Mansfield Town showed a united spirit yesterday as they bounced back from two consecutive defeats, to grab their first three points of the new season against Oxford United. Paul Cox’s men dominated the game but despite being in control, still endured a rollercoaster ride which didn’t come to an adrenaline fuelled end until Adam Murray rose from the bench to grab a dramatic 88th minute winner against his former club.
Murray made amends for his poor display last weekend at Northampton by injecting a final shot of passion into a lively Mansfield, driving home two minutes from time following Rob Taylor’s long throw. It was a moment of ecstasy for the Stags who had suffered agony when referee Richard Clark wrongly awarded the visitors a penalty on 79minutes, Danny Hylton converted despite the best efforts of Sascha Studer to cancel out Ryan Tafazolli’s first half opener.
The deserved victory highlighted a mass positive for Paul Cox’s side, with such a small squad one of two things can happen when you suffer defeat like last weekend – you either fall apart or you dig deep and fight. Midweek at Sheffield United, there were signs of fight and passion began to burn, yet another defeat emerged and could well have rocked the boat once more. Yesterday, the players came out of the traps with flare, passion and desire to gain victory and despite facing rough sea, they sailed onto victory which makes the end result more impressive as it took an abundance of character – it’s difficult, scary and somewhat thrilling to wonder what that character could be capable of if all the factors fall into place.
For a large proportion of the match, it was frustrating to watch as for all of Mansfield’s possession, they did little with it, drifting numerous crosses into the grateful hands of Sheffield United loan glovesman George Long. That said, there was a sense that it would come with Oxford looking lacklustre in attack, the Stags were given a free rein and didn’t become frustrated when the ball didn’t drop, eventually taking the lead six minute prior to half time.
Chris Clements helped set the goal as he stepped up to fire a thirty yard free kick over the wall and towards the bottom corner, Long helped push the ball onto the post but couldn’t prevent the ball bouncing back into the path of the again excellent Ryan Tafazolli who showed no fear in diving forward to head the ball into the empty net from eight yards.
Oxford’s Carlton Morris did draw Studer into action as the visitors looked for a response but the swiss keeper had no trouble in keeping Morris at bay whilst, on the stroke of half time Tafazolli nodded wide.
In the second half a fluent move between Clucas and Fisher saw Clucas drive narrowly wide of Long’s goal as Stags looked odds on for a second, Tafazolli also came close once more on 75 minutes before being penalised two minutes later at the other end for an apparent foul on Hylton. Sascha Studer’s reputation as an absolute legend continued to grow as he got into the head of Hylton with some brilliant mind games, it nearly worked too as Studer guessed right and saw the ball agonisingly brush off of his glove into the net to level the score.
Adam Murray is a man of huge character, he knows when he’s had a bad game such as Northampton and won’t stop until he puts it right. Throughout the second half he underwent a vigorous warm-up awaiting his chance – that came six minutes from time as he entered play alongside Fergus Bell. It took him just two minutes to make his traditional Adam Murray influence, arriving in a pocket of space that only he could spot to latch onto a loose ball following Rob Taylor’s long throw. From the second the ball fell to him, there was only one outcome, the Stags skipper and assistant boss made the One Call erupt in joy as the ball thumped into the back of the net to give Mansfield their deserved victory.
Murray was booked for his celebration but the smug, childlike grin told the whole story – the job was done and that loveable, passionate character had spread – something evident both at the final whistle, as Studer turned to the visiting supports and danced in jubilation and post match as Murray dedicated the victory to Hit-Man Liam Hearn who faces a lay-off until Christmas through the injury he sustained at Sheffield United midweek. Character, it’s a wonderful thing.
STAGS: Sacha Studer, Ritchie Sutton, John Dempster ©, Ryan Tafazolli, Lee Beevers, Jamie McGuire (Adam Murray 85), Simon Heslop, Rob Taylor, Chris Clements (Fergus Bell 85), Sam Clucas, Alex Fisher (Ollie Palmer 70)
UNUSED SUBS: Luke Jones, Liam Marsden, Jack Thomas, Amari’i Bell
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