REPORTS FROM LINCOLN SITES
Lincoln 4 Mansfield 1
This was the proverbial game of two halves as Lincoln City overturned a half-time goal deficit to secure all three points via four excellent second half goals.
Lincoln's manager Keith Alexander had spent the past few days playing the transfer market by signing three new players. James McCombe arrived on a free transfer from Scunthorpe United, while Kevin Sandwith signed for £10,000 on Friday from Halifax Town. The third signing was a loan signing as Stockport County's Kevin Ellison has agreed to join Lincoln on a month's loan.
Last Saturday, Lincoln disappointingly lost 3-2 at Cheltenham, so as expected, there were several alterations to that side. Fit-again Mark Bailey and Gary Fletcher regained their starting places at the expense of Dave Wattley and Simon Yeo. New signings, McCombe and Ellison were handed their debuts at centre-half and left-back respectively. This meant that Matt Bloomer and Richard Liburd, as well as Yeo, dropped to the substitutes' bench; joining them was Sandwith and Dene Cropper.
Referee Trevor Kettle was quickly in the midst of the action when he spotted a 3rd minute backpass offence committed by Mansfield. The visitors were incensed and were lucky not to receive any cautions as they continued to dispute the decision and prevent the free-kick from being taken. Ben Sedgemore drilled the free-kick towards goal, where the ball ricocheted to Peter Gain, whose shot was deflected for a corner. Ellison took the corner but his delivery was very poor, leaving Lincoln's fans to wonder why he had been signed. They need not have worried as both Ellison and McCombe had very impressive debuts.
In the 6th minute, Lincoln won their second corner, which was taken by Sedgemore. Francis Green was able to head the ball but David Artell cleared for a throw-in. The opening fifteen minutes were all Lincoln, as they made Mansfield look like an ordinary Third Division side instead of a promotion chasing team.
Soon after a 10th minute corner for Lincoln had been cleared, they nearly opened the scoring. Fletcher went on a run down the left-hand side, beat the defender and cut inside the penalty area. Mansfield goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington came out to narrow the angle, so Fletcher lifted the ball over Pilkington, but alas, it rebounded off the crossbar and cleared to safety.
Mansfield's first shot at goal came in the 15th minute when Tom Curtis tried a shot that went just wide of Alan Marriott's goal. Within a minute though, Curtis was back defending yet another Lincoln corner, knocking the ball out for a second corner. Sedgemore took this corner and arriving at the far post to power a header that went wide, was Bailey.
Having weathered the Lincoln pressure, Mansfield began to try and impose themselves on the game as the half-hour mark approached. Liam Lawrence won a free-kick when he fell under pressure from Ellison. Lawrence promptly took the free-kick, and Artell was able to head the ball straight at goal, where Marriott made a superb save to tip the ball over the crossbar. The subsequent corner came to nothing, although Mansfield quickly regained possession. From another set-piece, the ball fell to Iyseden Christie who was clearly in an offside position. Christie spectacularly volleyed the ball past Marriott, but the goal was rightly disallowed for offside. However, after the Huddersfield farce, where Lincoln succumb to a clearly offside goal, Lincoln's fans held the breath until the it was absolutely certain that the referee had given an offside.
Against the run of play, Mansfield took the lead via a disputed penalty. Fletcher was alleged to have tripped Lawrence inside the area, leaving the same player to easily beat Marriott for 1-0. Soon after, Lawrence irritated the home side further by sustaining an "serious" leg injury that required several minutes of treatment before he was able to run around as normal!
Lincoln almost snatched an unexpected equaliser in the 40th minute when Ellison's corner was just palmed away by Pilkington for another corner before the ball could enter the goal straight from the corner. There was though, to be no equaliser as Lincoln went into the interval unjustly losing 1-0.
The second half began with Lincoln making a substitution as Bailey, who was deemed a major risk for this game, failed to reappear after the interval and was replaced by Bloomer. Mansfield seemed settled for the 1-0 victory and their players, Pilkington in particular, were in no hurry to make the match an entertaining and flowing game. Quite possibly, this was their undoing as their antics were not approved of by Lincoln's supporters. Pilkington in particular came in for criticism from the supporters in the Stacey-West stand, and it has to be said, Pilkington was effected in a huge way.
Marcus Richardson earned Lincoln a free-kick in the 52nd minute when he was fouled by Rhys Day. From the free-kick, Lincoln won two consecutive corners, but lacked the final shot. However, two minutes later, Lincoln won another set-piece. Mansfield failed to clear the ball properly and the ball fell nicely to Ellison who sent a volley from the edge of the penalty area towards goal. The ball was deflected en route to goal, and fastest to react was Fletcher who slotted the ball past Pilkington for 1-1.
