EVENING POST REPORT AND REACTION
TAKE POSITIVES FROM RALLY
Evening Post, 04 October 2004
Mansfield Town 2 v 2 Lincoln City
Is the glass half full or half empty? Should Stags be happy to have come back from 2-0 down to earn a point, or unhappy that they found themselves in that position in the first place?
Was it a point gained, or two points dropped?
The post-match reaction was mixed.
There will have been plenty of questions asked in the dressing-room after the Stags found themselves trailing by two goals.
But the positives from this game just about outweighed the negatives.
One of the biggest minuses was that they failed to beat a struggling Lincoln outfit at Field Mill.
They showed the resolve to turn a two-goal deficit into a point but it was a frustrating day which could have turned out worse.
Adam Murray's strike in first- half stoppage time handed Stags a lifeline and they could have clinched maximum points with their much-improved second-half performance.
However, the pessimists who prefer the half-empty view will point to the fact that Mansfield have not actually won in four games, not counting the penalty shoot-out cup victory over Darlington.
Pluses to come out of Saturday's game include the extension of Mansfield's unbeaten run to six games and Alex John-Baptiste's first goal for the club, which ensured Stags stayed within three points of table-toppers Yeovil Town.
Chris Tate, Adam Eaton and Jake Buxton were injured but manager Keith Curle welcomed back a host of players who had been ruled out in midweek.
From having 11 players unavailable for the LDV Vans Trophy clash against the Quakers, the Stags boss was able to name an unchanged 16 from the squad which drew 1-1 at Scunthorpe.
But the first half started badly and gradually got worse until Murray's late intervention.
Martin Carruthers, who was close to signing for Curle's side in the summer, hit a post in the fifth minute and Stags found themselves behind to an early goal yet again when Gareth McAuley converted a 14th-minute corner.
When Simon Yeo made it 2-0 in the 44th minute, Stags had the proverbial mountain to climb.
But they took the first step of their ascent with a scruffy goal just before the break.
A classic game of two halves saw Lincoln dominate the first and Stags the second.
After John-Baptiste's header levelled, Stags pressed on in search of a winner and created enough chances to have won by a comfortable margin.
Spurred on by the noisy home fans, who had been lifted by the equaliser, Mansfield put the visitors' defence under pressure for long periods in the second half.
MANAGER PLEASED AT PLAYERS' FIGHTBACK
Evening Post, 04 October 2004
Manager Keith Curle did not believe Stags did enough to earn a win.
"You get what you deserve in football," he said. "You have to earn the right to play. If you give any team a two-goal start it's going to be difficult. But the pleasing thing is we stuck at our task.
"We got punished for slack defending for their first goal.
"We knew there was going to be an aerial threat from Lincoln and you have to stand your ground, but I was pleased with the way the players responded.
"The goal before half-time gave us a foothold in the game and as soon as we got the second I thought there was only going to be one winner."
Curle was pleased with Derek Asamoah, who had been a doubt with a calf problem.
"We were hoping to get an hour out of him and for him to score a couple of goals so we could give him a rest," he said. "Derek played his part with his work rate and commitment and was a threat with the ball."
CURLE: ALEX IS STAYING PUT
Evening Post, 04 October 2004
Keith Curle says he will not be surprised if interest in young defender Alex John-Baptiste from other clubs develops this season.
But the Stags boss says he "won't be going anywhere".
"He's a young man who enjoys taking information on board and using it," said Curle.
"I've played him at left-back, right-back, centre-back and in midfield, but he's not a jack of all trades.
"He's predominantly a defender and he's got a defensive mentality."
Curle was pleased with the 18-year-old's performance.
And not just the goal he scored to earn his side a point.
"We're trying to add goalscoring to his repertoire," Curle said.
"He's growing and learning and he wants to learn.
"It wouldn't surprise me if there's interest in Alex.
"He's doing very well, but people like Alex are the foundation of this football club and he's not going anywhere."
ALEXANDER GLAD TO ESCAPE WITH POINT
Evening Post, 04 October 2004
Imps boss Keith Alexander was pleased his side collected a point at Field Mill, despite the fact they let slip a 2-0 lead.
"It's a difficult place to get a result," he said. "We played very well for an hour, but we gave them a goal at the wrong time. It was a sloppy one to concede.
"I can't be too critical of my players. Mansfield have beaten teams like (league leaders) Yeovil and I think it's an excellent point. We battled well and with a bit of luck might have won it.
"I'm not going to be disappointed with players who have worked hard and got a point at a place like this.
"We were worthy of 2-0 but after they got one back we knew we'd be under the cosh."
IMPS PASS UP GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY TO SEAL FIELD MILL SUCCESS
Lincolnshire Echo, 04 October 2004
A point gained, or was it two precious points dropped at Field Mill?
A buoyant Lincoln City side had confidently strode their way into what seemed like a match-winning two-goal lead against near neighbours Mansfield Town on Saturday.
With Gareth McAuley, Ben Futcher and fit-again skipper Paul Morgan outstanding at the back, goalkeeper Alan Marriott had little to do in the opening 45 minutes.
Only the lightning pace of lively Stags forward Derek Asamoah seemed to have any effect, but Morgan was more than up for the challenge in the sprinting stakes as the two jostled like a couple athletes in a 100 metres Olympic final.
