Clinical Mansfield Go Fourth

A ruthless display by Mansfield saw three moments of magic pour more misery on The Football League's bottom side Newport. It was a third consecutive win for the Stags, scoring nine goals and keeping two clean sheets in the process. The game was blessed by a wonder strike from Mal Benning, another 25 yard volley to add to his personal goal of the season competition.

Adam Murray opted for an unchanged side from the impressive away wins at Stevenage and Dagenham. Chris Clements groin injury had healed quickly as predicted and he was deemed fit enough for the bench. Last weeks match winner Adi Yussuf also had to settle for a bib and tracksuit on the sideline. He had his own fan club sat in the upper tier of the Ian Greaves Stand just a few rows in front of where I was seated. Newport arrived at the One Call Stadium after their first week on the training ground under new boss John Sheridan. Sheridan of course once managed local rivals Chesterfield, a role he was vigorously reminded of by home supporters as he trudged from the tunnel to the dugout.

The start of the game was a little laborious. Despite having two strikers up front, the away side looked set up for a draw. Most of the Stags early dalliances came down the left hand side, chiefly courtesy of Mal Benning. The full back whipped a cross through the middle of the box which remained unmet and also had a long range effort easily saved by the Newport keeper after a neat flick by Adam Chapman. At the other end on 16 minutes, Donacien headed well over the bar from a corner.

On 20 minutes, a good move nearly resulted in a moment of fortune for those in amber. Westcarr tracked back well to intercept in the right back position and played a channel ball for Green. Green controlled and laid the ball off to Chapman, who chipped the ball first time to Jack Thomas. Thomas turned back inside and squared for McGuire who kept the ball moving left to Benning. Benning whipped in a delicious cross towards both Green and Thomas, but Taylor managed to intervene with a diving headed. However, the defender's clearance ricocheted off the shins off Donacien and keeper Day had to react quickly to keep the ball out.

Two minutes later, a free kick was whipped in from the right touchline by Benning halfway inside Newport territory. An Exile's defender headed the initial delivery into the air and after contributions from Pearce and Hunt, the loose ball ran to Westcarr on the penalty spot. Westcarr shot on the turn with his left foot, which looked to be heading towards the bottom corner, but was well block by Barrow.

Mansfield were completely on top and creating chances at will. On 25 minutes, excellent pressing from the Stags forced a mistake in the middle of the park. Westcarr carried the ball forward and passed wide to the overlapping Chapman. Westcarr carried on running around Chapman, but the latter sold Westcarr a little short with the return pass and he could only find a low cross-cum-shot into the hands of the keeper.

On 36 minutes, a free-kick for Mansfield inside their own half was taken by Benning. He hit the ball high towards Tafazolli inside the area on the right, who nodded the ball into the path of Lambe on the penalty spot. Lambe chested the ball down but choked his shot into the ground, leading to a comfortable save for Day. Three minutes later, Nicky Hunt slalomed down the right and cut inside onto his left foot, only to see his shot blocked. Benning went for the rebound but was shut out. A perfect example of something Mansfield were missing last season, full backs not only prepared to cross the half way line but pose a very real goal threat.

The best chance of the half fell to exactly the man you would have hoped in Matt Green on 42 minutes. A long ball was hooked forward by Lambe, willingly pursued and held up by Green inside the left of the penalty area. He waited for support and dropped the ball off to Jack Thomas. Thomas initially beat his defender on the outside only to see his low cross blocked. The ball came back to Thomas from the block, this time the youngster opted to curl the ball to the back post where Green was waiting inside the six yard box. Green dived at the cross with his head, only to see his near post effort denied by the legs of Day. Green looked to have been caught off guard by the defender in front of him missing his headed clearance. Newport launched a counter attack after Ansah was found in the left channel. He managed to dribble into the area but his curling effort was straight at Jensen. A first shot on target for the visitors.

Just before half time, Benning again caused The Exiles defence problems, as his cross form the left found Green on the six yard line but this time his header was glanced wide of the target. The flag was raised in any case for offside. Benning's cross followed a lovely flowing move between Chapman, Thomas and Westcarr.

A goalless first half came to an end but Mansfield were well on top. The only criticism would be that given the positions The Stags attackers had found themselves in, Day had only been seriously tested on one occasion. At times, the build up play could have benefited from being slightly quicker. Newport were causing very little trouble at the opposite end of the pitch.

The Stags came flying out the box in the second half as they took the lead on 50 minutes. Chapman showed great vision to pick out Benning on the left hand side. Benning attempted some trickery before dinking towards Jack Thomas in the area. Thomas showed fantastic technique and awareness to cushion the ball over the head of Matt Taylor and into the path of Westcarr. It seem to take an age for the ball to drop but Westcarr watched it all the way and smashed a right footed volley high into the net. The keeper stood no chance from point blank range. The touch from Thomas was exquisite and showed the invention that he possesses. All three of Westcarr's league goals have come in front of the home fans.

Four minutes later, Mansfield had two chances to double their lead. Nicky Hunt sent a high cross in from the right which was headed back across goal by Westcarr towards Green. Green protected the ball with his back to goal before shooting on the spin, but he got a looping contact on the shot and Day back-pedalled well to turn the ball over for a corner. Chapman took the corner from the right, which was driven towards Tafazolli at the back post. Tafazolli powered his header goalwards from ten yards, only for Day to parry the ball away.