From then on, it was all Lincoln, with McCombe being denied a debut goal when Pilkington claimed his header. The ball was then pumped forward, which lead to Sedgemore making an uncharacteristic mistake. Fortunately, his teammates covered on his behalf, but Mansfield remained in attack. In a bid to correct his mistake, Sedgemore raced towards the player in possession and sliced him down, which earned him a caution.
Although Lincoln had the initiative, they were lacking the scoring touch, so in the 67th minute, Alexander prepared to bring on Yeo for Green. First though, Lincoln won a corner that led to Sedgemore trying a clever flick from the edge of the penalty area that Pilkington gathered. To a chorus of jeers, Pilkington's delivery from his kick was poor and the ball fell straight to Fletcher just inside the Mansfield half. Fletcher beat his marker, before firing a 25-yard shot past the stranded Pilkington for 2-1.
Meanwhile, Yeo's substitution was put on hold as Alexander wondered what to do next to ensure that Lincoln kept that lead. He had little time to think, as within two minutes it had become 3-1 to Lincoln when Richardson's pass went over the Mansfield defence to find Green. He was then met by Pilkington, and promptly chipped the ball over Pilkington's head and into the empty net for 3-1.
Mansfield's immediate response to the third goal was to take off Wayne Corden for Colin Larkin. Five minutes later, and Alexander did eventually bring on Yeo for Green. In the 79th minute, Mansfield's recent signing Laurent D'Jaffo was replaced by Andy White.
A huge cheer echoed around Sincil Bank in the 80th minute when Lawrence was cautioned for dissent over a foul by Curtis on Fletcher. Two minutes later, a possibly injured Gain was replaced by Richard Liburd. As the clock ran down, Lincoln were by no means finished, and Fletcher was unlucky not to compete his hat-trick as he was just inches away from reaching Ellison's superb cross.
Another excellent pass in the 85th minute released Yeo on the far side, leaving him clear on goal. Alas, he rushed his shot and drilled the ball well wide of the target to the annoyance of Imps' assistant-manager Gary Simpson who shouted at him to "take the man on". Yeo was obviously paying attention as four minutes later, from the precise same situation, he turned his man before the lobbing the ball over Pilkington for 4-1. Just prior to the fourth goal, McCombe was again unlucky not to score as his acrobatic shot from Sedgemore's corner, rebounded off the crossbar.
Mansfield's fans began leaving with ten minutes remaining; by the final whistle, the away section was almost completely empty so few witnessed the entirety of Lincoln's dominant performance.
Lincoln City: Alan Marriott, Mark Bailey, Kevin Ellison, Jamie McCombe, Paul Morgan, Simon Weaver, Peter Gain, Ben Sedgemore, Gary Fletcher, Marcus Richardson, Francis Green.
Subs: Matt Bloomer (for Bailey 45), Simon Yeo (for Green 76), Richard Liburd (for Gain 83), Kevin Sandwith, Dene Cropper.
Mansfield Town: Kevin Pilkington, Bobby Hassell, Rhys Day, David Artell, Tony Vaughan, Liam Lawrence, Tom Curtis, Craig Disley, Wayne Corden, Iyseden Christie, Laurent D'Jaffo.
Subs: Colin Larkin (for Corden 72), Andy White (for D'Jaffo 80), Jamie Clarke, Lee Williamson, Jason White.
Report from redimps.com
Imps boss Keith Alexander handed two of his three new signings their debut to take on The Stags.
Jamie McCombe came in at center-half for the suspended Ben Futcher, who served the second game of his two-match ban. Kevin Ellison, who signed for the Imps on a one-month loan from Stockport County on Friday morning, lined up at left wing-back.
Left-back, Kevin Sandwith, who put pen-to-paper on a contract until the summer of 2005, was named amongst the City substitutes.
Both top goalscorer, Gary Fletcher (hamstring) and right-back, Mark Bailey (groin) passed a late fitness test ahead of the match and took their place in the starting line-up.
Richard Liburd, who saw red at Cheltenham last weekend, was named on the bench. Youngster Dave Wattley wasn't named in the this afternoon's squad due to Mark Bailey's return.
Alan Marriott donned the City gloves, behind Jamie McCombe, Simon Weaver and skipper Paul Morgan. Kevin Ellison and Mark Bailey gave the side some width at wing-back. Peter Gain and Ben Sedgemore combined in the center of midfield. Gary Fletcher, Francis Green and Marcus Richardson – buoyed by his two goals at Cheltenham last Saturday – joined forces in attack.
New boy Kevin Sandwith sat beside Simon Yeo, Dene Cropper, Matt Bloomer and Richard Liburd on a City substitutes bench which was full of options.
