Mansfield Town v Crawley Town
Reds conceded three goals in ten minutes at the start of the second half on a bleak afternoon at the One Call Stadium.
Ex-Reds boss Steve Evans’ reign in charge of the Stags got off to a dream start, although Crawley made it easy for the hosts with some generous defending.
Chris Clements capitalised on a mistake by Addison Garnett to volley the hosts into a 50th-minute lead and four minutes later Pat Hoban was left unmarked to double Mansfield’s lead.
Clements got his third on the hour and although Matt Harrold scored for the second successive game it was a mere consolation for Reds, who have slipped down to 16th in the League Two table ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Yeovil.
To make matters worse, Reds lost two defenders to injury. Mark Connolly had to come off in the 35th minute and his replacement, Alex Davey, suffered a shoulder injury and was replaced in the 64th minute. It meant Reds finished the game with Lewis Young in central defence and Bobson Bawling at right back. With Joe McNerney recovering from knee surgery, Head Coach Dermot Drummy is running out of defensive options but there is little he could do to legislate for the mistakes Reds made at the back on a bitterly cold afternoon.
With Evans in the Mansfield dug-out for the first time a high-tempo, no-frills approach by his side was guaranteed and the Stags dominated large parts of the first half, although Glenn Morris was hardly over-worked.
His best work of the opening half came when he clawed a header from Ashley Hemmings over the bar in the 43rd minute. There was a more routine stop from Hemmings’ early half-volley while Hoban and Matt Green wasted excellent opportunities which both came after Garnett had given the ball away.
Connolly needed extensive treatment after a 12th minute clash of heads but carried on until the 35th minute, when he was replaced by Davey.
It was a blow for Reds who created little in attack in the first half, although Collins and Harrold linked up well on occasion, without ever testing ex-Reds keeper Scott Shearer.
Reds' goalscorer Matt Harrold battles with Krystian Pearce
Still, Drummy would have been content at half-time but there was a portent of what was to come when Young had to head Krystian Pearce’s header off the line a minute in to the second half. Sadly, it was a warning Reds failed to heed.
The hosts broke through in the 50th minute – and it was a gift for Clements. Garnett went to head away Rose’s right-wing cross but gave the ball straight to the Mansfield skipper, who had the simple task of volleying past a helpless Morris.
Mansfield had their tails up and four minutes later doubled their lead. Referee Boyeson waved play on after Davey had brought down Hemmings in the centre circle and Green’s cross to the far post found Hoban, as Clements had been for the first goal, with time and space to volley past Morris and make it 2-0.
Morris prevented a third when he blocked a free kick from Green but the keeper was at fault on the hour when Mansfield went 3-0 in front.
He came out of his area to try and clear when Green broke down the left but Green rounded him easily then played an intelligent ball into the box to Clements, who volleyed into the roof of the net from 15 yards.
Two-thirds into the contest and it was now damage limitation for Reds. Morris prevented a fourth when he blocked James Baxendale’s shot but the visitors did get a consolation with their first effort on target nine minutes from time. Bawling did well down the right and his driven cross was glanced home by Harrold for his second goal in two games.
But by then Evans had his first win as Mansfield boss in the bag while his former club need to regroup ahead of another testing away game on Tuesday.
Reds: Morris; Young, Connolly (sub: Davey 35 (sub: Djalo 65), Garnett, Blackman; Boldewijn (Bawling 56), Clifford, Smith, Roberts; Collins; Harrold. Unused subs: Payne, Tajbakhsh, Henderson, Beeney.