MANSFIELD Town’s rocky start to the new season took a downward turn again as they conceded four goals for the third time in five matches with a comprehensive 4-1 defeat at Grimsby Town this afternoon.
Stags also had Gary Roberts sent off eight minutes from time for a second bookable offence to complete their misery.
The Mariners had not won a game so far and looked far from a side likely to challenge.
But Paul Cox will once again be furious with his side’s defending and lack of punch up front as they let in two goals in the final 10 minutes of the first half, the second a killer penalty in stoppage time.
Joe Colbeck’s goal on 61 minutes, two minutes after Stags’ first decent effort on target, killed off any hopes of a second half fightback.
Greg Pearson completed his brace as dreadful memories of that New Years Day seven-goal hiding two years ago began to return.
In the end sub Matt Rhead, whose physical approach upset the home fans, stole a consolation four minutes from the end.
But, after seeming to steady the ship with two wins after those first two defeats, Cox knows he still has much work to do to justify the bookies’ odds of Stags being among the promotion favourites.
Stags made two changes, Chris Clements making his debut in midfield and Jake Speight finally getting his first start up front.
Louis Briscoe and Matt Rhead were the men to make way, both dropping to the bench.
After two successive wins, Mansfield were hopeful of success at a club without a win in their opening four matches.
The game began in typical English Bank Holiday Monday rain with Stags taking the game to the home side.
But a loose header by Dempster in the box offered the first shooting chance with Cook seeing his effort deflect for a corner, which was over-hit and sailed into touch.
That seemed to encourage the home side who then put three dangerous low balls into the Stags box, the last of which was put out for another corner. But Cox’s men again survived the flag kick.
Roberts screwed a half-chance well wide from a half-cleared free-kick for the visitors.
There was more danger for Mansfield on 11 minutes as Pearson slipped Colbeck into space on the right wing, Daniel bringing him down to take the booking and halt the move.
That sparked a series of late tackles from both sides.
A poor ball from Niven set Green into space. But the break was halted by an offside flag.
On 19 minutes Artus almost conjured something from nothing with a curling effort from wide on the right which deflected onto the roof of the Mansfield net.
Stags then broke quickly from a poor short corner by the Mariners and it ended with Green firing wide.
Artus sent the next effort well wide from 20 yards as he saw Howell steaming towards him out of the corner of his eyes.
A neat move involving Clements and Meikle saw keeper McKeown push the low cross round his near post before Speight could reach it to give Stags’ their first corner on the half-hour mark. That was wasted as the referee spotted pushing and gave Grimsby a free kick.
However, a scrappy game was brought to life in the 35th minute by a goal for the home side.
Colbeck teased Daniel on the right before pulling the ball back to Niven who rolled a square pass for Artus to slam home a superb finish from 20 yards high to Marriott’s right.
Roberts’ name was added to the book a minute later for a late tackle on Wood.
The home side had a good shout for a penalty when a Dempster slip almost let in Cook, Jones racing over to cover but the ball striking his hand. Thankfully the referee decided it was ball to hand.
Stags were rightly annoyed when the referee played advantage on the by-line, Artus eventually crossing onto the roof of the net. But the referee then brought play back to award the free kick which led indirectly to a second Mariners goal.
Howell rose magnificently to head clear where Speight failed to take possession. Tracking back chasing Thomas, he made a final desperate lunge and clearly brought him down in the box, getting booked for his troubles.
Up stepped Pearson to send Marriott the wrong way in the first minute of stoppage time and Mansfield went in with a massive uphill task ahead.
Roberts had McKeown worried with a long free kick from the left which caught on the wind and almost dipped under the bar, the keeper tipping it over.
Some half-hearted Stags defending then saw Pearson thread a ball to Colbeck, who fired over from 16 yards Wood was booked for bringing down Daniel in full flight on 53 minutes.
Stags sent on Rhead for Clements to go 4-4-2 on 53 minutes, the big striker immediately being manhandled by Pearson in the box before play restarted, earning the defender a silly booking.
Meikle caused concern when he lost the ball to Colbeck, who burst out his own half and raced away, Meikle giving chase and eventually making the tackle to halt him and make amends.
Daniel was pushed up into midfield from left back with Speight replaced by Beevers on 57 minutes.
Soon after Cook almost made it 3-0 when he latched onto a poor headed clearance and lashed the ball over the near angle when he should have hit the target.
Stags finally got the ball on target on 59 minutes with a low Daniel shot that McKeown saw all the way.
But the points were all but sealed on 61 minutes. Pearson attacked down the right and drilled a low back in that wasn’t cleared, the ball rolled towards Colbeck who gleefully drilled it high into the net.
Thomas was booked on 68 minutes for being fractionally late on Daniel.
The Mariners were celebrating a fourth goal on 76 minutes.
Artus sent in a corner from the right and Pearson met it with a backheader that looped over Marriott and under the angle at the far post.
Mansfield’s misery increased on 82 minutes when Roberts unnecessarily clattered Disley and, having been booked and warned, was shown his second yellow card and was already heading for the tunnel as it was followed by the red.
However, the 10 men did grab a consolation four minutes from the end as Briscoe whipped in a great cross from the right which bounced once in front of goal where Rhead needed no second invitation to steer home a close range header.
Howell and Pearson had to be separated by Sutton as they squared up two minutes from the end of a highly disappointing afternoon for Mansfield.
GRIMSBY TOWN: McKeown, Thomas, Niven, Pearson, Colbeck, Disley, Artus, Cook (Elding 89), Pearson, Wood, Pond. Subs: Hatton, Soares, Southwell, Thanoj.
STAGS: Marriott; Sutton, Dempster, Jones, Daniel (Briscoe 77); Howell, Clements (Rhead 53), Roberts; Speight (Beevers 57), Green, Meikle.
Subs: Wright, Hand.
REFEREE: Karl Evans of Greater Manchester.
ATTENDANCE: 3,397 (526 away).
GOALS: Grimsby - Artus 35, Pearson 41+1 (pen), 76, Colbeck 61. Stags – Rhead 86.
CAUTIONS: Grimsby - Wood 53, Pearson 54, Thomas 68. Stags - Daniel 11, Roberts 36, Speight 45+1.
DISMISSAL: Roberts 82 (second bookable).
STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Matt Rhead.