Newport nearly equalised completely against the run of play on 68 minutes. From a throw-in on the left, Chapman tried to clear the ball but it deflected fortunately to Rodman on the touchline. Rodman played the ball squar and continued his run through the middle of the defence, which was found by the return pass from Boden. Rodman advanced on goal but Jensen was very quick off his line to smother the shot and pounce on the rebound. A quality move from the visitors straight out of the blue.

The Stags brief flirtation with danger was ended by another stunning goal from Mal Benning. The build up bore many similarities to previous moments in the game. Westcarr switched play to Hunt on the right, as Chapman had to Benning for the opener. Thomas was in acres of space ahead of him but Hunt initially chose to carry the ball towards goal, before eventually playing the ball wide to Thomas. Thomas played a one-two with Westcarr before his low cross was blocked. As it had in the first half for Green's headed chance, the ball rebounded back to Thomas. Thomas had an age to run around the ball and pick a pass. When he did, it was measured to perfection to pick out Benning 20 yards from goal. As Westcarr had for the first, Benning kept his eye on the ball all the way to his left boot. The finish from Benning was sublime as he hammered a left foot volley back where the ball had came from and into the top left hand corner via the fingertips of Day. The whole Mansfield support, and a few of the Newport fans stood in amazement at what they had just witnessed. Players had hands to mouths as they congratulated the full back on a scorching goal, which many have hailed as the best they have witnessed as a Mansfield fan. It truly was an unforgettable strike and gave the Stags a comfortable two goal cushion.

Perhaps shell-shocked by Benning's third goal of the season, Mansfield allowed Newport more space in the middle of the park which led to the visitor's best spell of the game. On 76 minutes, Elito did well to hold off a couple of chances on the left and feed Barrow. Barrow centred the ball and found Boden, who cleverly back-heeled to Ansah. Ansah rode a challenge from Benning and struck towards goal. His shot cannoned off the heel of Tafazolli and was unconventionally save by the feet of Jensen. Alarmed by the room being afforded, Murray introduced Mitch Rose into proceedings in place of Reggie Lambe. Rose immediately came out to the right wing.

On 80 minutes, following a good opening for Green at other end where the striker slipped at the crucial moment, Ansah received a pass 25 yards from goal and let go a swerving strike which was well saved by Jensen. It was another unconventional save by Jensen as he deflected the ball away in the opposite direction from which he was diving.

Mansfield attempted to take the sting out of Newport's new found buoyancy by making a further two substitutions. Chris Clements made a welcome return to replace Jack Thomas on 84 minutes, whilst Adi Yussuf replaced Matt Green three minutes later.

Yussuf was straight into the action and causing problems for the Newport defence. After good footwork on the left from Benning, Westcarr whipped the ball into the feet of Yussuf just inside the area. Taylor underestimated the strength of the powerful striker and was rolled by Yussuf. He perhaps took one touch too many, forcing him wide and narrowing his angel but still got a shot away and fired across the face of goal.

Three minutes later, Yussuf made it 3-0 to score his first home goal for the Stags. Chapman did well to get on the ball in the centre circle and slid the ball through to Rose in the right channel. Rose rolled the ball into the feet of Yussuf, who again pinned his defender and turned onto his left foot. With the ball rolling into the D, Yussuf did not even need to lift his head to arrow a strike into the bottom left hand corner. The goal showcased all that Yussuf is about, great strength and a predatory instinct when confidence is high. Taylor had been completely exposed by Yussuf during his five minutes on the field. He headed straight over to his fans in the Ian Greaves stand to celebrate his goal, his power underlined when knocking Westcarr to the ground in his eagerness to salute the supporters.

A comprehensive victory for Mansfield who fully deserved all three points. Once Newport's resolve was broken by Westcarr's opener, the Stags played in a very professional manner to put the outcome beyond doubt. Mal Benning was exceptional throughout, involved in the majority of chances created and of course scoring a wonder goal. Brian Jensen also made some crucial saves and steered his defence in the direction of a fifth clean sheet of the season.

The three points collected moved Mansfield up to fourth position in League Two, only one point off the summit, although both Wycombe and Plymouth still have games to play which could alter that. The Stags unbeaten home record now stands at six games, with a chance to extend that run as Bristol Rovers visit next Saturday.  The feel good factor is high around the club, the attendance yesterday the highest since the opening game of the season. Adam Murray and John Radford will be hoping that the team can keep performing on the pitch, which should see the attendances continue to rise.

Player Ratings :

Jensen - 8 - Three excellent saves to prevent Newport getting back into the game. Commanding.
Hunt - 7.5 - Barely put a foot wrong and was better going forward than of late.
Pearce - 8 - Not much to do but did it all superbly.
Tafazolli - 8.5 - Excellent display with numerous clearances.
Benning - 9 - Involved in almost everything good. Fantastic goal. The best left back we have seen in at least a decade.
McGuire - 6.5 - Couple of lapses but swept up well. Kept the ball better than of late.
Chapman - 7 - Started the move for two of the goals. Still a few trademark 'not looking' passes.
Lambe - 6.5 - Made a few intelligent runs and defends well but not involved much with the ball.
Thomas - 8.5 - Two brilliant assists, showing touch and vision. Could have been three had Green scored with header in the first. Much better than at Dagenham.
Westcarr - 7.5 - Poor first half but much better in the second. Involved in all three goals.
Green - 6.5 - Put in the spadework that allowed Yussuf to have the impact he did. Still his touch is letting him down on occasion.

Subs :

Rose (Lambe 77) - Assist for Yussuf goal. Good to see him back on the pitch.
Clements (Thomas 84) - Not really involved but again good to see him return.
Yussuf (Green 87) - Very impressive cameo, took his goal well. Great to see how much it means to him.