BATTLING STAGS EARN MUCH NEEDED VICTORY
Mansfield Town 2 - 1 Cambridge United
Perry 26, Speight 73. Holroyd 41.
Attendance: 3368 (395 from Cambridge)
Martin Shaw and Simon Chamberlain at Field Mill
Mansfield Town battled hard to earn the first home league victory since 3rd October against Cambridge this afternoon. It was a morale boosting and much needed win which earned a standing ovation from a crowd that had become increasingly frustrated over recent games. Kyle Perry had put the Stags ahead after 26 minutes with a nice finish after a great move involve Silk and Williams, but Cambridge equalised just before half time. The introduction of Jake Speight early in the second half gave Mansfield fresh impetus and it was Speight who scored the winner on 73 minutes with a cool finish. The win takes the Stags back into the play-off zone after briefly dropping out of it on Saturday.
Stagsnet player ratings in the Match Centre
StagsPlayer commentary Cambridge game:
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Travellers' Tales: Mansfield Town
Posted on: Wed 30 Dec 2009
Match: v Mansfield Town - Blue Square Premier
Date: Monday, December 28th, 2009
Result: Mansfield 2 Cambridge United 1
Departure Time: 10.15am
Arrival at Ground: With eight of the last ten matches being at home, an away game came as something of a shock to the system; so much so that I almost set off in the wrong direction up the A14, heading towards the Abbey. That set the tone for the day. The A1 was in an uncooperative mood with traffic grinding to a halt while an upturned car was being recovered from a field … there are always problems when you park that way up.
We finally got to the ground at about 1.15pm to find that despite the capacious car park surrounding two sides of Field Mill, there was no parking available for United fans (or the press) at the ground. We were pointed in the direction of the Diary Crest depot (or 'Depo' as the ticket so phonetically described it) where the club did have room for us amongst the milk floats. £5 and a five minute walk later and we were ready to start the circumnavigation of the ground in search of press passes or anyone who knew where they might be hidden. It turned out that they were issued from a trestle table behind an unmarked door - albeit one that was shaded by an awning - so it was a bit more of a rush than normal to set up the broadcast kit and wolf down a Vegemite sandwich before going on air.
At The Ground
The Ground: Stands along three sides of the ground have been rebuilt in recent years and wouldn't look out of place at least a couple of divisions higher. Those behind either goal are almost mirror images of each other. The one to the left of the main stand contains blue seats with the word 'Stags' picked out in yellow, while behind the opposite goal 'MTFC' is picked out in blue against a background of seats that have faded to various shades of yellow.
While the stands at either end of the ground are single tier, the main stand is two tiered. A concrete wall marks the front of the upper tier, which slightly overhangs the section below. A long, wide press bench is at the front of this upper tier and affords a decent view of the pitch and, as the ground is built on a hill, an even better one of the town in the background. Actually, on reflection, the view of the pitch could be a little better - the width of the bench turns out to be a metaphoric double-edged sword as you have to perch right on the edge of your seat to see over it to the nearest touchline. And if you stand up and crane you neck a little, you can see into the visiting directors' area at the top of the lower stand.
Although the main stand is new, there are echoes of the Neolithic period in the design of this directors' area, with three rows of seats in front of a cave-like area that leads back into the bowels of the stand. Admittedly the seats were a little more padded than you might expect in Neolithic times, and the glass doors at the back of the 'cavern' were not entirely in keeping with the stone age design manual, but there was plenty of room between the two for a cave painting or two or maybe a large fire. In fact, the latter might not have been a bad idea given the yeti-friendly temperature.
The stand on the remaining side of the ground is in marked contrast to the other three. Decrepit and derelict, it seems to have been left to fall to pieces of its own accord. It's in such a state that even the press box has been moved away and its only denizen is now a man in a hard hat, stationed there to retrieve footballs from behind its chipboard covered façade.
Tannoy: Occasionally, very occasionally, the speakers are set to the right level so you can hear both the announcements and yourself think. More often than not though, the 't' in tannoy is silent … and this was the case at Mansfield. How I detest 'celebration' music played after a goal. When it's played as loudly as it is at Field Mill it contrives to make your teeth grate and your fillings vibrate. And it's counterproductive too as it drowns out the sound of the supporters celebrating the goal, thus removing any hope of a genuine atmosphere.
United Fans: Allocated the stand containing mainly blue seats, there was a decent turn out helped by subsidised coach travel for this match.
