STAGS EDGED OUT BY RESURGENT OXFORD
Blue Square Premier
Oxford United 1 - 0 Mansfield Town
Attendance: 4618 (251 from Mansfield)
Date: 21 February 2009
Martin Shaw at the Kassam Stadium
Mansfield Town were edged out 1-0 in a tight and exciting game at Oxford United on Saturday afternoon. Oxford had picked up 34 points from their previous 12 home games, and played with a confidence that demonstrated it. But the Stags matched them all the way, giving as good as they got throughout, and were ultimately unfortunate not to share the points. The Stags missed a number of good chances and were undone by a fine goal created by the dangerous James Constable who set it up on a plate for Craig Nelthorpe on the hour.
Observer report by Steve Hartshorn:
OXFORD END STAGS UNBEATEN RUN
Oxford United 1 Mansfield Town 0.
It proved not to be lucky Seven for Mansfield manager, David Holdsworth as he watched his side narrowly lose 1-0 away at play off chasing, Oxford United. The result brought to an end Holdsworth's six game unbeaten run as Stags manager but it could have been different for his side, brimming full of confidence, more than matched their impressive hosts who were grateful for the agility of their keeper, Turley who denied the Stags on several occasions.
Holdsworth made two changes to the side, which had gained a point at home to Kettering in midweek, bringing back into the side, Scott Garner in place of O'Hare and right back, Gary Silk returning in place of the injured Scott Gardener.
Stags began the game eager and forced United onto the back foot. The home side, who on their own turf are second only to BSO league leaders, Burton Albion, were looking for their 13th victory at the Kassam to keep alive their play off hopes.
Louis Briscoe, one of a front three for Mansfield earned a free kick some 25 yards and central from goal, unfortunately, Nathan Arnold failed to put enough on his free kick and Turley easily saved the effort.
Briscoe was again involved just a minute later when he ran into the United box and laid the ball back to the feet of ex-Oxford striker, Rob Duffy, who, although getting plenty of power behind his shot, failed to get the right direction and the ball ended up wide of the mark, much the derision of the home supporters.
On 9 minutes a lofted ball down the Stags right hand side was misjudged giving United striker Constable a great chance of notching up his 16th goal of a productive season, however, not for the first time, Alan Marriott came to the Stags rescue, this time saving well with his legs.
Woodhouse then took a free kick which was not cleared and fell for Moses but the Stags centre back saw his shot deflected over the crossbar and out for the first corner of the game.
Stags were clearly the better of the two sides in the first 20 minutes, much to the frustration of the home fans who had again turned up in their numbers hoping to see yet another easy win for their heroes.
Nathan Arnold squared a ball across the area to D'Laryea unfortunately the Stags captain's shot lacked any real power and was saved easily by Turley.
Stags were forced into a change on 27 minutes when Briscoe was forced to leave the field due to a back injury. He was replaced by O'Connor.
It didn't take long for O'Connor to get into the action. A powerful run down the centre by Arnold found O'Connor who went for goal only to find Turley once again alive to smother the chance.
On 33 minutes Stags could have taken the lead. An innovative run down the right eventually saw Somner dink the ball towards the head of O'Connor, who from four yards out looked favourite to score only to see Turley once again deny Stags with a fine single handed reaction save to tip the ball out for a corner.
It wasn't all Mansfield though, the home side did threaten on occasions, particularly when Batt had his shot blocked and the ball fell to Chapman who took on Mayo before hammering his shot wide from a tight angle.
On 43 minutes, United again looked dangerous on the break but Constable shot narrowly wide after just getting the better of Moses.
Mayo then had a chance for Mansfield as the half neared its end but Turley dived well to his right to grasp the ball at the near post.
Batt did well to turn Woodhouse on the left hand side of midfield before hoisting a fine ball down the right into the path of Nelthorpe who powered around Silk before unleashing a shot which with the aid of s deflection, thudded against the Stags crossbar and away for a corner.
The Stags started the 2nd half how they started the 1st, looking dangerous and causing problems to the home defence. Duffy's neat header fell to Arnold who exchanged passes with O'Connor before shooting towards goal and forcing Turley into more action.
On 50 minutes the home side were presented with a great opportunity of taking the lead after Batt crossed from the right. Both Marriott and Constable challenged for the ball but it fell loose for Moses to head clear, though unfortunately it then broke to Farrell who scooped the ball over from 12 yards much to the relief of the Stags.
The game was providing lots of entertainment for both sets of fans, Arnold next going close for Mansfield, only once again to be denied by Turley.
Just before the hour mark, the home fans were screaming for a penalty kick when Constable went down under the challenge of Moses but less than 60 seconds later, United took the lead to send over 4,000 of their supporters into roars of delight. Stags were on the attack, but Oxford broke with speed to catch the Stags back four flat-footed. Constable did well on the right and unselfishly squared the ball to the inrushing Nelthorpe who joyfully blasted the ball into the back of the net from eight yards out.
Blackwood came on for Woodhouse and had a powerful shot blocked as Stags went in search of a quick equaliser.
Constable then once again dropped to the floor inside the Stags area, this time under the challenge of Garner as he went in search of a penalty kick. In truth the Oxford man should have been booked for trying to con the referee but as usual the crime went unpunished.
On 69 minutes, the officials were again centre of the action when the referee assistant failed to hoist his flag when Farrell was clearly offside. Thankfully Marriott was on hand to make a double save to deny Oxford a controversial second goal.
