Oxford United remain unbeaten after coming from behind in familiar style to earn a point at Mansfield this afternoon. A goal down inside three minutes, the U's recovered expertly and might well have taken all three points. Instead they had to settle for one courtesy of Kemar Roofe's calm penalty in the second half.
As encouragingly as the U’s have started the season, they have also had an irritating Achilles heel of conceding the first goal in every single League game so far. This time it took just three minutes before they were a goal down. A throw from the left was only cleared to the edge of the box where Craig Westcarr celebrated his full league debut for the Stags by drilling in a shot that flew into the bottom left corner through a sea of legs, with Sam Slocombe stranded.
Could United come back? of course they could but it could so easily have been worse after eight minutes, when midfielder Mitchell Rose won a race for a long ball over the top and touched the ball past Slocombe. From a tight angle Rose checked back and was tripped by the retreating keeper to win his side a penalty. Former U’s man Matt Green strode forward confidently but smashed his spot kick against the bar and away from danger.
As usual with the U’s, they rode out that onslaught and then started to come back into the game. Danny Hylton sent a 14th-minute effort wide of the mark, George Baldock drifted in from the right and sent his shot just over the bar and then Hylton turned his man and tore into the box only to see his cut-back go beyond both Roofe and O’Dowda inside the six yard box.
Green was the outlet for the Stags, forcing Slocombe into a decent save on 23 as a long ball from Adam Chapman again troubled the United back line but United were almost on level terms on 37 when Roofe got a free kick from the edge of the box just right and home keeper Brian Jensen needed to be at full stretch to get a hand to it and touch it over the bar.
Stats at half time showed United with 70 per cent of the possession, and they almost found the equaliser from a clever free kick which ended with Alex MacDonald rolling away and crashing a shot against the foot of the right-hand post with Jensen beaten all ends up.
The Cherry Reds had certainly recovered well from the early setback and were full value when the goal they had been threatening finally came just before the hour. The energetic Danny Rose bent in a ball that Hylton was homing in on until he was nudged aside. No matter as the ball was recycled by O’Dowda, who came back from the dead-ball line and was upended by the flying Reggie Lambe just inside the box. With regular taker MacDonald off at half time, Roofe took the responsibility himself and sent Jensen the wrong way before calmly rolling the ball home to make it 1-1 with his fourth of the season.
There was only one side going to go on and win the game now and only a touch by sub Lee Collins took the ball from the toe to the heel of Roofe's boot on 75 forcing the top scorer to scuff his effort wide from six yards out. Hylton than threw himself beyond two defenders but couldn't stab the ball past the glove of Jensen as the giant keeper got down to his right to push the ball away for a corner.
There were thrills and spills, with the home side walking a tightrope after collecting a flurry of yellow cards in a superbly competitive game. Rose had a shot on the turn saved and United continued to batter at the door but the final ball just wouldn't drop their way despite six minutes of time added on.
Report by Chris Williams, Pictures by Darrell Fisher, Stats by Opta
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