Craig Priest writes...
Fixture: Mansfield Town V Lincoln City
Competition: FA Cup, Sponsored by Budweiser, Round Two Replay
Venue: The One Call Stadium
Date & Time: Wednesday 12th December – 7.45pm
Match Referee: Darren Sheldrake (Surrey)
Attendance: 5,304 (1360)
Two sleeps later and I still can’t quite believe it, Liverpool are coming to town for an FA Cup third round tie. I’ve purposely put off writing this for a day to let the game sink in and let the roar and buzz just go down a level, hopefully now I can write in the same reflective manor I usually do rather than from cloud nine, in turn this may make looking back on the fixture a little more special, it certainly was a momentum to remember.
Naturally Lincoln City will be bitter and disappointed, I think that when you look at the balance of play especially in the second half the Imps have a right to be disappointed as they dominated prolonged spells, however there’s one golden rule in football which helps seal reality – you have to take your chances, we did and we’re in round three.
We too were dominant in spells and if truth be told, if it weren’t for Paul Farman in the Lincoln goal, Stags could have quite easily sealed the tie before half time – the fact he pulled off two tremendous saves just added to the drama of the night, the football may not have been wonderful for spells but I can honestly say, the cup tie was right up there in terms of entertainment.
One man other than Briscoe, whose knack of important goals continued, I have to credit is Paul Cox. It took balls to make the change at half time but he saw it was a change that needed to be made and I think one which effectively won us the game. I am a huge fan of both Thompson and Sutton and love seeing them in the same back four, however again there was space for only one of them in the starting line up and Thompson didn’t quite match up to the games pace and, having watched numerous replays, clearly played Adam Smith onside for the leveller and just couldn’t cope. Sutton offered a more stable presence and despite the second half pressure from the Imps, didn’t really put a foot wrong – credit to Paul Cox for being bullish and making the change and hats off to Sutton, dropped over the last three-four games but keeping his head and doing his job.
John Dempster was outstanding for me in both boxes, Geohaghon too steady at the heart of the defence, I wasn’t happy that when we attacked we we’re far too narrow but do you know what, I honestly don’t care because we showed persistence and desire to finally go and get what we deserved.
The joyous scenes at full time will be remembered for a while, relief from a side that have felt the burden and weight of expectation seriously strain them this season, let’s hope now that now the reward is in place, the momentum carries over to our league fixtures with Hyde, Grimsby and Alfreton twice – let’s make this a very merry Christmas indeed.
Paul Cox named an unchanged side from the team that beat Ebbsfleet at the weekend, former Imps keeper Alan Marriott kept his place in goal ahead of Redmond who was heroic in the Slough replay in the previous round, player-assistant boss and skipper Adam Murray settled for a place on the bench.
Line Up [4-4-1-1-]: Alan Marriott, John Thompson, John Dempster (C), Exodus Geohaghon, Lee Beevers, Louis Briscoe, Chris Clements, Anthony Howell, Lindon Meikle, Matt Green, Ben Hutchinson.
Substitutes: Ritchie Sutton, Jake Speight, Nick Wright, Matt Rhead, Adam Murray, Lee Stevenson, Junior Daniel.
Mansfield began brightly with two Lee Beevers long throws in quick succession however neither proved a test for Paul Farman or his back line, four minutes later it was Lincoln’s turn for a long throw, Dan Gray launched one in before putting the second ball behind for a goal kick.
A minute later the long throw game continued as Howell’s long ball forward saw Green pressure Gilbert into a clearance, Exodus Geohaghon launched in before Ben Hutchinson headed over from the near post.
With 12 played the Stags again pressured the visitors, John Dempster kept the ball in play in the Lincoln half after a corner before finding Green who interchanged with Beevers, Meikle and Clements before the latter set up Briscoe who drove an effort wide from the edge of the area.
A minute later the Stags grabbed the initiative as Chris Clements clipped in a delicate free kick from midway in the Lincoln City half. John Dempster connected with it and looped a header up and over Farman who, after TV Replays, will be credited with the final touch, Dempster’s header cushioning the post before bouncing in from Farman’s ankle – who cares, the Stags had the all important advantage.
Lindon Meikle then soared forwards as he looked to set a Stags second on 21 minutes, drawing a foul from Gray. Hutchinson took charge of the resulting free kick but curled over Farman’s bar from the edge of the box. Eight minutes later the Imps keeper immerged with heroic status from the travelling fans as he pulled off a terrific double stop. Hutchinson sparked the move with a flowing pass wide for Briscoe, Hutchinson advanced to latch onto Briscoe’s resulting driven cross only to see Farman palm away a definite goal into the path of Green. The Stags joint top scorer delicately flicked a shot over the grounded shot stopper but somehow, he rose to excellently beat away and effectively keep the Imps in the tie.
Farman was again involved on 37 minutes after a Geohaghon throw saw Green and Hutchinson cause havoc and earn a corner, John Dempster saw a dominant header pushed away before the Imps cleared and three minutes later, grab a leveller from nowhere. The Stags thought they’d cleared the original ball but Dan Gray had other ideas as he volley back into the Stags half, Geohaghon, Dempster and Beevers had all stepped up quickly to spring the offside trap however John Thompson was too slow and as such played Adam Smith onside. The former Stag advanced and clipped over Marriott who came oh so close to preventing the goal, the ball however bounced in all the same.
Lincoln ended the half on a high with a corner, Anthony Howell there for the Stags to clear for a throw sending the two sides into half time level at one a piece.
HALF TIME: Stags 1-1 Lincoln
Paul Cox then opted to replace John Thompson with Ritchie Sutton at the break, the Stags again starting brightly as they grabbed two corners after 42 seconds, the second of which again saw Farman pull off the heroics for the Imps as he palmed away Dempster’s forceful header, the second ball back in from Clements also saw Dempster climb, this time though the Stags skipper headed wide of the Imps goal.
With 50 on the clock in was heart in mouth time for Stags as the Imps surged forward with intent. Adam Smith got the better of Sutton and just about got ahead of the advancing Marriott to the loose ball, as the ball chipped up into the brisk air Smith his tame half volley with no pace, Geohaghon was on hand to clear and spare Stags blushes.
Six minutes later a dangerous corner from Alan Power had Mansfield stretched before a secondary cross from the lively Jamie Taylor had Stags on the back foot, however Mansfield again scrambled away to breathe again before Ben Hutchinson was withdrawn for Matt Rhead on the hour mark.
Three minutes later the Stags failed to learn from the previous match at Sincil Bank as the Imps broke through Taylor following the breakdown of a Beevers throw. A square ball across the box saw Smith in possesion saw him cross for the advancing Taylor, Alan Marriott keeping out his close range effort.
Jamie Taylor again saw a header land wide of the mark on 73 minutes as Stags were cut apart, three minutes later though pressure, belief and patience saw Louis Briscoe send the home support into raptures. Matt Rhead held the ball up well on the edge of the Imps box before finding Clements, it was his sharp pass to Howell inside the box which undid Lincoln. Howell then poked square to Briscoe who, from 10 yards, curled in first time beyond Farman to put Mansfield back in the driving seat.
The imps made a double change with ten to go and another Power corner saw Ritchie Sutton slam away before Marriott collected the resulting cross. The game moved into three minutes of additional time and as the ball went from one end to the other and back again, Stags fans bit there finger nails and crossed everything possible, the full time whistle coming as huge relief as supporters swarmed the pitch, The Stags had done it - Liverpool are next.
FULL TIME: Stags 2-1 Lincoln
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