AN early Ben Hutchinson goal set Mansfield Town on the way to a sunshine first half display at the One Call Stadium this afternoon as they led visitors Southport 1-0 at the break.
The goal helped relax the Stags and they were able to produce some of their best passing football of the season, though Southport always looked very capable of a goal of their own in an entertaining first half.
Stags made the perfect start to the afternoon with a goal after just 93 seconds.
Meikle began the move after winning a superb tackle on Whalley deep in the Stags’ half. Wright and Briscoe swapped passes and Wright got the right by-line before drilling a powerful low ball across the box which flew toward Hutchinson who had time to control before smashing the ball into the net from just six yards out.
Wright then tested McMillan with a low finish on seven minutes after another series of swift one-touch passing, also involving Briscoe and Hutchinson as the home side made one of their brightest starts for a while.
Southport tried to get back into the contest and Whalley had a shot blocked by Clements while Tames blazed a low ball across the six yard box from the right but was unable to find a team mate.
The Sandgrounders were furious on 12 minutes when Whalley went down in the box under Dempster’s challenge and the referee booked Whalley with the player screaming for a penalty.
Meikle again did well to win the ball during some Southport pressure and then break quickly down the middle. He finally released Wright to his left who cut inside only to let himself down with an horrendously sliced finish.
Geohaghon was booked for blocking Whalley on 21 minutes, though it looked like the Southport man had played for it, and Moogan was too high with the 25 yard free kick.
An ambitious Hutchinson was wide with an quick shot from 20 yards as he tried to catch McMillan off guard.
The visitors were almost level on 28 minutes as Tames sent a glancing header wide at the far post from Whalley’s free kick with Tames complaining he had been impeded.
But it was the home side playing some highly attractive stuff and when Clements curled a good ball across the box, Howell looked to be coming in at the far post at just the right time to finish before Wright intervened with a flicked header wide.
Stags then broke quickly again when a Southport free kick was cleared and this time Wright showed electric pace down the centre to get into a shooting position before sidefooting a finish too near the keeper to beat him.
Briscoe overhit his next cross, which Meikle rescued beyond the other post, and the ball eventually fell to Beevers who was well off target with his finish from the edge of the box.