STAGS CREATE 21 GOALSCORING OPPORTUNITIES & LOSE
Football League - Sky Bet League Two
Oxford United 3 - 0 Mansfield Town
Connolly 27, Wroe 53, Smalley 68.
Attendance: 5,108 (365 from Mansfield)
Date: 15 February 2014
Martin Shaw at the Kassam Stadium
Mansfield Town were beaten 3-0 at high-flying Oxford United this afternoon. But that doesn’t tell the story at all. The Stags were generally the better side for the first hour of the game, acknowledged by all that I spoke to, including members of the home press. In fact, I’d say this was a very good Stags performance. But the difference between the two sides was all too apparent: Oxford had quality in front of goal, and Mansfield didn’t. It really was as simple as that. Actually Oxford had an abundance of quality up front with David Connolly, James Constable and Dave Kitson, any one of whom would make an immense difference to the Stags squad. The Stags created more chances than you could have hoped for coming to a side in the automatic promotion places, but were unable to take any of them. I wrote on my notepad after 25 minutes that the Stags would probably live to regret missing so many chances and so it proved, as within 2 minutes Oxford were in front and it was Connolly who scored it, totally against the run of play. It almost felt unfair that the Stags were having to play against former Irish international Connolly for a third time this season after his key role in both games against us for Portsmouth! By half time, the Stags had had eight decent goalscoring opportunities (and the huge majority of the possession). Oxford had three, including the goal. By the hour mark, the Stags had had six more decent goalscoring opportunities, yet Oxford had gone 2-0 up with a brilliant strike from Nicky Wroe. Oxford’s quality going forward was rubbed in on 68 minutes as Constable and Connolly provided stunning interplay as Constable struck the post and Smalley knocked in the rebound. The game was over. Yet even after that, the Stags created a further seven goalscoring opportunities, none of which could be taken.
21 goalscoring opportunities in total, by my calculation. It was there for all to see. The 365 Stags fans, who were superb in their support for the side until their spirit was broken at 3-0, could see it. Paul Cox could see it, and re-iterated after the game his frustration at not being allowed to bring in a striker. He had Emile Sinclair lined up, but was not allowed to bring him in. Sinclair subsequently signed for Northampton and immediately won a game single-handedly with two goals in a critical game at Torquay. Cox actually must be in a spin. First he was told he could bring a striker in. Then, having lined up Sinclair, he was told that no-one could come in due to the Hymas/Saunders situation and reduction in loans from One Call. On the day the transfer window closed, he was told he could bring a player in after all. Then Cox was told he could only bring someone in if he got one or two more players out, having already got Andrew, Poku, McCombe, Murtagh and Pilkington out since Dec 31. So Cox is left looking to get one or two more players out. This may not be easy: the candidates would seem to be Speight, Black and Briscoe. Speight is carrying an injury. Black is unlikely to be touted by League One or League Two clubs in my opinion but is he prepared to drop to the Conference? We’ll see. I would have thought that a Conference club such as Nuneaton would be interested to take Briscoe on loan. It seems this will hold the key as to whether Cox can bring in a quality striker.
Without a quality striker coming in, it seems to me that the Stags are destined to remain in a relegation battle. As today has showed, you can play as much good football as you like, have as much possession as you like, even have more than 20 goalscoring opportunities, but if you can’t put the ball in the net, it counts for nothing.
Twenty-one goalscoring opportunities for the Stags though you needed an abacus to count them accurately. Just seven in total for Oxford (including their 3 goals). Such frustration for the Stags who returned home empty-handed, just grateful that Torquay and Northampton were also beaten in their tough trips to Chesterfield and Fleetwood respectively.
Stagsnet report here
Saturday, 15th February 2014: Oxford United 3 Mansfield Town 0
chad.co.uk report by John Lomas
Mansfield Town’s desperate need for a goalscorer was underlined as they were well beaten 3-0 at title-chasing Oxford United today, despite dominating possession.
The Stags, who were four unbeaten on the road, turned in a fine display over the 90 minutes, but the U’s gave them a deadly lesson in finishing to extend their unbeaten run to eight.
Sam Clucas, Matt Rhead, Ryan Tafazolli and Lee Stevenson all had good chances they failed to take.
But, after David Connolly had netted a soft goal against the run of play on his full debut for United on 27 minutes, it was always an uphill battle for Paul Cox’s men who need someone to finish off the chances they are carving out.
Connolly was the architect of Portsmouth’s comeback against Mansfield last month and, having moved on loan, was back to haunt the Stags today.
Nicky Wroe then made it 2-0 with an absolute pearler from outside the box on 53 minutes before Deane Smalley completed the scoring with a follow-up close range finish on 68 minutes after Alan Marriott had blocked a James Constable effort.
