Mansfield Town 4-1 Braintree, Saturday 3rd December

Stags v Braintree ... Matt Green tucks in his second goal
Stags v Braintree ... Matt Green tucks in his second goal

A MATT Green brace helped get Mansfield Town back to winning ways as they came from behind to comfortably see off visiting Braintree Town 4-1 at Field Mill this afternoon.

It was a first win in seven outings for Paul Cox’s men and the best possible answer to their critics after some poor recent home form.

Braintree, with one win in 12 games now, are in freefall and were missing three suspended players, including both regular centre halves

But the Essex visitors still went ahead on their first ever visit to Field Mill with Ben Wright’s eighth minute strike.

However, new boy John Dempster opened his Stags account on 24 minutes to level and as soon as Green bagged his first four minutes after the break, Mansfield took complete charge.

Defensive errors gifted Lindon Meikle and Green further goals as Stags made it a fourth game without defeat and edged up to eighth place, three points off three play-off spots.

Meikle had almost edged Stags in front in just the second minute with an 18-yard half volley, but saw it clip off team mate Stevenson and pass narrowly wide for a goal kick.

Good work from Green then sent Meikle to the by-line where his excellent cross flew inches in front of the head of the incoming Verma right in front of goal.

Instead it was the Essex side who drew first blood from their first attack on eight minutes.

A low ball along the edge of the box from the right saw Reason beat Verma to it but allowed it run on to Wright who dispatched a crisp, low, first time finish inside the left hand post.

Murray responded with two efforts from distance that both cleared the crossbar.

Then a long Freeman throw reached Green who controlled but saw the ball sit up as he bundled a tame finish wide.

Murray should have levelled on 16 minutes after Green set him up eight yards from goal only to see keeper McDonald valiantly turn his finish aside for a corner from which Dyer flicked a header wide.

Verma conceded a free kick 10 yards into the Mansfield half which Quinton sent in and Stevens headed over.

But seconds later Braintree threatened again as Marks turned Thompson on the right and raced towards goal, Marriott smothering his right foot shot at the near post.

However, Stags were finally on level terms on 24 minutes.

Verma curled in a wicked corner from the left which bounced through a crowd of players almost on the line where Dempster stooped to head it home.

There was some argy bargy immediately afterwards as Murray tried to quickly retrieve the ball from the net but the cards stayed in the referee’s pocket as he calmed things down.

Dempster went down in the box under a challenge as he tried to reach a Murray cross, but the referee waved play on as Mansfield continued to plug away.

Green almost raced clear three minutes from the break but was halted by a great sliding tackle from Wells.

A minute later it took a great block from Marriott to deny Marks after a ill-timed slip from Dempster seemed to have gifted him the ball and a goal on a plate.

Green threatened once more as he wrestled his way goalside of Stevens 12 yards out only for Stevens to recover and do just enough to stop Green shooting and the ball rolled to the keeper.

Reason was straight at Marriott from 25 yards as we entered stoppage time.

Stags were furious when nothing as given as Meikle was held just outside the Braintree box. Then when the visitors broke, Dempster seemed to win his tackle cleanly but a free-kick was given. That provoked fury from Thompson who was booked for his protests.

Wright whistled the 20 yard kick narrowly over the bar with the final kick of the half before the whistle saw Stags boss Paul Cox quickly out to remonstrate with referee Peter Bankes, who was booed from the field.

However, the Stags made the perfect start to the second half as Green ended his recent goal drought on 49 minutes.

Verma floated in a corner from the left which Stevenson tried to force home from five yards. It was partially blocked but the ball sat up nicely for Green to ram it high into the net from close range.

Wright looked for a cheeky equaliser as he tried to lift the ball over Marriott from 40 yards but the keeper was comfortably back to grab as it dropped.

Two Braintree defenders collided to gift Green the ball just inside the box. He squared to Stevenson whose low shot deflected wide.

Wright whipped another dipping free kick onto the top of the Mansfield net from the left hand side.

But Mansfield opened up a two-goal advantage on the hour thanks to some fine Meikle scavenging.

Sutton did well to force over a low cross from the right which defender Wells miscontrolled and allowed Meikle the chance to stab home from close range.

Freeman’s low 25 yard shot was always curling well wide on 63 minutes, but not as wide as Reason’s long range free kick soon after which raised mocking jeers from the home fans.

Another defensive calamity saw Stags extend their lead on 67 minutes. Meikle curled in a low left wing cross and keeper McDonald stopped it with his foot but failed to get it clear or pick it up as Green raced in to blast home his 13th goal of the season from close range.

On 70 minutes Verma found Dyer with a free kick from the left and, although his powerful header was on target, it was right down the throat of McDonald who was able to claw it away.

Green was literally inches away from a hat-trick as Meikle chipped in an early forward ball after spotting Green’s run and the striker, at full stretch, was just unable to get a touch to send the ball home.

Another poor decision by Mr Bankes saw Freeman booked for a tackle he had won cleanly on 70 minutes.

Rodney took over from the impressive Meikle for the final 15 minutes.

Stags were enjoying their afternoon now and some possession football ended with Freeman pulling a low shot well wide.

Marriott did have to stand tall to smother a near post Chilaka effort after the sub got goalside of Dempster.

Marks was lucky only to be booked for an elbow to the face of Thompson, though for the defender, who had spent so long recovering from facial injuries in the summer, it was a further test of his recovery.

Braintree should have pulled one back when the home defence allowed Yiadom’s right wing cross to reach Reason at the far post. However, he snatched at the finish and ballooned it over the bar.

STAGS: Marriott; Sutton, Dempster, Thompson, Freeman; Murray, Stevenson (Bolland 87), Verma; Dyer (Briscoe 81), Green, Meikle (Rodney 75). Subs not used: Redmond, O’Neill.

BRAINTREE: McDonald, Thomas, Reason, Symons, Marks, Wright (Chilaka 75), Quinton, Yiadom, Johnson, Stevens, Wells. Subs not used: Jones, Peters, O’Connor, Pooley.

REFEREE: Peter Bankes of Merseyside.

ATTENDANCE: 1,790 (52 away).