Late cup KO for brave Stags at Bramall Lane

Sheffield United v Mansfield Town    13.8.14' Pic : Martyn Harrison'Andy Butler- Sheffield United 1st goal ''� copyright : Blades Sports Photography
Sheffield United v Mansfield Town 13.8.14' Pic : Martyn Harrison'Andy Butler- Sheffield United 1st goal ''� copyright : Blades Sports Photography

A Mark McNulty goal four minutes from time sent brave Mansfield Town spinning out of the Capital One Cup at the first hurdle as they lost 2-1 away to League One neighbours Sheffield United tonight.

But Stags will be more concerned over the fitness of striker Liam Hearn, who limped off with a knee injury on his full debut after just 15 minutes.

They also lost defender Martin Riley with a groin injury and could have a threadbare squad for the weekend visit of Oxford United after only two games with Alex Fisher the only striker likely to be available.

Hearn had not started a match for 10 months so his injury must be a big worry.

Fisher at least opened his Mansfield account at Bramall Lane to send 1,250 Stags fans wild on 57 minutes, just four minutes after Andy Butler had put Nigel Clough’s men ahead.

United had been the better side over the 90 minutes, but it seemed the Stags had done enough to at least force extra-time until McNulty produced that late hammer blow.

Hearn had finally made his full Mansfield Town debut.

The striker came on as a substitute in Saturday’s 1-0 opening defeat at Northampton.

He was one of four changes with Martin Riley, Chris Clements and Jamie McGuire also coming in, McGuire named skipper for the night.

Out went John Dempster, Fergus Bell, Adam Murray and the injured Ollie Palmer.

Defender Luke Jones, who has been out injured during pre-season, was a welcome sight on the bench.

The home side also shook up their pack, making no fewer than eight changes from the weekend.

But they almost made an explosive start.

McNulty was almost put clear down the centre by Baxter straight from the kick-off. But Tafazolli slid across him superbly to block before he could test Studer.

A minute later Taylor sent a right wing free kick into the home box, Howard claiming it as Riley jumped with him.

On six minutes Baxter swapped passes down the centre before forcing Studer to beat away his 18-yard drive for a corner, from which big defender Butler headed wide of goal.

Play was held up for treatment to McGuire, who stayed down after a challenge just outside the centre circle, but was able to continue.

There was more danger for Mansfield as Tafazolli made a good interception only to run into team mate Clements and cough up possession, Studer eventually down to smother a dangerous low Campbell-Ryce cross from the right.

Hearn was the next Stags player to stay down injured, always a worry with someone who has been out that long, and those worries intensified when he eventually limped off to be replaced by Clucas with only 15 minutes played.

Stags defended another home corner, and when the ball was pumped back in a second time, Butler headed over at the far post.

Clucas put Heslop into space on the right, but his first time low cross was blocked for a corner at the near post.

When keeper Howard failed to claim it, Sutton fired a shot against a crowd of home defenders and the ball was hacked clear.

It was safety first as Studer got down to punch out another Campbell-Ryce cross from the right as the home side powered forward menacingly once more.

Stags fashioned a decent half-chance of their own on the half-hour mark as Tafazolli went long and Clucas cushioned the ball down into the path of Fisher whose 20 yard finished lacked power and direction and ended harmlessly wide.

Studer then dealt well with a flicked-on cross from the left after Campbell-Ryce had switched wings and put into another tempting ball.

Great work from Clucas on 34 minutes saw him feed the ball into Heslop who strode powerfully into the box and somehow rode tackles and held the ball up before squaring for Clucas, who forced Howard into his first real save, diving to his right.

From the corner, the ball fell again for Clucas who this time pulled a low finish wide.

But that was much better from Mansfield, who had spent periods of the half under pressure.

However, United came close again on 37 minutes when Davies sent in a long free kick from the left touchline that bounced through everyone and inches wide of the far post, needing only the slightest of touches to break the deadlock.

Still the Blades whirred onwards towards the Mansfield goal and Riley was in quickly to stop Porter racing away onto a flick, then Baxter was narrowly wide from 25 yards with a low shot that zipped across the surface.

Two minutes from the break, McGuire tugged on McNulty 20 yards from goal in a very central position.

Davies needed little encouragement to step up and curl a splendid free kick fractionally wide of the left post with Studer only able to stand, watch and hope.

Howard clawed away Stags’ third corner of the half. Then United won a corner in stoppage time which saw Studer and Baxter begin a shoving match that ended with a reprimand from the referee.

Stags survived that as well as a Davies cross from the right that saw two home players throw themselves at it but fail to connect as the score stayed 0-0 at the break.

Within three minutes of the restart Clucas raced onto a flick but checked instead of shooting first time from an angle and tried to work his way into the box where he was held up.

The ball eventually broke for Heslop, whose low 20 yard drive deflected just wide for a corner from which Clucas’ far post header nestled onto the roof of the net.

Then Fisher was furious as Clements played a through ball too far in front of him when in plenty of space as Stags took the early initiative.

United broke down the left on 50 minutes and Beevers earned the game’s first booking for upending Campbell-Ryce.

Davies whipped a vicious free kick in from a tight angle but it was just over the top.

But the opening goal was only just round the corner and it went to the Blades.

Davies put in a right wing corner that was met by the head of Baxter, who forced a great save from Studer, diving to his right. But the loose ball sailed towards Butler at the far post who found the net with a close range diving header.

On the restart Fisher was too high from distance as Stags looked for an immediate reply.

And the reply was swift as on 57 minutes the ball ran loose. Beevers drilled it low at goal from the right of the box and it came back off a defender to the lurking Fisher who tucked it away from eight yards, again off a defender, to spark massive celebrations behind the goal.

A minute later McGuire was booked for a foul on Davies and, from the free kick, Butler guided an angled header just wide.

United won two more corners without troubling Studer.

Fergus Bell took over from McGuire in midfield on 67 minutes.

Taylor became Stags’ third booking on 68 minutes as Davies caused more problems on the right, Collins wide with a headed attempt from the free kick.

Worryingly, Stags lost Riley with injury on 72 minutes, replaced by Dempster.

Beevers almost committed footballing suicide on 77 minutes as he chested a Campbell-Ryce cross back towards Studer at the far post. McNulty was next to him and, showing good anticipation, stretched out a leg and lifted a finish over the top from close range with Stags mightily relieved.

Doyle brought a smart save from Studer with a powerful low effort from almost 30 yards as extra-time began to loom with five minutes to go.

But Mansfield’s night was shattered with four minutes to go.

Baxter and Higdon combined to send McNulty into the box where he superbly rode attempted tackles by Tafazolli and Sutton before drilling a low finish under Studer from 10 yards.

Stags were given four extra minutes at the end to save the day, but the Blades comfortably held on to what they had.

BLADES: Howard; Davies, Collins, Butler, Harris; Doyle, Campbell-Ryce, McGinn (Murphy 71), Baxter; McNulty (McGahey 88) , Porter (Higdon 72). Subs not used: Basham, Flynn, Willis, De Girolamo.

STAGS: Studer; Sutton, Tafazolli, Riley (Dempster 72); Beevers, McGuire (F. Bell 67), Clements, Heslop, Taylor; Hearn (Clucas 15), Fisher. Subs not used: Jones, Thomas, Belford, A. Bell.

REFEREE: Geoff Eltringham of Tyne and Wear.

ATTENDANCE: 7,929 (1,250 away).