MORE REPORTS AND REACTION
The Rix Reaction
Oxford United Official Site
Graham Rix admitted last night that the flowing football that marked the game at Mansfield was little consolation when the result went against his United side. Graham told Yellow World:
“It's no consolation at all. Mansfield are a good side, they try to play football, and I thought we played some great stuff at times ourselves. I'm really pleased with that aspect of the game. But I'm devastated by the goals we keep giving away. We are shipping cheap goals and you can't afford to do that.”
Did the decision to switch from a five man defence to a four rebound on the U's:
“We weren't conceding many but we weren't scoring many either, or even looking like scoring many. So is the glass half full or half empty?
“It's individual errors again, with people making bad decisions. I'm not faulting the guys, they have given me everything once again, but we have to cut those errors out. Some of the mistakes were things you just can't legislate for.”
For the first time, it looked as if Graham had had stern words with his team after the game last night?
“We had a chat, yes. They have worked hard all season, as they did all last season, and we don't want to throw the situation away now. As well as Mansfield played you can't tell me they were 3-1 better than us, because I don't think they were. But the reality is that we're not knocking goals in and are giving them away at the other end.
“We've got important games coming up and I've got to remain upbeat and try and lift the guys and make sure they are right. There were a lot of positives tonight and some decent stuff at times but we have got to get results. That is what we are in the business for”
United drop to seventh
by Mark Edwards , Oxford Mail
Skipper Andy Crosby says that Oxford United's players must do everything they can to prevent a repeat of last season after they fell to a 3-1 defeat at promotion rivals Mansfield.
The U's are now seventh in the Division 3 table – their lowest position of the season.
And with just six games left, the U's captain knows that they must turn results around quickly if they are not to blow it again.
Oxford fell away badly after Christmas last year, and eventually missed out on the play-offs by one point, having been well placed throughout the season.
A poor run of form, which has seen them win just one of their last ten games, has cast doubts that the same thing could happen again.
"We've got six games left and we have got to dig deep now," Crosby said.
"It was probably a terrific game to watch if you were a neutral, but individual mistakes have cost us dear again.
"We had a lot of points on the board at Christmas time, but in the last few games we have not picked up the points we needed to.
"You can see people thinking about what happened last year, and the lads who were here then are desperate not to let it happen again."
MANAGER HAILS MENDES
STAGS boss Keith Curle paid tribute to in-form striker Junior Mendes after his third goal in as many games set Stags on their way to a vital 3-1 win over promotion rivals Oxford United at Field Mill last night.
Mendes endured a barren 19-game run without a goal and had his share of critics.
But he looks a different player overnight as his goals have led to a surge in confidence.
"That was Junior at his best," said Curle.
"He had his chances and stuck one away. On his day, he might not get the chances to score a goal but you know you will get that level of commitment and desire to do well.
"Some fans were questioning why I kept picking him but I always knew Junior had this in him.
"On one radio phone-in a fan told me Junior wouldn't get in his pub team. Well I'd like to go and watch this pub team because they must have some good players."
Curel was delighted with his side's performance just three days after the disappointment of the 1-1 home draw with Cambridge.
It left Mansfield fifth, leap-frogging Oxford and Lincoln, just two pointss adrift of the automatic spots, though having played a game more.
"There have been a few doubters along the way but I have always kept my belief," he said.
"We had a lot of disappointed players in that dressing room on Saturday and their response last night was magnificent.
"The performance was spot-on and the result was spot-on. You could tell there was an urgency about them which was obvious from the moment they reported to the ground.
"It was up there with our best performances of the season."
Stags now travel to Darlington on Saturday to take on the struggling Quakers.
Stags fans can save money on turnstile admission prices by buying them in advance from Field Mill before 4pm on Thursday.
On Monday it's Amber Day at Field Mill when Bristol Rovers are the visitors.
MENDES LEADING STAGS' CHARGE
Oxford captain and centre-half Andy Crosby looked a dejected soul as he trudged from the changing room to the team coach, dragging his club's tactics board behind him.
