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Archived News from March 2004

15th March 2004 18:15

CHAD website:
"It was a very poor second half and now I have to get the lads' confidence and focus back for Tuesday," said manager Keith Curle.
"It looked like we had put a completely different 11 players out in the second half.
"We knew what to expect from Lincoln and I told the lads at half time that if we went on the back foot they would be in our faces.
"The back four looked like strangers. They started playing as individuals instead of a unit.
"In the second half Lincoln have had five shots and scored four goals. We certainly missed Luke Dimech's pace and awareness. And individual errors cost us. As a team we seem to have a soft centre when the chips are down."
However, Curle refused to believe an automatic promotion spot was now beyond his side.
"It is still attainable as there will be plenty of twists and turns before the end of the season," he said.
"I will have the lads in tomorrow to prepare for Tuesday and I want to see them get this result and second half performance out of their system as soon as possible."
Lincoln Manager Keith Alexander said "I thought we were unlucky to go in behind at half time. But we are always likely to score as we play with three men up front. It was an excellent victory."
Lincs Echo:

Lincoln City 4 v 1 Mansfield Town
Lincoln boss Keith Alexander fumed over a penalty decision despite City's emphatic victory at Sincil Bank.

"I thought the decision was very harsh," said Alexander.

"Every game we play, we have to win by three goals because for a home team we never seem to get decisions."

Liam Lawrence scored for Mansfield when he converted from the penalty spot after being brought down by the returning Gary Fletcher.

But Fletcher made amends after the break by hammering the equaliser.

He added a second 14 minutes later before Francis Green extended Lincoln's lead with a long range shot.

The Imps then sealed victory two minutes from time when Simon Yeo lobbed Kevin Pilkington.

Alexander continued: "People don't give us enough credit for how well we play.

"Mansfield are a very good side and we've done the double over them."

Lincs Echo:

Lincoln City boss Keith Alexander believes his side have almost earned a play-off place for the second season running.

City - boosted by Saturday's comprehensive 4-1 demolition of promotion rivals Mansfield Town - are one spot outside the zone, in eighth, with a game in hand on three sides above them.

"We have 11 games left and we have a chance to seal it," declared Alexander.

"Six wins should put us up there and the sides that can hold their nerve will finish in the top seven.

"We left it even later last season to put a run together which got us up there.

"The fact we were involved in the play-offs last time will stand us in good stead."

Last season City sealed a play-off place with a 1-1 home draw against Torquay on the last day of the campaign. They cruised past Scunthorpe, but were thwarted for a Second Division spot by Bournemouth at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

Alexander's side have a favourable run-in this time around, with just one game left against a side above them - Yeovil at Sincil Bank on the last day.

Alexander said the Imps had to remain focused on the job in hand.

"The run-in isn't a bad one, but you have to remember there are only a couple of teams who have nothing to play for and getting points of those below us will not be easy," he said.

"What we need now is for the supporters to get behind us.

"They were magnificent again on Saturday, and we need them to come down again tomorrow night against Southend."

Lincoln appeared to be on the receiving of yet another refereeing howler on Saturday when official Trevor Kettle awarded Mansfield a dubious 37th minute penalty.

Striker Gary Fletcher was adjudged to have tripped Liam Lawrence, even though it appeared the Stags midfielder had run into him.

Lawrence converted the spot-kick, but it was Fletcher and City who were to have the last laugh.

A stirring second half fightback saw the Scouser net his 13th and 14th goals of the season, with Francis Green and Simon Yeo putting the icing on the cake as the Imps ran out easy winners.

"I was thrilled by the comeback," said a delighted Alexander.

"We didn't do a great deal wrong in the first half, and we were unlucky to be a goal behind.

"It was never a penalty and it was a harsh decision.

"But for the third game running I told them at half-time to go back out and do the same.

"They acquitted themselves very well, we took our chances and we've done the double over a very decent team.

"Gary Fletcher showed what a good player he is with two superb finishes - in fact all the goals were good ones.

"It was a great win but now we have to make sure we don't slip up tomorrow."

Another plus point for Lincoln were the debuts of new signings Kevin Ellison and Jamie McCombe.

Ellison slotted in at left wing-back, while central defender McCombe took the place of the suspended Ben Futcher who served the last of his two-match ban and is available for tomorrow night's Southend game.

"Both of them did very well for us and we've now got competition for places at exactly the right time," said Alexander.

"I'll have good selection problems for tomorrow night."

Lincs Echo:

For 45 minutes it looked as though Lincoln City were going to be on the receiving end of another refereeing horror show.

First it was George Cain who awarded the goal that never was for Pawel Abbott at Huddersfield three weeks ago.

Then, on Saturday, it was the turn of Berkshire official Trevor Kettle, who turned in a lukewarm display, and had the home fans at boiling point when he awarded Mansfield a highly dubious 37th-minute penalty.

I've never been a massive critic of referees in all the time I've been regularly watching football.

In my opinion the best ones are those you never notice, and I'm still also the first acknowledge they have a difficult job to do.

But, in the last two seasons, there has been a noticeable and sudden decline in the standard of the men in the middle.

