Morley 59, Gray 77, 87   Corden (pen) 23, Hatswell (og) 69

Saturday 15th December 2001 - Kick-off 3pm

Nationwide League Division 3

Attendance:  5, 437

Stags fell down to earth with a bump after the terrific home wins over Huddersfield andStags 1st visit to the Kassam Stadium Swansea, with a disappointing display at Oxford in a 3-2 defeat. Although Stags twice led at 1-0 and 2-1, but they never looked comfortable against an Oxford side rejuvenated since Ian Atkins had replaced Mark Wright in the hot seat. In truth the home side eventually deserved their win.  On loan striker Matt Piper, who was not allowed to play in the FA Cup, returned to the side in place of Shayne Bradley, who himself returned from that horrific injury against Huddersfield to the substitute's bench. There were no other changes to the Stags line-up that was trying to continue an excellent run. Oxford included the debutant central defensive pairing of Andy Crosby from Brighton and Dave Morley from Carlisle, both of whom also made their debuts for their previous clubs in victories over the Stags: Crosby in the 6-0 game that we want to forget, and Morley in a 2-1 defeat at Carlisle last season.

Stags started poorly and it was soon evident that Oxford had undergone a dramatic improvement since their lame FA Cup defeat at Field Mill in November. In the opening minutes some dreadfully sloppy defending from Robinson almost let the home side in but Stags survived. Oxford were clearly going to be dangerous from crosses with their remarkably tall side.  From one such cross, a header from Crosby thundered against a post on 3 minutes. And Pilkington was called upon to make some super saves. Perhaps his best save was when Savage, who scored for Northampton against the Stags at Sixfields a few seasons back, was through one on one, but Pilkington was spread himself well to block the shot.

Stags took the lead on 23 minutes. Piper broke into the box following good play from Cordon, and appeared to be clearly tripped. The referee immediately pointed to the spot, much to the disgust of the home side, management and fans. To the surprise of the travelling fans, Wayne Corden was handed the ball rather than the in-form Greenacre, who had missed from the spot against Luton. Corden moved forward confidently and sent the keeper the wrong way as he side-footed the ball low into the right of the net. After Disley's penalty miss against Macclesfield, that was 1 out 3 scored from the spot this season.  Stags rarely looked like adding to their lead, but were at least now more than holding their own in midfield.

Half-time 0-1

The second half saw the home side attacking the end with their noisy fans, who really seemed to lift the side as the half moved on. Oxford gradually got a grip of the game, in what became a thrilling half. On the hour Oxford finally scored from a corner after threatening throughout. Debutant Dave Morley powered home a header completely unmarked from 6 yards.  The home side were now very clearly on top, but 10 minutes later Stags re-took the lead completely against the run of play. Piper broke down the right and cut into the box along the bye-line. Stags had no-one in the box, but Piper blasted the ball across, and in a flash it was in the back of the net, deflected off defender Hatswell. Piper took the celebrations but no-one could argue it was his goal, certainly not the brave statistician.  Stags had 20 minutes to hang on, but in truth it didn't look likely. Oxford brought on substitutes Phil Gray and Manny Omoyimni and they were to change the game. On 77 minutes, Gray broke into the box but time seemed to stand still as Pilkington didn't come out quickly enough and Gray was just first to the ball to clip it over the keeper into the net. It was a sickening blow for the Stags but a moment of triumph for Gray, who had been out of favour this season. Stags now came back into the game and were so close to a winner when Corden's shot was blocked to Tankard whose snap shot from the edge of the box was heading for the bottom corner of the net, but it was brilliantly saved. Stags would have settled for a point at this stage, but a mistake by Tankard on 87 minutes let Omoyimni disposses him on the byeline. Omoyimni crossed, Powell headed back and Gray was left to head into the left hand corner of the net giving Pilkington no chance.

Stags never looked like grabbing an equaliser and duly fell to their first defeat since October: a run of 6 wins and a draw. It has been a great run, but today was disappointing. The defending never really coped with the aerial bombardment from Oxford, the midfield lost a grip of the game, especially in the second half, and Greenacre was never really given a sniff of a goal.  Stags will be looking to bounce back against another improving side, Exeter City, at Field Mill on Friday.

Pilkington 8 Some brilliant first half saves, but was too slow off his line in conceding the 2nd  goal
Hassell  6 Did ok at right back.
Tankard 6 Sloppy play for the third goal; unlucky not to score at 2-2; generally did ok.
Barrett 6 Never looked comfortable against this giant Oxford side.
Robinson 6 Started very badly, but showed good composure after that.  Struggled to cope with the height of the Oxford side.
Lawrence 6 Dangerous in the first half, but faded in the second half, and substituted by Asher.
Corden 7 Looked dangerous on a few occasions.
Disley 6 Good first half, but lost a grip of midfield in the second half.
Williamson 6 Tough tackling in the first half, but too often second to the ball in the second half.
Greenacre 6 Too quiet today, but really given a good service from midfield.
Piper  7 Involved in both of the goals with lively play, and generally did well.
Asher  6 for Lawrence (81) - Did ok in a defensive substitution to try to hold onto a point.
Subs Not Used: Bradley, Bingham, Pemberton, Reddington.
Your Choice Man of the Match Pilkington 49%

Report by Martin Shaw