REPORTS FROM VARIOUS SOURCES
Observer report by Steve Hartshorn
The Stags continued their unbeaten run with a hard-fought 2-2 draw at the Abbey Stadium last Saturday.
Cambridge United, who had only won one game so far this season proved difficult opponents with Mansfield twice having to come from behind to earn their point.
Manager, Keith Curle kept faith with the same starting line up that had trounced Northampton the previous week and it was Mansfield who threatened first.
Neil MacKenzie fed the ball to Colin Larkin who won the Stags a corner. MacKenzie took the kick and once again found Larkin, who was unfortunate to see his near post header fly just wide.
It wasn't until the 10th minute before the home side posed any danger to the Stags goal. Alex Neil was punished for a hand ball and from the resulting free kick, taken by the impressive U's Captain, Justin Walker, United front man, Daniel Chillingworth agonisingly saw his flicked header go past Pilkington's right hand post.
Just a minute later, wing-wonder, Wayne Corden was presented with a chance but his effort was deflected wide for a corner.
Stags were the better side and on 14 minutes following another MacKenzie corner, Jake Buxton was foiled by a goal-line clearance.
Much against the run of play the home side took the lead. A corner in the 16th minute was headed against the bar by Adam Tann and with the Stags defence a little flat-footed; debutant Dennis Oli forced the ball home from close range.
The game then fell into a quiet period with the wind causing both sides a few problems.
The next goalscoring opportunity arrived just after the half hour. A long through ball found Dennis Oli in a one on one race with Pilkington. The U's striker got to the ball first but saw his toed effort go wide of the mark.
On 41 minutes The Stags produced their best passage of play of the first half. MacKenzie fired a brilliant cross-field ball to Corden who found the feet of Asamoah. The speedy Stags front man then laid the ball back into the path of MacKenzie, who was unfortunate to see his goal-bound effort blocked.
Stags were back on level terms on 44 minutes but in controversial circumstances. McNiven floated the ball into the U's box where Day got up to challenge the U's keeper, Marshall. The ball clearly came off Day's hand and fell to Asamoah who forced the ball goalwards. The final touch came from Colin Larkin who gleefully turned away in celebration whilst the Cambridge players protested about the handball.
The final few minutes of the first half ended with tempers being stretched as first, Alex John-Baptiste and then Alex Neil found themselves in the Referee's notebook.
The home side were the first to have an opportunity to strike at goal, in the 2nd half, but Jermaine Easter wasted the chance and blasted his attempt well over.
On 52 minutes after good work from Asamoah, Corden sent a teasing cross over for Colin Larkin. Unfortunately the Stags striker missed the ball.
Just two minutes later and the home side once again took the lead. Ironically the goal came from a Stags attack where Larkin had pushed the ball across the U's six yard box where there was no Stags player to capitalise. United broke away at speed with Dennis Oli leaving the Stags defence in his wake. His cross was finished by Easter who's weak effort went in off the post. Not for the first time this season, The Stags had been caught out by a breakaway goal.
The Stags though didn't let their heads go down and on 57 minutes, John-Baptiste went on a run across the edge of the U's penalty area where the ball fell conveniently for Neil MacKenzie to fire what seemed an unstoppable effort towards goal. With Marshall helpless in the United net, MacKenzie's attempt cannoned of the underside of the crossbar and was headed away for a corner.
Moments later a superb cross by McNiven was headed over the bar by Asamoah as The Stags went in search of the equaliser.
The impressive Alex Neil came off for Adam Murray and two minutes later The Stags were level once more.
McNiven sent in a cross into the United area where once again under pressure, this time from Dave Artell, Marshall in the U's goal failed to claim the ball. It eventually fell to the feet of Neil MacKenzie who made no mistake and fired the ball into the net
On 65 minutes, debutant Dennis Oli was replaced by Turner. Oli, the former QPR front man received a standing ovation from the Cambridge faithful.
The game then went into period where neither side created any clear-cut opportunities, although The Stags were clearly the better side.
Curle rang the changes with Joe O'Neill coming on for Asamoah and then with 14 minutes to go, Tom Curtis replaced MacKenzie.
On 78 minutes The Stags players shouted for handball in the United area as O'Neill found his effort blocked. However, the Referee waved away the appeals.
As the game entered time added on, the home side almost snatched all three points but Chillingworth blazed over and with the last kick of the game, Ashley Nicholls shot wide.
It can be looked at as a good point away from home for The Stags, who's unbeaten run now stretches to three as they keep pace with the sides above them in Coca Cola League Two.
