CHRIS Beardsley’s first Mansfield goal for more than nine years helped the Stags into the League Two play-off places as they squeezed past Crawley Town. After a dramatic finish saw them score two quick-fire late goals to overcome Morecambe in midweek, Mansfield arrived at Broadfield Stadium buoyed and in search of back-to-back wins.
And that is exactly what they got as Beardsley’s header on the hour was enough for the Stags to secure all three points, despite Matt Green picking up a second yellow card right at the death.
The header was Beardsley’s first Mansfield goal since returning to the club this summer, the 31-year-old last netting for the Stags in a 3-0 Football League Trophy victory over Grimsby on October 31 2016.
In the reverse fixture Mansfield thumped Crawley Town 4-0 and the Stags started just as well this time around as Green had the first real chance of the game only to see his effort when one-on-one with goalkeeper Callum Preston superbly tipped wide.
Gwion Edwards tested Scott Shearer five minutes later, but the former Reds goalkeeper was equal to his attempt before Green was guilty of missing the target again when he scuffed wide with just Preston to beat.
Matty Blair was next to try his luck but Preston denied him after a direct run from the Stags winger as Adam Murray’s side looked to take advantage of their first half dominance.
After the break, Mansfield went close again when Preston was forced to flick over Lee Collins’ header.
But from the resulting corner the Stags did take the lead as Beardsley got his head on the end of a whipped Mal Benning in-swinging corner.
With 15 minutes left, Preston again was brought into action when he was forced to tip an audacious attempt from James Baxendale over the bar.
Crawley captain Sonny Bradley had the hosts’ best chance of the game with only six minutes remaining but powered a header from Simon Walton’s corner narrowly over Shearer’s bar.
It wasn’t Green’s day, as, after being booked midway through the second half, the Stags man stopped Bradley taking a quick throw in the final minutes of the game and picked up a second yellow.
Shearer denied Chris Atkinson before Blair broke but was once again denied by the impressive Preston as Mansfield clung on to earn the points.
CRAWLEY: (4-4-2): Preston 9, Young 6 (Fenelon 72 6), Yorwerth 6, Bradley 6, G Smith 5, Bawling 6, Walton 6, Jenkins 6 (Atkinson 72 5), Edwards 7, Barnard 6 (Deacon 64 6), Harrold 6. Subs not used: Little, Rooney, Ashton, Tomlin
STAGS: (4-4-2): Shearer 6, Collins 7, Pearce 6, Tafazoli 6, Benning 8 (Kavanagh 85 6), McGuire 7, Clements 7, Baxendale 7 (Rose 81 6), Blair 7, Green 6, Beardsley 7 (Thomas 76 6). Subs not used: Jensen, Chapman, Westcarr, Yussuf.
REFEREE: Graham Horwood of Luton.
ATTENDANCE: 1,981 (164 away).