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Season 03/04 Stagsnet Match Report
Nationwide League Division 3
Oxford United  
1 - 1
 Mansfield Town
Wanless 64
 MacKenzie 79.
Attendance: 5,625 (605 from Mansfield)
Date: 13th September 2003

Martin Shaw and Jeff Barnes at the Kassam Stadium

Mansfield Town picked up a very useful point at top of the table Oxford United at a sunny Kassam Stadium this afternoon. After a first half shaded by the Stags, Oxford hit the inside of the post on the hour and then took the lead from a corner after 64 minutes. Neil MacKenzie equalized for the Stags 11 minutes from time with a snap-shot from the edge of the box through a crowd of players, and Mansfield had two chances to win the game in injury time. First Beardsley’s flick towards goal was too weak and then Rhys Day missed an absolute sitter just seconds from full time.

Mansfield, playing in their new sky blue away kit for the first time, were forced into two changes with both Williamson and Christie suspended: Curtis came into midfield while Disley started in a forward role though was later to drift into midfield. There was a place on the bench for youth teamer Lance Mulligan for the first time. Oxford were without Julian Alsop, so often a scourge for the Stags in the past, who was bizarrely suspended for incidents from last season whilst a Cheltenham player.

In a fairly quiet first half, the Stags were the better side for the opening 30 minutes. In the first minute, a Disley flick on nearly put Mendes through but he was beaten to the ball by the keeper. Then Corden worked a good position for himself on 3 minutes but shot high and wide to the right. It took until 15 minutes for Oxford to mount an attack when Rawle, signed from Southend, had a weak shot saved low to his right by Pilkington. On 18 minutes the best chance of the game fell to Rhys Day. A long Hassell throw-in was well-met by Day and his powerful header was straight at the keeper. Midway through the half, good patient build up from the Stags nearly put Disley in the clear but it came to nothing.

On 27 minutes, superb play down the right from the hard-working Mendes culminated in a low cross from the bye-line which didn’t quite fall for Disley. Two minutes later Corden put in a great left footed cross which Lawrence headed just over.

Oxford came into the game more in the final 15 minutes of the half, and there was danger for the Stags on 36 minutes. As Artell tried to shepherd a long ball back to Pilkington, the referee gave a foul for obstruction inside the box. Pilkington was booked for holding onto the ball. The free kick was blasted hard but well blocked by the Stags wall. Moments later Basham had the ball in the net for Oxford but was clearly offside. In injury time at the end of the half, good play by Corden and Curtis set up Lawrence for a long range shot which was just wide of the right post, though the keeper seemed to have it covered. Then Oxford had a shot just wide of the post.

At half time we reflected on a strangely dispassionate half disjointed by numerous minor injuries to Oxford players. The Stags had been on top for long spells but lacked cutting edge and so clearly missing a striker alongside Mendes. Disley looked hopelessly out of position, and seemed not to want the ball and when he got it didn’t seem to know what to do with it.

The half-time interval was livened up as former Chelsea player Peter Rhodes-Brown, now the Kassam Stadium announcer, invited a few supporters from both sides to show off ball skills on the pitch.

Half time 0-0

Five minutes inside the second half, Curtis did well to put an Oxford player off as a header flashed high and wide of the Stags goal. Two minutes later, MacKenzie showed good skill and fired just over the bar after Mendes had put him through. Two minutes later MacKenzie was in the thick of the action again as he dribbled in the box but couldn’t get a shot away, in a moment that was a little like the incident where Mendes was fouled for the penalty 7 days ago.

On 60 minutes there was a purple patch for the home side. First lively striker Steve Basham broke clear of the Stags defence and with Pilkington stranded hopelessly in no-mans land, the striker planted a left foot shot against the inside of the post and away to safety. Disley was withdrawn and replaced by Beardsley on 61 minutes, but on 64 minutes the home side were ahead. A corner from the right was well flicked on by Basham and Paul Wanless drove the loose ball into the net from 3 yards.

