Report: Oxford 3-0 Stags
Mansfield Town’s four-match unbeaten run away from home in Sky Bet League Two came to an end as they were beaten 3-0 at promotion-chasing Oxford United.
Despite enjoying plenty of possession, the Stags fell behind when David Connolly converted Tom Newey’s left-wing cross shortly before the half-hour mark.
Nicky Wroe doubled the U’s lead with a sublime solo strike eight minutes after the re-start, before Deane Smalley completed the scoring on 66 minutes.
The Stags will now be looking for a positive result when they host Fleetwood Town at One Call Stadium next Saturday.
The Stags named an unchanged team for the third successive match as they sought to extend their impressive unbeaten streak away from home to five matches.
Paul Cox’s team made a bright start and enjoyed plenty of possession in the early exchanges, but it was the hosts who created the first opening after 10 minutes.
Dave Kitson cut inside, having fended off a challenge from Martin Riley wide on the left channel, but his powerful attempt was high, wide and wayward and didn’t trouble Alan Marriott.
The Stags were forced into making a change on the quarter-hour mark, as James Jennings landed innocuously when attempting to win the ball on the edge of the U’s area.
The full-back received lengthy treatment before eventually being replaced by Junior Daniel.
Mansfield appeared to look the livelier of the two teams – spraying the ball around well and creating some very good chances, which they weren’t able to convert.
Firstly, Sam Clucas went close with a powerful left-footed drive, which was superbly tipped wide by a full-stretch Ryan Clarke, before the U’s cleared the danger from the subsequent corner.
Clucas was again in the thick of the action moments later when his deflected low snap-shot fell kindly for Lee Stevenson, who struck the ball wide from close-range.
The Stags continued to attack and when Matt Rhead flicked on Anthony Howell’s chipped ball, only a splendid save by the U’s shot-stopper denied the lively Clucas.
Despite having enjoyed plenty of possession, Mansfield fell behind somewhat against the run of play on 27 minutes.
Tom Newey escaped down the left flank and delivered a pin-point ball towards David Connolly on the edge of the six-yard box, who peeled away from his marker and slotted home.
It was harsh on the visitors, who up to this point had created far more than their promotion-chasing counterparts.
Nevertheless, the Stags continued to play on the front-foot and when Chris Clements played a great low pass through to Clucas, his shot was bravely blocked by Matt Bevans.
The U’s looked lively on the break and nearly doubled their lead on 38 minutes, when James Constable saw a thunderous 25-yard volley palmed away by a full-stretch Marriott.
Stevenson was off-target at the other end with an audacious 35-yard strike just a few minutes later, before the midfielder fired wide from 20 yards in stoppage-time at the end of the first period.
Mansfield made a tactical change ahead of the second half as Jamie McGuire replaced Martin Riley, and within two minutes of the re-start, the visitors were back on the attack.
Rhead latched onto a long ball and headed it down for a lurking Clucas on the edge of the area, whose powerful drive flew just wide of Clarke’s right-hand post.
However, the Stags were soon left cursing their luck again as Micky Lewis’ team doubled their lead.
Nicky Wroe collected a loose ball around 25 yards out and with just one glance goalwards the midfielder looked up and placed a superb curling effort into the top-left corner.
Once again it was harsh on Mansfield, who to their credit, kept pushing forward at frequent intervals in an effort to find a route back into the encounter.
On 56 minutes, Stevenson had a 10-yard shot tipped around the woodwork by U’s keeper Clarke, who also saved a close-range header from Rhead following some good work by Anthony Howell.
Ryan Tafazolli also headed straight at Clarke following another move on the hour mark, as the Stags were just simply unable to break down the third-tightest defence in the Football League.
Oxford almost scored again on 66 minutes when James Constable – a regular scorer in this fixture in recent years – blazed a 20-yard effort high over the target.
But three minutes later, in a sweet free-flowing move, the U’s broke away to make it 3-0.
Newey and Connolly exchanged passes on the left flank, which stretched the Stags defence, before the latter played a through ball to an advancing Constable.
The U’s frontman had time and space and despite his low drive ricocheting back off the post, Deane Smalley pounced on the re-bound to make it 3-0.
Mansfield tried in vain to find a consolation in the closing stages, but they were constantly denied by the brilliance of Clarke, who saved attempts from Clucas and Rhead.
Daniel also had a fizzling 25-yard drive superbly held by the U’s keeper deep into injury-time, whilst Westlake also fired wide, as Oxford maintained their good form under their caretaker boss.
Attendance: 5,109 (365 away supporters).