Craig Priest writes
Fixture: Lincoln City Vs Mansfield Town
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier – Game #37
Venue: The 12th Imp Sincil Bank Stadium
Date & Time: Tuesday 26th February 2013 – 7.45pm
Match Referee: Darren Handley (Bolton)
Attendance: 2734 (1107)
As a child I was brought up never to steal, having been stolen from in the past I know the pain such an act can cause – The only thing I have stolen is the heart of another, but hey that’s the labour of love. I have witnessed several crimes though, last night at Sincil Bank was no different as Matt Green’s 91st minute goal stole all three points as Stags continued their play-off hunt and maybe, the ever elusive title.
I guess that football is about moments at this time of the season as, in truth, Stags defending was a dire as Lincoln’s finishing and the imps should have been at least three up before the break. Numerous times the visitors were pulled apart by the so called struggling side and for me at least, had nobody leading them or pulling the strings – the midfield was absent and over run. Ok, we’ve had a goal disallowed, a penalty claim turned away and a few efforts saved, but in my opinion whilst the three points are sweet – Paul Cox has to shake some lives into the players who looked dead on their feet in large parts.
The Stags boss said after the game that its 15 cups finals from here until the end, if the Stags even show remote signs of performing like that again then it’ll be 15 prison sentences – victory in those circumstances seems somewhat criminal! Do I care that we robbed all the points no, do I care that we played that way – a little, but only because I know we are SO MUCH BETTER! But hey, that’s football.
Alas, for poor Lincoln and all their efforts, we show exactly why we’re at the top end of the table as in the 91st minute, from a Meikle assist, Matt Green strokes home the winner and 1,107 Stags supporters switch from anger and disillusion at their sides woefulness to ecstasy! You just couldn’t write it to be fair.
The victory makes it nine points from a possible nine over the past three games, all of which on the road – The Stags travels have certainly served them well as they move up into the play-offs, five points behind leaders Wrexham, a game in hand on them and of course, them to play home and away – the chase is on!
On a side note, I’d like to again apologise for last night’s connection issues, I am currently working a solution ahead of Saturday – after-all we don’t want to miss what’s going to be one hell of a final 15 games!
Paul Cox stuck with an unchanged line up with Clements again deputising for Howell in the middle – defender Lee Beevers kept his place despite the dislocated shoulder he suffered on Saturday.
LINE UP [4-2-3-1]: Alan Marriott, Lee Beevers, Luke Jones, John Dempster, James Jennings, Adam Murray (C), Chris Clements, Louis Briscoe, Lee Stevenson, Junior Daniel, Matt Green.
SUBSTITUTES: Ritchie Sutton, Lindon Meikle, Nick Wright, Matt Rhead, Ben Hutchinson.
Looming towards the drop-zone and without a manager, Lincoln would have been forgiven if they didn’t care to fight last night, however with the FA Cup beating still fresh in their memories – fight is exactly what they did as they made a bright start to the encounter. Imps left back Nicky Nicolau charging past Briscoe and Beevers respectively with four minutes one the clock before squaring to Fofana who drove wide of Marriott’s right hand post.
Two minutes later a good interchange between the aforementioned Stags pair on the right hand side saw Briscoe come close to punishing the hosts; however the ball just wouldn’t drop as Andrew Boyce slammed clear.
On ten minutes Stags were clinging on again as the Imps romped forwards, James Jennings blocked the attempted effort young Walsall loanee Jake Jones before Marriott punched away the follow up cross from Lincoln captain Alan Power. Three minutes later a foul by Beevers on the advancing Vadaine Oliver saw Power curl a free kick out of play from the edge of the Stags area.
Stags then enjoyed a spell of pressure on the Imps goal as Junior Daniel and Matt Green combined in a fluent counter attacking move which saw Lee Stevenson have an effort blocked on 17 minutes. Four minutes later Daniel earned the visitors their first corner of the night as his looping shot was deflected over the bar by Tom Miller – the Imps defender again blocked from the corner giving Stags their second in succession, from which a powerful, and seemingly unstoppable, header from Luke Jones was expertly saved by Paul Farman in the Lincoln goal.