The win left Oxford third in the table, four points off the top, with Stags dropping a place to 18th.
Mansfield were unchanged, but reserve keeper Ian Deakin replaced striker Ross Dyer on the bench.
The game survived an early morning pitch inspection after yesterday’s heavy rainfall.
It was clear from the start that Stags had a blustering gale very much behind them as Oxford struggled to kick clear, though that eased as the half wore on.
The home side also had an early Jennings long throw and a dangerous Clements free kick to deal with.
A slip by Bevans allowed Clucas to race into the box on the left on seven minutes, but his cross was behind his waiting team mates and, after a scramble, Oxford cleared their lines.
A good surge down the left by Newey brought Oxford’s first threat on 10 minutes. He fed Kitson, who managed to get past Riley but, from a tight angle, sliced a finish horribly wide of the far post.
Jennings took a clattering challenge in Mansfield’s next raid and stayed down. The physio signalled to the bench that Jennings was not going to be able to continue and, after a minute or two with 10 men, Stags were finally able to get Daniel on as replacement.
Clucas forced a good low save out of Clarke at his near post on 18 minutes when Oxford failed to clear a Daniel throw, and Clements then saw his inswinging corner punched away by the keeper.
Two minutes later Stags came close again as Westlake’s pass found Howell on the far side of the box. He drilled the ball in hard and low and Rhead’s attempted sidefoot finish was blocked and Stevenson saw his powerful low follow-up deflect wide for a corner.
There was another hold-up as Hunt was treated for a knock in that melee.
But when Clements finally got his corner over, it was cleared out to Westlake who launched the ball back in.
Rhead headed it to his right and Clucas, with only the keeper to beat, met it with a first time finish that Clarje did well to beat away from 10 yards.
Mansfield were well on top at this stage and soon after Clements was narrowly wide with a low shot from 20 yards.
So it was totally against the run of play when the home side grabbed the lead on 27 minutes.
Newey played the ball in from the left to Connolly six yards from goal who turned well to scuff in a low shot at goal that Marriott looked to have covered but allowed to drift under his dive and into the net.
Bevans got in a good block on a Clucas finish after Rhead and Stevenson had helped on a long Dempster ball.
But on 38 minutes a Riley clearance bounced perfectly for Constable 25 yards from goal and he smashed a powerful half-volley at goal. Thankfully Marriott was equal to it, diving to his right to turn it aside.
Stevenson tried something far more ambitious on 42 minutes as the ball bounced 40 yards out and he tried to lift it over the keeper with the help of the wind only to see it sail over the bar.
Ex-Stag Mullins was pole-axed by a Stevenson shot that hit him in the head from close range on the edge of the box which gave us yet another injury hold-up and four minutes of added time.
Home fans were angry when Kitson was penalised for a foul on Tafazolli. The home side then struggled to clear Clements’ free kick and allowed the ball to drop invitingly for Stevenson who poked a finish just wide of the near post when he probably should have hit the target from 12 yards.
Even added time brought another injury as Riley went down and eventually hobbled off as the whistle finally blew on a half that Mansfield had dominated but went in trailing 1-0.
Riley was unable to return so he was replaced by McGuire for the second half, Stags changing to a back four.
Within two minutes Clucas guided a half-volley wide of the far post from the edge of of the Oxford box on the right.
At the other end Constable was too high from Connolly’s pass.
But Oxford doubled their lead out of nothing on 53 minutes.
Wroe looked up from 20 yards out in a central position and picked out the top right corner with a sensational finish that gave Marriott no chance.
Stags almost pulled one back straight away as Clucas met Clements’ cross with a rasping finish that floored Bevans as he blocked.
He stayed down as play went on, though jumped up at one stage to try to clear again to the anger of the away fans, the pressure ended when Stevenson bundled a low shot narrowly wide.
On 56 minutes Rhead sent a close range header at Clarke from a right wing cross as Mansfield continued to press.
Four minutes later yet another chance went begging for the visitors as Clements floated in a free kick from the left and Tafazolli sent a free six yard header straight at Clarke.
McGuire saw the afternoon’s first yellow card for going in late on Kitson on 63 minutes.
A minute later Oxford won their first corner of the game which Stags eventually cleared after Marriott initially came for it but failed to reach.
Kitson joined McGuire in the book on 66 minutes for going in late and hard on Stevenson.
Westlake tried to police Constable on the edge of the box, but the powerful striker managed to turn him and lash a shot just over Marriott’s crossbar.
Stags found themselves three behind on 68 minutes.
Constable burst into the box on the left via a one-two with Connolly and fired in a low shot from a tight angle that Marriott managed to block, but Smalley was on hand to turn the loose ball into the net.
Two minutes later Westlake got to the right by-line and cross to Clucas who turned the ball straight at Clarke, summing up the afternoon.
