Adam Murray came back to haunt United with a late winner for Mansfield this afternoon. The former U's captain smashed home an 88th-minute shot with his first touch after coming on to condemn United to defeat just after they had appeared to have fought back for a draw. Sub Danny Hylton's penalty looked to have earned them their first league point of the season after he cancelled out Ryan Tafazolli's first-half goal, but Murray gleefully thumped home the winner to leave United with nothing despite an improved second half.
Playing in their new-look white and purple Isinglass shirts for the first time in a competitive game, United made two changes to the team that kicked off the season at home to Burton the previous Saturday, David Hunt coming in at right back and Jon Meades joining Michael Collins in the defensive midfield roles which they had performed so well in as the U’s won at Bristol City in the Capital One Cup in midweek.
With ex-U’s John Dempster, Simon Heslop and Alex Fisher all in the Mansfield starting line-up, Murray on the bench and former triallist Tafazolli in defence, there was a familiar look to the home team and an interesting contrast in styles in the first half hour as United looked to counter the home side’s slightly more direct approach.
Fisher and Sam Clucas had a couple of efforts half way through the first half without testing the recalled Long but United looked comfortable, with Johnny Mullins outstanding at the back on his return to his former club, until the 39th minute opener.
Awarded a free kick 25 yards out, Chris Clements stepped up and curled a well-flighted kick over the wall. Long flew to his right and touched the ball on to the post but it bounced back across goal invitingly for Tafazolli, who stooped to head into the empty net and make it 1-0.
United almost responded before the break as Carlton Morris powered in a 43rd-minute shot on the turn from a Hunt throw but that was their only real effort of the first half. There will have been stern words at half time and there was a definite lift in tempo in the second half, particularly after the flying Alex Jakubiak was given a debut as a sub for right-back Hunt. The on-loan Watford striker saw a shot blocked on 64 as United earned a succession of corners and enjoyed their best spell of the game around the hour mark.
Mansfield saw a Clucas shot fly just past the post on 58 minutes but were gradually dropping deeper to protect that vital lead, often leaving the hard-working Fisher as the sole striker. They came back into the game as it began to open up in the last 20 minutes, but on 78 minutes United's patience paid off as Hylton made and scored the equaliser. Almost his first touch after coming on as a sub for Alfie Potter was to hold the ball inside the box and roll past Tafazolli. The defender put out an arm to stop his progress and ref Richard Clark was pointing at the spot almost before Hylton hit the deck. Mansfield were furious but Hylton stayed calm and slotted the penalty home for his second goal of the week.
Jakubiak sent a header wide, the impressive Junior Brown forced himself into space on 85 but saw his shot well saved by keeper Sascha Studer, and the U's looked the more likely side to win the game. They hadn't reckoned on the mercurial Murray though. With the final whistle on the horizon, one more long ball into the box forced a clearance that went more up than out and Murray galloped on to it and planted his shot into the bottom left corner to spark a Stags party.
Harsh on the U's who now move on to Morecambe on Tuesday night.
Report by Chris Williams. Stats by OPTA, Pictures by Darrell Fisher