For the second season running United went down to a gut-wrenching late defeat at Field Mill by the odd goal in five having led twice, as Mansfield pinched all the points in a game played in difficult conditions.
Pedro Monteiro aka Pelé partnered Tom Cadmore in central defence to allow Phil Walsh to join Julian Owusu up front while Dwane Lee returned to the midfield in place of Luke Williams. Biting winds and rain meant that the opening phase of the game was scrappy as both sides failed to find an early rhythm. Louie Soares for United and Matt Green for the hosts were the first players to test the respective goalkeepers, but in each case their weak shots were comfortably gathered.
United’s defence had Tom Cadmore to thank on eighteen minutes. Adam Murray and Ross Dyer combined to feed Green, but Cadmore’s superbly timed tackle prevented the Stags striker from pulling the trigger. Five minutes later Lindon Meikle cut inside to shoot but Carl Pentney had little difficulty with the save. At the other end United forced the first corner of the game but could make nothing of it, while Luke O’Neill’s free kick for the home side broke a seat behind the goal rather than warm Pentney’s gloves.
After an opening half hour that had seen both sides struggle with the conditions, United had the lead as good as gifted to them. Joe Kendrick’s throw in was woefully short, and Jamie Hand, who reminded the United fans what they’ve been missing since August throughout the entire game, was quickest on to it. His crisp ball across the penalty box found Julian Owusu in plenty of space, and he fired past the advancing Alan Marriott for his first goal in United colours (left).
Unfortunately United couldn’t hold that lead for any length of time, and the home side were level seven minutes later. Gary Roberts took a quick free-kick. Green found Dyer four yards outside the United penalty area, and his well placed low shot left Pentney with no real chance. All square at the break, and Nas Bashir brought on Tom Collins in place of Jordan Rose who’d had an uncomfortable first half.
Both sides adapted better to the conditions in the second half, and United were now playing with the benefit of the wind. Collins’ impact was instant, his cross just two minutes into the second half was headed to safety by John Dempster. The home side should, perhaps, have taken the lead on fifty minutes when Adam Smith’s excellent cross was met by Dyer, who somehow headed wide when it looked easier to score while Cadmore’s wind assisted free-kick from inside the United half nearly dipped under Marriott’s crossbar. At the other end Carl Pentney made a fine save from Smith’s header as the United defence were caught out trying to play offside.
On 55 minutes, the travelling supporters were celebrating as United regained the lead. Collins found Louie Soares in a spot of space just outside the Mansfield penalty area, and his excellent shot provided his fifteenth goal of the season. Once again though, United were unable to hold the lead for any great deal of time, and Mansfield were level again at the mid point of the second half. Pentney saved Kendrick’s initial effort, but the United defence switched off as Smith found Green around eight yards out, and he had enough time and space to bring the score back to
The game had now developed into a far more dramatic, if not perhaps entertaining game than the early stages had promised. With nineteen minutes left to play, Marriott made the save of the match to prevent United taking the lead for the third time. A free kick was awarded for a foul on Collins, and Soares’ delivery was neatly headed down by Tom Cadmore, with the Mansfield stopper just about pushing the effort to safety. Toby Ajala replaced Lee for the final quarter hour, and with seven minutes left Aristede Bassele replaced Owusu as Nas Bashir sought to protect the precious point which would have been the very least our performance deserved.
However, just as in our previous away game at Kidderminster, it all fell apart as the clock ticked past the ninety minute mark. The home side were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area. Substitute Louis Briscoe’s effort was blocked well by the solid United wall, but the ball bounced loose to Gary Roberts on Town’s right, and as he tried to advance past Daniel Wishart, he was caught by the United left back. Referee Seb Stockbridge had little hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot and Ben Hutchinson, who had replaced Dyer just after the hour, sent Pentney the wrong way to give Mansfield an injury time lead.
The devastated United side couldn’t break Mansfield down once more, and were nearly beaten for a fourth time when Green was put through by Briscoe, but he fired over the bar as he tried to round Pentney. The 3-2 scoreline was harsh on a United side who still seek their first points of 2012, and have now collected just five points from the last fourteen games.
Report by Lee Hermitage.
Photo's by Ray Peploe.
United Man of the Match: Jamie Hand.