LATE HEARTBREAK FOR STAGS
Mansfield Town 1-1 Cambridge United
Mendes 61. Tudor 90(+2).
Att. 4,342 (505 from Cambridge)
Mansfield Town 1 Cambridge United 1
MANSFIELD Town dropped two vital promotion points when they were stung by a Cambridge equaliser two minute into stoppage time at Field Mill this afternoon.
Admittedly it was a piece of brilliance as Shane Tudor curled a 20 yard free kick into the top left hand corner.
But Stags knew they should have hung on to the three hard-earned points they already had in their grasp at such a late juncture.
With heavy rain showers and swirling winds, the conditions did not help what was, overall, a poor game.
But Stags still looked to have done enough as they put a frustrating first half against defensive-minded opposition behind them to take the lead through Junior Mendes.
It was 'After the Lord Mayor's Show' for Mansfield as they failed to reproduce the superb football of Tuesday night's win over Torquay.
But United's reluctance to come out their shells and the weather conditions didn't help matters.
Manager Keith Curle said: "That hurt. But we have to live with it and the important thing is how we react to it as we have another massive game coming up on Tuesday.
"Cambridge came here to quieten the crowd, spoil the game and slow it down from the tempo we like to play at which worked for the first 45 minutes.
"After the goal they had to change their shape and go for it which they did. It was a good finish for their equaliser. But I thought the free kick was a dubious one and there were things in the lead-up to the goal that shouldn't have happened.
"Overall I thought we did enough to win the game but at least some of the other results went for us and there will be lots more twists and turns before the end of the season. "
Stags were unchanged from the side that beat Torquay United in midweek.
Playing against a strong wind, Stags won a sixth minute corner on the left which Corden curled through everyone to the far post where Marshall gathered under no pressure.
The wind almost gifted Cambridge a goal on 11 minutes. Bimson crossed long and high from the left and it swirled and moved in the wind as Pilkington tried to get under it and eventually hit his crossbar before he dropped on the ball as it fell.
It took Stags 15 minutes to find their feet in the blustery conditions before they started to string their passes together.
United cleared Mansfield's first corner. But soon after Larkin battled his way to the right by-line and pulled the ball back for Mendes who swept a first time shot well over from eight yards.
Two minutes later John-Baptiste glanced a header just over from a Lawrence free kick.
Duncan did superbly well to send a diving header out for a corner at the far post as Larkin tried to get on the end of a long whipped Lawrence cross. But Marshall easily gathered the corner.
A miscued clearance by Lawrence left the ball floating over his own goal mouth. It was half-cleared to Walker who lashed a low shot just wide of goal.
Lawrence won a free kick 20 yards out at the other end which he fired low straight into Marshall's grasp.
Tudor was booked on 33 minutes for a foul on Lawrence.
But the visitors came very close to breaking the deadlock on 40 minutes. Stags cleared a free kick as far as Gutteridge 30 yards out who controlled the ball on his thigh before letting fly with a dipping volley that Pilkington tipped over his bar at the last minute.
The United goal survived some late pressure as a free kick, a dangerous cross and a corner were all cleared away.
At the other end Tudor sliced a shot well off target as we entered the final minute of the scheduled 45.
White replaced Larkin up front for the second half while Williamson came on for MacKenzie.
Stags quickly won a free kick which Lawrence touched to Corden who saw his low shot deflect narrowly wide.
Williamson also warmed Marshall's hands with a low drive from 20 yards.
But again United came desperately close on 54 minutes. Gutteridge sent Easter clear on goal.
He poked the ball past keeper Pilkington as John-Baptiste slid in with a desperate challenge and the ball rolled just wide of the open goal with Easter just unable to reach it and guide it home, having to settle instead for a corner as Day got back to put the ball to safety.
Stags finally broke through on 61 minutes as Mendes took his goals tally into double figures with his second strike of the week.
A long Pilkington clearance sailed over defender Duncan. Mendes stole in to muscle the big defender out of it before calmly slotting a low right footed finish past Marshall on his near post.
Cambridge sent on Revell for Robinson on 65 minutes.
Soon after Hassell went down under Duncan's challenge as United struggled to get the ball clear but the referee waved play on.
Hassell got in a good tackle on 70 minutes. But the ball ran loose to Gutteridge who lashed an 18-yard shot narrowly wide.
Easter briefly got goal side of Day and laid the ball off to his right where Vaughan thankfully was in quickly to mop up the danger.
Williamson conceded a needless free kick 20 yards out which Walker drilled over the bar while Gutteridge volleyed wildly over from 35 yards soon after as United began to reach desperation time.
Cambridge had calls for a penalty turned down as Tudor's cross struck Hassell's hand in the box.
Stags withdrew Mendes for the last six minutes, Beardsley coming on.
Cambridge had another penalty appeal ignored three minutes from time as Vaughan leaned on Easter who went down.
Williamson conceded another needless free kick in a central position 20 yards from goal in the final minute of stoppage time and this time was made to pay.
He failed to clear the ball first time and then clipped Walker's heels.
Up stepped Tudor to curl a brilliant free kick into the top left hand corner and leave Stags shattered.
Delighted Dale Brooks, Cambridge assistant manager, said: "We set our stall out to play for a point and went 4/5/1.
"Up to their goal I thought we looked comfortable. After they scored we had to deal with a bit of pressure.
"But fair play to the lads, they stuck at it and grafted and we got a point with what was a fantastic free kick in anyone's books or anyone's league.
"It was a fantastic technique and a great bit of skill and justified our point.
"We showed tremendous character again like last week. We defended well as a unit."
Shane Tudor curled in a dramatic injury time equaliser to edge Cambridge closer to safety and put a huge dent in Mansfield's automatic promotion hopes.
Mansfield substitute Lee Williamson fouled Justin Walker on the edge of the area and from the last kick of the match Tudor bent his free kick over the wall and into the bottom corner.
It was rough luck on promotion-chasing Mansfield, who looked to be cruising to their second win in five days at a wind-swept Field Mill.
They had survived a scare in the 54th minute when Tony Vaughan raced back to clear off the line after Jermaine Easter had rolled his finish from the edge of the area past stranded keeper Kevin Pilkington.
Then in the 61st minute the Stags grabbed the lead. Pilkington's long kick cleared the defence and Junior Mendes held off Andy Duncan before finishing clinically from six yards.
With new manager Claude Le Roy again absent through his French TV duties, his assistant Herve Renard took charge for the second successive Saturday.
And the U's almost grabbed a lucky 11th minute lead. Stuart Bimson's high cross swirled in the strong wind, dropped onto the bar, and hit Mansfield full-back Vaughan before a grateful Pilkington saved on the line.
Mansfield, struggling against the near-gale, finally created a chance in the 18th minute.
Colin Larkin's clever turn and cross picked out Mendes, but his strike partner scooped over from six yards. United, looking extremely dangerous on the break, created the better first half chances with the wind at their backs.
In the 25th minute Walker's 20 yard snapshot flew narrowly wide.
Then five minutes before half time Luke Guttridge's dipping 25 yard volley from a partially-cleared corner was acrobatically tipped over by the flying keeper.
Mansfield upped their tempo in the second half and Wayne Corden's 20 yard curling free kick was deflected, past the post as they began to dominate.
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