REPORTS FROM VARIOUS SOURCES
Sport First report:
Oxford Utd 1
Mansfield Town 1
By Lloyd Banks
A late equaliser from Neil MacKenzie ended Oxford's 100% home record.
Ian Atkins' team looked to be heading for their fourth straight win at the Kassam Stadium when midfielder Paul Wanless fired them in front at a corner:
But MacKenzie drove home a low shot, through a crowded box, when Oxford failed to properly clear Anthony Vaughan's free kick.
There were few decent scoring chances before the break with Oxford disrupted by the loss of their centre-half and captain Andy Crosby to a head injury.
Five-goal leading scorer Steve Basham was desperately unlucky not to make it six when he was put clear by Mark Rawle's overhead kick and he beat keeper Kevin Pilkington only to see his low shot come back off the inside of the post.
But it was from the corner moments later that Oxford took the lead.
Danny Brown's flag kick was flicked on by Basham and Wanless came in like a train from the far post to turn the ball in.
Mansfield Manager Keith Curle was pleased by the resilience shown by his team as they came from behind.
“There's a belief within the squad now that we're not beaten until the final whistle,” he said.
Oxford boss Ian Atkins said: “It is disappointing not to win it when you have gone 1-0 up with fifteen minutes to go.”
Gutsy Stags hold leaders
GUTSY Mansfield were celebrating a hard-earned point with a superb 1-1 draw at Third Division leaders Oxford United this afternoon.
Despite having two of their better players suspended and going with one striker, Mansfield enjoyed long spells of possession at the Kassam Stadium to frustrate the home fans and even came from a goal behind to earn the point.
With one striker, Stags did struggle to trouble the home keeper. But they worked very hard and made unbeaten Oxford look very ordinary at times.
United must have thought they had the points in the bag when they finally ended Mansfield's resistance in the 64th minute when Paul Wanless was allowed to bundle in from close range from a corner.
But few of the home fans could grumble Stags didn't deserve their 79th minute equaliser when Neil MacKenzie drove home to send the 605 travelling fans into wild celebrations, becoming the ninth different Stags scorer this season already.
"They are top of the league but we came here to give them a game and I thought they were wary of us from the start when they decided to play an extra defender instead of their usual back four," said Stags boss Keith Curle.
"They knew we were going to cause them problems and playing five at the back gave us credit.
"I thought we shaded the first half with our passing and the second half was quite equal.
"I think playing 4-4-1-1- worked with us creating chances and getting Craig Disley into positions and getting the ball wide.
"A lot of teams will now say if we let Mansfield Town play we will get beaten and flood their midfield or play the extra defender which will also take away from their attacking ploys.
"I thought Tom Curtis and Craig Disley did well coming in today and our back four looked solid and dealt with most things thrown at them.
"It was a valuable point and helps give us a platform for the season. When you consider we have three out injured, two suspended and one out on loan, there are still six first team players waiting in the wings. We have a small squad but I have said from the start of the season that we have quality rather than quantity.
"I though Rhys Day had pinched it for us at the end. It was a great opportunity and we do work hard on getting certain players into certain positions. Perhaps he is saving it for another day! He knows he will get other opportunities."
Stags had to make two enforced changes as striker Iyseden Christie and midfielder Lee Williamson began three-game suspensions.
Tom Curtis made a sparkling return to midfield in place of Williamson while Craig Disley was brought in to play just behind lively lone striker Junior Mendes, who ran himself into the ground with boundless energy.
And youth team star Lance Mulligan found himself on the bench.
Stags were relieved to see giant Oxford striker Julian Alsop, so often a thorn in their side, also out suspended.
United keeper Andy Woodman had to be alert to clear a short backpass ahead of Mendes in the opening minute.
Stags tried their luck down the right without much success and finally spread play to Corden on the left on four minutes where the winger cut inside two defenders and curled the ball well over.
Mendes spotted Curtis making a good run into the box and sent him to the by-line. But the midfielder could only win a corner.
As Oxford produced their first attacks of note, keeper Pilkington was twice quickest to reach through balls.