Stags were not giving up and continued to press for an equaliser. Turley was again in action diving at the feet of O'Connor and then denying Blackwood.
Blackwood then played in Mayo who crossed the ball to Arnold. Arnold though misjudged his volley which turned into a neat pass to O'Connor who saw his shot blocked and cleared.
With 15 minutes to go, Mackenzie replaced Duffy and Odubade replaced goalscorer, Nelthorpe as both sides made changes.
In the 83rd minute, Oxford almost doubled their advantage when centre half Foster got on the end of a corner and produced a fine one handed save from Marriott. Good fortune was on the Stags side as the ball spun away and hit the foot of the post before being cleared away.
With just a minute of normal time to go, Somner cushioned a header down to MacKenzie to hit on the volley, unfortunately his effort flew over the crossbar much to the delight of the home support. It proved to be the final chance of the game.
Although the result brought to an end Holdsworth's and Mansfield's fine unbeaten run, the team had once again given rise to optimism that the future under Holdsworth will see Mansfield grow and grow.
Next weekend the Stags travel to Rushden & Diamonds who will come into the game fresh from a resounding 9-0 victory away at troubled, Weymouth. The game will be another stern test for The Stags as they go in search of another impressive unbeaten run.
Observer Man of the match – Alan Marriott. Another confident performance from the Stags custodian.
Oxford Mail report:
Oxford Utd 1, Mansfield Town 0 (21/02)
4:54pm Saturday 21st February 2009
Comments (12) Have your say »
By Jon Murray »
Craig Nelthorpe hit his first goal for the club as Oxford United chalked up their seventh successive home win in the league.
It was another impressive U's performance, even if they didn't quite match their attacking play of last week against Barrow.
But that was largely because Mansfield, themselves unbeaten in six games under new boss David Holdsworth before this match, were a tough not to crack.
Nelthorpe's matchwinner came on the hour after some brilliant play by the irrepressible James Constable, who had another outstanding game.
Constable got around left back Paul Mayo with sheer determination, and he picked out his pass to perfection with a square ball, across the face of the goal to Nelthorpe, who hammered home from five yards. Nelthorpe had hit the bar just before half-time, while Craig Farrell blazed over from a very good position just after, and Farrell also went close late on when keeper Alan Marriott saved well.
At the other end, Billy Turley was in great form, keeping to his word in stgopping ex-U's striker Rob Duffy from scoring.
Chris Wilder made the expected change, with Farrell coming in up front to take over from the suspended Lewis Haldane, and Adam Chapman switching to the right of midfield.
Mansfield won the toss and chose to attack towards the open end in the first half, which wasn't what United wanted, and it made it even more essential that the U's got a head of steam going towards their own fans in the first half.
That didn't really happen in the early exchanges, although Constable's combative battling for the ball immediately caused the visitors problems.
And when Constable dribbled past two defenders inside the box to get the game's first real opportunity on ten minutes, only a good blocking save from Stags keeper Alan Marriott kept the scores level.
By then Holdsworth's team had already tested Billy Turley from a 20-yard free-kick.
Chris Willmott gave the free-kickaway, to stop Louis Briscoe after a mazy dribble past two players, and United's players were remembering how Nathan Arnold had scored from a free-kick against them at Field Mill in December.
Again he directed the kick up and over the wall, but Turley was comfortably behind it.
United were probing for an opening, but too often Adam Murray was looking for the killer pass when a simple short option might have been been better.
There were some good pieces of play in other areas from Oxford though.
Chris Carruthers made a number of telling tackles, Chris Willmott was dominant in the air, and Turley got huge distance with a punch under pressure.
Mansfield's Jonathan D'Laryea and substitute Aaron O'Connor both tried their luck with long-range drives, but Turley was troubled by neither.
However, United's keeper needed to be at his best to pull off a superb reaction save from O'Connor's point-blank header on 32 minutes.
Clear-cut opportunities were at a premium but Oxford carved out a couple of half-chances before the break.
Chapman played a neat one-two and scooped his shot narrowly over the bar, and Constable's strong battling for the ball earned him a sniff, but he could only direct his left-footed drive wide.
Moments before half-time, though, Nelthorpe, who had not had the best of starts to the match, got past his full back, cutting in menacingly from the left, and shot against the crossbar, with the follow-up then turned for a corner.
Constable was lucky not to get booked for diving just before United got their breakthrough goal, the centre forward falling theatrically forward when there had been minimal contact.
Farrell went through on goal when he beat the visitors' offside trap, but Marriott saved his shot.
There was always anxiety because Mansfield looked well capable of getting an equaliser.
Turley was smartly off his line to save at O'Connor's feet, and Luke Foster made a magnificent block to prevent Arnold from scoring.
But Oxford saw out the game professionally in the last ten minutes, and Odubade might even have doubled the score, racing through only to slice his shot.
Nevertheless, it was a vital three points, and the team's first double of the season.
Wilder replaced Nelthorpe with Yemi Odubade for the last 15 minutes, with Chapman going into the centre.
Oxford Utd: Turley; Batt, Willmott, Foster, Carruthers; Chapman, Clist, Murray, Nelthorpe (Odubade 75); Farrell, Constable. Subs not used: Hinchliffe, Hutchinson, Burnell, Clarke.
Att: 4,618 (215 from Mansfield)
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