Sub Reggie Lambe was the Mansfield Town hero as his second half strike saw Stags beat visiting Stevenage 1-0 to drag themselves out of the relegation zone this afternoon.
Lambe, on as a half-time substitute, volleyed home a Matt Rhead header on 52 minutes to earn Adam Murray’s men their first win in seven games.
Much needed it was, seeing the Stags leapfrog Tranmere, Cheltenham and York in one fell swoop as well as condemning Stevenage to a third defeat in a row.
On an awful surface and up against physical opposition, pretty football was always going to be difficult.
So Stags set up without wingers and reverted back to their more direct game of Paul Cox days – and on the day it paid handsome dividends.
It was also a clean sheet for debut-making loanee keeper Lenny Pidgeley on his 31st birthday.
Stags suffered a pre-match blow when skipper Ricky Ravenhill pulled a hamstring in the warm-up and had to be replaced by Jamie McGuire, who also took over the armband.
Newport keeper was one of the five pre-match changes to Murray’s side as he went with wing backs and Billy Kee in the hole up front.
Lee Beevers came back into the defence with Chris Clements, back from illness, in the midfield.
Murray also brought back Kee and Matt Rhead into the three man strike force alongside Vadaine Oliver, who had also shaken off illness. Rhead was in, despite worries over a calf injury in midweek.
Last week’s keeper, loanee Adam Smith, has returned to Leicester City while Matty Blair was stretchered off injured and is out for the season.
Left out were Simon Heslop, Reggie Lambe, Junior Brown, all dropped to the bench.
Mansfield went forward from the off, getting the ball into the Stevenage box on three or four occasions without troubling the keeper.
The visitors went upfield and won themselves a corner on five minutes, but when it was half-cleared and put back in again, Pidgeley confidently claimed it.
Tafazolli’s attempted clearance cannoned back off Whelpdale and deflected out for a second corner which again Pidgeley grabbed with ease.
Dembele was given only a warning for hacking down Beevers, keeper Day lucky to get away with a poor punch from Clements’ free kick, the ball hitting a defender and bouncing back into his arms.
The game’s first shot came on 10 minutes when Andrade was well over from 25 yards from a square ball from Kennedy’s free kick on the right.
On 13 minutes Rhead headed the ball on to Oliver who controlled in the box and got away a low shot that saw Wells get in a block for the home side’s first corner, which came to nothing.
Pidgeley was easily down to gather a poor, low shot from Kennedy after Sutton had lost a header out on the right.
A lofted ball forwards from Beevers was just too hard for Oliver to get there as Day came to the edge of his box to get there first.
Dembele glanced a header well wide from a short corner routine for the visitors as we waited for a poor, scrappy game to burst into life.
Johnson drilled in a low cross that Pidgeley held onto.
McGuire then saw the game’s first yellow card on 32 minutes for am innocuous foul on Lee.
On 36 minutes Day finally had some work to do as he threw himself to his right to turn aside a curling Clements free kick from 30 yards.
When the corner was cleared Beevers sidefooted a volley back towards goal from 18 yards that drifted wide.
Rhead then headed on a long Elder throw and Wells did well to stop Tafazolli getting a shot away.
But Mansfield were caught on the hop on 39 minutes after Kee gave the ball away and Kennedy quickly fed Andrade, who stepped inside the last defender before pulling a low finish side of the near post.
In the final minute of the half Day got down well to block a Tafazolli header from a right wing corner.
Lambe replaced Kee for the second half for Mansfield.
And he was the hero within seven minutes as he broke the deadlock.
Clements spread play wide to the right with a good ball from central midfield to put Beevers in space. He curled a long cross to the far post where Rhead headed back in front of goal to find an unmarked Lambe who volleyed high into the net from six yards.
On 59 minutes Stags failed to deal with a free kick from the right and Johnson quickly whipped a snapshot into the sidenetting.
Stags replied with two successive corners, but were unable to test Day from either.
McGuire found the Stevenage sidenetting with a rasping 20 yard volley from a half cleared throw from the left on 67 minutes.
More home pressure followed with a Lambe cross from the right cleared from almost on the line.
Lee was jeered for a wild shot from 35 yards that cleared the North Stand roof and found the car park.
Haynes got himself in the way of a Johnson finish after some neat passing by the visitors which earned only a corner.
McGuire headed away another flag kick as the visitors pressed.
Lee and Sutton were booked on 78 minutes after a tackle that left Oliver on the floor, Sutton booked for something he said.
Ex-Stag Beardsley joined the action for the last 11 minutes to boos from the stand as the visitors made their final change.
Whelpdale was hugely wide of the target to more jeers as we reached the 81st minute and Pidgeley still without a serious save to make.
Desperate Stevenage applied more pressure and won a sixth corner, headed clear by Tafazolli.
Brown was sent on for Rhead with six minutes to go.
He sent over a cross soon after which Lambe volleyed wide at the far post.
Five minutes were added on in which Stevenage elected not to throw the ball back to Stags after Pidgeley had rolled it out for an injury which incensed the home crowd.
Beevers was booked for kicking the ball away on 90+5 as the home fans’ fingernails began to take a shredding.
But in the end the Stags held on for what they thoroughly deserved.
STAGS: Pidgeley, Sutton, Beevers, Tafazolli, Raynes, Elder, McGuire, Clements, Kee (Lambe HT), Rhead (Brown 84), Oliver. Subs not used: Studer, Riley, Bingham, Heslop.
STEVENAGE: Day, Dembele (N’Guessan 65), Whelpdale, Charles, McAllister (Walton 68), Wells, Lee, Johnson (Beardsley 79), Henry, Kennedy, Andrade. Subs not used: Beasant, Ashton, Millard, Storer.
REFEREE: Oliver Langford of West Midlands.
ATTENDANCE: 2,436 (160 away). CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Chris Clements.