The excitement at the prospect of a bright future for Reds under new owners wasn’t reflected on the pitch as Mark Yates’ side suffered a third successive League 2 defeat.
Hours after the club confirmed that successful takeover talks were nearly complete a goal from Chris Beardsley on the hour gave the Stags a 1-0 win.
It was, on reflection, a deserved success for the visitors with man of the match Callum Preston pulling off four excellent saves, three of them in a seven-minute spell in the first half.
Matt Green was sent off for the visitors with a minute of normal time to go and Reds bombarded Scott Shearer’s goal in stoppage time with the Stags’ keeper denying Chris Atkinson with a superb save in fourth added minute.
But otherwise the former Reds’ stopper had a quiet return to Crawley. There was, as usual, no lack of effort or endeavour from Yates’s team but they lacked the quality to break down a well organised Mansfield side for concerted spells of the match despite winning nine of the game’s 22 corners.
Both sets of fans impeccably observed the pre-match minute’s silence in memory of President Les Turnbull and it was Mansfield who settled quickest.
They nearly punished poor defending by Lewis Young in the 25th minute. The defender headed the ball straight into Green’s path and the former Birmingham striker was through on goal, but Preston stood tall and deflected his shot wide for a corner.
Shearer made a routine save from Gwion Edwards’ drive before Preston came to the rescue again on the half-hour after a long-range pass fell perfectly into Green’s path but he was again denied by the Crawley keeper.
Preston made another save on 32 minutes, parrying James Baxendale’s shot after he’d cut in from the right. The ball conveniently rebounded off Green’s leg into Preston’s grateful clutches.
Mansfield would have been cursing their luck at the break but after Reds had made a promising start to the second half it was the Stags who went in front on the hour when Beardsley met Benning’s inswinging corner with a flick header that flew inside the near post.
Preston made another save at full stretch to deny Baxendale on 72 minutes, by which time Yates had brought on Shamir Fenelon, Roarie Deacon and Chris Atkinson in a bid to find an equaliser.
But it was only in the last ten minutes when they finally built some momentum. Shearer got across goal to tip Edwards’ effort round the post then Sonny Bradley met Simon Walton’s corner but headed onto the top of the net.
Deacon’s goalbound drive was deflected wide and Mansfield didn’t make it any easier for themselves when Green, booked for an earlier foul on Bradley, got a second yellow and his marching orders for throwing the ball into the crowd after Reds had been awarded a throw-in.
Shearer made a great save to deny Atkinson as Crawley launched one final sortie but the visitors held on to complete the double over Reds and were only denied a second with virtually the last kick when substitute Mitchell Rose, through on goal, was thwarted by the impressive Preston.