MANSFIELD Town had much work to do after a poor first half in which they failed to muster a shot on target and trailed 1-0 to a ninth minute Michael Gash goal at the Abbey Stadium this afternoon.
Stags also had jinxed defender John Thompson stretchered off just before the break after he was hurt making a vital tackle.
A fatal momentary hesitation from keeper Shane Redmond allowed Gash to reach a ball that looked to be going out for a goalkick and steer it across the keeper for the only goal.
United should have been further ahead by the end of the half with Tom Elliott and Ross Jarvis putting good chances wide and Josh Coulson hitting a post.
The early exchanges were uneventful, though, on nine minutes, keeper Hedge had to be alert to grab a Taiwo through ball before Green could reach it.
However, the home side drew first blood seconds later. Redmond appeared to think Andrew’s through ball was going out for a goal kick. But, realising Gash was going to get there, he reacted fractionally too late and Gash was able to steer it across the keeper and inside the far post from a tight angle.
A minute later it really should have 2-0 as Redmond was beaten to a Jarvis cross by Elliott who should have hit the target from six yards but headed wide.
Gash was too high from distance soon after, then Shaw pulled a low shot wide from a Geohaghon headed clearance as the U’s clearly had a spring in their step after the goal.
Hedge twice punched clear from a Geohaghon throw and a Murray before Speight was caught offside as he forced a save from Hedge at the far post.
Hedge then caught Murray’s first corner of the afternoon.
Pilkington’s presence did just enough to force Shaw to fire narrowly wide.
Then Hedge did well to grab the ball at the second attempt after being unable to grab a splendid curling cross from Taiwo.
Coulson almost doubled the U’s advantage on 25 minutes with a strong central run that ended with a 35-yard shot that struck the outside of the right post.
Green had a low shot deflect wide which the referee then deemed to be a goalkick on the half-hour mark.
Cambridge wasted another great chance on 34 minutes. A Gash backheel saw Willmott race past Geohaghon to the by-line before pulling back a low ball that the incoming Jarvis sliced wide from 12 yards when he should have the target.
Passes continued to go astray for the visitors and a dreadful over-hit cross from Sutton and a poor shot well wide from Murray summed up a frustrating first half for the Stags.
Berry went on a superb run, evading three challenges before Thompson steamed in to win the tackle in the box.
The full back stayed down for treatment with Berry booked for having a go at Thompson on the ground.
But Thompson stayed down and it soon became obvious he had done something more serious than first thought.
Eventually the stretcher came on and the stricken Thompson was carried off, Daniel coming on and Sutton switching from left back to right back.
Sutton was added to the book in the last of four minutes of stoppage time when he stuck out an arm to halt Wilmott’s run down the left.