Cambridge United’s unbeaten home start to the Sky Bet League Two season came to an end as they were edged out 0-1 by Mansfield Town.
On a special evening at the Abbey Stadium, where the Club successfully hosted their first League match with fans since February, a neat finish from Jamie Reid during the second half proved to be the difference between the sides.
Mark Bonner made just the solitary change to the side that valiantly salvaged a last-gasp draw at Cheltenham Town last Tuesday, with Joe Ironside coming into the fold in the place of Jack Iredale as the U’s reverted to a 4/4/2 system.
The Stags started on the front foot. Reid cannoned an attempt whiskers wide of Dimitar Mitov’s crossbar before Paul Digby denied Mal Benning from unleashing a fierce shot from inside the box within the opening minutes.
Nonetheless, the U’s held firm defensively and carved out a good attempt on the quarter of an hour mark. A strong interception from Hiram Boateng allowed an industrious run forward, concluding in a Luke Hannant attempt from 20 yards deflected out of play which formed the start of an entertaining spell of one-way traffic for the hosts.
Fierce pressure from Paul Mullin on 20 forced a misplaced pass to Boateng, who once again marauded towards the penalty area before being caught by a high challenge from Rollin Menayese. Showing severe discomfort to his shoulder, the midfielder was forced off and replaced by Adam May. The resulting free kick from Mullin had the power but not enough accuracy as it dipped wide.
A goalmouth scramble in Mansfield’s area fell to the path of Robbie Cundy who showed striker instincts with a light touch to set up a clean volley that forced Marek Stech into a superb reflex save on the 33rd minute.
On the stroke of added time, an exquisite cross from Wes Hoolahan down the left flank was met by the head of Ironside, who in typical fashion diverted a dangerous attempt goal bound but it was dealt with well by Stech.
Two minutes into the second half, United received a let off. A mazy run from Ollie Clarke cut open their backline as he teed up an unmarked Reid who couldn’t get his angles right from 15 yards.
On 50, Mullin put his physical traits to the test by outmuscling Sweeney inside the box and unleashing a cunning attempt into the side netting.
Greg Taylor engineered a clear cut chance for the hosts four minutes later, skipping past two players before Ironside set an attempt up on a plate for Hannant whose shot was dealt with a no-nonsense clearance from Sweeney before it could nestle into the net.
Good alertness from Mitov on 63 thwarted Harry Charsley from latching home a one-on-one position in a spell of sheer pressure from the Stags.
The visitors capitalised on that just one minute later, as Charsley cushioned a header into the path of Reid who converted past Mitov with a neat finish to send Nigel Clough’s men in front.
Determined to conjure up an equaliser, Bonner brought on fresh legs in Iredale and Harvey Knibbs with 15 minutes left on the clock.
Knibbs soon carved out an opportunity for United, closing down a defender and finding the feet of Ironside who had the space to direct a shot towards the corner which was kept out well by Stech.
The hosts went even closer on the 80th minute, when a venomous 25-yard effort from Mullin looked destined to be flying in before Stech once again expertly tipped the shot over.
The U’s were unable to conjure any late drama this time round though and succumbed to a first loss at home in the league this season.
Cambridge United: Mitov, Knoyle, Taylor, Cundy, Dunk (Iredale, 75), Hannant (Knibbs, 75), Digby, Boateng (May, 27), Hoolahan, Ironside, Mullin
Mansfield Town: Stech, Gordon, Menayese, Sweeney, Benning, Charsley (Cook, 90+3), Lapslie, Clarke, Maris (O’Keefe, 89), Bowery, Reid (Maynard, 82)
Bookings: Menayese, Sweeney