With Colin Larkin bang on in form Stags fans will be looking forward to this weekends home clash with Rochdale. Dale, managed by former Stags boss, Steve Parkin will have in their ranks, Jamie Clarke who of course left Mansfield during the summer.
A game like the previous two home fixtures would not go a miss where an impressive Mansfield side have scored eight and conceded only two.
Cambridge United 2 Mansfield Town 2
Oli 16, Easter 54, Larkin 44, MacKenzie 62.
Att 3,549 (728 From Mansfield)
Subs not used, White, Tate.
Observer Man Of The Match – Neil MacKenzie.
Football First match report:
By RJ Butt
transcribed by carole
Oli hardy, but it's another fine mess for Cambridge
DENNIS OLI made a startling debut for Cambridge, scoring one goal and making another after his last-minute signing from Swansea.
Brought in as an emergency replacement, he had no time to train with his new team, but was in the right place after just 17 minutes.
When Adam Tann's header rebounded from the crossbar, the young striker slid the ball into the net.
Nine minutes into the second half he showed he also had pace as well as precision when he raced away down the right to hit the cross which enabled Jermaine Easter to fire the ball in off the right-hand post.
One of Cambridge's best displays of the season earned the goals, but they were let down at the other end of the pitch where goalkeeper Shaun Marshall handed two goals and two points to Mansfield.
His blunders came from identical free-kicks by Scott McNiven two minutes before the break and in the 63rd minute.
The first time the ball dropped into the path of Colin Larkin who needed only to roll it over the goal-line, and on the second occasion when Marshall flapped at the ball it fell perfectly for Neil MacKenzie to ram in the second equaliser.
Cambridge boss Herve Renard was blunt, commenting: “It was not our defence to blame, it was the keeper's two mistakes.
He added: “We played some of our best football of the season with five men missing and young Oli came in and was excellent, but when the keeper makes those mistakes what can you do.
“Unfortunately Shaun is lacking in confidence and our other keeper John Ruddy needs a rest. We have to remember the display and not the result.”
Mansfield's manager Keith Curle was kinder however to Marshall, claiming it was the Stag's tactics which earned the goals and the points.
He said: “We work on that move, putting men on the keeper to pressure him, and this time with the referee allowing a bit of contact which you need we got our rewards.
“We won our previous two matches 4-1 so it was good to see that we have the kind of character to battle back from behind.
“Cambridge made it hard, they are better than their position down the bottom and it was a very hard fought performance which will do us a lot of good.”
Cambridge had chances however to get Marshall off the hook to some extent and win the game in the closing stages, but from good positions Easter and Dan Chillingworth fired inches wide.
Mansfield also went close to another goal when former United player MacKenzie beat Marshall with a blaster of a shot from 20 yards in the second half only for it to hit the bar.
Cambridge Utd………Mansfield Town
47-----------Possession %---- 53
4------------Shots on Target----5
6------------Shots off Target---3
Match Stats (Cambridge/Mansfield)
10 Goal Attempts 8
4 On Target 4
5 Off Target 3
1 Hit Woodwork 1
4 Offsides 3
5 Corners 7
11 Fouls 14
Cambridge United Official Site:
Herve Renard made four changes to the side beaten at Boston last weekend, and handed an instant debut to new signing Dennis Oli. Missing from last week's side were John Ruddy and Danny Webb (knee injuries), Igor Latte-Yedo (hamstring) and Andy Duncan (bench) as the manager reverted to a flat back four. Called up in their places were Shaun Marshall for his 150th League start, teenage right-back Dan Gleeson, Oli, and the fit-again Daniel Chillingworth.
Visitors Mansfield were unchanged after a 4-1 win against Northampton last weekend and arrived at the Abbey in great form, having won four of their last five games and scored four goals in each of their previous two games. They included former U's midfielder Neil Mackenzie, who made 28 starts for United in 1999/2000.
Both teams started brightly in blustery conditions and new man Dennis Oli soon caught the eye with his pace, power and running off the ball. Justin Walker had a corner hacked away and a Jermaine Easter cross was cleared in the opening exchanges, while for Mansfield Colin Larkin nodded a Mackenzie corner wide in the eighth minute.
Daniel Chillingworth was also keen to keep the visitors' defence busy and he had a shot blocked shortly before nodding a Walker free kick wide of the post, while Shaun Marshall made a good start with some confident catches and punches.
