low cross from the left.
In Stags’ next raid Bingham was low and wide as we reached the last 15 minutes with United in full control.
Mansfield won their seventh corner only for Sutton to handle and the moment was passed.
Stags’ best move of the game on 82 minutes saw a series of passes down the centre end with Lambe tackled in the box and a corner conceded, from which Rhead had a shot blocked by Leonard.
Stags forced another three corners to take their match tally to 11, bit still the home side remained unbreached.
Tafazolli came on for Beevers on 90 minutes.
In the first of three added minutes, Bingham almost pulled one back as he reached a Rhead flick only to poke it narrowly wide under pressure.
Then Leonard evaded a Ravenhill tackle on the edge of the box only to drill well over.
SOUTHEND UNITED: Bentley, White, Coker, Thompson (Bolger 11), Timlin, Corr, Atkinson, Leonard, McLaughlin (Weston 87), Barrett, Pigott (Cassidy 67). Subs not used: Smith, Payne, Deegan, Binnom-Williams. STAGS: Pidgeley; Beevers (Tafazolli 90), Sutton, Riley, Elder; Heslop (Bingham 60), Ravenhill, Clements; Lambe, Oliver (Rhead 73), Hawkridge. Subs not used: Studer, Fisher, McGuire, Thomas. REFEREE: Stephen Martin of Staffordshire.
ATTENDANCE: 5,925 (188 away). CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Chris Clements.