A long Hassell free kick found Artell but his header was well off target for the visitors.
Pilkington was then call on to make the afternoon's first save on 15 minutes as Oxford broke quickly down the centre through Basham and Rawle cut inside Day before shooting low, forcing Pilkington to gather diving to his right.
It was Woodman's turn four minutes later at the other end as Hassell hurled in a long throw from the right and Day met it with an on-target header that Woodman took above his head.
Stags showed more promise with a string of neat one-twos between Hassell and Lawrence down the right only to see Hassell's final cross go behind the goal.
Nevertheless, Mansfield could feel very satisfied with their first 25 minutes' work, restricting the leaders to one shot on target and giving their five-men defence plenty to worry about at the other end.
Mendes got to the by-line on 27 but his powerful low cross struck Disley in front of goal and he could not direct it on target.
Another Oxford break saw Basham cut in from the left to shoot low, but the save was comfortable for Pilkington.
Good wing play from Corden saw a teasing cross which Lawrence headed just over from a central position.
Stags piled on more pressure from a free kick on the right which ended with Corden hurrying a tame volley at Woodman from 20 yards.
Stags had their biggest scare of the half on 37 minutes when referee Mr Crick inexplicably awarded United a free kick two yards into the Mansfield box as Day shepherded the ball back to Pilkington and held off Rawle who was breathing down his neck.
No one was sure if the referee thought he had seen a backpass or had decided Day was obstructing Rawle.
But Pilkington was booked for his protests and United had a free kick in a dangerous position.
It was eventually hammered into the wall by Townley and when it was hooked back over the top Waterman was well offside as he hopefully hooked the ball past Pilkington into the net, Stags relieved to see the flag.
But the visitors were clearly rattled and Townley fired another free kick from 25 yards into the wall once more as the home fans groaned and began to get on their teams' back.
Basham then cut in from the left and blasted an excellent shot across Pilkington and just wide of the far post as Mansfield began to hope for the half-time whistle.
It was all Oxford now and McNiven curled the ball first time over after more pressure while, in stoppage time, United won their first corner which Vaughan managed to carry clear and set up Lawrence for an 18-yard shot that bounced awkwardly in front of Woodman and inches wide.
Still the clock ticked on past the three minutes of added time indicated and Oxford attacked down the left with Basham looking up and rolling a square ball invitingly into the path of Wanless who shot first time low and narrowly wide.
The whistle gave Stags to regroup and calm themselves down again after that 37th minute decision which had clearly upset their rhythm.
In a scrappy opening to the second half Stags won three headers in the box on 51 minutes which saw the ball drop for Mendes. But Ashton got in a good block on his finish which took the pace off it to make it easy for Woodman to gather.
Oxford replied with a cross by Towley from the right which found Rawle at the far post who headed powerfully over.
As the home fans began to vent their frustration Stags again threatened with Mendes setting up MacKenzie for a curling effort just over the angle.
Stags continued to dominate and Mendes did well on his own in the box, holding off the defenders before getting in a shot which was blocked.
The ball was crossed in again for Disley but came at chest height and he was unable to get in a shot or header, the ball went to MacKenzie who was dispossessed in the box before hs could shoot.
Lawrence had a go from 20 yards shortly after but the keeper was well positioned to save.
Oxford almost snatched the lead when Rawle again got on the end of a cross from the right, this time from McNiven, but again headed powerfully over.
Mansfield had a huge let off on 62 minutes when a ball down the centre saw Basham race away and fire past Pilkington only to see the ball hit the post and Artell clear for a corner.
But the reprieve lasted just two minutes as Oxford surged in front.
Brown sent in the second of two successive corners from the right and Wanless forced the ball home from inside the six yard box.
The goal came just a minute after Keith Curle had withdrawn Disley and sent on youngster Beardsley as a second striker.
Oxford were close again on 66 as Whitehead curled a long distance free kick over the wall and just over the angle.
Stags again began to dominate possession as they searched for a way back and when a long Hassell throw skidded off a defender's head, Corden was too high with his overhead attempt from eight yards.