Mansfield exerted a spell of pressure around the fifteenth minute when they forced two corners, the first cleared behind by Angus and the second partially cleared by Chillingworth, before Buxton lashed a shot over the bar from 20 yards.
United then struck back with a dream debut goal for Dennis Oli just moments later. Adam Tann met Walker's corner kick and although his looping header crashed off the the bar, Oli volleyed the rebound home from three yards to score the U's first first-half goal of the season.
Three minutes later United almost doubled the lead when Chillingworth picked out the run of Oli but the former QPR man was harshly adjudged to have strayed offside.
Both sides looked effective going forward and Justin Walker and home debutant Mbome Kingsley showed signs of a promising partnership in midfield; Walker producing a good range of passes while the Cameroonian showed good strength and composure as he helped the defence when they came under pressure.
Oli broke away into space again on 33 when he ran onto a loose ball and lifted it over the advancing Pilkington, and he was flattened by the 'keeper as the ball sailed just wide. The first booking of the game followed when former Man City reserve Rhys Day clattered into Chillingworth.
Marshall showed good composure on 40 when he watched a dropping ball and volleyed it away to launch a United counter-attack, and a minute later a long ball went over Tann's head and was running for Larkin but Marshall was decisive in coming for the ball and catching under pressure.
But with United trying to play too much football in their own half there was always the danger that Mansfield would profit and Asamoah seized on one opportunity to advance and cross for Mackenzie, whose shot was blocked just inside the area. Again United countered but the ball was just too far in advance of Oli, and Mansfield equalised a minute before half-time.
A free kick on halfway was curled into the crowded area, and as it swirled on the wind Marshall lost the ball under pressure and although Mbome tried to control the ball on his chest Larkin got the final touch among all the bodies and was able to bundle it over the line from close-range.
There was still plenty of action in stoppage time as Mbome was booked for a foul on Asamoah and then, with United on the break, John-Baptiste was booked for hauling down Chillingworth and Neil was carded for a very late challenge on Walker as the U's skipper skipped past him.
Half-time summary from match commentator Mark Johnson:
"United finally broke their first half duck with a fine goal on a fine debut from Dennis Oli, but they were caught out on the stroke of half-time by a set piece that caught on the swirl wind."
A pulsating second half got off to a good start when Chillingworth broke away one-on-one with Pilkington as he chased a through ball, but the experienced 'keeper was quickly off his line to clear. Soon afterwards Walker was brought down by Neil, who received a final warning from Mr Stroud, and his quick free kick saw Easter find room near the bye-line but his shot from an acute angle was over the bar.
There was a let-off for United on 53 when Larkin carved out a dangerous ball across the face of goal but fortunately no one from either team got the slight touch required to divert it into the net, and a minute later the U's were in the lead again.
A superb breakaway saw Chillingworth play an intelligent ball down the line for Oli, he crossed the ball into the path of the supporting Jermaine Easter and the Welshman stroked the ball into the net off the inside of the post from six yards.
Behind again, Mansfield redoubled their efforts and for a while United hung on by the skin of their teeth as crosses rained in and the U's back line and Mbome denied them with some sterling defensive work. Mackenzie went close on 58 with a rocket shot that somehow cannoned off the bar and the post before bouncing away, and from the resulting corner United countered in an exciting end-to-end spell.
Keith Curle freshened things up with a like-for-like swap on 61, bringing on Adam Murray for Neil, and two minutes later his side had pegged the U's back again.
In a similar move to their first goal, a long angled ball into the area caught out the U's defence as Marshall started to come for the ball then hesitated, but Mackenzie showed no hesitation as he pounced to thump the ball home from the edge of the area.
Dennis Oli had to limp off with what looked like a groin strain three minutes after the goal. He received a standing ovation from the home fans as he made way for John Turner after a very impressive debut, but a couple of minutes later there were cheers of the ironic variety as Marshall came to make a confident catch.
United continued to play attractive attacking football and went agonisingly close to a third goal in the 68th minute when Easter raced into space, his first touch taking him wide but his second sending the ball just inches in front of the onrushing Chillingworth when the merest touch would have put it in the net.
Two minutes later the busy Chillingworth beat his marker to reach a Turner cross and the ball was turned behind for a corner, which Pilkington claimed well.
Curle made another change to bring on Preston loanee Jo O'Neill for Asamoah, who had been a constant threat to United, but before he settled Chillingworth again caused a fright for Mansfield when he collected a good ball from Nicholls to advance into the area, but although he beat the first defender he was crowded out and Mackenzie came away with the ball.
