Two well-taken goals in the last 10 minutes saw Mansfield Town finally edge their penultimate pre-season friendly 2-0 at National League North neighbours Alfreton Town this afternoon.
Danny Rose slotted away an excellent finish on 80 minutes to finally break the deadlock before a superb solo goal by Jacob Mellis seven minutes later settled the result.
Stags made 10 changes on the 65th minute and it was two of the subs who did the trick in the end on a day when Mansfield dominated and created a wealth of chances.
The Stags were slow to get going on a warm afternoon at the Impact Arena but enjoyed the best of a bruising first half in which the home defenders held little back.
Mansfield had more of the ball in the second half and in the end it was just a surprise they didn’t score more with Chris Elliott making some important saves and Krystian Pearce, twice, and Rose missing great chances.
But there were plenty of good displays to give boss Steve Evans more to mull over ahead of Tuesday’s final friendly at Rainworth MW with the big kick-off at Crewe just a week away.
Defender Rhys Bennett missed out with a slightly bruised foot.
Otherwise only Alex MacDonald, recovering from a minor knee operation, was missing from the squad.
Alfreton, who have brought in 16 new players, included ex-Stags Craig Disley and Craig Westcarr.
Johnson produced the first shot of the game on four minutes, but straight at Logan.
Sterling-James needed attention after being caught by the swinging leg of Shiels but was okay to continue.
On nine minutes the visitors were awarded a central free kick 20 yards out, but Westcarr’s effort went straight into the wall and, from the resulting corner, he hooked the ball well over.
A minute later the Reds won another free kick, slightly more to the left, but again Westcarr fired into the wall and then screwed his follow-up wide.
Potter was allowed to run with the ball on 14 minutes, cutting in from the left but sending his finish wide of the angle from the edge of the box.
On 15 minutes Logan had to get down at his near post to block a fierce Allan shot as Stags failed to deal with a long Snodin free kick from the right, then they escaped from a scramble when the corner came over.
On 22 minutes Sterling-James should have put the visitors ahead. Potter set White away down the right and he pulled back a low cross that Sterling-James hooked wide from eight yards.
Then a great cross-field ball from Digby picked out Anderson racing into the left of the box on 26 minutes, Anderson sliding in to poke a shot on target that Elliott had to block with his legs.
However, an Allan header from a long throw on 29 minutes deflected narrowly wide for a home corner with Mansfield’s hearts in their mouths.
The Stags began to enjoy some good possesion and a Byrom free kick on 36 minutes picked out Mirfin in the box, but his backheader dropped narrowly wide.
Pearce then should have scored on 42 minutes as he planted a close range near post header wide from a Byrom corner.
Potter and Digby then worked the ball across to feed the incoming Benning in space on the left, his finish whistling just over the bar.
Two minutes after the break Sterling-James burst into the box on the right from Digby’s pass. He felt he was being held back by Priestley as his shot was blocked by the keeper, but all he got was a corner from which Pearce headed straight at Elliott.
On 52 minutes Anderson cut in from the left to zip a shot straight at the keeper.
Mansfield were getting increasingly angry with the home side’s physical approach and a blatant elbow in the head by Shiels on Angol on 54 minutes sparked some shoving which saw the referee have to calm things down.
A good interception by Benning then saw him set up Sterling-James for a low shot that Elliott grabbed at the second attempt as the opening goal remained elusive.
Stags won a free kick 25 yards out on 62 minutes from which Sterling-James forced Elliott to tip it away as the ball threatened to find the top corner.
The 63rd minute brought a mass substitution for the Stags with Hunt, Hamilton, Diamond, Mellis, Atkinson, Olejnik, Taft, Spencer, Thomas, and Rose joining the action and only Murfin remaining on the pitch.
Topliss needed attention after a powerful Hamilton shot struck him in the head but was able to play on.
Diamond almost broke the deadlock on 70 minutes from a left wing corner as he rose well to meet it but powered his header over.
Allan wasn’t far wide at the other end with a rare Alfreton shot a minute later.
Elliott was in action again on 72 minutes to block a blast from Spencer as Mansfield continued to notch up the chances.
Rose was next to fail to put away a great opportunity as Hamilton burst down the right and, when his cross was pushed away by Elliott, Rose sent a diving header wide from seven yards.
Johnson scuffed a low shot to give Olejnik an easy first save soon after.
Stags finally broke through with just 10 minutes to go as Rose beat the offside on the left and raced away, going into the box and slotting home across the keeper and inside the far post.
Platt might have done better with five minutes to go as he looped a header over from a Topliss cross as the home side looked for a way back into the game.
Instead Mellis settled it with a piece of individual brilliance on 87 minutes. Taking possession just outside the box he simply dribbled his way through the defenders and tucked away a deadly finish to applause from all corners of the ground.
ALFRETON: Elliott, Topliss, Allan, Platt, Shiels, Priestley, Johnson, Disley, Westcarr (Robertson 83), Sharp, Snodin. Subs not used: McGowan, Marshall, Morrison, Brough, Evans, Trialist.
STAGS: Logan, White, Mirfin, Benning, Potter, Byrom, Digby, Anderson, Angol, Sterling-James. Subs all used on 62 minutes: Diamond, Mellis, Atkinson, Olejnik, Taft, Spencer, Hunt, Hamilton, Rose, Thomas. Mirfin played the full 90 minutes.
REFEREE: James Oldham.
ATTENDANCE: 735 (431 away).