United stormed on as they secured their biggest home win of the season with a 3-0 win over Mansfield Town. A full debut goal from David Connolly, a screamer from Nicky Wroe and a Deane Smalley strike helped United maintain their promotion push as they stayed in the top three in Sky Bet League 2.
The playing surface passed a pitch inspection in the morning but it was a swirling wind that presented more problems for both teams as it gusted around the Kassam Stadium at kick off . Mansfield, with the wind predominantly behind them in the first half, started well and had they taken their chances in the first half it would have been an entirely different story. The Stags flashed two dangerous crosses cross the six yard box in the opening exchanges as United dropped deep despite an attacking line up that saw Dave Kitson behind a front three of Smalley, Connolly and James Constable.
Kitson had the first shot for the Yellows with a tenth-minute effort that sliced well wide of Alan Marriott's goal before Sam Clucas had the first serious effort of the afternoon with a dipping effort on the turn which Clarke got down smartly to push round his right-hand post. Lee Stevenson then had a shot from 12 yards deflected wide by a brave block from David Hunt. Mansfield were on top and should have been ahead on 22 as Clucas, unmarked, got in another effort from close range. Somehow Clarke twisted to claw his shot away from danger, a wonderful save that played a big part in his side's victory.
How many times have you read reports on this site about United having chances and then being punished for not taking them? On 27 minutes the Stags were made to pay as Connolly poached his second goal in United colours. Constable did well to nod the ball down for left back Tom Newey who fed the ball into Connolly in the area. With a man behind him Connolly needed a decent first touch. Having brought the ball under his control he shimmied then twisted to his left. His shot was low and hard but a defender's trailing leg took the sting out of it while deflecting it beyond Marriott, who could only stare forlornly as the ball trickled into the net to make it 1-0.
Mansfield will have felt aggrieved and it took another superb block by the excellent Matt Bevans to stop another goalbound effort on 32 as they looked to hit back quickly. However United had already shown that their front four had the quality to cause problems and on 38 a 22 yard volley by the confident Constable forced Marriott to dive full length to his right to keep the score at just 1-0 at the break.
It took seven minutes of the second half for the second goal to arrive. Wroe has been a quality addition to the squad and clearly has an eye for a spectacular goal. His winner at Wycombe was a good strike, this one was even better. As the ball bounced 20 yards from goal he adjusted his feet and fired in a dipping, curling effort that flew past the stranded Marriott and into the top right corner of the net to make it 2-0.
Mansfield, down in 17th at the start, stuck to their guns and kept coming at United admirably. Clucas had another shot scrambled round the post by Clarke, target-man Matt Rhead went close with a diving header but the United defence stood firm and on 68 it was 3-0 and game over. Constable roared on to a Newey ball down the left and after a swift exchange of passes drilled in a shot which span across the six-yard box to Smalley who adjusted well to steer the ball home and make it 3-0.
It had been a professional performance in an open, entertaining game. United are playing with a smile under Mickey Lewis - two home wins and three away draws since taking over - and look a well-balanced, well-drilled side who all know their jobs.
Final third of the season coming up, and all to play for.
Fifty/50 winning number 333432 wins £1034.50
Report by Chris Williams, Pictures by Steve Daniels Stats by OPTA
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