ADDITIONAL STAGSNET REPORT
Football League Cup - Capital One Cup Round 1
Sheffield United 2 - 1 Mansfield Town
Butler 53, McNulty 86. Fisher 57
report by Daniel Egginton (eggy)
After an end-to-end game at Bramall Lane, it was a late winner from Marc McNulty that put Sheffield United through to the second round of the League Cup and a tie against Premier League opposition at Upton Park, home of West Ham United.
Mansfield made four changes to the team that started in Saturday; with Martin Riley, Jamie McGuire and Chris Clements coming in for John Dempster, Adam Murray and Fergus Bell. Liam Hearn was given his first start in a competitive Stags game, in place of the injured Ollie Palmer. Luke Jones, Jack Thomas and Cameron Belford came into the 18 in the place of the injured trio of Palmer, and Murray and Liam Marsden, who had picked up knocks in training.
Mansfield lined up as:
Sutton - Riley - Tafazolli
Beevers - McGuire - Clements - Heslop - Taylor
Fisher - Hearn
In a frantic opening to the game both teams had chances. It took a last ditch tackle from Ryan Tafazolli to stop the Blades from getting a shot away within the opening minute, while at the other end a free kick from Rob Taylor was headed straight at the grateful Mark Howard in goal.
On 5 minutes, Sasha Studer made a good save from a Jose Baxter shot, with Ritchie Sutton doing well to clear behind when the ball found its way back into the box. From the resulting corner Neill Collins headed wide, having peeled away from Tafazolli at the back post. Simon Heslop was lucky to avoid punishment for a high foot on McNulty moments later, the referee content with giving a free kick, which was promptly played straight to an offside United forward. Two minutes after that Mr Eltringham appeared to miss a clumsy challenge on McGuire going the other way.
After 11 minutes there was a lack of communication as Clements got in the way of Tafazolli, who was breaking from defense. The ball broke to Jamal Campbell-Ryce on the right, but he could only find Studer with his cross. Shortly after the goalie had played the ball upfield it became apparent that Hearn was struggling, and he was substituted for Sam Clucas, in a straight swap. It transpired after the game that Hearn's injury was not related to his previous cruciate ligament issues.
Rob Taylor gave away a daft free kick on 15 minutes, shoving Stephen McGinn in the back. United won a corner from the resulting set piece, and again headed wide, this time Andy Butler missing from six yards. Tafazolli gave away a free kick moments later with a barge on McNulty. The ball in was cleared easily and just as it looked like Mansfield would hit on the counter, Clucas lost the ball with an overcooked pass.
After a neat period of passing play, a poor cross from Heslop was met by just as poor a clearance, giving the Stags a throw-in in an attacking area. The ball was thrown to Heslop, who worked his way into the box and produced a much better cross along the ground, cleared by Robert Harris to give Mansfield their first corner after nearly 20 minutes. Despite two amber shirts hitting the ball towards goal the Blades defense held strong to keep the game at 0-0.
On 26 minutes, another cross from danger-man Campbell-Ryce was just missed by McNulty at the near post, with Studer just behind him to punch the ball clear. Alex Fisher nearly broke the deadlock at the other end three minutes later, firing just wide from 20 yards after Clucas had neatly chested down a Tafazolli free kick from the half-way line.
Campbell-Ryce put another cross in shortly after the half-hour mark, this time from the left. Porter headed on but it was comfortable for Studer. Heslop then worked hard on the edge of the Sheffield United box, and when the ball found its way back to Clucas he hit a low shot destined for the bottom corner, before Howard tipped it around the post. The corner found Clucas again, to the right of the six-yard box, but he hit his shot wide.
On 35 minutes, the Stags defense took an eternity to clear a corner from the right flank, and as soon as they did Clements gave a free kick away for a foul on Campbell-Ryce on the opposite side. The resulting set piece missed everyone and nearly curled into the far corner of the goal. Baxter hit a shot narrowly wide a couple of minutes later, after a cross had been half-cleared. Ben Davies had a shot from a similar area on 42 minutes, firing wide after a ridiculous free-kick had been given to the hosts on the right wing.
Mansfield had a corner on 44 minutes but it was flapped away by Howard. The Blades finished the half with some direct balls into the Mansfield box but it was to no avail.
Half-time, 0-0 and an enthralling game. End to end and the visitors more than holding their own.
It didn't take long for the second half to spring into life either, with Heslop's shot deflected wide by McNulty after Clucas lost the ball in the box. Clucas was once again found at the back post but he put the ball over the bar. Another potential Mansfield move broke down moments later as Clements dawdled on the ball with players moving forwards.
