Matt Green finally roared back to form to warm Mansfield Town’s fans with a brace in the 3-1 win over Hartlepool United at a chilly One Call Stadium on Saturday – and how they needed it.
Green had gone eight games without a goal as Stags floundered in front of the net.
The team had gone five games without a goal or win, albeit two of them against League One Oldham in the FA Cup, and had lost two home League games on the bounce.
But boss Adam Murray felt little was wrong with his side, persisted with Green and was rewarded in style on Saturday.
Some fans had been calling for Green to be dropped, but Murray continued to publicly back his striker – and he suddenly looked like the Green of old on Saturday as Stags held onto their lofty sixth place in the table.
Green ended the goal drought after 474 minutes with a brave finish in the 24th minute before an unlucky Krystian Pearce own goal put Hartlepool back into the game on 37 minutes.
But sub Adi Yussuf netted a scorcher within three minutes of coming on in the 55th minute before Green secured the points nine minutes from the end.
Green naturally took the plaudits and the sponsors’ man of the match award as the pick of several excellent displays.
But perhaps the chief tormentor of Hatlepool on the day was Nathan Thomas, whose dazzling display on the left wing had home fans off their seats.
He tortured the visitors down the left and put in some superb crosses that, had Mansfield’s anticipation been better, could have seen them home and dry by half-time.
Stags did have a scare when their former striker Rakish Bingham forced Brian Jensen to turn his effort against the bar on 11 minutes.
But when Green threw himself forward to bravely get on the end of one of Thomas’ low crosses just before keeper Trevor Carson from five yards in the 24th minute, the home side were on their way.
However, on 37 minutes they suffered a setback as Blair Adams tried to head clear a long Jake Gray free kick only to see it go off Krystian Pearce in and into his own goal.
Stags deserved to be ahead as they went in for half-time and to hear that some fans verbally abused boss Murray and his players as they trooped off is both shocking and astonishing.
Nevertheless, they plugged away and sub Adi Yussuf joined the action on 55 minutes and within three minutes, when United fail to clear a long throw, lashed a sweet finish into the top far corner from the edge of the box.
A superb move on 81 minutes sealed the points as Lee Collins fed fellow sub Yussuf in the box who set up Green for a cool-low finish past Carson from close range.
Late on, Jake Carroll almost gave Hartlepool a lifeline as his 20 yard free kick struck the near angle and bounced away. But the day belonged to Mansfield and Green.
In a side showing five changes from midweek, another success story was Mitch Rose playing at right back in place of skipper Nicky Hunt, whom we learned just before the game will be out for two months with a hamstring injury – ill timing with the bust festive period ahead.
STAGS: Jensen, Rose, Pearce, Chapman (C), Clements, Green, Westcarr (Yussuf 55), N. Thomas (Blair 73), Tafazolli, Lambe (Collins 64), Adams. Subs not used: Shearer, J. Thomas, Fitzpatrick, McGuire.
HARTLEPOOL: Carson, Magnay, Carroll, Harrison, Bates, Bingham, Oyenuga (Oates 57), Jackson, Gray, Mandron (Fenwick 70), Naismith. Subs not used: Walker, Bartlett, Featherstone, Jones, Smith.
REFEREE: David Coote of Nottinghamshire.
ATTENDANCE: 3,031 (358 away).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Nathan Thomas.
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