George Maris’ late cracker sealed a well-earned and hard fought point for Cambridge United, in an entertaining 1-1 draw against Mansfield Town at the Abbey Stadium in Sky Bet League Two.
Two changes were made by Joe Dunne ahead of the fixture, with Barry Corr getting his first start of the season and Louis John moving back into the starting eleven.
Corr came close to opening the scoring with the first clear opportunity of the game on 17 minutes, when the striker thumped a header from a George Maris delivery towards the bottom corner, only to see Mansfield keeper Bobby Olejnik display sharp reactions and palm the effort wide.
The Stags danger man Danny Rose fired a warning sign to the U’s minutes later when he peeled away from his marker but slammed a header against the outside of the U’s net.
However, he did find the target in the 24th minute, pouncing on a loose clearance inside the United 18 yard box to slide the ball beneath David Forde and earn the visitors the lead.
The U’s rallied and looked to have a certain equaliser as Reggie Lambe smashed a firm effort on target on the half hour mark, but Olejnik managed to clip the edge of his glove to take the sting out the shot before Matt Preston hooked the ball off the Mansfield goal line.
Lambe continued to be a bright spark for United and stabbed another effort marginally wide five minute before half time as the U’s finished the first half the stronger of the two side.
Neal Bishop blasted a fierce shot six minutes after the break which had Forde scrambling to his right, which fizzed wide but saw the Stags threatening a second goal. Forde did get a hand to Matt Preston’s header minutes later to keep the U’s in the game, whilst Rose shaved the top of the United cross bar on 55 minutes with an acrobatic bicycle kick.
However, United fought hard to remain in the game and largely dominated proceedings from the hour mark on wards. Jevani Brown flashed a half volley the wrong side of the near post, after further creative play by Lambe.
Ade Azeez replaced Barry Corr on 65 minutes and hared clean through ten minutes later following a well weighted pass by Amoo, but the striker was denied by another superb stop from Olejnik.
It looked as if that would be United’s best chance and the afternoon looked to have got away from United when a Maris long range effort wrong footed Olejnik, who had been solid for the Stags all game, but the ball bounced agonisingly past the target.
However, the U’s refused to roll over and with mere minutes remaining of normal time, Maris leathered a sublime strike from 18 yards which deflected first off a Mansfield defender and then the inside of the post before bulging the net in front of a jubilant NRE.
Liam O’Neil came close to a winner in the dying embers when he let fly on a half volley with his left foot that rattled the stanchion behind the goal.
Cambridge United: Forde, Halliday, Taylor, John, Carroll, Deegan, Maris, Amoo (Lewis, 80 mins), Lambe, Brown, Corr (Azeez, 78 mins)
Bookings: Halliday, Deegan
Mansfield Town: Olejnik, Benning, Preston, Pearce, Bishop, MacDonald, Khan (Elsnik, 78 mins), Sweeney, Walker, Hamilton, Rose
Attendance: 3,909 (475)
Man of the Match: Reggie Lambe