Ex-Manchester United goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington stood between The Stags' sticks, behind Bobby Hassell, Rhys Day, David Artell and Tony Vaughan at the back. Influential midfielder Liam Lawrence joined Tom Curtis, Craig Disley and Wayne Corden in midfield. Iyseden Christie linked up with new signing Laurent D'Jaffo, who netted the winning goal in Mansfield's 1-0 win against Hull last week, up front.
Striker Colin Larkin joined Jamie Clarke, Andy White, Lee Williamson and Jason White on the Mansfield substitutes bench.
With the drizzle clearing and the sun shining bright over a packed Sincil Bank, Mansfield kicked off, spurred on by their impressive away following, with the Imps attacking the Mundy Stand end.
City's Kevin Ellison appeared to have been given the task of using his experience to keep a close eye on Stags' dangerman Liam Lawrence. While fellow new recruit, Jamie McCombe, looked to snuff out the threat posed by the big Laurent D'Jaffo.
City had a golden chance to get their noses in front after just four minutes when David Artell's backpass gave the Imps a free-kick 12 yards from goal. Ben Sedgemore, Mark Bailey and Peter Gain all stood over it while Mansfield got as many men in the way of the goal as possible. And it was the latter who hit it, but it was blocked and out the ball ran for a throw-in on the far side.
It was a lively opening with the crowd's vocal chords in full gear. And it was the home side who started the brighter of the two teams in terms of attacking play. City's front three of Gary Fletcher, Francis Green and Marcus Richardson all looked eager.
Good link-up play between Fletcher and Peter Gain down the left won City a corner after 11 minutes but Ben Sedgemore's delivery was well claimed by Stags' goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington.
Pilkington had to be at his best two minutes later to deny Gary Fletcher as City continued to press forward. Francis Green's pin-point pass found the feet of Fletcher, the striker took it in his stride, knocked it one side of Rhys Day and ran round him the other, and into the box.
He looked to chip it past Pilkington and into the far corner but the 'keeper got a touch and there was Tony Vaughan to head it off the goal-line to save Mansfield's skin.
At the other end, Mansfield's Tom Curtis tried his luck with an ambitious 35-yard lob from Alan Marriott's goal-kick but his effort sailed well wide of the target.
The Imps won two corners in quick succession after 15 minutes: the first, a dangerous inswinging cross from Kevin Ellison being headed over his own cross bar by David Artell. The second saw Ellison head wide at the far post from Ben Sedgemore's set piece.
As the 20-minute mark passed, possession was 50-50 but City could claim the best of the attacking play in this opening period. On 21 minutes, Peter Gain saw a half-hit volley from the edge of the Stags' area reach Francis Green whose clever back heel from eight yards out had Pilkington backpedaling, although Green was flagged offside.
The Imps' Gary Fletcher was looking especially lively and was popping up all over the park winning ball after ball for his side. The ex-Leyton Orient striker was so far showing no signs of his knocks and bruises sustained in recent weeks – as play continued in midfield.
But then, strong work by Marcus Richardson carved open a chance for Mark Bailey at the back post on 24 minutes. Richardson cut inside and crossed deep to the right flank where Bailey climbed high to beat Tom Curtis and send a header high over the Stags' upright.
Mansfield won a free-kick about 40 yards from goal to give the visitors a chance to bombard City's box. Liam Lawrence's floated set piece found David Artell but his header was tipped over by Imps 'keeper Alan Marriott. The home defence headed the resultant corner away to safety.
Dead on half an hour, Mansfield had the ball in the back of the net. The ball came across to Iyseden Christie inside the City box and he rifled a right-foot volley past Alan Marriott and into the top corner – but it was offside. The linesman rightly raised his flag as the Stags' striker appeared to be several yards offside, to silence the away supporters in the far corner of the virtually-full Co-Op Stand.
Speedy winger Wayne Corden caused the Imps defence some problems as, on 31 minutes, he crossed deep to the far post and Alan Marriott had to backtrack, the 'keeper couldn't hold it and Laurent D'Jaffo was ready to pounce but Marriott made a super block to push the ball away to safety.
Mansfield were starting to look dangerous on the attack and the Imps' fears were justified when the Stags were awarded a penalty on 35 minutes. Liam Lawrence – always a threat – wriggled into the City box and knocked the ball the other side of Gary Fletcher, the two collided and referee Kettle pointed to the spot. The Mansfield midfielder went down a bit too easily for my liking.
But the decision stood as City players contested. Lawrence came face-to-face with Alan Marriott, Lawrence stepped up and tucked the ball away in the bottom right hand corner of the net, giving Marriott no chance, to put his side 0-1 up.
City's goalmouth chances at the other end seemed to had dried up in the following ten minutes as the half-time break loomed – a chance for Keith Alexander's men to regroup having conceded possibly against the run of play after a strong opening spell, and indeed, from the penalty spot. That's all that separates the two sides.
