Stags Fail To Make Early Chances Pay But Remain Unbeaten At Home.

Talismanic front man Matt Green missed two early chances, one the Stags first penalty in 85 games, as the home side failed to turn their promising start into their second victory of the season. Craig Westcarr volleyed home his first goal for the club but his strike was cancelled out by a Kemar Roofe penalty, following a needless challenge by Reggie Lambe.

After Tuesday's lackustre display at Accrington, Adam Murray resisted the urge to make wholesale changes but freshened up the Stags front line by restoring Matt Green to the starting line up ahead of Chris Beardsley. Craig Westcarr was also handed his first league start, preferred to Nathan Thomas in behind Green. Lee Collins was name amongst the substitutes after returning from injury.

The Stags got a dream start as they took the lead on 2 minutes. A long throw from the left by Chapman was flicked into the air at the near post by Tafazolli. The ball was headed away from the six yard line by an Oxford defender to the edge of the area where Westcarr was loitering. He adjusted his body well to volley an unstoppable low effort to the right of Sam Slocombe and into the net. An excellent start by The Stags and the perfect tonic after the defeat in midweek.

The Oxford defence were in disarray and presented the Stags with an opportunity to extend their lead from the penalty spot on 8 minutes. A goal kick from Brian Jensen was flicked on cleverly in the air by Westcarr over the head of Oxford left back Skarz and into the path of Mitch Rose. Rose managed to get a toe to the ball just ahead of advancing keeper Slocombe and with the ball running towards the byline Slocombe tripped Rose from behind and conceded a stone wall penalty. At long last a spot kick in a competitive game for the Stags and a chance for Matt Green to open his account in his second spell at the club. A long, stuttering run up from Green ended with him blasting the ball high to the keepers right and against the angle of bar and post. The rebound was headed to safety by an Oxford defender. A chance squandered to put the Stags firmly in the driving seat.

After the penalty miss the visitors began to regroup and began to probe in between the lines of the Stags defence and midfield. The dangerous Danny Hylton worked his way into the area on the Stags left but his low cross was well cleared by Nicky Hunt.

Green had a chance to make amends for his penalty miss on 22 minutes. A fantastic curling ball was swept into the right channel by Chris Clements and Green was onto it, overpowering two Oxford defenders to fashion a one on one opportunity which was saved by the legs of Slocombe. A fully sharp Matt Green scores in that situation in my opinion.

Oxford continued to work themselves back into the game and were now having the majority of the ball. The Stags had started to drop off theirs markers and were giving the U's too much respect. Veteran goalkeeper Brian Jensen was called into action on 37 minutes as Oxford were awarded a free kick 25 yards from goal following a foul by Mitch Rose, for which he was booked. Kemar Roofe whipped the ball over the wall to Jensen's right, only for 'The Beast' to paw Roofe's effort over the bar. A fine save from Jensen, who is firmly establishing himself as the Stags first choice.

Another silly free kick was given away by the Stags, on this occasion by Krystian Pearce and only 20 yards out this time. An inventive routine by Oxford saw Danny Rose and Alex MacDonald build their own wall in front of the ball with Roofe waiting to run up. However, instead of Roofe striking, the right man in the wall Rose nudged the ball to MacDonald's left in an effort to evade the Stags defensive wall and MacDonald's thunderous strike cannoned back of Jensens left hand post. The big keeper did get down to his left quickly and may have stopped the shot had it been on target, but it was certainly travelling.

As the half time whistle approached, Adam Chapman audaciously attempted to score from inside his own half with Slocombe well off his line, but his effort went wide of the left post.

Overall a fairly even first half with both sides looking to create chances and having decent efforts on goal. Having said that, you can't help but feel that if the Green had converted the penalty or his one on one opprtunity then Oxford's revival may have been more difficult to muster.

The visitors made a change at half time, with Ryan Taylor replacing Alex MacDonald. Taylor went up front with Hylton and Roofe came out to the left hand side. Roofe had been ineffectual playing in a more central role in the first half. Taylor's introduction indicated a change to a more direct approach from Oxford. The Stags started the second half solidly but skipper Nicky Hunt needed to receive treatment and looked disorientated and he was asked to read out of one the advertising hoardings by the Mansfield physio.

On 55 minutes, the Stags made their first change as Mitch Rose was replaced by Jack Thomas. Rose had a very good game, winning the ball back tigerishly on several occasions and earning the Stags a penalty by driving into the box as he had in pre-season. His booking towards the end of the second half meant he was walking on egg shells a little. Jack Thomas came out to play on the right hand side.

Four minutes later, the visitors were handed an equaliser on a plate. A cross by Danny Rose was initially well defended by Mal Benning as he did just enough to deny Hylton a free shot on goal. Benning had ushered O'Dowda away from danger so that he was running towards his own goal but still inside the Stags area. Reggie Lambe then came across out of nowhere and committed a brainless foul, kicking O'Dowda five feet into the air. It is not the first time Lambe's defensively frailties have been exposed and I believe he was on the verge of being replaced by Nathan Thomas, who had already began warming up. Roofe sent Jensen the wrong way from the spot, rolling the ball to the keepers left and into the net. Following the goal, Adam Murray was furious with the linesman for not expressing his opinion to the referee as he had not flagged for a foul. Mr Murray will probably feel a little foolish after the seeing the replay.