View from Away End: With no pillars other than in the condemned stand, everyone in the ground was able to get a good view.
Home Fans: Mansfield fans made a great deal of noise … but only once their side was ahead. The rest of the match was punctuated by moans and groans from the home sections with their anxiety seeming to transmit itself to the Mansfield players.
Police/Stewards: Much less confrontational than last season, they made no real attempt to get people to sit down.
Programme: A bumper 82 pages, albeit A5 rather than the more common (larger) B5 for £3. As you can imagine, 82 pages leaves plenty of scope of adverts, photos and articles. While 'The Stag' did have its fair share of the former, there were more than enough well written examples of the latter to make for a very good programme.
Food/Drink: Expensive. £1.50 for a reasonably sized cup of tea that took so long to brew it was more useful as a hand warmer than as sustenance. As for the burgers … although they smelled decidedly unappetising, they received an adequate report on the taste test.
State of Toilets: Those in the away stand were described as the 'most spacious of the season so far', while those in concourse between tiers in the main stand were pungent and very damp … and that was just the floor!
The Journey Home: Well the good news was that the traffic jam on the northbound carriageway of the A1 had cleared by the time we hit the road home. The bad news was that it had re-formed on the southbound carriageway, so the journey home was painfully slow going. And then the fog descended … oh the joys of away travel.
Mileage: 232.4 miles
Total Distance for Season: 2,401.3 miles
Mark Johnson, with additional reporting by Paul Johnson, Ryan Johnson and Gordon McMillan
Mansfield 2-1 U's: Trouble at t'Mill
Posted on: Tue 29 Dec 2009
'Pleased to meet you - meat to please you.'
So stated the sign in the butcher's window just around the corner from Mansfield's Field Mill, next door to a sandwich shop called - I kid you not - 'Big Baps.' I think most United fans have had quite enough meat for the time being after another Christmas blowout, and with Boxing Day's disappointment and a freezing cold day trip in prospect, I suspect I was not alone in half-hoping for a Bank Holiday Monday at home in the warm with Jeff Stelling and the boys. But the Stags' ground staff did the business and duty called for almost 400 travelling U's on a cold but clear and sunny winter's day.
Field Mill is one of the best three-sided venues in the Conference, with a huge main stand and two decent-sized seated stands at either end, all dwarfing the forlorn site of the remaining stand, long since condemned as uninhabitable and now sitting, slowly rusting, while awaiting demolition. One rather hoped that bits might start falling off it if a flying ball made a direct hit, but it was not to be.
The hosts' matchday programme was a rattling good read, with a cheery festive cover portraying players in MTFC party hats hugging each other manfully, and a particularly probing Q&A session with player Jake Speight in which he revealed that he believes in God, Heaven and Hell, Karma and ghosts, but not in aliens, with the programme at pains to clarify that they meant extraterrestrial aliens and not the illegal variety(!).
They also made great play, rightly, of Cambridge being "the cradle of modern football," although their claim that the U's inspired Nick Hornby to write 'Fever Pitch' was not entirely accurate, albeit United were his 'bit on the side' during his tenure at the University.
Due to the sheer size of the stands the ground looked and felt less than half-full ("Your ground's too big for you!" sang the amber army at one point), but first surprise of the day for the visiting supporters was the absence of Brian Saah and Paul Carden from the warm-up, both injured. And what was that the players were wearing? Green shorts?
It turned out that United were wearing an entirely new away strip, hitherto unannounced, of white shirts with a green left shoulder and sleeve and, yes, green shorts, matching the Greene King logo on the shirts. Corporate colours? Mansfield's strip of yellow shirts and blue shorts was an obvious clash with the visitors' amber and black, but it was hard to see much potential confusion with their usual Cambridge blue change colours.
With Wayne Hatswell suspended, Rory McAuley and Josh Coulson lined up at centre-back and Jai Reason accompanied Sam Ives in central midfield to give the side a very youthful look; Dan Gleeson took the captain's armband. The hosts sported two ex-U's in Matt Somner and Robert Duffy and had not scored in their previous three games, while they were without a league win at home since beating Forest Green 1-0 on 3rd October, although Altrincham had been defeated 3-0 in the FA Cup later that month.
