Full Time Score Lincoln City 1-2 Mansfield Town
Competition Checkatrade Trophy (North) Group H [Game 1 of 3]
Venue Sincil Bank, Lincoln
Stags Goal Scorers Calum Butcher, Tyler Walker
Attendance 4,205 (260)
Craig Priest writes…
The best way to start a long journey to Wembley is by beating the current holders of the competition, and that’s exactly what the Stags did as they came from behind they beat Lincoln City 2-1 in the first of this seasons three group matches in the controversial competition.
For many seasons I, like a broken record, have said that we should be taking the checkatrade trophy seriously and feel that previous managers have done a disservice to the board and those of us on the terraces by showing a complete lack of interest in competing – therefore again I commend David Flitcrofts approach to the match – it’s there to be won.
I don’t care that much about the argument over the inclusion of under 23 sides and the whole blooding kids into men’s football – what I care about is what every TRUE football support cares about, and that is my football club being successful.
Yes the attention and dedication should ALWAYS be on league football and moving up the league ladder, but sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture and how that longed for league success can be triggered and influenced by cup football.
The prize money for the checkatrade trophy is actually very good and has risen over the past three seasons; a good run in the competition can garner the income to make those key additions to the squad, which can then be an influencer on the bread and butter of the league and long-term stability of the club. Coventry and Lincoln, the previous two winners of the cup, are prime examples of this.
A manager who shows commitment to the competition is a manger who cares about the development of the club over a longer period – it’s those managers ultimately who deliver the desired success.
I’m therefore glad, as I mentioned above, about the approach Flitcroft took last night and the approach to the game – first half I felt we were poor and the referee’s display hid that in a way, the second half however we were far better and started to compete and I felt we were always going to win the match.
To say we made seven changes, two enforced with Pearce and Sweeney on international duty, we showed that we have strong depth which is going to be vital over the course of the season and I was proud in the spirit within the group to deliver a win – winning is a habit that shouldn’t be paused or broken just because the occasion is different.
Performance wise I felt Calum Butcher was excellent, his tenacity to close Lincoln down and chase opportunity is a joy to watch and he fully deserved his goal, and was unlucky to not have another to his name – playing in the central attacking midfield role he’s showing the promise he arrived with a year ago and proving why he’s been a part of promotion winning sides.
New signing Timi Elsnik was outstanding too, he looks a real handful and I would love to see more of him – especially with Otis Khan and CJ, some real damage could be done to teams there.
Nothing is won or lost, especially with two group games to go – but I look at it as part of the whole and not an isolated competition, and with that we’ve lost once in nine competitive games, which gives us momentum to build upon.
With Pearce and Sweeney on international duty, the Stags were forced into two changes – but made seven in total. Out went Bobby Olejnik, Pearce, Sweeney, Hamilton, Bishop, Khan and Walker – with Logan, Gibbens, Atkinson, Davies, Butcher, Benning and Elsnik brought in – the latter making his Stags debut. Omari Sterling-James is also on international duty, which gave youngster Jason Law the opportunity to be involved, he got a place on the bench.
The Stags struggled early to adapt to the changes and were under pressure early doors as former Stags hit man Matt Rhead caused trouble in the air, Alex MacDonald cleared an early Rhead header but on six minutes Rhead netted against his former club as Benning failed to stop a cross, Rhead peeled off and scored the easiest goal of his career, powerfully heading past Logan, unchallenged.
Mansfield could have been in for a hammering but in true Stags spirit as they have done every time they’ve gone behind, the fought back – on eight minutes Calum Butcher’s tenacious closing down forced a Lincoln error, allowing the attacking midfielder to nip in and fizz the ball beyond Sam Slocombe in the Imps goal.
The Stags then had opportunities to take the lead as Butcher put in a low cross which just evaded the run of Davies and Rose on fourteen minutes, moments later good flowing movement with Elsnik, MacDonald and Bucther saw the latter earn a corner.
The hosts were putting the Stags under pressure playing the Mansfield Town way circa 2012-13 – find Rhead with a long ball, and on 23 minutes similar play saw the Imps through on goal – Shay McCartan denied by Logan who made a strong save.
The referee was handing out yellow cards like they were going out of fashion and booked White, Rose and Benning in quick succession in a period which saw little action – in the moments when the cards stayed in the pocket, Timi Elsnik nearly made it a debut to remember with a twenty-five yard effort, whistling towards goal – Slocombe was behind it well
As the clock ticked towards the break Davies was teed up by Butcher but his effort on the volley was blocked well, at the other end Rhead nodded one wide before on the stroke of half-time Butcher was unfortunate not to have a second, his well hit effort blocked on the line.
Mansfield showed improvement after the break and began to control the game, White, Benning, Butcher and Elsnik all had attempts to unlock the Imps backline cleared whilst Davies headed one wide at the far post on 69 minutes.
Rose and Davies were replaced on 71 minutes as Walker and Hamilton came on up front, meaning the Stags switched from playing long, directional passes in the air, to fluid football on the deck.
Within a minute, the plan worked as fluid football eventually saw Butcher send a deft touch into the path of Walker, who practically with his first touch since coming on, thundered past the keeper to put Stags into a 2-1 lead.
It was nearly a repeat performance on 76 minutes but this time Walker scuffed his effort wide, before CJ Hamilton latched onto White’s pass, turning his marker before having an effort blocked.
The referee’s cards made a comeback as the game faded out, Elsnik into the notebook with a yellow card for the Stags – before as the game entered four additional minutes, Lincoln sub Micheal O’Connor was sent off for a late tackle on Walker.
FULL TIME: Lincoln City 1-2 Mansfield Town
STAGS [3-4-1-2]: Conrad Logan, Hayden White, Matt Preston, Lewis Gibbens, Will Atkinson, Alex MacDonald ©, Timi Elsnik [#20], Mal Benning, Calum Butcher, Craig Davies (Tyler Walker 71), Danny Rose (CJ Hamilton 71)
Unused Subs: Bobby Oljenik, Otis Khan, Neal Bishop, Jordan Graham, Jason Law [#26]
Referee: Ross Joyce
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