DESPITE a late fightback, a third successive poor first half at home saw Mansfield Town crash 3-1 to form side Southport this afternoon.
After the home hammering by Kidderminster, Stags’ came back from a poor first half and 1-0 interval deficit to beat Grimsby last week.
Manager Paul Cox urged his side to come out of the traps quicker today, but it didn’t happen as the Sandgrounders led 2-0 at the break on their way to an impressive fifth away win on the trot.
It is true Stags went behind as they tied to reorganise their defence following an injury to Tom Naylor. And luck was against them as Andy Todd put through his own goal on 25 minutes before Shaun Whalley’s 38th minute shot took a massive deflection past Alan Marriott off Martin Riley.
But the visitors deserved to be in the driving seat and, after Tony Gray broke clear to add a third three minutes into the second half, it wrecked whatever half-time rallying call Cox may have given.
It even took Mansfield over an hour to test visiting keeper Tony McMillan.
Mansfield grabbed a lifeline with 15 minutes left as Steve Akrigg put through his own goal from close range from an O’Neill corner, but were unable to find their way through the visitors’ defence again as the game petered out.
Green looked dangerous in the early stages with two runs on the right, the second seeing him overhit a cross with the outside of his right boot.
At the other end Marriott had to kick into the stand from a weak backpass from Sutton. The Mansfield eventually cleared the Sandgrounders’ first corner.
On nine minutes we had the first goal attempt as Briscoe hurried a low 20 yard effort wide from O’Neil’s left wing cross.
On 14 minutes Naylor put the ball down the right where Green controlled and then cut back inside Akrigg from the by-line to make space for a shot which didn’t match his brilliant approach play as lifted it high over the bar from seven yards.
Two minutes later Southport should have scored the opener. Gray’s 25 yard free kick was straight at Marriot, but he failed to hold on and the ball rolled invitingly to Mukendi who looked like he had to score but blasted wildly against the bar and over from five yards.
On 20 minutes Briscoe came close as he rampaged down the right, played a one-two with Dyer and then thundered a low shot across goal and wide of the far post.
Two minutes later Mukendi pulled back Ledsham’s far post cross and Lee’s powerful volley only just cleared the angle.
But Stags’ afternoon took a turn for the worst on 24 minutes when Naylor pulled up running for the ball and limped off.
Riley came on with Sutton moving to full back. But, before Stags could properly reorganise, Owens sent in a long throw from the left into the centre of goal where little reaction from the disorganised home defence saw the ball find the net off helpless home player-coach Todd from close range in the 25th minute.
Moogan was just wide from 20 yards soon afterwards, then Owens warmed Marriott’s hands from a similar distance.
Home frustration manifested itself in a booking for Worthington for bringing down Gray on the half-hour with home fans now starting to become impatient.
Southport then doubled their lead on 38 minutes after Whalley played a one-tow on the right and fired in a low shot on target which Marriott seemed to have covered until it took a nasty deflection off Riley to nestle in the net.
Dyer’s lay-off saw Murray well off target with his first time effort from 18 yards.
On 42 minutes a lovely dummy from Gray let a ball in from the left run on to Whalley who sliced his first time finish wide. As the ball ran out of play, Todd was booked for a foul earlier in the move.
Stags swapped things around for the second half with Todd and Briscoe withdrawn, Meikle coming on to play left wing and Dyer dropping back to right wing to allow Connor to link up with Green up front.
But within three minutes the home side were three down.
A goalkick from McMillan sailed down the centre and Gray had crept clear of the home defence to confidently tuck away with fans screaming for offside.
An O’Neill clearance came back off Mukendi, Gray quickly flashing the loose ball over the top.
Mukendi might have made it 4-0 on the hour when he was allowed to lope onto a long punt forward but blazed over from 20 yards.
In fact it took 63 minutes for the home side to finally get an effort on target as Dyer got a glancing header onto an O’Neill free kick which forced a save from McMillan to his right.
Gray’s great pass behind O’Neill put Whalley into the right of the box but, with players in support to his left, chipped the ball tamely into the hands of Marriott.
On 66 minutes Gray was booked for a foul 25 yards from goal which saw O’Neill get his free kick on target but unable to beat the keeper, who was down quickly to block.
Then Southport failed to clear a long Sutton throw which saw the ball ounce for Murray who whipped a shot over the far angle from seven yards.
Moogan had Marriott backpeddling from 40 yards to tip his hopeful punt over the bar as the visitors continued to enjoy their afternoon in the sunshine.
But on 75 minutes Stags grabbed scrappy goal back. O’Neill whipped in a corner from the left and it deflected off Akrigg towards goal where Moogan seemed to handle on the line and clear.
However, with fans screaming for a penalty, the referee consulted his assistant and deemed it had crossed the line anyway and Stags suddenly had a chink of light to chase.
Green had a shot charged down from a long O’Neill throw as the home side turned up the pressure.
Green’s pass set Meikle on a promising run but, just when he needed to steady himself for a finish, the winger let the ball run away from him and the keeper was able to safely gather.
STAGS: Marriott; Naylor (Riley 25), Futcher, Sutton, O’Neill; Briscoe (Meikle HT), Murray, Worthington, Todd (Connor HT); Dyer, Green. Subs not used: Redmond, Bolland.
SOUTHPORT: McMillan; Lee, Akrigg, Grand, Owens; Whalley, Moogan, Poku, Ledsham; Gray (Walker 70), Mukendi. Subs not used: Nemes, Lever, Brown, Carden.
REFEREE: Stephen Smith of Darlington.
ATTENDANCE: 2,406 (114 away).