But Stags did poach a deserved equaliser 11 minutes from time. It stemmed from a free kick on the left by Vaughan which was cleared only as far as MacKenzie 15 yards from goal. And he drilled a crisp low finish into the bottom right hand corner for his first goal of the campaign.
Mansfield survived a torrid couple of moments three minutes from time as Whitehead was sent clear towards the Stags box. Vaughan tugged him back just outside the box and the Oxford man tumbled into the box.
Thankfully for Stags the offence was deemed outside and worthy of just a yellow card. Bound's free kick was then blocked by the wall and Brown's follow-up blocked by Hassell with Mansfield hearts in their mouths.
To their credit Stags took the game to the home side in the three minutes of stoppage time and a brilliant run by the tireless Mendes saw him beat three defenders and get to the by-line before crossing low to the near post where the ball was only just behind Beardsley who couldn't get a backheeled attempt on target.
Then Stags won a corner deep into stoppage time and should have scored the winner.
Corden floated it to the far post where Vaughan headed back across goal to Day who, five yards from goal, somehow sent a free header wide, a golden opportunity spurned.
Teenager Mulligan was sent on for the last few seconds for his first team debut, bringing a wide grin across his face as the final whistle went almost immediately.
OXFORD: Woodman, Rawle (Scott 75mins), Basham, Townsley (Whitehead 61mins), Bound, Wanless, McNiven, Ashton, Brown, Crosby (Waterman 24mins), Robinson. Subs not used: Hackett, Hunt.
STAGS: Pilkington, Mendes, Corden (Mulligan 90mins), Artell, Curtis, Hassell, Vaughan, MacKenzie, Lawrence, Day, Disley (Beardsley 63mins). Subs not used: Clarke, John-Baptiste, J. White.
REFEREE: Mr D. Crick of Surrey.
CAUTIONS: Stags - Pilkington 33mins (dissent), Vaughan 86mins (foul on Whitehead).
STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Junior Mendes.
Oxford Mail report:
U's held by Mansfield
13/09/2003 | Jon Murray
PAUL Wanless scored his second goal of the season but United were held to a 1-1 draw at the Kassam Stadium after Neil Mackenzie drove in an equaliser 11 minutes from time.
Ian Atkins's team stay top of Division 3, but they missed a great opportunity to put real daylight between them and their rivals.
Wanless fired them in front on 64 minutes when he turned the ball in at the far post after Danny Brown's corner was flicked on by Steve Basham.
Two minutes earlier Basham, sent clear by Mark Rawle's overhead kick, beat keeper Kevin Pilkington with a low angled shot but saw the ball come back off the inside of the post.
Yet Oxford could not hold on. Worried by the pace of Junior Mendes, they dropped deep and the Stags were able to capitalise, with mackenzie firing through a crowded box on 79 minutes when the home side failed to clear a free-kick from the right by Antony Vaughan that Rhys Day had met.
But it could have been much worse for the U's.
Centre back Day missed a great chance in injury time when, unmarked, he headed a corner wide from just four yards.
Skipper Andy Crosby had to leave the field midway through the first half with a head injury, but he is expected to be fit for Tuesday's local derby at Cheltenham.
Nottingham Evening Post website:
STAGS FIGHT HARD TO EARN A DRAW
Oxford United 1 v 1 Mansfield Town
The Stags fought out a well-earned point at league leaders Oxford and in doing so dented the 100 per cent home record of the home side.
Having weathered a United storm for much of the game, Neil Mackenzie equalised against the run of play to leave the home fans stunned.
Town almost took the lead on the half-hour when Liam Lawrence headed Wayne Corden's cross over the bar. But United, having enjoyed so much procession, started to create chances towards the end of the first period and almost opening the scoring on 37 minutes when Derek Townsley cracked a fine effort against the woodwork.
Oxford continued to go in search of their fourth successive home win of the season. Steve Basham and Paul Wanless almost broke the deadlock and Daniel Brown then headed Townsley's cross wide.
Just after the hour, Basham took his turn to hit the woodwork, before the first goal arrived in the 65th minute when Wanless fired Brown's cross past Kevin Pilkington.
Latest | September 2003