Roofe was now a growing influence on the game out on the left and was causing Hunt problems with his pace and dribbling. The referee was lenient with Hunt on one occasion for what could have been a second bookable offence. Matt Green looked tired up top and was not running the channels as he had been in the first half an hour, meaning the yellow shirts were struggling for an out ball. Following efforts at both ends, a long range shot from Sercombe which was blocked and a wayward effort from Matt Green, the Stags made their second change. Nathan Thomas replaced Reggie Lambe in a straight swap on the left.

The Stags were trying to play again but passes were either intercepted or over hit. The front line were looking leggy, but Murray's hand was forced as Nicky Hunt, who had complained of dizziness before kick off, was replaced by Lee Collins for his debut. Collins also took the armband and slotted in at right back.

Oxford should have taken the lead on 76 minutes. A low cross from the right squirmed through to Roofe at the back post, but the ex West Bromwich Albion man made a mess of his finish and skewed the ball wide of the target. Another chance on 82 minutes as Hylton danced his way through the challenge of Tafazolli and curled a low shot towards Jensen's right had corner, which was pushed wide by the keeper. At this stage, the Stags looked as if they would be happy with a point as Jensen started to take his time distributing the ball, which I found a little frustrating.

A break forward by the imperious Pearce on 85 minutes as he dribbled away from three opposition players and found Green, who was unable to generate any power on his shot. 

As the game drifted into six minutes of added on time, Oxford sustained their hunt for a winner. Tafazolli and Pearce continued to fend the ball away from the Stags goal but the home side were nearly caught on 94 minutes. Chapman tried to be too clever on the edge of his own box and was dispossessed, but Rose's low shot was easily held by Jensen. Chapman got a rollicking from Collins, Jensen and Murray but looked as if he was trying to blame someone else. It is not the first time this season he has been caught wanting too much time on the ball.

For the second game running, tempers flared in injury time as Jack Thomas and Kemar Roofe clashed. It was handbags really, much ado about nothing. Both players were cautioned by the referee.

No time for any further chances as the game ended all square at one goal each. On the balance of chances the Stags were probably a little fortuitous to come away with a point but they defended excellently throughout and were only punished as a result of a stupid challenge by Reggie Lambe. If they had taken all their chances in the first half the Stags could have been 3-0 up inside 22 minutes but Oxford looked a very good side and I am sure they will be up their come the end of the season.

A week on the training pitch now beckons for Mansfield ahead of an away clash at York City next Saturday. York have made a similar start to the Stags, with just one point less on the board. Adam Murray would be wise to focus on a way of providing more support to the Stags main striker. Matt Green cannot do all the work on his own and was isolated for more or less the whole second half yesterday, as Mansfield failed to create any clear cut chances. It was revealed after the game that Green had not trained all week and whilst I appreciate the impact he can have on a game, what message does that send to Adi Yussuf, who has looked dangerous when introduced as a substitute. Unless Yussuf is still suffering from lack of fitness following Ramadan, he should been given the chance to start if Green is not 100%. Murray told us Yussuf was raring to go over a month ago now so there should be no excuse.

Defensively, the Stags continue to look very sound. Pearce and Tafazolli look to have formed a very solid partnership and both appear to have the perfect blend of power and pace. Chris Clements continues to prove the doubters wrong with another composed display. I think what is currently holding Murray back from being more 'gung-ho' is his central midfielder's. He appears reluctant to play a flat four, in my opinion because of the lack of mobility of Adam Chapman. Chapman failed to follow his runner on several occasions yesterday but thankfully Oxford picked the wrong pass. This could be remedied by playing Mitchell Rose in a central, deeper role.

With such a new squad, it is important to remain positive. The Stags are still unbeaten at home and have not been completely outplayed by any opposition they have come up against so far, which was often the case last season. Once Green scores his first goal of the season I am sure others will come. There are still 42 league games to be played, so for anybody to be going over the top either way at this stage of the seasons is laughable.

Player Ratings : 

Jensen - 7.5 - A couple of very good saves, no chance with penalty. Time wasting a little frustrating when drawing at home.
Hunt - 6.5 - Decent first half but given the run around by Roofe in second half. Not fully fit according to the manager.
Pearce - 8.5 - Excellent game, gave nothing to Hylton or Taylor. Calm in possession at the end.
Tafazolli - 8.5 - Another very good performance. A very good partnership with Pearce growing.
Benning - 7 - Good game. Would like to see more going forward, pace helps him defensively.
Chapman - 5.5 - Apart from one good pass in the first half another poor game. Shirks responsibility in open play by not following runners and gets caught dwelling on the ball too often.
Clements - 7.5 - Continued his good start to the season. Pressing and tackling effectively, neat and composed on the ball.
Rose - 7.5 - Powerful display, winning the ball back on several occasions. Good pace to win the penalty. Would like to see him in a deeper role. Unlucky to be subbed but understandable because of the booking.
Westcarr - 7 - Great finish for his goal and good flick which led to penalty. Faded in second half but first full league game of season.
Lambe - 5.5 - Poor game. Gave away the penalty with a clumsy challenge. Think he may have got the ball but challenge was needless. Ran into a lot of dead ends.
Green - 6 - Nothing went his way. Missed the penalty and gave the ball away too often. Looked tired out after half an hour after not training all week.

J Thomas (Rose) - Gave the ball constantly and did not look comfortable on the right.
N Thomas (Lambe) - Looked slow and a liabilty defensively. Swapped with Westcarr because of lack of defending having only been on the field ten minutes.
Collins (Hunt) - Steady enough. Panicky in possession.