REPORT FROM OXFORD SITE
Oxford United vs Mansfield Town
1 - 0
The Kassam Stadium
It was a case of Mooney Happy Returns this evening as striker Tommy Mooney celebrated his 33rd birthday with his first goal of the season to earn United their first win of the campaign. Mooney's first half strike sealed a win in a thoroughly entertaining encounter which saw two red cards and plenty of attacking play from both sides.
United boss Graham Rix made one change to the team that lost at Boston on Saturday, with Terry Parker replacing Danny Brown in midfield.There was also a welcome return for Steve Basham who was joined on the bench by fellow striker Julian Alsop.
Stags boss Keith Curle included former Yellow Scott McNiven in the Mansfield line-up along with ex Northampton forward Derek Asamoah and David Artell who was linked with a move to United in the summer.
United were looking to bounce back from their opening day defeat, and they almost did that in the 5th minute, when Terry Parker whipped in a good cross from the left but Adam Eaton just got to the ball ahead of Chris Hackett on the six yard line and cleared the ball from danger.
Oxford had another fantastic chance in the 7th minute when Leo Roget played a long through ball in to the path of Lee Bradbury, but with only the keeper to beat, the U's skipper hit his shot straight at Kevin Pilkington in the Mansfield goal.
Oxford had started well and the players looked a lot sharper and were playing the ball around with a lot more confidence than they had against Boston.
United's early play deserved a goal and they almost got it in the 16th minute when United won a free kick on the right, Hackett played a dangerous ball into the box, but Roget saw his header drift just past the post.
Oxford continued to press and thought that they had taken the lead in the 27th minute, but Hackett was adjudged offside as he ran onto a deflected Tommy Mooney shot. It was a close decision and on another day, the United winger may have got the benefit of any doubt.
Mooney had another shot on goal in the 30th minute when he latched on to a good Bradbury flick and just a minute later the big striker almost finished a wonderful flowing move involving Rob Wolleaston and Hackett, when he just failed to direct Hacketts cross goal-wards from three yards.
United were given a wake-up call in the 35th minute when Colin Larkin went close from twelve yards, but that was the first chance that the visitors had created in the first half-hour.
United were not to be denied though and in the 36th minute they took the lead.Hackett ran down the right and played a lovely one-two with Bradbury and as two Mansfield defenders dithered in the box, Mooney forced his way between the two and finished well from six yards to score his first league goal of the season.
United had one lucky escape in first half injury time when Asamoah beat Robinson but no Mansfield player was able to get a touch on his cross-shot.However United held firm and as the whistle sounded to end the half the Yellows went in with a well-deserved 1-0 lead and the fans well pleased with their team's first half display.
Within three minutes of the restart though things had taken a distinct turn for the worse. First of all Paul Wanless was forced to stay off at the break through injury, and then on 48 minutes Roget, in a race for the ball with Asamoah, clipped the off-balance striker and sent him tumbling. Ref Parkes had no hesitation and produced the first red card of the season for Roget.
Down to ten men, Rix opted to withdraw Terry Parker from the left of midfield and give Lee Molyneaux a League debut at the back, shuffling the system to 4-4-1 with Bradbury the lone striker. The Stags, who had rarely troubled the United back line in the opening period, had now seen a chance of their first points of the season and started to push men forward with more abandon.
The one thing they perhaps hadn't considered is that this United side is a flexible unit, and on 57 minutes some delightful passing down the right between Hackett and Mackay gave Wolleaston the chance to cross deep to the far post, where the stretching Mooney fired into the side netting to warn Keith Curle's side that they would have to stay alert at the back.
Molyneaux, who impressed in pre-season, made a wonderful block on 59 minutes to throw himself in front of a Larkin drive, and with Jon Ashton attacking the ball well and looking dominant the back line were holding firm, although a flying save from Tardif on 64 minutes was needed to keep out a Mackenzie effort.
Already an attractive game, the sending off added to the drama, with United's young side dangerous on the break and Bradbury holding the ball up intelligently to allow people to join him. The crowd certainly appreciated their efforts, and were getting right behind the U's, but it was Tardif keeping his side in the lead on 72 with a superb save from Larkin as the striker broke clear.
In a game that was far from dirty the U's found themselves on an even playing field again on 75 minutes when Hackett, weaving inside from the right, was tripped by Williamson. The Mansfield midfielder, like Roget, had already seen a yellow card and didn't even wait for the red card as he trudged away down the tunnel.
It was now vital that The Yellows didn't allow their work-rate to drop, and with Mooney now doing the hard work up front and Bradbury slaving away in midfield they continued to do all that was asked of them. Mackay made a saving header under his own bar with seconds left but that scare aside United were full value for their win.
Latest | August 2004