Mansfield Town earned a draw against Oxford United in an entertaining match at One Call Stadium
Manager Adam Murray made just two changes from the side that lost to Accrington in mid-week, with Matt Green coming back into the side in place of Chris Beardsley and Craig Westcarr replacing Nathan Thomas.
A blistering start was made by the Stags as they went ahead after just three minutes. A long throw by Adam Chapman was flicked on by Ryan Tafazolli at the near post and half-cleared, but Johnny Mullins couldn’t clear out Craig Westcarr on the edge of the box. The forward then duly volleyed the ball sweetly into the right-hand bottom corner of the goal to give the Stags the lead.
Adam Murray's men were then presented with a golden opportunity to double their lead. Mitchell Rose latched onto a pass from Chris Clements in the box and was clipped by goalkeeper Sam Slocombe and the referee pointed to the spot for the first time in 86 games for the Stags. Matt Green took the penalty but saw his well-hit kick canon away off the bar.
In the ten minutes that ensued, the Stags were on the front-foot and were looking good value for their lead. The only scare came in the 20th minute when Danny Hylton did well to escape Malvind Benning before crossing the ball across the six-yard box but Nicky Hunt was on hand to make a vital interception.
Mansfield then immediately went up the other end and the U’s had Slocombe to thank for keeping the score at 1-0. The ever-increasing influence of Clements in midfield fed Green down the right-hand side who out-muscled Mullins before trying to slot his attempt under the advancing Slocombe, but the ‘keeper stood firm and prevented the Stags from doubling their lead.
Oxford started to grow into the game as the half wore on and their first real attempt came on 37 minutes. Mitch Rose was booked for challenge on Kemar Roofe on the edge of the Stags’ box. Roofe picked himself up and curled the free-kick towards the top-left corner of Brian Jensen’s goal. The big Dane leapt through the air and tipped the ball over the bar.
Just five minutes later Oxford almost got back on level terms. Krystian Pearce was guilty of a foul on Danny Hylton on the edge of the box. With Danny Rose, Roofe and MacDonald stood over the free-kick, the U’s worked it well as Roofe slipped the ball to Alex MacDonald who turned and hit a rasping drive against the post and Stags survived.
As half-time approached, Adam Chapman spotted Slocombe off his line and hit a shot from his own half but it flew just wide of the goal and the Stags went in at the break a goal to the good.
Both sides came out for the second half looking rejuvenated and some strong challenges went flying in as Mansfield tried to take the ascendancy. Adam Murray made the first change of the game with midfielder Jack Thomas replacing Mitchell Rose on 55 minutes.
Following the change, Oxford started to create chances with Roofe becoming more and more involved.
The goal came on 59 minutes when Reggie Lambe was adjudged to have brought down Callum O’Dowda. The Stags players were furious with the award but Roofe placed the ball and calmly rolled the ball into the corner of the goal, sending Jensen the other way.
Oxford’s tails were up following the goal and Stags did well to weather the storm. Ryan Tafazolli and Krystian Pearce stood tall to prevent the U’s from going ahead with some astute defending.
There were no chances of note midway through the second half as Adam Murray brought on Nathan Thomas in place of Reggie Lambe and Lee Collins came on for his first appearance of the season in place of Nicky Hunt.
Then the visitors should have been ahead. Sam Baldock did well to take on Benning down the right and whip a low ball across the face of goal towards Kemar Roofe. Collins did well to put Roofe under pressure and the Oxford winger fluffed his shot wide of the post from just yards out.
As the game progressed into the final stages, neither side really took the initiative. Oxford managed to put a few crosses into the box, but the excellent Jensen commanded his area well and dealt with everything that came his way.
The Stags did have their shot stopper to thank on 82 minutes after Danny Hylton did well to evade the challenges of Ryan Tafazolli and Mal Benning before curling a shot towards the corner of the Stags’ goal. Jensen turned back the years and got down well to his right to turn the ball behind for a corner.
Stags were defending well against one of the promotion favourites as U’s boss Michael Appleton brought on Josh Ruffels and Pat Hoban in place of Callum O’Dowda and Danny Hylton, respectively.
As the fourth official announced there would be a minimum of six minutes time added on at the end of the game, both sides were defending well to keep the score level and chances were hard to come by.
The last chance of the game came when Danny Rose did well to find a half a yard of space in the Mansfield box. The midfielder did swiveled and get his shot away, but it was comfortably held by Jensen as both sides had to settle for a point apiece.
Mansfield Town: Jensen, Hunt (Collins 73), Tafazolli, Pearce, Benning, Rose (J Thomas 55), Chapman, Clements, Lambe (N. Thomas 67), Westcarr, Green.
Substitutes not used: Marsden, McGuire, Beardsley, Yussuf.
Oxford United: Slocombe, Baldock, Skarz, Roofe, Mullins, Wright, Rose, Sercombe, Hylton (Hoban 84), MacDonald (Taylor 46), O'Dowda (Ruffels 80).
Substitutes not used: Lundstram, Crocombe, Long, Dunkley.
ATTENDANCE: 3,112 (547 visitors).