Report: Cambridge 1-3 Stags
Sensational Mansfield Town recorded arguably their best win of the season after a 3-1 away win at Cambridge United.
The Stags had to come from behind to earn the victory after conceding in the eighth minute.
But a Leon Legge own goal saw the two sides head into half time level pegging before Stags adopted a merciless approach to the second half.
Stags’ centre half Krystian Pearce nodded home from a corner and Shaqile Coulthirst scored on his debut to cap off a memorable day for the Stags.
Cambridge’s previous red-hot form will make the win all the more satisfying for the Stags, who proved they are capable of competing with the better sides in Sky Bet League Two under this new Steve Evans’ squad.
Mansfield stretched their unbeaten run to six games after a victory which now sees the Stags just three points off the play-offs.
The game had previously passed a 12noon pitch inspection after overnight frost, but apart from the pitch tearing up in certain parts, it was doubtless playable.
Stags’ new loan signing Shaquile Coulthurst began in attack following his mid-week move from Peterborough United while Danny Rose was also handed a start up front.
Fellow marksmen Matt Green and Yoann Arquin were moved to the substitutes’ bench.
Stags had an early appeal for a penalty turned down following eye-catching build up play. As it reached Danny Rose just inside the area he appeared to have his heels clipped, but the referee was uninterested.
Then in the sixth minute, Coulthirst miscued from five yards out.
Cambridge were unable to clear effectively from a Stags’ cross and after Ben Whiteman headed back in towards goal, the 22-year-old scuffed his effort and the chance went begging.
But it was Cambridge who broke the deadlock with their first purposeful charge at goal in the eighth minute. A pin-point hanging cross from the right flank by Piero Mingoia found George Maris on the edge of the six yard box, who rose highest to head beyond Jake Kean.
Stags’ positive approach play pushed Cambridge deep, but two attacks in the 21st and 23rd minute saw home goalkeeper Will Norris go untested.
As the game passed the half-hour mark, Maris delivered a right-channel free-kick for Cambridge but Luke Berry hooked well wide from the edge of the Stags’ box.
On 35, Stags’ right-back Hayden White did well on the right to side step his marker before slipping it to Whiteman whose forward pass was too heavy.
In the next minute, tricky winger CJ Hamilton burst goalwards on the left touchline and won a corner with a teasing cross, but Stags’ first flag kick of the afternoon came to nothing.
Four minutes from the end of the half, Coulthirst lost his footing inside the Cambridge area and misfired into the stand following a through-ball from Whiteman.
But Stags were to find the net via an unorthodox route in the 43rd minute to draw level.
Joel Byrom crossed from the left, allowing Rhys Bennett to head towards goal. But Leon Legge, the Cambridge defender, stretched out a leg six yards from his own goal to inadvertently divert it beyond his own goalkeeper and into the corner of the net.
Bennett then prevented an opening for Cambridge at the other end with a vital intervention.
Powerful U’s striker Uche Ikpeazu broke beyond the Stags’ defence to latch onto a midfield pass, but Bennett recovered to make the interception inside the six yard box.
The second half began much in the same pattern as the first; with flashes of promising approach play from both sides, but neither goalkeeper being seriously called upon.
But then in the 57th minute, Stags took the upper hand through a superbly taken corner and from then on never looked back.
Byrom’s in-swinging flag-kick in front of the travelling Stags’ fans found a towering Krystian Pearce, who headed downwards into the back of the net from inside a crowded six yard box to send the amber and blue faithful into raptures.
Stags pressed their foot on the pedal and Whiteman tried his luck from 25 yards with an arrowed shot, but Norris was well behind it.
At the other end, Stags’ well-organised defence ensured that goalkeeper Jake Kean had only two claims to make from Cambridge crosses.
In the 71st minute, Danny Rose made way for midfielder Jack Thomas.
A minute later, Stags extended their lead to make the three points certain.
Hayden White pulled the trigger from 18 yards and after Norris could only parry to his right, Coulthirst was on hand to send the ball over the line.
Whiteman then saw a 22-yard attempt fly inches past the post as Stags searched for more glory in front of goal.
Coulthirst drilled an attempt off target on the right side of the Cambridge box as Stags’ pressure on the home goal continued.
Cambridge simply couldn't find a way through a dogged Stags' defence as home frustrations grew.
U's substitute Jake Carroll blasted over the stand 22 yards out in a desperate attempt to pull one back.
In the 89th minute, Pat Hoban took to the field, replacing Coulthirst.
And in the fourth of five minutes of time added on at the end of the 90, James Baxendale came on for Ben Whiteman.
Then, after the final whistle sounded, Stags' management and players celebrated with the 307 travelling Stags' fans to cap a delightful day for Mansfield.
CAMBRIDGE: Norris, Davies, Roberts, Legge, Carroll, Mingoia, Dunne, Clark (Lewis 71), Maris (McDonagh 60), Berry, Ikpeazu
UNUSED SUBS: Gregory, Adams, Williamson, Wharton, Newton
STAGS: Kean, White, Pearce, Bennett, Benning, Collins, Whiteman (Baxendale 90+4), Byrom, Hamilton, Coulthirst (Hoban 89), Rose (Thomas 71)
UNUSED SUBS: Shearer, Hemmings, Arquin, Green
REFEREE: Gavin Ward
ATTENDANCE: 4,211 (307 Stags’ fans)