Surely the most important weapon in a referee's armoury is common-sense?

But it seems to have become extinct.

I have no idea why this should be the case. There can't be a FIFA guideline banning it - but you never know - or maybe it's down to the pressure of knowing there's an assessor sat in the stands.

Whatever the reason, something needs to done because, quite frankly, referees are spoiling games for managers, players and fans alike.

However, the thing I find most irritating is the way they won't talk about the reasons a decision has been made, or if they do, the reason leaves you more confused than it did when it was first given.

Take Mr Cain at Huddersfield. His reasons for allowing Abbott's goal completely contravened FIFA's very own offside rules.

Then on Saturday, Mr Kettle told striker Gary Fletcher - who committed the alleged 37th-minute foul on Liam Lawrence - that he awarded the penalty for "malicious intent".

How on earth could it be malicious intent when Fletcher tried to step out of the way and Lawrence ran into him?

It was baffling.

Lawrence calmly buried the spot-kick, sending Alan Marriott the wrong way and Mansfield went in at the break a goal to the good despite never seriously threatening the Lincoln goal.

Fortunately, Mr Kettle's indiscretion didn't have a lasting effect, and indeed may have been the catalyst for the Imps' stirring second half comeback which saw them slam in four goals without reply.

It was a much-needed victory after the immense disappointment at Cheltenham the weekend before.

With the battle for the top seven places reaching volcanic levels, City need to string a run of results together to make sure they cement their place for the second successive season.

Fortunes can change alarmingly quickly in football - just ask Gary Fletcher.

In the space of 18 minutes, either side of half time, his expression had changed from one of disbelief and anger, to joy and relief that he had brought his side back on level terms.

After missing the game at Cheltenham last week with a hamstring injury, Fletcher passed a late fitness test before Saturday's game and was immediately restored to the starting line-up.

In the opening minutes, it was clearly evident what he has brought to the side since his move from Leyton Orient at the start of the season.

All three of Lincoln's strikeforce are bang in form, but there is no denying Fletcher poses the biggest threat to opposition defences as his 14 goals this season demonstrate.

The Liverpudlian makes intelligent runs, holds the ball up well and above all has an eye for goal.

It almost paid early dividends against promotion rivals Mansfield on Saturday.

A clever pass from strike partner Francis Green saw Fletcher skip his way past the cover of Rhys Day and chip the ball towards goal.

It looked to be going in until Tony Vaughan, running back, just managed to get enough of his head on it and divert it wide.

Then Stags keeper Kevin Pilkington, who had another shaky afternoon to follow-up his dismal display at Field Mill back in December when the two sides met, almost presented City with an opener.

Somehow Pilkington dropped an innocuous cross at the feet of Marcus Richardson.

He chipped it goalwards but this time it was David Artell who got back to lash the ball clear.

The early signs were certainly encouraging from a Lincoln point of view. But suddenly Mansfield were handed the upper hand by a combination of Lawrence and the referee.

The tricky right-winger broke into the box and Fletcher - back helping out his defence - was unable to get out the way.

He did his best to avoid contact, but Lawrence went to ground and the referee immediately pointed to the spot.

Lawrence picked himself up and was coolness personified as he calmly sent Marriott the wrong way.

Fletcher couldn't believe the decision and neither could the Imps who must have been praying for the half time whistle to give themselves a chance to regroup.

Whatever was said during the break had the desired effect, as the home side ruthlessly swept the Stags away with a second half avalanche of skill, determination and self belief.

It was fitting Fletcher should be the man to draw them level, just nine minutes into the second half.

A fierce drive by debutant Kevin Ellison was half blocked by Vaughan, and the ball broke to Fletcher who lashed it into the top corner from eight-yards.

That was just the start of things to come as Lincoln ran Keith Curle's side ragged.

It was no surprise when City took the lead after 69 minutes. Picking the ball up in the centre-circle, Fletcher embarked on a powerful run straight at the Stags' goal.

With few options either side of him, he cracked in an unstoppable low drive which went in off the post.

And just two minutes later, Sincil Bank was in raptures as Paul Morgan's long ball forward was flicked on by Richardson and Green calmly lobbed the advancing keeper.

The icing on the cake was added in the final minute when substitute Simon Yeo was put clear by Matt Bloomer's fine pass, and he too chipped the shell-shocked Pilkington to cap a memorable afternoon.

The biggest plus points for the Imps were the debuts of Kevin Ellison and Jamie McCombe.

Ellison, who arrived on a month's loan from Stockport County on Friday, was given a baptism of fire in an unfamiliar left wing-back role.

He was also asked to keep Lawrence - widely regarded as one of the best wide right players in the division - quiet.

On both counts, he did superbly, solid in his defensive duties and more than happy to get forward at every opportunity.

Jamie McCombe, signed from Scunthorpe on Wednesday, fitted in alongside Morgan and Simon Weaver at the back as though he had been playing there all season.

He kept Iyseden Christie quiet, and came close to a debut goal when he rattled the crossbar near the end.

With left back Kevin Sandwith, a £10,000 capture from Halifax, on the bench, the Imps looked to have strengthened their squad at exactly the right time for the final push.


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