Kettering 0-3 Mansfield Town, Saturday 7th April

MANSFIELD Town coasted to another three play-off points, relegating Kettering Town in the process, at Nene Park this afternoon.

Stags rarely left second gear as they easily overcame a poor home side with man of the match Lindon Meikle grabbing a first half goal and then Matt Green’s 28th of the season and one from sub Matt Rhead completing the rout.

But it could have been many more had it not been for some wasteful finishing by Green and Ross Dyer and some excellent goalkeeping from Kelvin Jack in the home net.

A sad day for the Poppies was made even worse as their player-caretaker manager Ashley Westwood was sent off in stoppage time.

Mansfield, roared on by another superb away following of 877, simply did what they had to do against inferior opposition.

With defeats for play-off rivals Luton Town, Southport, and Southport, Stags are sitting pretty seven points clear in third with Stockport County the visitors to the One Call Stadium on Monday.

Stags skipper Adam Murray was rested for today’s game. Murray has been having painkilling injections into his ankle for weeks.

Also, he is on nine bookings, with his slate set to be wiped clean by the league before Monday under BSBP rules. So it was decided it made sense to leave him out today, Anthony Howell coming into the centre of midfield and Alan Marriott skipper for the day.

The only other change was on the left wing where Lindon Meikle replaced Adam Smith.

Doomed Kettering included former Stags loanee Marcus Kelly, but were missing Aman Verma due to injury, and could only name four subs on their inexperienced bench.

Mansfield comfortably cleared the first two Kettering balls into their box in the opening two minutes from a York long throw and Mills centre.

On six minutes a long throw from Geohaghon was cleared back to him. He slipped a pass inside for Briscoe who cued up for Roberts, but his ballooned finish left the ground.

Home keeper Jack did well to smother a firm, low cross from the left after Meikle had got himself to the by-line.

Sutton did well to win the ball and then overlap Meikle for the return to get to the same by-line before disappointingly sending his cross for a goalkick.

Green should have opened the scoring on 12 minutes as Briscoe’s early forward ball put Green one-on-one with the keeper to the right of the box. But Jack managed to get something on the finish and the ball bounced across goal and wide of the post for a corner.

However, Stags were ahead two minutes later. Ralph gave the ball away to Roberts who teased down the right touchline before finally hoisting in a fantastic cross that Meikle had only to stoop and head in almost on the goalline.

Green headed wide at the near post under pressure from Bridges soon after.

Stags were enjoy themselves now and only an offside flag denied Green going clear onto Meikle’s through ball.

Mansfield then broke well from Kettering’s first corner with Briscoe leading the charge before setting up Dyer to his left who would be disappointed to only find the sidenetting.

Kelly then did supremely well to get back and tackle Howell as Stags again broke quickly to go four on three in the home half.

Home player-caretaker manager Westwood forced a great one-handed save out his own keeper after a long Geohaghon throw skimmed off the top of his head towards his own goal.

Green saw his six yard shot hit the bar on 27 minutes, from a Geohaghon nod-down, only to see an offside flag raised anyway.

O 35 minutes Meikle cut in from the left and tried a low sidefooted finish which Jack parried to Dyer. But, from six yards and the keeper off-balance, the striker failed to find the net as Jack somehow got a touch which took the ball onto the bar and out for a corner.

Five minutes from the break Kelly worked an opening for Joyce on the right whose fierce shot only found the sidenetting, Marriot furious when the keeper gave Kettering a corner for his supposed ‘save’ which they then wasted.

There was more danger for Mansfield as O’Neill lost possession, Wyke broke well, fed the overlapping Kelly who, as he prepared to test Marriott was stopped by O’Neill’s challenge as he got back to make amends.

In stoppage time the excellent Jack beat away a powerful Briscoe blast at his near post as Kettering clung on at just 1-0 down at the break.

Mansfield conceded a free kick in the opening seconds after the break which saw Marriott having to make a save as Kelly’s 20 yard header on a York free kick flew on target.

Geohaghon’s first throw of the half from the right was headed on by Dyer and Jack just managed to get there ahead of the incoming boot of Riley, stretching at the near post.

Stags really should have been two-up on 52 minutes.

A poor ball from Westwood gifted the ball to Meikle 20 yards from goal. He set up Green who, with Jack at his mercy, poked a finish against the near post.

The ball bounced out to Briscoe who made space for a thunderous shot that Jack managed to reach up and tip over.

Geohaghon almost bagged an unlikely second from a volleyed effort from 215 yards that bounced through everyone, taking a deflection before going wide.

Stags argued for a corner, but the referee gave the goalkick.

Meikle showed great tenacity when he chased a lost cause, outwitted two defenders, and managed to poke a weak on-target effort at goal at the end of it.

Rhead replaced Briscoe on 61 minutes, Dyer dropping to the right of midfield.

It seemed only a matter of time before Stags extended their lead – and it came on 63 minutes.

Howell launched the ball forwards from his own half for Green to chase. The striker accelerated superbly to get into the box, feinted to shoot with his right, but instead came inside Bridges before finishing sweetly with a low left-footed shot from 10 yards under Jack.

Three minutes later Marriott helped a 20 yard Kelly free kick over the top as it dipped towards goal over the wall.

Roberts might have added a third on 69 minutes after Meikle had got to the left by-line , drawn two defenders, and found Roberts. But the midfielder, having sidestepped a defender to make space to shot, pulled his low finish wide.

Rhead was furious to have his shirt firmly tugged in the box, but no penalty was forthcoming.

A neat move saw Meikle, Roberts and Green link-up to cue up Dyer for a first time 18 yard shot that flashed over.

That was Green’s last involvement as he was replaced by Hutchinson for the last 15 minutes with Worthington taking over from Roberts three minutes later.

Mansfield fans began a conga in the stand at this stage as we entered the last 10 minutes.

And it was game-set and match on 85 minutes as O’Neill sent in a right wing corner and Rhead rose to plant an unstoppable header inside the left post from eight yards out.

Gray saw a low 20 yard free kick deflect wide for a corner as the home side looked for a late consolation.

Sutton’s foul on York in stoppage time saw him shown the afternoon’s first yellow card.

Then the home side’s misery was complete a minute later as Westwood blocked off Hutchinson, was shown his second yellow card of the afternoon and dismissed.

Annoyingly the final whistle blew as Hutchinson sneaked in at the back post and might have added a fourth.

KETTERING: Jack, Sangare (Gray ht), Kelly, Westwood, Ralph, Mills, Bridges, Noubissie, Wyke (van Engle 77), Joyce, York. Subs not used: Ford, Petranyuk.

STAGS: Marriott; O’Neill, Riley Geohaghon, Sutton; Briscoe (Rhead 61), Roberts (Worthington 78), Howell, Meikle; Green (Hutchinson 75), Dyer. Subs not used: Redmond, Andrew.

REFEREE: John Hopkins of Essex.

ATTENDANCE: 1,818 (877 away).

GOALS: Stags - Meikle 14, Green 63, Rhead 85.