After less than 24 hours as caretaker manager, Adam Murray wrote another chapter in his rich Mansfield Town history as the Stags ended their nine game run without a win with an unlikely success against high-flying Plymouth Argyle to get the One Call Stadium rocking again today.
With manager Paul Cox calling time on his tenure last night, Plymouth might have thought they would bring their seven game unbeaten League run and meanest defensive record in the division to a club in turmoil.
Instead, Murray managed to quickly galvanise his troops and bring out of them a performance so many fans had longed to see.
Gone was the direct football Cox had favoured, players instead encouraged to express themselves within a 4-3-3 framework and, although they tired, the Stags fully deserved their three points which were celebrated by a deafening din from the stands.
Match winner on the day was Crewe loanee Vadaine Oliver, netting his first goal for the club on 45 minutes.
Ironically for the Cox-haters, the goal actually came from one of the most direct Mansfield moves of the afternoon as Lee Beevers sent it high and long from the halfway line and Oliver raced on to lob keeper Luke McCormick.
Stags now face a few weeks of uncertainty over the manager’s job with Murray clearly hoping to be in the frame on his third spell at the club as a player and also having been Cox’s No.2.
But first they must now focus quickly on a tricky FA Cup replay at Concord Rangers on Tuesday night.
Murray tried to appease the frustrated home fans with his first team selection as caretaker manager as he went with wingers and a 4-3-3 formation.
With the club still reeling from the departure of Cox the night before night, Murray made six changes from the side that faced Concord in midweek.
Murray left himself out of the squad to direct operations from the bench.
Keiron Freeman returned to the defence with Jamie Sendles-White joining the midfield as a holding player in front of the defenders along with Simon Heslop.
Rob Taylor and Reggie Lambe were put out on the flanks with Oliver in the centre as the lone striker.
Out from midweek went Murray, Liam Marsden, Fergus Bell, Matt Rhead, Luke Waterfall and Rakish Bingham.
Stags came out to a huge roar which went up several notches when Murray stepped out onto the field to salute the crowd.
The team then made a lively start and inside the first minute, Oliver just couldn’t get enough onto a Freeman cross from the right, the ball sailing wide.
Sendles-White then conceded a corner on three minutes which was whipped clear by Tafazolli.
Stags broke from that through Lambe down the right, the winger feeling he was halted illegally just outside the box, but the referee not agreeing.
A good tackle from Clements on Cox won Argyle another corner, from which Beevers blocked a low shot by Cox.
Lambe was causing all sorts of problems on his belated full home debut and, when another run into the box was halted, freeman saw his shot from the loose ball blocked as the home crowd rose to their side’s efforts.
Stags were trying to keep the ball down and pass as the crowd wanted and every pass was cheered.
A Plymouth break down the left was a threat on 16 minutes, but Alessandra sent the ball tamely into the sidenetting when he should have at least tested Studer or used the better options to his right in the box.
More good footwork by Alessandra on the left saw his hopeful effort easily blocked.
But on 18 minutes Plymouth should have been ahead. Alessandra sent Kellett to the left by-line and he crossed hard and low right on front of goal where Mellor, from two yards, somehow failed to hit the gaping net as his finished skewed up and against the crossbar.
On 23 minutes Reid cut in from the left and got in a low shot on target which was never likely to seriously trouble Studer.
At the other end Mellor did well to slide in and halt Taylor as he drew back a leg to shoot.
Cox was lucky not to be booked for chopping down Lambe as Stags tried to break.
Taylor was then too high from 30 yards for the home side but drew warm applause for his attempt.
On another swift home break, Oliver roamed into the middle where he saw his powerful shot blocked.
Then on 36 minutes after more good home possession football, Lambe controlled just outside the box and lifted a dipping effort over the top.
Seconds later Oliver headed over from an inviting left wing cross by Taylor.
There was a stoppage in the action as Oliver needed treatment for a bang to the head.
A right wing cross by Freeman saw Oliver get a head onto it, but it was deflected wide for a corner that McCormick got his hands to and pushed away.
On 43 minutes Lambe cut in from the right and tried his luck, the ball clipping a Plymouth player en route and forcing McCormick to save to his right.
However, for all the good passing football, Stags roared ahead via route one right on 45 minutes.
Beevers, under pressure, hoisted a high ball forward from the halfway line.
Oliver got the better of his marker and, with the keeper fractionally late coming out to meet him, the Crewe loanee was able to lift the ball to perfection over the stranded goalie and into the empty net to prompt deafening celebrations and end a magnificent half for the new-look Stags.
It was only the 10th goal Plymouth had conceded in the League this season.
There was anger among home fans when, in Plymouth’s first raid of the second half, Reid tried to bring down a through ball with his hand. Once play had stopped, the referee went across and booked the player.
Stags almost doubled their lead on 56 minutes as an Oliver nod-down set up Clements in the box, but his finish sailed over the far angle.
Nelson slid in with a great challenge to stop Taylor poking a loose ball in the net after Clements had tried to set up Lambe on 62 minutes as Mansfield continued to set the pace.
Oliver tried to make kicking difficult for McCormick and, when the keeper pulled him to the ground after clearing, the striker was livid as the assistant referee gave nothing.
Oliver took his revenge soon after on 67 minutes as he bounced into the keeper seconds after he had grabbed the ball, sparking a pushing match which ended with Oliver and Hartley being booked.
Stags threw on Bell for Taylor and Argyle made a double swap before we restarted play.
On 72 minutes Oliver was again up well to head on for Lambe to control and rifle in a low shot that McCormick got down to hold.
A Plymouth raid down the left saw Studer have to palm away a Kellett shot from a tight angle with Reid’s follow-up blocked as trouble broke out behind that goal with stewards and Argyle fans brawling, police quickly restoring order.
A dangerous ball into the home box saw the ball roll loose until Clements slid in to make a crucial interception.
Plymouth were starting to enjoy a better spell and 10 minutes from time Mellor flashed a low shot across the face of goal from deep on the right.
Then Riley produced a great block to prevent Smalley getting in a shot in the six yard box.
Before the corner could be taken, Rhead replaced Clements for the home side.
There was huge tension as Plymouth kept possession, ended only when Alessandra crossed into Studer’s hands.
Stags did get out their half on 84 minutes as Rhead headed on for Oliver to crash a low shot into the sidenetting.
Mellor was calling for a penalty after he careered into Beevers but the referee was having none of, neither was the asisstant, who was well placed close by.
Four tense minutes were added at the end with Lambe booked for a trip in the last of them.
But fans almost took the roof off with the cheer as the whistle went to mark a long-awaited victory.
STAGS: Studer, Freeman, Beevers, Riley, Tafazolli, Sendles-White, Heslop, Clements (Rhead 81), Taylor (Bell 67), Lambe, Oliver. Subs not used: Bingham, Palmer, Marsden, Thomas, Evtimov.
PLYMOUTH: McCormick, Mellor, Cox, Nelson, Alessandra, Reid, Blizzard (Banton 76), Kellett, McHugh (Norburn 67) O’Connor (Smalley 67), Hartley. Subs not used: Bittner, Morgan, Harvey, Thomas. REFEREE: Mark Brown of East Yorkshire.
ATTENDANCE: 2,926 (581 away). CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Vadaine Oliver.
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