AN icy pitch greeted referee Geoff Eltringham at Mansfield and he can expect an equally frosty welcome, whatever the weather, on his next visit to KitKat Crescent.

Eltringham passed the Field Mill surface as fit to play on Saturday following seven hours of snow shovelling from Stags supporters.

The Sunderland official then incensed York City fans, not to mention livid manager Martin Foyle, by awarding a controversial 42nd-minute penalty that provided Rob Duffy with the only goal of the game.

Not even Eltringham’s second-half decision to send off Mansfield defender Scott Garner, which was beyond debate in any case, could appease the visitors.

It seemingly only served to make a stubborn Stags defence more determined to claim a fourth clean sheet in five matches under new boss David Holdsworth with ’keeper Alan Marriott making outstanding late saves to thwart Kyle Critchell and Richard Brodie.

Duffy’s spot kick was Mansfield’s only on-target attempt and one of just three shots of any description by the home side all afternoon. City, though, for all their understandable sense of injustice, functioned with little threat as an attacking unit.

Brodie and Adam Boyes, who had both performed so well at Kidderminster seven days earlier, struggled to make an impact at Field Mill in a three-pronged strikeforce that was spilt up when the labouring Daniel McBreen was replaced by Adam Smith on the hour. The frozen-out Onome Sodje, meanwhile, can consider himself unfortunate to see out the game on the bench.

Former Stag Simon Brown also failed to provide reliable forward momentum from midfield despite being handed a roving role with Christian Smith and Levi Mackin forming a strong buffer for a resolute City back four, in which Simon Rusk impressed as a makeshift right-back.

A slow start to the match saw both sides finding their feet on a pitch that was still white in several patches.

Home defender Adie Moses eventually hooked the first shot over Michael Ingham’s bar on 23 minutes.

At the other end, Brodie wasted a great opportunity when he headed straight at Marriott from six yards after Mackin’s right-wing cross had been met by Danny Parslow on the far post.

Marriott then scrambled to gather a long-range Mackin drive on 39 minutes.

It was Mansfield, though, that broke the deadlock against the run of play and in dubious circumstances. An off-balance Michael Blackwood wriggled his way past Critchell and Parslow before appearing to fall over a sliding Ingham on his way to running the ball out of play.

But, to the astonishment of most observers, Eltringham pointed to the spot.

Duffy then waited for Ingham to dive to his left before coolly sidefooting in the opposite direction.

That ill-deserved, slender advantage looked unlikely to be enough when Garner, who had been cautioned earlier, earned himself a second yellow card for thrusting out an arm to prevent Brodie charging past him and enjoying a clear run on goal.

From Mark Robinson’s free-kick, Brodie’s scuffed shot was saved at the foot of his post by Marriott.

Adam Smith then curled a free-kick narrowly wide with Marriott seemingly beaten, but the former Lincoln ’keeper reacted superbly to push Critchell’s powerful header on to his left-hand post after an 82nd-minute Rusk cross.

Mansfield’s only effort of the second half saw Neil MacKenzie blaze off target from 35 yards but, with the visitors employing a two-man defence at the death to keep tabs on lone striker Duffy, Brodie saw City’s last chance of an equaliser go begging.

The England ‘C’ international escaped punishment for handball as he brought down Adam Smith’s cross, but then drilled his low eight-yard effort against Marriott’s legs.

Match facts

City: Michael Ingham 7, Simon Rusk 8, Kyle Critchell 7, Danny Parslow 7, Mark Robinson 7, Simon Brown 6, Levi Mackin 7, Christian Smith 7, Adam Boyes 6, Richard Brodie 6, Daniel McBreen 6.

Substitutions: Adam Smith (for McBreen, 60) 7, Liam Shepherd (for Robinson, 83).

Subs not used: Sodje, Greaves, McWilliams.

Key: 10 – Faultless; 9 – Outstanding; 8 – Excellent; 7 – Good; 6 – Average; 5 – Below par; 4 – Poor; 3 – Dud; 2 – Hopeless; 1 – Retire.

City’s star man: Rusk – defensively solid and also a willing attacking outlet down the flank from right-back.

Mansfield Town: Alan Marriott, Scott Gardner (Tomi Ameobi, 66), Scott Garner, Adie Moses, Paul Mayo, Curtis Woodhouse, Matt Somner, Jonathan D’Laryea, Michael Blackwood (Louis Briscoe, 48), Rob Duffy, Aaron O’Connor (Neil MacKenzie, 60).

Subs not used: Jason White, Mark Stallard.

Yellow cards: Garner 33, Garner 57, Duffy 90, Brodie 90.

Red card: Garner 57.

Shots on target: Stags 1, York 7

Shots off target: Stags 2, York 2

Corners: Stags 3, York 3

Fouls conceded: Stags 12, York 12

Offsides: Stags 3, York 2

Referee: Geoff Eltringham (Sunderland).

Rating: duped far too easily for the pivotal penalty decision.

Attendance: 2,576.

Mistake of the match: Referee Eltringham’s penalty award.

Cross of the match: Rusk’s right-wing delivery to create an 82nd-minute headed chance for Critchell.

Save of the match: Marriott’s push on to his near post from Critchell’s header.

City player watch: Levi Mackin

Goal attempts on target: 1

Goal attempts off target: 0

Blocked goal attempts: 0

Passes to own player: 30

Passes to opposition: 12

Crosses to own player: 1

Crosses to opposition: 2

Pass completion rate: 68.9 per cent

Dribbles ball retained: 3

Dribbles ball lost: 1

Dribble completion rate: 75 per cent

Headers: 7

Tackles: 2

Clearances, blocks and interceptions: 2

Fouls won: 0

Fouls conceded: 0

Offsides: 0

Yellow cards: 0

Final summary: Levi Mackin produced another disciplined performance in the City midfield. His distribution could have been better but improved as the match went on and he did not concede one foul. His first-half 30-yard shot troubled Marriott and might give him the confidence to try his luck more in future games.