Smalley tried a long range half-volley straight at Marriott as the home side finally began to relax and enjoy their afternoon.
Howell’s dive in the box on 78 minutes rightly earned him a yellow card and boos from the home fans.
Williams took over from Connolly for the last 12 minutes and quickly tried his luck from distance but it lacked enough power to trouble Marriott.
Howell was replaced by Palmer on 84 minutes as Stags desperately looked for even a consolation goal.
Rhead was added to the book on 86 minutes for jumping into Clarke as the keeper claimed a cross.
Stevenson was well over from 20 yards as the visitors gamely kept pouring forward. Then Daniel caught the ball cleanly with power from 25 yards, but again it flew straight at Clarke.
Westlake then drilled a low shot across the face of the goal with the final kick of the afternoon.
OXFORD: Clarke, Newey, Kitson, Constable (Potter 90+1), Smalley, Hunt, Rose, Mullins, Wroe, Connolly (Williams 78), Bevans. Subs not used: Henly, Marsh, Long, O’Dowda, Ruffels.
STAGS: Marriott; Dempster, Tafazolli, Riley (McGuire HT); Westlake, Howell (Palmer 84), Stevenson, Clements, Jennings (Daniel 17); Rhead, Clucas. Subs not used: Meikle, Hutchinson, Sutton, Deakin.
REFEREE: Fred Graham of Essex.
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Sam Clucas.
Oxford Utd 3, Mansfield Tn 0
Saturday 15th February 2014, Oxford Mail
By Mark Edwards, Sports Editor
Three outstanding goals saw Oxford United claim an emphatic victory over Mansfield Town today and stay in the Sky Bet League Two automatic promotion places.
David Connolly and Nicky Wroe scored superb individual efforts, and Deane Smalley converted after a fabulous team move as Mickey Lewis made it nine points from five games as caretaker manager.
And in a match that was badly hampered by the strong wind, United showed several different sides to their game to pick up the three points.
For the first half it was largely backs against the wall affair as Mansfield, with the breeze at their back, pinned the U's in their own half.
However, United went into half-time ahead when on 27 minutes, Connolly controlled a Tom Newey pass eight yards out before turning and firing home.
Wroe doubled the lead on 53 minutes when unleashing a powerful drive from 25 yards that whistled into the top corner.
And Smalley ensured the win when he was on hand to tap in after great play between James Constable and Connolly saw Constable's shot come back off a post for Smalley to tap home.
It was a great victory for United, but several others played a big part in the win, with goalkeeper Ryan Clarke making one outstanding first-half stop, and twice young full back Matt Bevans threw himself in front of shots to make blocks.
Lewis made one change to the side that drew 1-1 at Bristol Rovers with Connolly making his first start and Josh Ruffels dropping to the bench.
It saw United line up with an attacking 4-2-1-3 formation, with Dave Kitson playing behind Smalley, Connolly and Constable.
It was a scrappy opening, with the wind instantly having am impact with United penned into the half.
Johnny Mullins slipped in the sixth minute, but despite Sam Clucas breaking clear, the visitors could not find the killer pass and the chance was wasted.
The game's first shot came in the tenth minute when Kitson latched onto a Newey pass, but blasted his shot high and wide.
United were really struggling to get out of their half and Ryan Clarke had to make the game's first save, getting down low to keep out Sam Clucas's shot.
David Hunt then received treatment after blocking one of two goalbound efforts as the visitors threatened.
Moments later, Clarke made a stunning stop to keep his side level, making a sensational reflex save to deny Clucas, who was only eight yards out.
The home fans were unsettled with the amount of attacks Mansfield were launching, the conditions blowing them forward.
However, against the run of play a moment of magic put Oxford in front.
Constable laid the ball off to Newey, whose cross found its way to Connolly eight yards out.
The striker had his back to goal, but the ball stuck to him like glue, and when he had twisted his body this way and that, he got in a left-foot shot that trickled into the corner of the net.
Clucas was the visitors' main threat, and Matt Bevans throw himself in front of another shot by the striker to block well.
Constable then tried his luck from 25 yards out, his vicious half-volley forcing Alan Marriott into a fine diving save to his right.
Mansfield were still on top, but United's defence stood firm against wave after wave of attacks to see out the opening period.
Both sides started the second half well, but just eight minutes in Wroe doubled Oxford's lead with a stunning strike.
Picking the ball up 25 yards from goal, the on-loan midfielder drove in a rasping shot that flew into the top corner of the net.
It was the perfect beginning to the second period, but Mansfield wasted little time in looking for an equaliser.
Bevans threw himself in the way of one shot, and went down with the force of the shot.
The visitors played on, however, and Clarke was forced to dive to his right to keep out Rhead's effort.