O'Neill was booked on 77 and Mansfield's final change came moments later when experienced midfielder Tom Curtis came on for Mackenzie.
With eight goals in their last two games it was no surprise to see Mansfield pressing forward looking for the winner and United's midfield was forced deeper and deeper, with the athletic Mbome continuing to impress, while the strikers looked increasingly isolated and having to drop back in search of the ball.
Walker was increasingly inspirational and after seeing Nicholls lose possession he won the ball back with a crunching tackle, moments later hearing himself named as the sponsors' 'Man of the Match'.
Turner had initially taken up a role on the left but by now United had adopted a 4-3-3 formation as Herve Renard bravely chased an elusive win, and with four minutes left Nicholls made a good run down the right and crossed for Chillingworth. He laid the ball off for Turner but although the youngster tucked the ball into the net he was flagged offside.
There was another scare on 89 when Marshall missed a Cordon corner but Tann scrambled the ball away and Turner's break down the right flank was crudely blocked by Murray. In a pulsating finish to an exciting game, Dan Gleeson floated the free kick into the box, Chillingworth rose to win the ball, but it was bundled back to Pilkington.
United had the visitors pinned back and when a clearance hit the head of Elkholti it ran for Chillingworth, who beat a defender on his way to goal but fired just wide of the post when he deserved a goal to cap a hard-working performance. Seconds later, with the last kick of the game Gleeson and Walker combined to set up Nicholls on the right of the area, but his curling shot was narrowly wide of the far post.
Stags come back twice for precious point
MANSFIELD Town twice came from behind to grab a share of the spoils with a hard-earned 2-2 draw at Cambridge United this afternoon.
Although the sides above Mansfield had some surprisingly poor results, there were wins for sides just below them and, despite a point away from home, Stags dropped two places to seventh tonight.
Dennis Oli had an eventful debut for Cambridge, putting them in front on 17 minutes and, after Colin Larkin had levelled a minute from the break when keeper Shaun Marshall spilled a free kick, Oli then set up Jermaine Easter to restore United's advantage off a post on 54 minutes.
But the lead only lasted nine minutes as MacKenzie, who had already seen a blast hit both bar and post, buried the equaliser, again from a Marshall spillage.
"Ask any manager - on the back of two 4-1 home victories and good performances it is important in your next away game to make sure you don't get beaten," said Stags boss Keith Curle.
"We showed another side to our game today and battled well.
"Credit to Cambridge, they battled and chased hard and didn't let us get into our easy tempo football.
. "But my lads showed the right character, rolled up their sleeves and put their foot through the ball when it was necessary.
"Some people probably thought it would have been typical Mansfield Town if we had lost today after those two 4-1 home wins.
"We showed great character to come from behind twice and showed a purpose in our football. It was a bit frantic in the last 10 minutes as we were desperate to stay unbeaten.
"Both our goals came from set plays and thankfully the referee was lenient enough to allow bodily contact when jumping with the goalkeeper. Colin Larkin will always get a sniff in the six yard box for a tap-in and I thought Neil MacKenzie's was a great goal after being so unlucky with the one that hit bar and post which I can't wait to see again.
"Cambridge showed they are better than their League position suggests. But that's why I pay no real attention to tables yet, just performances. One win and Cambridge will be back up into mid-table and another would put them in the top six or seven.
Stags were unchanged for the third successive game though keeper White replaced Williamson on the bench following the midfielder's midweek move to Northampton Town.
Mansfield exploded into action in the opening minute with keeper Marshall forced to chase out his box after only 21 seconds to prevent Larkin capitalising on MacKenzie's lofted ball.
And before the first minute was up, Neil crossed from the right and Asamoah headed wide, taking a kick to the head for his troubled.
Marshall again had to be quick to grab the ball of the head of Asamoah as he tried to get on the end of another long punt, this time from Day.
Mansfield forced their first corner on eight minutes which saw Larkin flick a header wide of the near post from MacKenzie's flag kick.
Two minutes later a loose back pass from Angus almost let in Asamoah and again Marshall had to be alert to beat him to the ball.
Cambridge finally created some danger on 11 minutes as Chillingworth had a shot blocked by Day and then headed narrowly wide from a Walker free kick.
Stags forced two more corners. The first was fisted away by Marshall. Then MacKenzie picked out Buxton for a header which Angus managed to head away from just in front of the line.