Lee Beevers received the first booking of the evening on 50 minutes with a foul on Campbell-Ryce. Davies' free kick fizzed over the bar. The ball broke for Michael Doyle a couple of minutes later and his shot from the right hand side of the box was blocked by a retreating McGuire. The hosts went 1-0 up from the resulting corner, Andy Butler eventually heading home.
Mansfield fought back immediately, firstly through Fisher, who shot over the bar from outside the box. Then in the 57th minute he turned home after Beever's cross-cum-shot was blocked in the centre of the box to equalise. The 1250-strong Stags following - which was in fine form for the entire evening - went understandably wild.
Jamie McGuire was booked on 58 minutes for a foul on Baxter. Another United corner was comfortably cleared on the hour mark.
Fisher made some space for himself in the 62nd minute with some tricky footwork outside the host's box, but his shot went wide of the Howard's left post. On 64 minutes Fisher, then Clements, had shots blocks by a Blades defense which was proving difficult to break down. A minute later, a deep cross was headed behind for yet another United corner. It was cleared but Taylor lost the ball just as the Stags looked to break. Another deep cross was this time caught and held by Studer.
McGuire was the second Mansfield substitution of the night, making way for Fergus Bell. Bell moved in behind the strikers while Clements, who hadn't done a lot going forwards during the match, dropped into a deeper midfield position alongside Heslop. On 68 minuted, Rob Taylor gave away a free kick on the right wing, the resulting cross headed just wide by Neill Collins. Taylor was given the third booking of the night.
On 70 minutes, Fisher played a perfectly timed ball to Clucas through the offside trap, however Clucas couldn't control it and the move broke down. A flurry of substitutions followed, with Jamie Murphy and Michael Higdon replacing McGinn and Porter respectively. This was either side of John Dempster coming on for Martin Riley, who had picked up a knock.
On 76 minutes Beevers very nearly set up a Blades goal. He chested down an over-hit cross towards Studer, but McNulty got to the ball first. Luckily, his shot was fired over the bar. Another chance for the hosts on 84 minutes, as a shot by Doyle was very well held down low by Studer, with red-and-white shirts following in.
But it was all in vain, as in the 86th minute McNulty won the game for Sheffield United. Firstly forcing his was through a weak challenge by Dempster, he then shimmied past Tafazolli before hitting the ball under Studer and into the middle of the goal. McNulty was replaced by Harrison McGahey three minutes later.
Mansfield couldn't find a way back into the game a second time, with a long throw being flicked on by Dempster straight to the 'keeper, and a long ball to Fisher not being brought under control as the game went into injury time.
The hosts held onto the ball long enough to deny the Stags any more chances, and the game finished 2-1. An unlucky result for a battling Mansfield Town team that refused to be over-powered by their League One opponents, and on another night the visitors could have nicked it. Positives to be taken from a tremendous display by Tafazolli at the back again, some good saves by Studer in goal, even if he could be accused of not commanding his area at times, and a battling box-to-box display from Simon Heslop. The side will virtually pick itself due to injuries for the next couple of games, but there is a lot to be said for this Mansfield team going fowards, and a few surprises for those who maybe thought we would roll over and fall through the trap door easily this season.
Studer - 6.5 - Some good saves but failed to command his area. Looked nervy with crosses.
Sutton - 6.5 - Fairly solid.
Riley - 6.5 - Again, OK. Hopefully hasn't picked up too serious a knock.
Tafazolli - 8 - A cracking performance in defense.
Beevers - 6 - A quiet game, as the Blades never really focussed their attacks down the left wing. Needs to become more confident coming over the half-way line as wing-back.
McGuire - 6 - Used the captain's armband to shout at team mates a lot but was largely anonymous.
Clements - 5 - Lost the ball in attack too many times. Started to make a few challenges when dropped deeper in midfield but not a good game.
Heslop - 7.5 - Energetic box-to-box performance for 90 minutes. Unlucky not to see one of his shots find the net. Seems to offer more than Murray or McGuire.
Taylor - 6 - Had to deal with the slippery Jamal Campbell-Ryce for most of the game. Gave away a few fouls and didn't offer a lot going forwards.
Hearn - Shame to see him go off so soon with another injury.
Fisher - 7 - Held the ball up well and had a few shots. Not helped by lack of support at times.
Clucas - 5.5 - Didn't offer a lot, unusually quiet. Never given a moment on the ball by the home defense when he did get it. Couple of chances spurned at the back post from corners.
F. Bell - 7 - Offered a lot more than Clements behind the strikers. Needs to start on Saturday
Dempster - 5.5 - Weak challenge on McNulty for the goal.
Ref - 5 - Every 50/50 went the home side's way. No big decisions to make.
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