Harriers kept up their pace in the play-off race with a super show of fine finishing and outstanding defending on Saturday as they won 2-0 at Mansfield Town.
It was a fine start on a chilly afternoon at Field Mil as both sides looked to attack from the off – Ryan Rowe seeing an early effort blocked, Marvin Johnson causing some problems of his own and Stags’ Matt Green striking the post with a curling shot, all within the first ten minutes.
A smartly-worked free kick from Harriers minutes later almost saw Mickey Demetriou find the top corner with a drive that flew narrowly over; Anthony Malbon later side-footing over from close range after being teed up by James Vincent.
With a little over 15 minutes on the clock both Anthony Howell and Louis Briscoe wasted chances for the home side when perhaps placed to do better while Rowe up at the other end saw another shot gathered well by Alan Marriott.
A little after the mid-way point of the first half Harriers broke the deadlock and it was thanks to another well-worked free-kick that left the Stags bamboozled. Mickey Demetriou eventually the man to strike it as he curled a low effort around the dive of Marriott and into the bottom corner.
Yet it was two almost immediately; a driving ball from midfield finding a perfectly-timed run from Malbon who saw his dipping shot kept out by another stop save. With on 26 minutes on the clock, however, that second did arrive as the visitors completed a blitz of two goals in as many minutes, Lee Vaughan bending a fine attempt past Marriott and into the far corner.
The Stags were always a threat and just a couple of minutes later they almost clawed a goal back as defender John Dempster met a ball into the box with a powerful header that Danny Lewis tipped onto his bar with the danger eventually cleared.
With less than ten minutes left of the half Demetriou almost had a second as he met a deep ball from Johnson with a crazed, late run towards the far post – his fine header thumped the base of the post with Marriott again well beaten.
In first half injury time the talented and dangerous Green gave another unnecessary reminder of his abilities as he let fly from outside the area with a shot that cannoned off the upright and back into play, the former Torquay man himself firing over the follow-up.
Half-time sub Colin Daniel had the first chance of the second half for the Stags just five minutes after the re-start – he charged at Harriers and cut a shot away but it lacked any real direction and the ball sailed harmlessly wide of the target.
The home side certainly had the impetus thanks in part to those half-time changes and just shy of the hour mark only a reflex save from Lewis kept the score at 2-0 – he palmed away a deflected shot from Green as the marksman was again denied.
There was a touch over 20 minutes left to play when the visitors made their first changes of the day – wing man Sean Clancy and hit-man Nathan Blissett coming on for Marvin Johnson and Ryan Rowe. But there was a controversial flashpoint just a few minutes later as Clancy was shown a straight red card. The former Fleetwood man looked to have charged down a Lee Beevers clearance competitively but fairly – referee Mr Ford seeing differently as he delivered the red and Beevers benefited from a swift, near miraculous recovery.
The Stags by far had the better of the second period but Harriers were tenacious in defence of their lead; Lewis again proving more than able as he held a Green header at the second attempt.