LEE Stevenson’s 42nd minute strike was the only difference between the sides as Stags led Braintree Town at half-time at the One Call Stadium this afternoon.
Neither side got a real grip on proceedings in an untidy game, with few clear chances.
But Stevenson showed his poacher’s instinct when he struck to put away a loose ball just before the break.
Stags played a 3-4-1-2 formation but Braintree defended well and caused problems of their own as the home fans endured a largely frustrating 45 minutes.
Geohaghon had the opportunity to hurl in a long throw in the opening minute from the left which was cleared to Clements, who met it with a rising drive that cleared the crossbar.
A loose header across his own box by Tafazolli saw Bailey-Dennis plant the ball back in front of goal where, had Holman’s outstretched leg made contact, Braintree would have been ahead.
Braintree replied with a right wing cross from Quinton that saw Marks send a backheader over the top from inside six yard box.
Then, when Marriott came to collect a free kick, he found Rhead in the way and the ball bobbled to Mulley who dragged it wide with the keeper well out of position.
There was fury on 15 minutes as Daniel slid in to win a hard but perfectly fair tackle on Symons, both players hurt in the process. Braintree wanted Daniel red-carded but, after treatment to both players, the referee rightly kept his cards firmly in his pocket.
Mansfield’s best chance so far arrived on 21 minutes as Clements pulled the home side’s first corner back towards Rhead who powered a free header from 10 yards straight down the centre at keeper Naisbett.
Sutton’s tackle caught Mulley late to earn a 27th minute booking, Symons seeing a follow-up shot blocked from the half-cleared free kick.
Stags then cleared a 31st minute corner as far as Paine who slotted a great ball back over the advancing defenders to Bailey-Dennis to the left of goal who, from a tight angle, forced Marriott to save with his knees.
Speight was adjudged to have fouled his man two minutes later before slamming home a volley from 10 yards.
When Murray failed to win a sliding tackle on 33 minutes Marks ran on towards the edge of the box where he fired wide of Marriott’s right hand post.
The breakthrough came on 42 minutes for Mansfield after a neat bit of skill from Clements on the edge of his own box.
Skilfully losing his opponent, he sent a long ball forward for Speight to chase. The striker tried to cut in between two defenders but was blocked off. But the ball ran invitingly towards Stevenson whose low 12-yard finish found the net.
Mansfield survived a worrying scramble when Sutton got in the way of a poked effort by Mulley as we entered three minutes of stoppage time.