First shot came from the hosts' Kyle Perry on 2, slipped wide from close range, and two minutes later Robbie Willmott showed that he was in impish mood with a tremendous run inside past three players with the ball seemingly tied to his foot before he slid it sideways to Courtney Pitt, whose low shot was arrowing for the far corner until well tipped around the post by keeper Alan Marriott.
United looked the better side early on, playing a tight, close-passing 4-4-2, Reason filling the Carden role with a steady flow of simple, accurate passes, Ives supporting a lively front two and the youthful centre-back pairing standing up well to the more experienced Perry and Duffy.
Reason set up Crow for a twenty-yard shot into Marriott's gloves on 9, and a couple of minutes later Paul Heckingbottom's foul on Chris Holroyd set up Pitt for a free-kick which he fired over both wall and crossbar. Both sides continued to probe each other in a fairly subdued atmosphere, the air getting colder by the minute, with United pushing the ball around in fairly pleasing manner and Mansfield using the flanks via diminutive skipper Ryan Williams and repeated diagonal crosses designed to beat the far full-back and find a colleague lurking just past the far post.
Following a corner on 18 Pitt regained possession and his neat cross into the box found Holroyd sneaking in to test Marriott with a header that just lacked the power to beat the Stags' keeper. One of those diagonal crosses found Duffy arriving on 20, but Danny Potter was equal to it with a fine diving stop. Gleeson blocked a Somner shot three minutes later, but it was still the visitors who were enjoying the better of the play…so it was something of a shock when Mansfield took an undeserved lead on 27.
Little Williams was the architect, creating room to cross low from the right, and there was Perry in the middle, beating Coulson's lunge to fire home past a helpless Potter from ten yards. Coulson, McAuley and Gleeson launched an inquest: 1-0.
Within a minute the U's came close to an equaliser, good work down the right by Willmott and Holroyd setting up Gleeson, of all people, to chug into the box and fire narrowly wide of the far post. And United continued to play some good stuff as the pitch gradually cut up, but that killer final ball tended to elude them as the home back line held firm.
On 42, however, the best move of the match yielded a deserved equaliser for the visitors. Anthony Tonkin played a one-two with Pitt, got to the byline and his low cross was met by the alert Holroyd who rammed home at the near post. 1-1.
Last chance of the half went to Mansfield, Duffy's header well clutched by Potter, and there was nasty clash right at the end when Lee Morris had a go at Tonkin when the two came together and the Stags man came off the worse.
So far, so pretty good for the U's, especially in view of the lack of experience throughout the side, and although Mansfield looked a competent, workaday side, this looked like a match that was eminently winnable.
Within a minute of the restart United could and should have been ahead. Crow was brought down by Heckingbottom out deep on the right, Pitt curled the free-kick into the box, and Holroyd lost his marker to latch onto the arriving ball inside the six-yard box; but faced with a rabbit-in-the-headlights keeper and enough time to control and shoot, he did not realise how much time and space he had and slashed first time at it, slipping and skewing badly wide. Great chance missed.
Morris had clearly not recovered from the injury he incurred on himself at the end of part one and he was replaced on 49 by Jake 'Ghostbusters' Speight. Within a couple of minutes he had picked up the first booking of the day for a lunge with the arm at Tonkin. The busy Ives was then brought down by Michael Brough, but in a crowded box all United's players could do was watch as Willmott's free-kick soared through the box and off for a goal-kick.
Perry had the ball in the net on 54, but had long since been flagged offside, and three minutes later Duffy shot straight at Potter from the D. There was controversy on the hour when Willmott held off Heckingbottom to send Holroyd haring for goal, but as attention switched to the United top scorer's foiled run, the Stags defender appeared to stamp on Willmott in the aftermath of their clash, to outrage from the U's bench. Unfortunately neither the ref nor either linesman seemed to have seen the incident, but after consulting with the fourth official, ref West showed Heckingbottom a compromise yellow card. He should be negotiating in the Middle East.
On 62 the ineffective Duffy - plus ca change - was replaced by Louis Briscoe, and his first significant action was to set up Williams for a shot three minutes later, but he fired just wide. Two minutes later Williams lost out to a tackle by Gleeson, but somehow he managed to break the United skipper's nose in the process and was booked for Glees' pains. Gleeson could not continue so the back four was ravaged still further, Darryl Coakley entering the fray at left-back with Tonkin switching to the right.
