JAMES Constable admitted it was a relief to reach a century of goals for Oxford United as he helped them back to top spot with a 3-1 win at Mansfield Town.

The striker took just 77 seconds to reach the landmark after coming off the bench to replace the injured Deane Smalley.

In doing so, Constable became only the third player to reach three figures for United.

It drew him level with Tony Jones and he is now just eight goals from surpassing Graham Atkinson as the club’s all-time top scorer.

Although the 29-year-old has scored goals which have been more important or more spectacular, the close-range finish meant just as much as any of the previous 99.

“This one has got to be up there,” he said.

“With not starting the game, I was desperate to get on.”

Constable had missed other chances to reach his ton in previous games, and for one moment the No 9 was worried another opportunity had gone begging.

He said: “When I hit it I was thinking it wasn’t going to sneak in, but the second it went in I realised that was it and could celebrate.

“I was desperate to get it, especially after the Bristol Rovers game where I had a couple of headers I should’ve done better with.

“I just want to go on and get a few more.”

Constable’s strike was key to the victory, providing an instant reply on the stroke of half-time after Lee Stevenson had cancelled out Sean Rigg’s early tap-in.

After the break United dominated the hosts, who played for more than an hour with ten men after Jamie McGuire was sent off.

The numerical advantage paid off and Ryan Williams scored to make sure of the points.

While the personal landmark was a source of joy for Constable, he was keen to play it down compared to the fine display from the whole side.

“It’s obviously a relief, but I’m just delighted with the performance,” he said.

“It’s been a team effort all day, the lads were brilliant from Clarkey (goalkeeper Ryan Clarke) all the way through.

“I didn’t want to take any extra credit, the lads were all tremendous and we fully deserved the win.”

Constable’s contract at United expires at the end of the season, but the striker’s priority is much more short-term.

He said: “It’s just important I knuckle down.

“At the minute I’m obviously not in the side so I’m desperate to be working hard enough to get back in there. Come the end of the season we’ll see what happens.”