5:00pm Saturday 8th February 2014
By Chris Phillips
A BELOW par Southend United sunk to a disappointing 2-1 defeat at a windy Mansfield Town this afternoon.
Goals from Sam Clucas and James Jennings secured the Stags their first home success since September before Ryan Leonard’s late consolation for Phil Brown’s side.
And Blues also had to play the final nine minutes with 10 men after substitute Conor Clifford was sent off for a poorly timed challenge.
Before that late drama, Mansfield had been on top and came close to opening the scoring when Clucas’ close range volley was impressively pushed to safety by Shrimpers shot-stopper Daniel Bentley.
The Stags’ Matt Rhead then fired straight at Bentley from the edge of the penalty area before the home-side went in front in the 36th minute, with Clucas on target.
The Mansfield winger superbly latched on a cross-field ball from Martin Riley and charged in to the left hand side of the penalty before drilling home a low, left footed shot from 12 yards.
With the Stags staying on top, Blues defender Ben Coker did well to divert a downward header from Ryan Tafazolli across the crossbar but Tafazolli then wasted a clearer chance to score on the stroke of half-time when he nodded over James Jennings’ left wing corner from six yards.
Southend stepped things up at the start of the second half and should have equalised in the 56th minute when a well-worked Ben Coker free-kick was dummied by Barry Corr to tee up Lee Barnard.
But the Shrimpers striker could only scuff a 10 yard shot wide of the right post when he should have done better.
In a bid to create further chances, Blues made a double change in the 63rd minute as Conor Clifford replaced Michael Timlin and Freddy Eastwood came on for John White.
However, within seconds of the substitutions, Mansfield made it 2-0 when Rhead’s downward header from Chris Clements’ left wing corner was pushed out by Bentley, enabling Jennings to prod the ball home from close range.
Southend almost got back in to the game when Clifford sent a cushioned chip against the crossbar but the midfielder then caught the eye for all the wrong reasons in the 81st minute when he was sent off for a two footed challenge.
Blues responded by bringing Marc Laird on for Kevan Hurst and almost got back in to the game when Barry Corr fired against the outside of the left post after being teed up by Adam Thompson.
Moments later, Leonard did get Blues on the score-sheet when he fired home from 25 yards.
But by then the damage had already been done as the Shrimpers’ suffered their first league defeat of 2014.
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