Speight spooned a scissors kick just wide on 70, but he had more luck three minutes later. It all happened in a few seconds: a quick throw-in from the right, a flick-on by Briscoe, and Speight latched onto it, dragged it past last man Tonkin and slashed past Potter before he could move. 2-1.
The United back line had not looked comfortable since Gleeson's withdrawal, and the lengthy hold-up in play caused by his injury had also interrupted the visitors' flow, and they never really recovered it. Pitt was carded for a foul on Brough on 74, and three minutes Martin Ling went for broke by gambling on a change in formation, withdrawing Coulson in favour of Mark Beesley and going to 3-5-2 with Bees just behind the front two.
It was a bold gamble, but sadly an utter failure. Beesley failed to make any impact, and most of the players simply seemed confused by the changes and the team lost all shape and understanding, Reason now trying too hard to produce killer defence-splitting balls instead of the simple passes of the first half.
Briscoe was next into the book on 79 for bringing down Pitt, Speight fired wide on 81, but United had lost their way. Mansfield, desperate for a home win, started shamelessly and shamefully timewasting in the corner a good five minutes before the ninety was up, while the best opportunity the U's could conjure up was an excellent, teasing cross from Coakley on 87 which Crow headed just wide with Willmott arriving, better placed, behind him.
Six minutes added time was indicated and Williams was withdrawn - perhaps he had a panto date with Snow White that evening - in favour of Andy Burgess, but United's bolt was well and truly shot and what had started as a thoroughly winnable contest had ended in little short of chaos.
It was all very disappointing, but the young United side should take a good degree of pride in its performance in the first two-thirds of the match and over the ninety minutes few could argue that a draw would have been a fair result. But football, as we know, is rarely fair, and the stark facts now are that United have failed to win any away league games since the first two of the season and are lying twelfth in the table with only one win in their last seven in the BSP. And New Year's Day will not be any easier.
Happy New Year, all. The only way is up… unless it is down!
Historically, United and Mansfield have tended to best each other on their own home turf. At the Abbey, the U's have won seven, drawn two and lost two. Those victories include two of the greatest matches ever seen at Newmarket Road: on 28th April 1973 United needed to defeat the Stags to clinch promotion to Division Three, and in front of a full house of 10,542, they twice came back from a goal behind to win 3-2 with a goal from Ronnie Walton. And on 20th March 1999, a devastating U's side crushed the visitors 7-2 with a hat-trick from Martin Butler and further goals from John Taylor, Trevor Benjamin, Neil Mustoe and Richard Walker.
On the other hand, United have only ever won once at Field Mill in thirteen league and cup games, losing eight times. Their only victory came on 31st October 1998, in the same season as that 7-2 beating at the Abbey, by a 3-1 scoreline; Benjamin, Butler and Alex Russell were the scorers.
Robert Duffy started only three games for the U's, with four more appearances as sub, without scoring. Signed from Rushden, he made his debut in United's first ever Conference match on 13th August 2005, a 1-0 defeat at Forest Green; the winning goal was scored by Scott Rendell. His last appearance came less than a month later in a 4-0 defeat at Exeter, then he was on his way to Kettering, also stopping at Oxford, Wrexham (loan) and Newport on his way to Mansfield.
Matt Somner signed for the U's on loan from Brentford in a deal later made permanent, and debuted in a 2-1 defeat at Scunthorpe on 7th December 2004. He went on to make 24 appearances in the black'n'amber, with no goals scored, and was a member of the United team that played its last Football League game (so far) in a goalless draw with Notts County on 7th May 2005. He went on to play for Bristol Rovers, Aldershot and Notts County.
Today's attendance of 3,368 has been recorded twice before at United matches, the first almost exactly 36 years ago on 29th December 1973, when they lost 2-0 at Shrewsbury. The second was at a 2-1 win in Torquay on 3rd November 2007; Lee Boylan gave the U's the lead and Rob Wolleaston thumped an 86th minute winner for a team from which only Dan Gleeson and Courtney Pitt are still at the club.
Potter 7. Solid game, left exposed for both goals.
Gleeson 7. Adequate display until forced off through injury.
Tonkin 7. Made United's goal and did a good job in a variety of defensive positions.
Coulson 7. Will not be happy at being beaten for the first goal, but otherwise gave a decent account of himself.
McAuley 8. Confident and commanding.
Willmott 7. At times devastating in the first half, not quite as effective later on.
Ives 8. Dynamic and energetic from start to finish.