Mansfield needed to be more positive to try to get the goal back and nearly achieved it 4 minutes later when Day headed over the bar from a Lawrence corner. On 74 minutes there was a half chance for the quiet Corden but his overhead kick sailed high over the bar.

But on 79 minutes the Stags were deservedly level. Following a long free kick into the danger area, MacKenzie drove a left footed shot through a crowded box into the bottom right corner of the net. Stags players and fans celebrated in great style. Five minutes from time there was danger for the Stags when Oxford were awarded a free kick right on the edge of the box after Vaughan brought a player down from behind. Vaughan was relieved to only be booked and Stags were relieved that the kick was awarded outside the box, remembering the injustice that occurred at Swansea. Once again, the free kick was blocked. This was the third time the Stags wall had stood firm. Right on the 90 minutes, Oxford broke away to earn a corner and Pilkington did well to catch the cross. But as the game was in four minutes of injury time the Stags had two chances to win the game. Firstly the impressive Mendes made a superb dribble into the box from the right and got to the bye-line where he pulled the ball back for Beardsley. The young striker tried to flick the ball towards goal but couldn’t get enough on it and it fell easily for the keeper. But then in the very final minute of stoppage time Mansfield missed an absolute sitter. Artell beautifully headed back a Corden corner and Day, totally unmarked, somehow headed wide from just 3 yards. Day held his head in his hands and was doing so again just seconds later as the full time whistle went. He knew he would never have a better chance to earn the maximum points. In between, young striker Lance Mulligan was brought on for his debut but was on for such a short time that he didn’t touch the ball.

And so in the end, both teams will be relatively happy with a point: the home side for creating so few chances, and the Stags for coming from behind in the final 11 minutes. However the chance missed by Rhys Day in the final seconds was so close that there is just a tinge of disappointment for the Stags. Overall this was a good performance from Mansfield, though it could have been better if the Stags had played a striker alongside the excellent Junior Mendes for the opening hour. Neil MacKenzie’s goal led to Oxford’s first point dropped at home this season and Oxford remain unbeaten and top of the league. The Stags more than matched their opponents and again suggested that they will be a force to be reckoned with this season. After the game, Oxford manager Ian Atkins told local radio that his side had done ok against a good side in a difficult game but could do a lot better. He was disappointed with the Mansfield goal as his side had defended too deep and no one had been defending on the edge of the box to prevent the shot.

Man of the match: Junior Mendes.

Report by: Martin Shaw and Jeff Barnes at the Kassam Stadium

Line Up:
Pilkington 7 Quiet first half. Some good catches in the second half. Caught in a poor position when Basham hit the post.
Hassell 7 Defended well and pushed forward well.
Day 7 Defended well. Was distraught after the game after missing free header in injury time.
Artell 7 Strong in the air.
Vaughan 7 One superb tackle in the first half. Solid performance.
Lawrence 6 Not quite on song today.
Curtis 7 Fine game. Given reign to be more positive than usual, rather than a defensive midfield position. Won lots of balls in the middle.
MacKenzie 7 Took his goal well, and had a couple of other shots. Good game.
Corden 6 Quiet game. Didn’t get the ball at all for about 30 minutes either side of half time
Disley 4 Shocker. However not entirely his fault as he was clearly out of position. Should have been subbed earlier.
Mendes 8 Lots of good work and some great runs. Desperately missed a strike partner for 60 minutes.
Sub Line Up:
Beardsley (for Disley, 61) 7 Did well and deserves a start on Tuesday. Had a chance for a winner but couldn’t force the ball home.
Mulligan (for Corden, 90+3) - Debut for the stocky youth striker. Didn’t touch the ball.
Subs not used: JWhite, Clarke, John-Baptiste.
Opposition Line Up:
Woodman, McNiven, Ashton, Crosby (Waterman 24), Bound, Robinson, Wanless, Brown, Townsley (Whitehead 61), Rawle (Scott 75), Basham
Subs not used: Hackett, Hunt
D.Crick, Surrey 6 Reasonable

Season 03/04 Reports