Holwell Sports were knocked out of the FA Vase on Saturday despite a much-improved performance which unsettled higher league AFC Mansfield.
Despite their poor recent form, Holwell started the tie brightly and the visitors looked the lesser team for much of the first half as John Webster’s side moved the ball well.
Michael Stevenson again ran the show in midfield along with Chris Hibbitt who supplied the bite to disrupt and upset Mansfield’s playmakers.
Mansfield were guilty of unforced errors all over the pitch as their interplay was easily handled by the centre back pairing of Ian Bitmead and Woodcock.
The first chance fell to Hibbitt when Woodcock’s long ball out of defence was poorly defended by Mansfield captain Chris Timons.
Graham Wells controlled the ball on the left edge of the box and laid it back well for Hibbitt who shot high over the bar.
This started a period of intense pressure by the hosts who were unlucky not to profit from three successive corners as Mansfield were clearly rocking.
Holwell were winning the ball well in midfield, sending Liam Chapman and Tom Harris into channels on both sides of the park.
But the final ball into Wells and Hammond up front was just not telling enough against Mansfield’s stronger defenders.
Mansfield were trying to channel play through their wingers with Chaigem on the left seeing plenty of the ball, but Kieran Foster had the better of him.
Holwell were back on the attack as the half drew to a close, and in the final minute Foster and Woodcock fashioned a move. Hammond ran onto a ball over the top and freed himself from Timons, but his shot was just wide.
Holwell did not want the half to end as they maintained the pressure, while denying Mansfield a shot on target.
But the hosts let themselves down after the restart by conceding two minutes into the second half.
Wells was penalised for an innocuous challenge on Timons and the visitors’ keeper White took a long kick into the box.
No Holwell player defended the ball as it made its way over the defence to the goalline where Jake Nicholson stole in to prod home and frustrate the home fans.
Chaigem was replaced by Naylor at half-time because of a calf strain and this changed the way the visitors played in the second half and allowed them more freedom.
Holwell’s heads had dropped as they played deeper and relied on a long ball out of defence. But the pressure increased as the ball was returned at the defence with a vengeance.
Mansfield were in the ascendancy now and centre-forward Karkach got a shot away on the hour as Holwell began to struggle.
Jon D’Laryga was now stopping Holwell in midfield which allowed the visitors to press for a second as centre-half Plummer connected with a corner, but directed it just wide.
And the game was won after 65 minutes under some controversy. Hibbitt looked to be fouled midway in Holwell’s half, but play continued.
Naylor sent in a low centre to Gary Bradshaw who hit an unstoppable rising shot from 25 yards into the top corner of Witham’s goal.
It was a goal everyone in the ground applauded, but it also unfortunately did for Holwell who saw out the rest of the game well but with no real threat up front.
Holwell: Witham, Foster, Chiavetta, Bitmead, Woodcock, Harris, Stevenson, Hibbitt, Chapman (Tinsley), Hammond, Wells. Subs not used: Fontoura, Cropper, Hazeldine, Williams.