Reason 7. Excellent first 45, when he kept the passes short and simple, but tried too many Hollywood balls in part two which failed to find their targets.
Pitt 6. Not bad, but capable of much better.
Crow 7. Battled manfully with variable supply.
Holroyd 8. Back to near his darting, quicksilver best and back on the scoresheet.
Coakley 6. Filled in calmly.
Beesley 5. Another no-impact cameo.
An under-strength United side outplayed Mansfield for an hour but never recovered from the loss of Dan Gleeson and the disruption to the flow of the match that his injury caused. This was a game that could have been won and the U's were ultimately unfortunate to lose.
Man of the Match
Rory McAuley. He has made only eight league starts, in three different positions, but his authority on the ball, strength and coolness are those of a veteran. The world is his lobster.
West 6. The polar opposite of Saturday's card-happy dingbat, Mr West was if anything too lenient on occasion and Heckingbottom should have walked for his stamp on Willmott.
Out of the Mouths of Babes
"We kept cheering. Mr Perry told us to shout a bit louder." (Nicholas Pope)
Soundtrack of the Day Delphic "Doubt"
Parky's Pick of the Pops
Andy Parkinson lends an ear to the Field Mill sounds. "All right, lads and lasses? Music-wise, 2009 will be remembered as the year we lost the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, and in his prime he was fantastic, even if he did turn into some plastic-faced weirdo you wouldn't want near your kiddies later in life. So it was nice to hear a couple of his classics today to help us boogie the cold away, ey!
"There wasn't much else to report, though, like. Amy Winehouse's version of 'Valerie' is OK but 'We Will Rock You' has been done to death more than Stan Boardman's 'Germans' routine! 2 Unlimited's 'Get Ready For This' was rubbish when it came out and it's still rubbish now, and I don't know what on Earth the runout music was but it sounded like the national anthem of some Communist country from the 1950s. Not great, know what I mean? PPP verdict: 3/10."
Mansfield Town 2 Cambridge United 1, Monday 28th December
CHAD.co.uk, 28 December 2009, By John Lomas
SUBSTITUTE Jake Speight got Mansfield Town back to winning ways at home with the decisive goal against Cambridge United to seal Stags first home win in six attempts.
United impressed in the first 20 minutes until Kyle Perry tucked away his 11th goal of the season on 27 minutes.
From then on Stags' confidence was clearly lifted even though Chris Holroyd stole an equaliser just before the break.
But, with Ryan Williams running riot down both flanks, Cambridge were on the back foot for much of the second half and Speight came on to produce another energetic cameo appearance from the sub's bench which included a calmly taken winner on 73 minutes.
It was a much-needed boost for David Holdsworth's men who, in losing at York on Boxing Day, had dropped out of the play-off spots after a poor spell following a largely superb first half to the season.
Stags now have a week off to shake off illness and injury before Luton visit on 9th January.
Mansfield again showed three changes.Out went the suspended Luke Jones, Andy Burgess, who was dropped to the bench, and Cambridge loanee Jon Challinor, who could not play under the terms of his spell at Field Mill.
Michael Brough moved back to centre half to cover for Jones while in came Ryan Williams on the left wing Ollie Hotchkiss into central midfield and Rob Duffy up front.
Stags created the first opening from a long Heckingbottom throw from the left which saw Duffy cause chaos with his little flick-on and United desperately get bodies in the way before Perry finally lifted the ball over at the far post.
But when Stags allowed Wilmott space to run at their defence on four minutes he went past four challenges before allowing Pitt to get away a low finish that Marriott just managed to turn round for a corner.
Silk inadvertently set up Crow on nine minutes as the ball came off his shin towards the United striker whose low shot was saved by Marriott low to his left.
Heckingbottom conceded a free kick to the left of the box but Pitt was well over with his curling effort over the near angle.
Holroyd was also well off target with a hurried shot sliced across goal as United continued to look the more enterprising of the two sides.
Silk got in a block on a Pitt shot after he had recovered the ball wide from Cambridge's second corner.
And Marriott had more work to do as Gleeson floated the ball to the near post and Garner and Holroyd jumped for it, the ball coming off one of them and forcing Marriott down quickly to his left to grab.
A Heckingbottom free kick caused more problems when United failed to clear first time and keeper Potter eventually left his line to his left to run towards and narrow the angle for Garner whose low blast ended up as corner.