Moments later Mansfield demonstrated a broken-siv like piece of defending as Power drove forwards and squared a ball into the middle where four Imps players lined up against just the one defender in Luke Jones. The loose ball fell for Jake Jones who unbelievably missed the gaping target with Marriott alarmingly static!
The Stags shot stopper was more lively on the half hour mark as a long ball from former Stags defender Scott Garner at the heart of the Imps defence found its way to setting Oliver on his way through. Marriott did enough to close the Lincoln man down but couldn’t prevent the shot, which, with an open goal, again missed the target. Seconds later Alan Power clipped a left footed volley over the bar following sustained pressure across the edge of the Stags box.
Mansfield then had a clear goal ruled out on 31 minutes as a clipped pass from Lee Beevers sent Junior Daniel clean through. Beating the Boyce-Garner sandwich the former Macclesfield man fired home but saw his effort chalked off for handball much to his annoyance. A minute later a dangerous Jennings corner led to another Stags chance, Adam Murray’s soft header well held by Farman following a right sided cross.
The half ended in frustration as John Dempster picked up a booking, Lee Beevers then required treatment for a nasty bang to his leg before Lincolns Fofana also needed treatment following a strong challenge on the half way line – both were able to continue.
HALF TIME: Lincoln 0-0 Stags
The second half was a similar tale to the first, however it began with Stags frustration as they were awarded a free kick rather than a spot kick on 52 minutes when Stevenson was felled by Garner. The resulting free kick was poor from Daniel and allowed the Imps to come forward at a canter – the Stags somehow serving what should have been a goal when Alan Power opted to square the ball rather than shoot, the unselfish act let Stags off the hook.
A minute later Louis Briscoe dragged an effort wide of the mark before the Imps again teased Stags, Jake Sheridan this time the one to power forwards and catch the sleepy visitors unaware – his pull back from the bye line fortunately went un-attacked by the Imps.
Matt Rhead then replaced Stevenson as Stags moved to a flat 4-4-2 with just over an hour played, the dangerous Dan Gray also came on for the Imps however the changes affected little as for the next 15 minutes the match became a refereeing farce as Darren Handley awarded both sides soft set plays.
Jake Sheridan then came close for Lincoln on 77 minutes but failed to keep his shot from sailing over Marriott’s bar before Paul Farman again kept Stags at bay as John Dempster thundered a point blank range effort towards goal following a Jennings free kick from the right hand side.
Substitute Lindon Meikle then embarked on a terrific solo run with six minutes remaining but saw himself booked for arguing as the referee awarded the hosts a free kick despite Meikle’s heals being clipped.
Lincoln again tested Stags with numerous runs but as the board went up for five additional minutes, their hard work was undone as Stags snatched a dramatic late winner for the second match running. Chris Clements held up on the left before the arriving Jennings swung in the killer cross – headed back across the box by Meikle, Matt Green did what he does best and poached, slotting underneath the despairing Farman to send the travelling support into delirium.
The Stags front man was then booked for no apparent reason before Lincoln substitute Dan Gray was shown a straight red card for violent conduct as he slashed down Matt Rhead on the half way line.
There was further controversy as seven minutes into the five added, Paul Cox and the fourth official Matt Walsh got into a slanging match as the Stags manager opted not to make a change as seconds before the goal, the Stags management team had handed the fourth official instruction that Hutchinson was to replace Green. With Green netting the winner, Cox felt it pointless to make an attacking change and cancelled the changes – the fourth official had other ideas and basically enforced the change.
Seconds later Lincoln swapped Colin Larkin for Paul Turnbull, no sooner had the former Stags hero jogged on, he was jogging off as, after eight additional minutes – the full time whistle blew sealing the points for the Stags and most possibly, the crime of the century.
FULL TIME: Lincoln 0-1 Stags
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