On it, the Stags team formation was scribbled down and the name Mendes stood out, highlighted by a circle, with arrows pointing from it in all directions.
And no matter how much Oxford manager Graham Rix had tried to bring to his players' attention the danger of the Stags' pacy striker, nobody managed to get to grips with him.
And Crosby had every reason to look miserable as he carried it to the coach, as it was the closest he and fellow centre-half Jon Ashton had got to the name Mendes all night.
The 27-year-old striker was simply electric and caused major problems for the Oxford defence, with his confidence now on a high after his third goal in as many games in the first half, following a 19-game goal drought.
His pace caused problems and he could have had a hat-trick as he went close on numerous occasions in the second period.
But, no matter what happened, his desire and endless running was always visible in not only trying to create opportunities, but also to close defenders down, as he did everything in his power to prevent Oxford from getting forward.
Mendes admitted afterwards that not scoring goals had started to play on his mind. But he said he knew the goals would come and that he always gives his all every time he pulls on the amber and blue shirt.
Manager Keith Curle said Mendes was paying back the faith he had shown in him during his goal famine.
He said: "That was Junior at his best, but even when he does not get the chances you are guaranteed to get that level of commitment and desire from him and he never stops running.
"A long time back when I did a radio phone-in, somebody said Junior Mendes would not even get in their pub team.
"All I can say is that I must go and watch that pub side, because they must have some very good players."
Just like Mendes, everybody put in the same commitment that was required to beat Oxford and leapfrog them in the table.
It was a solid performance and the players grew in stature as the game went on, passing the ball around superbly.
This kind of performance has been witnessed at various points of the season, but the problem has been turning it into a consistent run of games where nothing is given away.
On too many occasions the club has strung together a couple of good wins, only to give silly points away to clubs that are struggling - like Cambridge last Saturday.
So now, with just six games to go, everyone has to keep up the same tempo and belief to ensure that Mansfield are in the automatic promotion places come May 8.
Despite this convincing performance, Mansfield survived two scares in the opening minutes. First Mark Rawle got in behind Rhys Day but his low drive went straight at Kevin Pilkington.
And seconds later James Hunt's pass put Steve Basham through, but Pilkington dived to his left and managed to touch it onto the post.
But on 16 minutes, Mansfield took the lead with their first shot on goal. Tom Curtis lined up a 20-yard shot and Simon Cox got down well to his left to keep it out, but Mendes followed up to hammer home from eight yards out.
And three minutes later Oxford gifted Mansfield their second. Jon Ashton, under pressure from Mendes, passed it back to his goalkeeper from just inside his own half but was unaware that Colin Larkin was 20-yards away, still coming back into play.
The striker picked up the ball and rounded Cox to get to the byline on the right and then took his time to coolly finish into the roof of the empty net.
On 34 minutes, the visitors pulled one back with a wonder goal. Matt Robinson played a short corner with Dean Whitehead on the left and he lined it up from 25 yards and fired a thunderous shot straight into Pilkington's far top corner.
But within two minutes, the Stags had restored their two-goal cushion.
Neil MacKenzie's 25-yard free-kick cannoned back off an Oxford defender and landed on the edge of the box for Day, who drilled it straight into Cox's bottom right-hand corner.
The second period belonged to Mansfield as they kept it tight and threatened time and time again on the attack, mainly through Mendes. He shot wide early in the half and minutes later had a first time effort saved by Cox.
Then the little frontman went close again, racing towards the Oxford box at pace before firing into the side netting and just afterwards turned onto his left foot after a pass from Larkin and from eight yards out, Cox pulled off a great save.
MacKenzie struck a left-footed shot from the edge of the box just wide of Cox's right-hand post. And with just under ten minutes to go Mendes was once again in the thick of things when Wayne Corden floated over a corner from the left, but the striker could only put his header just over the bar from six yards out.
It was the type of performance with which Mansfield can beat anyone in the division.
Now they just have to produce it another six times on the trot to get promotion.
Latest | April 2004