A third corner sooner followed from an inviting Williams cross as the home fans began to find something to cheer for the first time.
And the first goal didn't take long to arrive. On 27 minutes Silk and Williams exchanged passes down the right before Williams pulled a cross back towards Perry whose first time right-footed finish was firm and accurate, finding the bottom right hand corner.
Gleeson was wide of the Stags far post a minute later as United looked for a quick reply.
Corner number four saw Garner flick towards goal where Morris was just unable to turn it home as the home side's confidence continued to visibly rise.
Duffy tried to set Perry clear on goal with a flick but Tonkin dived in with a solid and perfect tackle to halt the big man.
Marriott took no chances with a Willmott free kick into the six yard area, punching cleanly away.
Then an offside flag saved Stags when Wiliams was caught in possession and the ball fed to Holroyd, though Marriott made a good one-handed stop anyway.
However, three minutes from the break the visitors hauled themselves level. Tonkin got to the left by-line and crossed hard and low in front of goal where Holroyd slid in to finish from close range.
In the first minute of stoppage time a flying header from Duffy was athletically caught by Potter to his left from another tempting Williams cross.
But the sides went in all square which was a fair reflection of an even half.
Holroyd should have put Cambridge ahead on 47 minutes. Willmott's long free kick to the near post from wide on the right picked him out and he somehow missed the target from six yards, poking wide.
Holdsdworth's response was to send on Speight down the right in place of the ineffective Morris on 49 minutes.
But his first statistic was a yellow card on 51 minutes. Speight had tussled with Tonkin seconds earlier, arms waving but the referee laying on. But when Speight then quickly dived into a nasty lunge at Tonkin, out came the card.
On 54 minutes Perry looked to have slipped Williams clear but an offside flag went up as the winger slotted past Potter and the effort did not count.
Another good run from Williams saw him slide a pass in front of Duffy who delayed before shooting straight at Potter from 20 yards.
Heckingbotom was caught in possession by Willmott and fouled him as he fed Holroyd who thankfully stumbled under Somner's challenge before he could shoot. Willmot stayed down for treatment and Heckingbottom was eventually booked.
Duffy made way for Briscoe on 62 minutes and was almost involved in creating a goal soon after coming on Speight played the ball square to him and Briscoe dinked a lovely first time pas to Williams to his left who curled just over the far angle.
Williams was then cautioned for sticking an arm out to halt Gleeson after a firm tackle on him by Gleeson, Williams' response leaving the United man down with a facial injury. He was eventually led down the tunnel, presumably for stitches, and replaced by Coackley.
Speight was narrowly wide of the near post with an acrobatic overhead effort as Cambridge failed to clear a Williams free kick from the left.
But Speight was celebrating finding the net on 73 minutes. A Silk throw was helped on towards him in the box and Speight showed great coolness to hold up the ball, turn and sidestep the last defender to make space for a decisive finish from six yards that gave Potter no chance.
Brough had to produce a well timed challenge to halt Holroyd and almost immediately was caught by Pit's heavy challenge to leave him needing the physio.
Briscoe caught Pitt late to earn the home side's fourth booking of the game as we went into the last 11 minutes.
Stags, desperate for the win, began to waste time keeping the ball in the corner with a full six minutes remaining.
Briscoe then skipped between two defenders before his powerful shot struck Gleeson.
Crowe did get a head onto a Coackley cross on 88 minutes but couldn't get over it and the ball skimmed off his head six yards from goal and over the top.
There was more pressure for Mansfield as United won a cornet which Brough headed away.
Stags tried to kill the game with a last minute substitution as Burgess replaced Man of the Match Williams.
But the official sprang a shock when they held up six added minutes to be played at the end.
However, Stags closed the game down, kept the ball in the United half and professionally saw the minutes out for a crucial and deserved victory.
STAGS: Marriott; Silk, Brough, Garner, Heckingbottom; Morris (Speight 49), Hotchkiss, Somner, Williams (Burgess 90); Duffy (Briscoe 62), Perry. Subs not used: Sandercombe, Mills.
CAMBRIDGE: Potter; Gleeson (Coackley 69), Coulson (Beesley 78), McAuley, Tonkin; Willmott, Reason, Ives, Pitt; Holroyd, Crow. Subs not used: Walker, Parkinson, Marriott.
REFEREE: Richard West of Beverley.
ATTENDANCE: 3,368 (395 away).