Starting with Martin Carruthers, Simon Yeo and Gary Taylor-Fletcher as a strike trio for the first time, City were full of movement in the final third, and the forwards were given plenty of juicy ammunition by the mercurial Peter Gain and the tenacious Richard Butcher in midfield.
It almost paid off as early as the fourth minute when Gain's clever ball fed Carruthers.
He turned smartly but saw his low shot cannon back off the foot of the post.
It was no surprise when the breakthrough arrived after 14 minutes as McAuley headed home a Taylor-Fletcher corner - his first goal in City colours.
The three strikers then combined on the stroke of half-time to give Yeo the chance to curl home a delightful shot from the edge of the box.
This was more like the Imps of old - the side who have made the play-offs for the past two seasons.
After doing the double over the Stags last season, the odds were now stacked heavily in favour of a welcome hat-trick.
But the game changed two minutes into first half stoppage time when Adam Murray stole in to head home a lifeline goal for his side.
It arrived just after Yeo's second, and that old footballing adage of 'you're never more vulnerable than just after you've scored' rang so true.
Within six minutes of the restart, the hosts had drawn level through Alex John-Baptiste - another free header in a crowded penalty box.
Lincoln's hard work had been seriously undermined by two defensive lapses, yet the backline had been the firm base for another impressive away display.
There's no doubt the timing of Mansfield's first goal was crucial in getting them back into the game.
Had they gone in at half-time trailing 2-0, you really couldn't have seen them pulling that deficit back.
They would have been deflated, and no doubt manager Keith Curle would have been forced to issue a strong wake-up call.
But even though they were losing 2-1 and still had a big job on their hands, it was Mansfield who jogged off at the interval with a skip in their step.
Murray's goal saw him steal in between two defenders, and loop a header past Marriott who was rooted to the spot.
It was a crucial strike which proved to be the catalyst for the Stags' fightback.
Futcher, for one, knew it and he couldn't hide his frustration as he angrily punched the air.
So when Mansfield levelled so early in the second half, the pendulum had swung very much back in the hosts' favour.
Their crowd, who had been so quiet for long spells in the opening 45 minutes, suddenly came back to life as they believed a sensational comeback was in the offing.
Yet it seemed as though Mansfield were content with a point as the dangerous Asamoah was substituted. It wasn't until the final 10 minutes the game really opened up again with a rasping drive from the home side's Wayne Corden which was just inches over.
Then Butcher forced keeper Kevin Pilkington into a sprawling, finger-tip save.
However, with both sides protecting hard-earned unbeaten records, it was no surprise neither was prepared to gamble too heavily.
It was likely Lincoln would have settled for a point before Saturday's game.
Since losing to Bristol Rovers on the opening day of the season, the Stags have won four successive matches at Field Mill - scoring 11 goals in the process - so to end that run was a notable achievement.
The Imps had strung together a run of four games unbeaten - three draws and a win - in September.
Points are vital at present after the poor start Alexander's side made, and it was vital to avoid defeat on Saturday.
So from that perspective, it was a point gained.
However, to be held after leading 2-0 and being in such firm control of proceedings must have felt like defeat at the final whistle.
The two goals conceded were disappointing, from a defensive point of view, and being strong at the back is something Lincoln pride themselves on.
Mansfield look as though they have top seven finishers written all over them again this season, so City can be pleased with the way they blunted them for much of the game.
But there is no doubt victory was there for the taking on Saturday.
KILLER INSTINCT NEEDED, SAYS CITY STRIKER SIMON
Lincolnshire Echo, 04 October 2004
Striker Simon Yeo admits the Imps must learn to kill teams off.
For the second time this season, City let a two-goal lead slip as they were held 2-2 at near-neighbours Mansfield Town on Saturday.
They suffered a similar fate last month at home to county rivals Boston United, as the Pilgrims netted twice in the last seven minutes to deny Lincoln victory.
And in two other home games during the current campaign - against Southend and Chester - City have been pegged back to draws after establishing early leads.
Defender Gareth McAuley gave Lincoln a 15th minute advantage at Mansfield with his first goal for the club since his £10,000 move from Coleraine two months ago.
And a precision finish by Yeo, right on the stroke of half-time, looked to have put City in the driving seat.
But Mansfield scored in first-half stoppage time thanks to Adam Murray, and the fightback was completed shortly after the restart with Alex John-Baptiste's header.
"It was very frustrating to go two goals ahead, and then have to settle for a draw," conceded Yeo. "They were sloppy goals to concede from our point of view, but it's something which seems to have crept into our game in recent weeks.
"We have to kill teams off when we get the chance, and we did have chances in that first half. Martin Carruthers hit the post early on, and I thought we looked threatening against them.
"But their first goal came at a crucial time. Had we gone in at 2-0, then it would have been very difficult for them to come back. However, they scored in stoppage time which handed them back the momentum even though we were still ahead."
Yeo - signed from non-league Hyde United in July 2002 - is backing his team mates to put extend their current unbeaten five-match unbeaten run.
However, he acknowledges victory at home to bottom club Kidderminster Harriers on Saturday is essential.
"Our season hasn't started yet. But when it does teams will start to get punished by us," said the popular striker.
"We've not had a good start, but we didn't last season and still made the play-offs. We seem to be playing in patches, but when everything clicks - and it will do - we'll start climbing up the table and even now we're only seven point outside the top seven.
"We need to win on Saturday because we have to start winning our home matches."
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