MANSFIELD Town swept to their first win of the Blue Square Premier season with an impressive 3-0 demolition of Kettering Town on Saturday. Stags once again turned in another accomplished display as their attacking football all too often carved the fragile Poppies open, reports Stephen Thirkill.
Louis Briscoe showed a goalscorer’s instinct to open the scoring as early as the 11th minute with a tap-in after Adam Murray and Lindon Meikle had combined well.
But any fears that Paul Cox’s men would let yet another one goal lead slip were dismissed soon into the second half when man-of-the-match Matt Green doubled the home side’s lead.
Ross Dyer rose well to flick on an Alan Marriott free-kick and play in his strike partner, who coolly slotted home through the legs of Walker.
And it was game over as Stags, who controlled all the game apart from the middle 20 minutes of the first half, put the game beyond any doubt on 64 minutes.
Matt Green showed his power and pace to beat George Taft to the ball, before sliding in Dyer for the easiest of finishes.
Kettering were guilty of missing a number of decent chances during a purple patch in the first half, with George Taft missing two excellent chances to level the contest.
But it was nothing more than the increasingly confident Stags side deserved as they went on to claim their first clean sheet in nine outings as well as three valuable league points.
As predicted, Stags had named the same starting eleven which performed so well in the draws with Braintree and Luton Town.
But Ritchie Sutton made a welcome return from injury to earn a place on the bench at the expense of Nick Wood.
Stags won the first corner of the game in the second minute when Matt Green put in a testing cross which Phil Ifil cleared to safety.
A minute later Briscoe saw another cross blocked behind for a corner as Stags piled on the pressure in the early stages.
Defender Martin Riley should have opened the scoring in the third minute from the resulting O’Neill corner, when he found space before directing a diving header wide.
Fantastic work by Adam Murray sent Stags on their way to the opening goal on 11 minutes.
The tenacious tackling and never-give-up attitude of Murray won the ball just outside the Kettering box after both Howell and Green had seen efforts blocked.
He then played in winger Meikle who rolled the ball across the face of goal to give Briscoe the simplest of tap-ins.
Stags continued to push forward and nearly made it two when Futcher rose well above his man before nodding a Kendrick free-kick wide of Walker’s goal.
Kettering then came back into the game with a series of corners as Stags dropped their pace and lost momentum.
And it was nearly 1-1 on 26 minutes when George Taft connected with a clearance from Williams’ corner.
But his well-hit volley from 12 yards out was cleared off the line to safety by Futcher.
Taft then blew a glorious chance on 28 minutes when he headed a Jerel Ifil cross wide from inside the six yard box as The Poppies turned up the heat further.
Mansfield weathered the storm and forced Walker into action in the 42 minute when Green combined well with Meikle after a fast break through midfield.
But the frontman was unable to get the ball out of his feet as he fired a tame shot low to Walkers left.
A minute later Meikle nearly opened his Mansfield Town account thanks to a superb cross from Briscoe.
The flying winger burst down the right wing before firing in an inviting cross deep into the six yard box.
But Meikle’s flying volley back across goal was saved in fine style by the diving Walker.
Stags had Marriott to thank deep in injury-time when a Phillip Ifil free-kick beat everyone in the box, before Marriott scrambled across to tip the ball over the bar for a corner.
The Mansfield shot-stopper was again in action a minute later when he flapped at a Williams corner.
But the dangerous Taft was once again denied a goal when his shot from eight yards was blocked by a crowd of lunging defenders.
Stags went into half-time with a 1-0 lead knowing they had already let slip a one goal lead three times this season.
But any fears of a repeat seemed to go out of the window on 51 minutes when Matt Green settled the nerves.
A Marriott free-kick was flicked on by Dyer to leave the on-loan Oxford man clean through on goal.
And Green capped yet another impressive individual display by coolly netting through the legs of Walker.
Kettering blew an excellent chance to narrow their deficit on 53 minutes when Meechan fluffed a snapshot from 18 yards out well wide.
Walker then produced the save of the match in the 57th minute to leave The Poppies still in the game after he leapt acrobatically to turn a Briscoe pile-driver over the bar.
It was game over on 64 minutes when Stags made it three as they turned defence into attack with a sweet flowing move.
Briscoe picked the ball up just inside his own half before flicking the ball over the top and into space for Matt Green to chase.
Green then showed his impressive power once again as he beat Taft to the ball before slotting the perfect pass into the path of Dyer to blast home.
The visitors nearly gave themselves a glimmer of hope on 71 minutes when Moses Ashikodi thundered a fierce drive against Marriott’s crossbar from 22 yards.
But in truth it would take a miracle for Kettering to engineer three partings of the Mansfield town defences.
MANSFIELD TOWN: Marriott, Kendrick, Riley (Sutton 76 mins), Futcher, O’Neill, Briscoe, Murray (Worthington 78 mins), Howell, Meikle, Dyer (Connor 82 mins) , Green. Subs not used: Redmond, Stevenson, Connor.
KETTERING TOWN: Walker, P. Ifil, Davis, Williams (Kelly 55 mins), J. Ifil, Ashikodi, Verma, Marma, Meechan, Taft, Navarro (Thomson 55 mins) . Subs not used: Clapham, Noubissie, Haxhia.
ATTENDANCE: 2.051 (112 away).
MAN OF THE MATCH: Matt Green.
REFEREE: Richard Clarke of Northumberland.