But Stags were stung by a Cambridge goal from their first corner of the afternoon on 17 minutes. Taken by Walker, it found Tann who sent a header against the crossbar. The bal bounced down and Oli reacted quickest to net from close range on his debut.
The home side almost doubled that lead on 34 minutes when Mbome's through ball into the box saw Pilkington race off his line. But Oli was there first and lifted the ball over the keeper only to see it drop just wide.
Day was cautioned on 36 minutes for a foul on Chillingworth in the centre circle.
MacKenzie began a promising move which also involved Corden and Asamoah. But when the striker pulled the ball back into MacKenzie's path, his low shot hit Larkin.
It had been a frustrating half for the Stags whose approach play had been good at times only to see a poor final product.
But Mansfield were somehow level a minute before the break.
Marshall, who had handled so well up to that point, failed to cleanly gather McNiven's free kick under pressure. The ball dropped in the six yard box and Asamoah edged the ball towards goal. It might have crept over the line but Larkin was at hand to make sure from almost on the line.
Mbome was booked for bringing down Asamoah on 45 minutes and there was still enough added on time for Neil to join him in the book for a foul on Walker.
Neil was walking a tightrope early in the second half when he was warned for another foul.
Chillingworth threatened to reach a long forward ball and Pilkington did well to get there first and clear off his shins.
Neil was again a lucky man as he fouled Walker and again the referee spoke to him.
Shortly after Easter was well over with a shot from the left of the penalty area.
Larkin was desperately close to getting his head onto Corden's cross on 53 minutes.
But a spectacular passage of play on 54 minutes saw the home side restore their lead.
McNiven's free kick for Mansfield was headed across goal by Larkin. The striker drilled a low cross in front of the Cambridge goal with no one able to touch it home.
From that United broke quickly down the right and Oli's ball in for Easter was perfect and left him with only Pilkington to beat. His shot hit the right hand post but somehow span back over the line with the keeper rooted in horror.
Stags almost levelled four minutes later when MacKenzie let fly from 20 yards and watched his shot hit the underside of the bar and inside of the post but fail to cross the line.
Two minutes later Asamoah headed over from a McNiven cross.
Neil had been one of Mansfield's best players on the day. But with the threat of a red card hanging over him, Curle wisely replaced him with Murray with 29 minutes left to play.
Stags were looking far more positive now and were deservedly level again on 63 minutes.
McNiven's free kick from the halfway line again saw Marshall struggle to grab the ball under pressure. Again it dropped and this time it rolled invitingly for MacKenzie to smash it home from 12 yards.
Turner replaced Oli on 66 minutes for the home side.
A great through ball from Walker almost put Easter away. But Buxton did enough to force him wide and his pulled back cross found no one.
Walker was calling for a penalty when Murray struggled to get the ball clear and made contact just inside the box.
O'Neill replaced Asamoah for the final 18 minutes and within five minutes was booked for a foul on Angus.
A long McNiven throw into the Cambridge box saw O'Neill stab a shot goal wards. It appeared to hit a home hand but the referee felt it was ball to hand and played on.
Both sides battled on for a winner and Stags forced a last minute corner which was eventually cleared.
Stags tried to break in stoppage time and were unlucky when the ball was deflected into the path of Chillingworth who ran on and hit a fierce shot just wide.
And with the final kick of the game, Nicholls found himself in space and curled a shot just wide of the far post.
But in the end a point apiece was a fair result.
Dennis Oli scored on his debut for Cambridge and should have been the hero of a hard-fought victory for the fourth from bottom side against high-flying Mansfield.
But although Cambridge dominated the match, twice taking the lead, they were undone by two basic blunders from goalkeeper Shaun Marshall.
Signed as an emergency replacement on the eve of the match from Swansea City, Oli took only 17 minutes to make his mark.
He was in the right place at a corner kick when Adam Tann's header bounced down off the crossbar.
With Justin Walker running midfield Cambridge were in control, but two minutes before the break Marshall could not get to a Scott McNiven free-kick, allowing Colin Larkin to tap in from close range.
Nine minutes into the second half Oli raced away down the right wing and hit a perfect cross to Jermaine Easter whose shot bounced in of the right-hand post.
Cambridge rode their luck when a Neil Mackenzie piledriver struck the bar, but Mansfield's second equaliser was not long in coming.
Marshall fumbled another McNiven free-kick and the ball dropped to Mackenzie who rammed it home.
Cambridge had chances to hit back and win in the later stages but Easter and Daniel Chillingworth fired wide from good positions.
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