LACKLUSTRE Mansfield Town slipped to a 1-0 friendly defeat against Sheffield United on Saturday following a disappointing performance.
A solitary goal from the impressive Febian Brandy was enough to secure the win as the promotion-chasing Blades maintained their unbeaten pre-season.
The visitors bossed the entire first half and looked comfortable throughout as their slick passing and movement proved too much for the unusually flat home side.
Stags, who had enjoyed confidence-boosting wins over Chester and Peterborough United, earlier in the week, never really threatened and can count themselves lucky that the margin of defeat was not bigger.
Murphy, Porter and McDonald all wasted superb chances to extend United’s lead during the second half as the League One side continued to look the most likely to score.
Paul Cox made five changes at half-time and continued to ring the changes throughout the second 45 mins as Stags looked to get back into the game.
Mansfield looked marginally better in the second half, with Murray, Stevenson, Meikle and Morgan-Smith added some much needed creativty and industry.
Stevenson and Morgan-Smith both tested Long in the Blades goal in the closing stages, but it was not enough to earn a share of the spoils.
Mansfield will now be looking for a response when they make the short trip to Rainworth on Tuesday night.
Mansfield started confidently when Matt Rhead turned well to latch on to a Lee Beevers ball before unleashing a shot just wide from 20 yards after just 18 seconds.
The Blades responded well when Jamie Murphy found space on the edge of the box before warming the hands of Alan Marriott with his effort.
The visitors then took the lead after five minutes when Daryl Westlake broke well down the right flank before picking out Febian Brandy.
Brandy then turned Paul Black to create half a yard of space and fire past the helpless Marriott from six yards out.
Sheffield United continued to boss midfield with some slick passing and good movement off the ball.
The lively Murphy was next to threaten after 10 minutes for the League One side with a free-kick from 23 yards which was comfortably held by Alan Marriott.
Marriott had to be alert again after 13 minutes when another well worked move from the Blades ended with goalscorer Brandy firing at the Stags shot-stopper from a narrow angle.
It should have been 2-0 on 30 minutes after McDonald’s long hopeful ball over the top somehow found Chris Porter in acres of space inside the box.
But Marriott superbly turned Porter’s powerful shot over the bar to save the blushes of the sleeping Mansfield defence.
Murphy should have done better a minute later when he galloped down the left flank after United split the backtracking Stags defence.
But Murphy sent a low tame shot into the hands of Marriott when a pass to the free Brandy seemed the best option.
Porter then sprung the offside trap on 35 minutes before picking out the rampant Murphy, who saw his firmly hit drive blocked for a corner as United continued to turn up the heat.
Porter then headed just wide from Westlake’s well worked corner as the home side struggled to hang on.
Michael Doyle was the next to try his luck with a good effort from 30 yards as shots continued to rain down on Marriott’s goal.
Furious boss Paul Cox made five half-time changes, bringing on Murray, Pilkington, Arnold, Morgan-Smith and Lee Stevenson as last season’s BSP champions looked to get back into the game.
But it was Sheffield United who continued where they had left off at the start of the second half with Murphy and Brandy again combining well to cause bother down the left wing after 53 minutes.
United then wasted a glorious chance to double their lead on 57 minutes after Murphy went on a surging run through the middle before teeing up Brandy wide on the right.
Brandy neatly cut the ball back into the path of McDonald who dragged his shot well wide from 12 yards as everyone in the stadium expected to see the net bulge.
Stags registered their first real attempt of the match after 66 minutes when Arnold picked out McGuire who, despite stretching, managed to bring out the best in George Long in the visiting goal.
Mansfield won a free-kick on the edge of the Blades box seconds later after Morgan-Smith was hacked down as the home side finally began to find some much-needed spark.
But Morgan-Smith was unable to keep the free-kick down and fired high over the bar.
Stevenson then saw a close range effort blocked by the legs of Long after Meikle had used his pace and trickery to work an opening.
Subsitute Jasper Johns fired a firmly struck shot a couple of yards wide following a good counter attack by the visitors on 73 minutes.
The game then heated up after a massive scuffle broke out on the Sheffield United bench after a Stags player and a visiting substitute squared up before other players piled in.
John Dempster headed over a pacey Murray free-kick after 78 minutes as Stags pressed for the equaliser.
It was the last real chance for Mansfield as Sheffield United comfortably saw out the game.