A Ryan Tafazolli header then went straight at the U's keeper as the visitors kept pushing forward.
However, Oxford were playing some lovely football. Bevans joining in one attack as several one-twos left the Mansfield defence spinning.
On 68 minutes the U's made it 3-0 with a delightful goal.
Constable and Connolly linked well, and when Constable's effort came back off the inside of a post, Smalley couldn't miss from six yards.
The home fans were in full voice and United grew in confidence so much so that Smalley tried his luck with an ambitious 35-yard effort minutes later.
Clarke was forced to make a couple of regulation saves, as United began to see out time without undue alarm.
Ryan Williams and Alfie Potter made late appearances as substitutes on a day when everyone left the Kassam Stadium with huge smiles on their faces.
Oxford Utd 4-2-3-1: Clarke, Bevans, Hunt, Mullins, Newey, Wroe, Rose, Smalley, Kitson, Connolly (Williams 77), Constable (Potter 90). Subs: Henly, Marsh, Long, O'Dowda, Ruffels. Booked: Kitson.
Mansfield 3-5-2: Marriott, Riley (McGuire HT), Dempster, Tafazolli, Westlake, Howell (Palmer 84), Stevenson, Clements, Jennings (Daniel 17), Rhead, Clucas. Subs: Deakin, Sutton, Hutchinson, Meikle, Palmer. Booked: Maguire, Howell, Rhead.
Oxford United 3 Mansfield Town 0
Read more at http://www.oufc.co.uk/news/article/00150214-mansfield-report-2-1361529.aspx?#9C0QCMCoAFqEOPMT.99
United maintain their great form in Sky Bet league 2
United stormed on as they enjoyed a 3-0 win over Mansfield Town this afternoon. A full debut goal from David Connolly, a screamer from Nicky Wroe and a Deane Smalley strike helped United maintain their promotion push as they stayed in the top three in Sky Bet League 2.
The playing surface passed a pitch inspection in the morning but it was a swirling wind that presented more problems for both teams as it gusted around the Kassam Stadium at kick off . Mansfield, with the wind predominantly behind them in the first half, started well and had they taken their chances in the first half it would have been an entirely different story. The Stags flashed two dangerous crosses cross the six yard box in the opening exchanges as United dropped deep despite an attacking line up that saw Dave Kitson behind a front three of Smalley, Connolly and James Constable.
Kitson had the first shot for the Yellows with a tenth-minute effort that sliced well wide of Alan Marriott's goal before Sam Clucas had the first serious effort of the afternoon with a dipping effort on the turn which Clarke got down smartly to push round his right-hand post. Lee Stevenson then had a shot from 12 yards deflected wide by a brave block from David Hunt. Mansfield were on top and should have been ahead on 22 as Clucas, unmarked, got in another effort from close range. Somehow Clarke twisted to claw his shot away from danger, a wonderful save that played a big part in his side's victory.
How many times have you read reports on this site about United having chances and then being punished for not taking them? On 27 minutes the Stags were made to pay as Connolly poached his second goal in United colours. Constable did well to nod the ball down for left back Tom Newey who fed the ball into Connolly in the area. With a man behind him Connolly needed a decent first touch. Having brought the ball under his control he shimmied then twisted to his left. His shot was low and hard but a defender's trailing leg took the sting out of it while deflecting it beyond Marriott, who could only stare forlornly as the ball trickled into the net to make it 1-0.
Mansfield will have felt aggrieved and it took another superb block by the excellent Matt Bevans to stop another goalbound effort on 32 as they looked to hit back quickly. However United had already shown that their front four had the quality to cause problems and on 38 a 22 yard volley by the confident Constable forced Marriott to dive full length to his right to keep the score at just 1-0 at the break.
It took seven minutes of the second half for the second goal to arrive. Wroe has been a quality addition to the squad and clearly has an eye for a spectacular goal. His winner at Wycombe was a good strike, this one was even better. As the ball bounced 20 yards from goal he adjusted his feet and fired in a dipping, curling effort that flew past the stranded Marriott and into the top right corner of the net to make it 2-0.
Mansfield, down in 17th at the start, stuck to their guns and kept coming at United admirably. Clucas had another shot scrambled round the post by Clarke, target-man Matt Rhead went close with a diving header but the United defence stood firm and on 68 it was 3-0 and game over. Constable roared on to a Newey ball down the left and after a swift exchange of passes drilled in a shot which span across the six-yard box to Smalley who adjusted well to steer the ball home and make it 3-0.
It had been a professional performance in an open, entertaining game. United are playing with a smile under Mickey Lewis - two home wins and three away draws since taking over - and look a well-balanced, well-drilled side who all know their jobs.
Final third of the season coming up, and all to play for.
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