Two minutes of added time were announced over the tannoy as the sun disappeared behind the clouds. There was no action to report during injury time and so the half-time whistle sounded.
HALF-TIME: LINCOLN CITY 0 MANSFIELD TOWN 1
The Imps kicked off the second-half attacking the Stacey West end, with Matt Bloomer now at right wing-back in place of Mark Bailey who had passed a late fitness test on his groin prior to kick-off.
The first five minutes of the second period were scrappy with both sides yet to get the ball down and settle. Gary Fletcher did look to be racing away towards goal when he latched on to Francis Green's clever through ball until the linesman flagged for offside.
City won a corner on 53 minutes after Jamie McCombe's cross was deflected wide. Kevin Ellison's dangerous cross was headed out for a second corner on the other side.
This time, it was Ben Sedgemore who delivered with his right peg, it fell to Kevin Ellison on the edge of the box and he struck a low effort that Kevin Pilkington couldn't hold, it fell out to Gary Fletcher who hammered the ball past Pilkington into the top right corner of the net. 1-1, Fletcher's 13th goal of the season and one which his performance deserved, especially after being penalized for the first-half penalty.
The Imps were right back in it and were on top now, the deserved equaliser acting as a major confidence booster. Gary Fletcher got hold of the ball again in the final third of the field with the home crowd spurring him on, before Matt Bloomer won City a corner on the right. However, Kevin Ellison's corner flew over the head of Marcus Richardson at the far post and out for a throw-in on the far side.
Fine work by Matt Bloomer and Gary Fletcher down the right saw the latter cut inside and burst into the area and his cross was hacked wide by Tony Vaughan. Kevin Ellison's corner caused the Stags defence some problems with Marcus Richardson and Jamie McCombe both climbing.
The Imps' pressure finally paid off and in some style as City went 2-1 in front through the impressive and insatiable Gary Fletcher on 68 minutes.
Fletcher's first touch was first-class, he got his head down and surged forward on another of his trademark attacks and, 25-yards from goal, the striker unleashed an unstoppable low right-foot drive which arrowed straight into the far left bottom corner and past a beaten Pilkington. Fletcher's 14th of the campaign as that top goalscorer's chart nears ever closer.
But before anyone had a chance to calm down, just over 60 seconds later, the Imps netted a third almost directly from the restart. Marcus Richardson's deft flick on fell into the path of Francis Green, he beat the offside trap and his electric pace took him past the last defender.
Stags' goalkeeper Pilkington rushed out but the ball had already looped over his head and into the back of the net to send City soaring into a 3-1 lead. Green wheeled away in delight performing an acrobatic flip as delirious home fans jumped for joy in the stands. The pace of the City attack was crystal clear on that occasion.
Mansfield boss Keith Curle rushed on striker Colin Larkin from the substitutes bench in place of midfielder Wayne Corden in a bid to salvage something from the match.
From the restart, the Imps were on the attack again as Kevin Ellison – who was enjoying a fine debut – skipped down the left and sent over a teasing cross which had Pilkington flapping, as the ball just arched over the far upright.
Imps boss Keith Alexander opted for fresh legs in attack as he replaced Francis Green with Simon Yeo. Green, the scorer of the Imps' third goal, turned in a lively display capped by his 70th minute strike and duly received a rousing ovation from the home support as he left the field.
Five minutes after his introduction, Yeo had a half-chance to extend City's two-goal lead. With the defence soaking up all that Mansfield were throwing at them, it looked highly likely that City's lead would remain intact.
Marcus Richardson climbed well yet again to flick on a header into Yeo's path, the striker beat his man down the left but his touch evaded him and the ball went behind for a goal kick. On 82 minutes, Richard Liburd replaced Peter Gain in the center of midfield to keep things tight.
Centre-half Jamie McCombe came oh so close to grabbing a debut goal when he hit the crossbar from eight yards out. The ball came across into a crowded box and it fell out to McCombe – who had a solid debut – and his left-foot strike bounced off the underside of the bar and away.
The visiting supporters began to leave in droves as the home side pressed forward. And two minutes from time, the Imps made it four as Simon Yeo's persistence paid off. With the Mansfield defence splitting at the seams Yeo beat the offside trap and had plenty of time to look up, spot Pilkington off his line and lob the outcoming 'keeper to make it 4-1. Game, Set and Match, the seal on a fine finish to the match.
This signalled another mass exit from the visiting fans who had seen their first-half lead evaporate in a ruthless second-half from City. Four minutes of added time were announced over the tannoy but those soon passed to allow City's battling troops to celebrate a magnificent scoreline with the home fans at the final whistle.
FULL-TIME: LINCOLN CITY 4 MANSFIELD TOWN 1
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