Mansfield Town were held to a goalless draw in their final match of the season against Cambridge United at One Call Stadium this afternoon.
The Stags were the more dangerous of the two sides in a game of few chances against a U’s side who had previously gone seven games unbeaten, but neither outfit had much luck in front of goal.
Chances were few and far between and the hosts looked the more likely team to grab the winner, but they had to settle for a point against the U’s for the second time in the campaign.
Manager Adam Murray made one change to the side that were defeated at Leyton Orient last week, as midfielder Chris Clements made his first start since he sustained a hamstring injury over a month ago, replacing winger Reggie Lambe.
Meanwhile, there were spots on the bench for youngsters Zayn Hakeem and Jason Law, who both played for the under 18s during their Football League Youth Alliance title-winning campaign.
The opening half-chance of the contest fell to long-range specialist Mal Benning after forward Emmanuel Dieseruvwe had been tugged back, but the defender’s effort was comfortably gathered by goalkeeper Will Norris.
Despite that, the away side were the ones plugging forward in the early stages with a number of set-pieces, which came to nothing. And the U’s could’ve taken the lead when productive midfielder Luke Berry intricately played it over the top to midfielder Ryan Ledson, but his volley cleared the crossbar.
Soon after, midfielder Adam Chapman delivered a corner which went in the direction of defender Lee Collins who looked like he’d escaped his marker, although the former Northampton Town man couldn’t find the right sort of contact on the ball and it went over.
Wolverhampton Wanderers loanee Zeli Ismail then cut in from the left side and unleashed a drive from distance which went harmlessly over the Stags’ bar, and that moment typified the opening 25 minutes.
Cambridge were having spells of momentary pressure which weren’t lasting long, due to the good work of Mansfield’s defence.
Then midfielder Mitchell Rose was brought down which led to the home team’s next chance. Chapman drifted over a free-kick which was nodded down by defender Ryan Tafazolli to central defensive partner Krystian Pearce, but he could only hook it wide of the mark.
On the stroke of half-time, Mansfield appeared to have taken the lead as a Chapman set-piece was flicked on by Tafazolli to striker Matt Green, who converted from close range via the crossbar, but the linesman closest to the Ian Greaves Stand adjudged the striker to be offside.
At the break, boss Murray made his first change as attacking midfielder James Baxendale came on for defender Tafazolli, who had earlier gone down needing treatment from physio Dan Kett. As a result, Rose reverted to right-back with Collins sliding over to centre-half, meaning Baxendale took up his usual spot behind the forwards.
Shaun Derry also made a substitution for the visitors, as the experienced Mark Roberts replaced Josh Coulson.
The previous meeting between the two sides at the Abbey Stadium ended in a 1-1 draw and this encounter was taking on the same theme, with very little to choose between the teams.
Just over ten minutes into the half, Murray handed a senior debut to striker Zayn Hakeem, known for his lively displays in the youth side, as the 17-year-old was brought on for Chesterfield loanee Mani Dieseruvwe.
And the youngster was immediately involved as he latched on to a lofted ball over the top and raced through on goal, but he was caught in two minds over whether to pass to Green or shoot, and the chance to break the deadlock was gone.
That action appeared to spark the Stags into life as they threatened a lot more going forward, although Cambridge stopper Will Norris was not having to do much between the sticks in the way of saves.
The hosts were playing the ball around confidently in stages, but providing for the ever-willing running of Green and Hakeem was the only component missing to make it a triumphant final outing of the campaign.
At the other end, the second half pairing of Lee Collins and Pearce were snuffing out any dangers in their direction, with aerial balls a prevalent feature of Cambridge’s play towards ex-Notts County forward Jimmy Spencer and 12-goal Ben Williamson, who have both been clinical post-January to make up for the injury loss of Barry Corr.
The Stags nearly grabbed the advantage as Green escaped the attentions of his marker to get to the byline before sending in a cross to the back post for the oncoming Clements inside the box, but his left-footed volley was blocked before reaching the net.
The home contingent in attendance at One Call Stadium were encouraged, with Mansfield the side looking more likely to be successful in front of goal. The energetic Hakeem then threaded the ball through for Green whose cross was deflected into the arms of a grateful Norris.
With the clock ticking towards full-time, Tanzanian attacker Adi Yussuf came on for top scorer Green, who can look back brightly on the 2015-16 campaign after netting 16 times overall.
Three minutes were indicated at the end of a second half which was a much better showing than the first, but creating a clear-cut opening proved difficult in the latter stages, in the same way it had done in the whole match, before referee Eddie Ilderton blew the whistle for full-time.
The point for the Stags means they end the season in 12th position, on the same points as Wycombe Wanderers and Exeter City in the places below.
Stags’ XI: Shearer, Benning, Tafazolli (Baxendale 46’), Pearce, Collins, Rose, Chapman, Clements, Blair, Dieseruvwe (Hakeem 56’), Green (Yussuf 83’)
Subs not used: Jensen, Lambe, McGuire, Law
Cambridge XI: Norris, Legge, Berry (Clark 62’), Dunk, Coulson (Roberts 46’), Dunne, Ismail, Spencer, Williamson (Donaldson 85’), Ledson, Furlong
Subs not used: Beasant, Omozusi, O’Neill, Williams
Attendance: 3,548 (564 away)