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Match report: Cambridge United 0-0 Stags

13 January 2018

Mansfield Town stretched their impressive run to just one defeat in 20 games after a hard-working performance saw them secure a 0-0 draw away at Cambridge United this afternoon.

The first half was very even, however Cambridge had the best chance of the opening period when full-back Jake Carroll had their best chance in the 37th minute, but he blasted over from just outside the six-yard box after a good passing move by the U's.

Striker Billy Waters was also looking lively for the hosts but he was unable to find a breakthrough. At the other end, Mansfield left-back Mal Benning saw two efforts from distance go over whilst fan favourite Danny Rose curled a shot just wide.

If the hosts had the better of the first half, it was Mansfield who enjoyed the better spells in the second period as the Stags went close on several occasions. Home goalkeeper David Forde had to be at his best to palm away an Alex MacDonald free-kick whilst Rose thought he had opened the scoring from inside the six-yard box but his effort was ruled out for offside.

After a terrific performance away at Cardiff City in the Emirates FA Cup last week, and with the hotly anticipated replay to come on Tuesday, Mansfield manager Steve Evans made just one change to his line up, welcoming back top scorer Danny Rose in place of striker Kane Hemmings, who picked up a knock in Wales last Saturday.

Influential midfielder Joel Byrom returned to the squad, settling for a place on the bench, but club captain Zander Diamond just missed out despite returning to training this week.

The first effort of the game went in the way of the hosts as, inside the third minute, Cambridge striker Billy Waters saw his snap shot go wide of the Mansfield goal from the edge of the box.

It was the U's who started the game the brighter and a few minutes after Waters' sighter, attacking midfielder Jevani Brown saw his effort fly over the bar after working space on the edge of the area.

On his return from injury, striker Danny Rose had Mansfield's first opportunity in the 10th minute. Great inter-play down the left flank saw winger CJ Hamilton go clear and his pull back from the by-line found Rose but he directed his left-footed shot just past the upright.

Mansfield and Rose had the ball in the back of the net inside the 15th minute but after the former Barnsley man had chased down a ball over the top and lobbed David Forde in the Cambridge goal, referee Trevor Kettle judged the Mansfield man had fouled Greg Taylor in the build-up, which looked slightly harsh.

The Stags were slowly but surely building a foothold in the game and left-back Mal Benning almost scored a spectacular opener but his effort from 25 yards out zipped just over the bar with Forde beaten.

The game entered a bit of a lull midway through the first half with the only real talking points being a harsh looking yellow card for Mansfield striker Lee Angol before gaffer Steve Evans was spoken to by referee Trevor Kettle for his complaints about that booking.

On the half hour mark, Benning tried his luck again from a similar position as his previous attempt and it unfortunately had the same result, flying just over the bar.

A whipped free-kick by Cambridge's Adam Phillips almost found Waters at the back post but the attacker was a second too late in his dive to win the ball, watching as it fizzed past him and out for a Mansfield goal kick.

Cambridge should have taken the lead inside the 37th minute as they had the best chance of the game so far. Left-back Jake Carroll bombed forward and was found free inside the area but with only Mansfield 'keeper Conrad Logan to beat, he failed to keep his powerful effort down.

Mansfield's defence was unlocked in the early stages of the second half as Cambridge's man mountain, Uche Ikpeazu, received the ball inside the area but after he swivelled to create a goal scoring opportunity, Cambridge's top scorer saw his effort from six yards saved brilliantly by the legs of Logan.

It was then the turn of the Stags to go close to netting the opener. Benning was given time to float a brilliant ball in from the left but Angol's header was easily held by Forde after the former Peterborough man had climbed highest.

Stags' top scorer Danny Rose won a free-kick for Stags near the hour mark and from 30 yards out, midfielder Alex MacDonald forced Forde into a tremendous save with the former Millwall stopper clawing the ball out of the top corner.

Cambridge received a huge let off in the 64th minute as Angol did well to evade Bradley Halliday's wild challenge inside the box before hitting a shot over from an acute angle.

Mansfield then made their first substitution of the game, right-back Hayden White replacing Alfie Potter with Paul Anderson moving forward to the right side of midfield.

The travelling Mansfield faithful were up celebrating in the 68th minute when Danny Rose flicked the ball into the back of the net, but the Stags' celebrations were short lived after the goal was chalked off for a dubious looking offside call.

Mansfield were now getting on the front foot and Rose almost acrobatically volleyed in Benning's powerful cross but after doing well to twist his body, the shot went over the bar.

With less than 15 minutes to go, the game was an open, end-to-end affair and after Mansfield lost possession in the Cambridge box, the hosts counter-attacked but Brown saw a shot comfortably saved by Logan.

The Stags introduced pacey forward Omari Sterling-James and midfielder Will Atkinson in the last 10 minutes, the duo replacing Paul Anderson and Jacob Mellis respectively, as the visitors looked to push forward and claim the win.

Mansfield centre-half Krystian Pearce almost proved to be an unlikely matchwinner but after finding himself just inside the Cambridge area, his volley was well blocked by a U's body. Mansfield picked up the rebound and almost worked another opening but Hamilton's drilled low pass somehow missed the Stags' bodies waiting to tuck it in.

In the end, the game finished 0-0 with both teams feeling they had chances to win it in what was a closely fought contest.

STAGS' XI: Logan, Bennett, Benning, Pearce ©, MacDonald, Mellis (Atkinson 87'), Angol, Anderson (Sterling-James 81'), Potter (White 64'), Hamilton, Rose

SUBS NOT USED: Olejnik (GK), Digby, Spencer, Byrom

CAMBRIDGE UNITED XI: Forde, Halliday, Carroll, Deegan ©, Taylor, Waters (Corr 80'), Ikpeazu, Phillips (Amoo 64' (Dunk 74')), Maris, Brown, Darling

SUBS NOT USED: Mitov (GK), O'Neill, Elito, Davies

ATTENDANCE: 4,324 (499 away)

REFEREE: Trevor Kettle

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