Josh March’s strike tightened Forest Green’s grip on automatic promotion against a Mansfield side reduced to 10 men after George Lapslie’s second-half red card.

March pounced on 15 minutes with a clinical finish to make it three wins on the spin for Rob Edwards’ side and a gap of 12 points on fourth-placed Northampton, with seven games to go.

Promotion-chasing Mansfield started brightly with Stephen Quinn fizzing wide before Lucas Akins contrived to skew wide with just Luke McGee to beat.

Rovers turned the screw and scored against the run of play. Stags keeper Nathan Bishop parried Jamille Matt’s diving header but the ball broke to March, who finished with aplomb.

March, who was drafted in following the season-ending injury to top scorer Mathew Stevens, came close to a second when he got on the end of a Dan Sweeney header only for Bishop to glove his strike away from the danger zone.

Mansfield were reduced to 10 men on 50 minutes when Lapslie was handed a straight red for a high tackle on Ebou Adams.

Newcastle loanee Matty Longstaff forced McGee to plunge onto his shot with 20 minutes to go as the Stags hunted parity, but Rovers comfortably saw the game out despite six minutes of injury time.

Rovers celebrated their goal by holding up Matty Stevens’ number nine shirt - the striker was ruled out for the season after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament against Scunthorpe United on Saturday.

Forest Green boss Rob Edwards has urged his side to win the title for their injured top scorer.

“The players FaceTimed Matty after the game and we want to do it for him and make sure he’s playing League One football next season,” he said.

Edwards felt Mansfield made a bright start to the game and were more of a threat when reduced to 10 men after the break.

He added: “Mansfield were one of the teams that can catch us and that was one of our best performances of the season. They started really well in the initial 10 minutes but we settled, but the game was more in the balance when they went down to 10.”

Edwards heaped praise on striker March who came in for Stevens, adding: “I’m extremely proud of Josh March and he deserves the credit and plaudits tonight. Any youngster should take a leaf out of his book, the way he trains, he’s someone to look up to.

“Tonight, put a bit of daylight between us and the chasing pack, but we have a huge seven games to go and I’ve told the boys I want three wins in a week.”

Rovers host Hartlepool United on Saturday.