Craig Priest writes…
Once again a team switched to three up front against Mansfield Town, and Mansfield Town can’t handle it – honestly, can anyone say they believe this current crop of players is going to come up trumps, when it’s the little mistakes which are starting to make huge dents in our armoury?
It’s that old saying isn’t it, a ripple in the ocean can soon create a tidal wave – I honestly don’t understand how someone as experienced, knowledgeable and successful as Steve Evans and Paul Raynor, can allow such a simple thing to hurt us again, and again, and again.
The competition is irrelevant, as is the team selection – there we’re spells where our desire, hunger and sheer lust for the game really showed – sadly, it was about as frequent as someone either swiping right to me on Tinder or sending me a message on other dating sites!
Cheap gags are all I can do right now to not swear and throw this laptop across the room in anger and how simple we’ve been beaten, not once – but twice, in the same way. What concerns me more is how we react, nobody rallies the troupes, nobody holds their hands up, nobody seems to care – a goal going in, is like a mint being dropped into a bottle of fizzy coke.
With the transfer window slamming shut soon, Evans must work fast to find a solution to the problem we’re facing – instability and fear of failure, have we hired too many cooks for the kitchen?
Fortunately it’s not all over in terms of the Checkatrade Trophy considering the format, we lost to Doncaster at this point last year and still managed to pocked some pivotal funds – and perhaps more critically, tonight’s collapse against the power of three doesn’t impact on our League ambitions.
Alfie Potter was different class as was Alex MacDonald – both will be very hard done by to not start at Carlise, especially the former who ran the show and gave us something we haven’t had all season so far, a counter attacking outlet – Even though it were his side two of the goals came from, I felt Hint had a steady game too – I can’t help but wonder two things, one – would a system change suit us more, with wings back rather than full backs and two – given that four of the last five goals we’ve conceded have been from that side of the pitch, is it a players-error or has Evans’ set-up cost us?
George Taft too alongside Pearce looked assured, again I can’t help but wonder what a back three, with Diamond or the improving Murfin would perform like – but ifs and buts only get us so far, it’s a long trip to Carlise on Saturday – and an ever long road home without any coal to show for it, the power of three has unstitched us twice in a row now, to go back to that ripple in the ocean analogy – as we head for the lake district, how about we cause some waves for once, rather than fail to swim in deep water?
Unsurprisingly Evans made ten changes from Saturday’s 2-2 draw with only Krystain Pearce keeping his place and taking the skippers armband – had Zander Diamond been fit, it would have been 11 changes - Perhaps the most surprising of all was the inclusion of Jack Thomas.
Mansfield started very much on the front foot, Alex MacDonald swung in some testing free-kicks and crosses within the opening minutes, but it was the magic feet of Alfie Potter that broke the deadlock on six minutes.
Jimmy Spencer played a key role in holding the ball up against two Lincoln defenders, before poking the ball into space for Potter to latch onto – a burst of pace and quick feet saw Potter inside the box, he made no mistake as Paul Farman came out to try and narrow the angle.
Ten minutes later Alex MacDonald nearly provided the Stags second after goalscorer Potter was felled, MacDonald’s whipped set-play found the head of George Taft who headed over a greatful Farman’s bar.
The Stags were keeping position well and restricting Lincoln to little, however just before the half hour – Lincoln had a real chance to pull the game level, as skipper Pearce hacked down a swift moving Billy Knott, Sam Hebergham stepped up from 25 yards but fired well into the empty Quarry Lane End.
Mansfield then missed the golden chance to make it 2-0 on 33 minutes a goal which, at that point, may well have killed the game. Alfie Potter was once again instrumental with a breath taking box to box run, he slipped in Omari Sterling-James to the right of the box – his touch to set himself allowed Farman to narrow the angle and the physiology worked, Sterling-James dragged his effort agonisingly wide.
Moments later, Sterling-James tried to feed Jack Thomas, but one of Lincoln’s many former Stags cut out the pass – Luke Waterfall staying strong.
At the other end Bobby Oljenik, in a fetching purple and orange cross fade kit, stood firm to deny Maguire-Drew from a free-kick, before the pendulum swung the Stags way once more, Paul Digby heading MacDonalds’ 39th minute free-kick over.
Seconds later at the other end, Lincoln got in behind Johnny Hunt down the left and side and clipped a cross into the middle, Elliott Whitehouse nodding in Long’s chipped cross to level the match.
Imps boss Danny Cowley was then sent to the stands before the half came to a close, 45 minutes where all Mansfield’s hard work had been undone in one moment.
After the break Mansfield just didn’t look as sharp and had to be rescued by Oljenik who made a fine save to deny Long on 50 minutes – a minute later and Potter was off on another counter attacking run which saw him play a 1-2 with Thomas, Lincoln recovering just in time before Potter was able to wave his magic wand.
Alex MacDonald drew a smart save from Farman on 58 minutes following a nice pass from Sterling-James, but on 65 minutes – a double substitution from the Imps changed the game, they gambled by switching from a flat 4-4-2 to a 3-4-3, no doubt having watched how Mansfield collapsed against Luton when they went up front 2-0 down on Saturday.
And fourteen minutes later, the switch worked – Long again got the better of Hunt down the left hand side and another ex-Stag in Ollie Palmer nipped in to put the Imps ahead.
Mansfield had a go at trying to force a draw, and subsequent penalty shootout for a bonus point and threw Olejnik forward for a corner – sadly the gamble didn’t pay as Lincoln cleared the corner, countered and Stags legend Matt Green had the simple task of slotting into an empty net.
FULL TIME: Stags 1-3 Lincoln City
Hayden White – Krystain Pearce © - George Taft – Johnny Hunt
Alfie Potter – Jack Thomas (Will Atkinson 72) – Paul Digby – Alex MacDonald (CJ Hamilton 82)
Jimmy Spencer (Danny Rose 82) – Omari Sterling-James
Unused Substitutes Conrad Logan, Rhys Bennett, Mal Benning, Joel Byrom
Attendance: 2,495 (898)
Referee: David Webb, Assistants Stephen Wade, Duncan Streete, Fourth Official Thomas Bramall
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