CAUTIONS: Stags – Speight 51, Heckingbottom 61, Williams 67, Briscoe 79.
STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Ryan Williams.
Stags 2 Cambridge 1
Evening Post report, Monday, December 28, 2009
IT seemed an awfully long time since Mansfield Town last won at home, so no wonder this hard-fought victory was greeted more with a sense of relief than joy.
The Stags' winless streak in front of their home fans had stretched back five matches – to their 3-0 FA Cup success over Altrincham at the end of October.
That, inevitably, had led to an increasing frustration among supporters, players and management alike.
This game was no classic, but what mattered was that Mansfield got back on track after a testing spell that had yielded just one win in six outings.
It was also the ideal response to a disappointing 3-0 Boxing Day defeat at York City that had seen the Stags slip out of the play-off places.
As so often this season, Jake Speight lived up to his billing as a super-sub with the winner – his seventh goal of the season.
And it means the Stags rounded off their year of progress under boss David Holdsworth on a positive note.
Ryan Williams pulled on the captain's armband and was one of three changes to the side that lost at the Kit Kat Crescent.
He came in for Andy Burgess while Rob Duffy, back from illness and Ollie Hotchkiss were also recalled at the expense of the suspended Luke Jones and Jon Challinor, not permitted to play against his parent club.
Michael Brough dropped back from midfield to partner Scott Garner in central defence.
Mansfield should have gone in front inside 90 seconds but Perry blasted over inside the six-yard box after Duffy had flicked on Paul Heckingbottom's throw.
The visitors responded with a counter that saw Robbie Willmott cut inside from the right at pace to tee up Courtney Pitt, whose low shot was brilliantly pushed around the post by Alan Marriott, diving to his left.
An uncharacteristic error from Gary Silk let in Danny Crow soon after but his shot was comfortably fielded by Marriott.
The Stags won their first corner in the 15th minute but Perry was muscled out of it at the far post from Williams' delivery.
Cambridge continued to look the more threatening but Chris Holroyd was well off target with a snap-shot after he had skipped past Scott Garner.
In the 21st minute, Silk made an important block from Pitt as Mansfield battled to clear a corner before Marriott was alert to keep out a Garner header, which he had inadvertently turned towards his own goal.
Mansfield were in desperate need of a lift and they got it with the opening goal in the 27th minute with their first shot on target.
Silk and Williams combined well down the right and the latter picked out Kyle Perry at the near post for him to volley home his 11th goal of the season from 10 yards.
Cambridge came roaring back and Dan Gleeson might have done better when he dragged a shot well wide from a decent position in the Mansfield box.
With confidence visibly lifted, the hosts went in search of a second as Williams' corner found Garner who glanced goalwards for Lee Morris but the right-winger could not work in a shot on the turn.
Anthony Tonkin then made a key and perfectly-timed tackle as Perry threatened to break clear from Duffy's deft flick.
Cambridge were awarded a free-kick on the left as half-time approached and an under-pressure Marriott was forced to punch Willmott's delivery away amid a crowded goal-mouth.
The visitors were back on level terms three minutes from the break as Tonkin got in behind Mansfield down the left and his low cross was easily converted from close range by Holroyd.
In stoppage time, Danny Potter saved well from a Duffy header after Williams had played the ball in from the left.
Cambridge almost stole in front straight after the restart but Holroyd fluffed his lines from close range after a pinpoint free-kick from Willmott.
At the other end, Williams thought he had put the Stags back in front after he found the net from Perry's pass, only for play to be brought back for offside.
Moments later, a well-weighted pass from Williams gave Duffy the opportunity to let fly from the edge of the box, but he fired into Potter's arms.
As Louis Briscoe came on for the fatigued Duffy, he had a hand in the move that saw aWilliams' shot curled inches past the right angle with Potter rooted to the spot.
Speight – on for Lee Morris – was not too far away with an overhead kick as the ball bobbled around in a goal-mouth scramble.
The pressure was gradually building and the goal Mansfield had been threatening arrived in the 73rd minute.
Silk's throw was flicked into the path of Speight who kept his cool to plant a left-foot shot past the advancing Potter.
Cambridge did press in the closing stages as six minutes of time was added on, Crow heading wide from Darryl Coackley's centre.
But the Stags just about held on and the cheer at full time told the story that the wait for three home points was finally over.
Latest | December 2009