Ten man Cambridge United suffered a second half fightback against Mansfield Town who took the spoils 2-3 at the Abbey on New Year’s Day.
United had led at the break through Harvey Knibbs and Greg Taylor, but the game turned when Reggie Lambe was given his marching orders and Nicky Maynard went on to complete a hat-trick for the Stags.
United made four changes with Harrison Dunk, Luke Hannant, Harvey Knibbs and Reggie Lambe returning to the starting eleven.
The U’s got 2020 off to the perfect start when Harrison Dunk cut a cross expertly into the path of Knibbs who made no mistake from six yards with a header past Conrad Logan inside three minutes.
A combination of the Stags keeper and the post denied United a second goal inside ten minutes, after Knibbs had harried well enough to rob possession high upfield and lay a pass into strike partner Smith, who saw his side foot shot pushed against the woodwork.
Callum Burton did well in his first piece of action on 21 minutes as the keeper got both gloves to a well struck CJ Hamilton strike from 18 yards, which Burton palmed away from goal. An airshot from George Taft allowed Nicky Maynard to run into a shooting position ten minutes before half time, but Burton was equal to the striker’s shot.
However, the keeper was helpless to Mansfield’s equaliser shortly after when a sublime delivery by Mal Benning from the left hit Danny Rose at the back post and landed on the head of Maynard one yard out.
But Colin Calderwood’s men dug their heels in before the break and when Jack Roles excellent free kick struck the woodwork once more, Greg Taylor was in prime position to slot in his first of the season into an empty net to restore the U’s first half lead.
United’s task of holding on to an advantage became tougher on the hour mark when Reggie Lambe was shown a pair of yellow cards, the second of which looked harsh on the Bermudan.
CJ Hamilton pulled a cross back to Stags striker Danny Rose shortly after but he fired wide of the near post which Burton looked to have covered anyway. The U’s keeper did very well soon after to watch a Hamilton shot that deflected wildly off the boot of Harry Darling and required a clever tip over the top by Burton.
The Stags equalised somewhat inevitably on 71 mins when a ball over Darling’s head found Hamilton who calmly squared for the unmarked Maynard to register his second from close range.
And United fell behind in the game for the first time with ten minutes to play, as Krystian Pearce caused carnage in the U’s box winning three headers from a set piece with the final one finding Maynard who completed his hat-trick with his head again from close range.
Burton stopped the Stags extending their lead late on, diving at the feet of Andy Cook to dislodge the ball from the striker’s stride and United weren’t able to muster a leveller with a series of set pieces in stoppage time.
Cambridge United: Burton, Darling, Taylor, Taft (Dallas, 88 mins), Dunk, Hannant (Maris, 64 mins), Lambe, Lewis, Roles, Knibbs (Jones, 67 mins), Smith
Bookings: Lambe (RED), Roles
Mansfield Town: Logan, White (Clarke, 77 mins), Benning, Preston, Pearce, Bishop (Cook, 77 mins), MacDonald, Mellis, Maynard, Hamilton, Rose
Attendance: 3,848 (347)
Jackson & Fire Security Man of the Match: Jack Roles