Mansfield Town suffered a miserable afternoon at the R Costings Abbey Stadium as they fell to a heavy 4-1 defeat against a clinical Cambridge United.
The Stags fell behind to an early goal from Michael Gash, before three strikes in the space of ten minutes after the re-start sealed the win for Richard Money’s side.
An own-goal from Josh Coulson proved to be little more than a consolation for Paul Cox side, who also had John Thompson taken off on a stretcher with a suspected leg injury.
Cox opted to include new signing Solomon Taiwo in his starting line-up and the midfielder almost created the first opening of the game with an intricate through ball towards Matt Green which forced U’s shot-stopper Jonathon Hedge to rush off his line in order to collect.
Cambridge, who appointed Money as their new boss in midweek, didn’t see much of the ball in the early exchanges, but opened the scoring after nine minutes when Gash poked home from an acute angle after former Stags loanee Danny Andrew had floated a fine ball towards the back post.
The U’s then enjoyed a series of chances in quick succession and could have doubled their lead had Tom Elliott found the target with his header after a right-wing cross from Rossi Jarvis. Gash then whistled a shot high over the woodwork moments later as the hosts continued to attack with venom, whilst Tom Shaw also screwed an effort wide of Shane Redmond’s left-hand post.
Despite a sluggish start, Mansfield continued to see a fair amount of the ball and came close to an equaliser on 18 minutes when Hedge had to parry a teasing cross from Taiwo and clutch the ball into his grasp at the second attempt from the feet of talisman Green.
Chances proved to be few and far between, but Coulson almost doubled Cambridge’s lead midway through the first period when he ghosted his way past George Pilkington and hammered a thunderous 35-yard shot against the woodwork with Redmond rooted to his goal line.
Green bundled an effort wide of goal as Mansfield created a rare chance on the half-hour mark, before United came close at the opposite end five minutes later when Jarvis lashed an effort over the bar following some excellent combination work from Gash and Robbie Willmott on the left flank.
The Stags suffered a major setback only a few moments prior to the half-time interval when Thompson was taken off on a stretcher with a suspected leg injury. The left-back produced an exceptional challenge to prevent Luke Berry from enjoying an opportunity, but it quickly became apparent that he had suffered an injury in the process.
Junior Daniel replaced the unfortunate Thompson, and Cox had to make another enforced substitution at half-time as Ryan Tafazolli replaced Exodus Geohaghon, who had been struggling during the first period.
Berry headed over from an Andrew corner two minutes after the re-start, but the midfielder soon registered his name on the score-sheet as he latched on to a defence-splitting through ball from Elliott and tapped home from inside the six-yard box.
Cambridge then grabbed their third goal of the afternoon on 51 minutes. Gash played a simple ball from the edge of the area straight into the path of strike-partner Elliott, who lashed home with unadulterated venom to put the hosts in total control of proceedings.
Mansfield’s miserable afternoon then got even worse close to the hour-mark when Jarvis crept into empty space inside the area to connect with Andrew’s long-throw, prior to placing a well-struck shot into the bottom corner.
Substitute Louis Briscoe fired over from a free-kick and Jake Speight also drew a save from Hedge, before the Stags finally grabbed a consolation goal on 70 minutes when Anthony Howell’s long-range effort caught a deflection off Coulson, which was enough to wrong-foot Hedge.
Gash, Andrew and Coulson all drew saves from Redmond as the game meandered towards its conclusion, whilst Berry produced a fantastic slide challenge to deny Speight from slotting into an empty net at the other end, but it ultimately proved to be a thoroughly miserable afternoon for everyone associated with the Stags.
Attendance: 2,545 (209 away supporters).