Green breaks City hearts
Former US president James A Garfield once said, 'a pound of pluck is worth a ton of luck', but all Lincoln's pluck counted for nothing last night as they were sunk by an injury-time Matt Green as 'lucky' Mansfield performed a smash-and-grab raid at Sincil Bank to heartbreakingly steal all three points.
A swashbuckling display from the Imps, which was full of heart, verve and fortitude, but unfortunately no end product in front of goal, should have earned Grant Brown's side at least a point as they bounced back from an awful display against Barrow to turn in a performance that gives hopes for the immediate future.
Lincoln dominated for large periods and enjoyed a plentitude of chances, but were wasteful in the areas where it mattered, with ex-City stopper Alan Marriott barely having a save to make in the Stags goal. The returning Jake Sheridan, Alan Power, Vadaine Oliver and Paul Turnbull were all guilty of failing to work the keeper as Lincoln created chance after chance, while at the other end, Paul Farman produced three world-class saves to keep a rather subdued Mansfield at bay.
City showed their intent early on when a lovely move down the left-hand side saw Mo Fofana break free and lay the ball off to Power whose instinctive effort curled just past Marriott's left-hand upright. Nicky Nicolau dragged a free-kick well wide, before Jake Jones saw an effort blocked by the desperate Stags defence. Power then whipped in a free-kick which evaded everyone in the box, before the visitors created their first opening when Green's header was cleared off the line. The danger was not gone, though, and as the ball came back in, defender John Dempster headed goalwards from inside the six-yard box, but Farman brilliantly stuck out his right hand to deflect the effort away, a save which would have the purists purring.
Sheridan then found himself in space on the edge of the box and with City fans calling for him to shoot, he laid the ball off to Oliver, who wastefully fired an effort well wide under no pressure. Power then blazed an effort over, before Turnbull chanced his arm with the same result.
Fans expecting City to roll over against the in-form Mansfield were pleasantly surprised as they really took the game to Paul Cox's men, who seemed surprised at their hosts endeavours. The dangerous Green was hardly given a kick by the central defensive pairing of Andrew Boyce and Scott Garner, while Power, Fofana and Turnbull were harrying and bullying their way through midfield - but all of City's hard work needed to be rewarded with a goal.
Just before the break, Mansfield had a goal chalked off for a clear handball, spotted by the linesman, but that would have been a thoroughly undeserved lead as the high-flying Stags were clearly second best throughout the first period.
With fears that City's chance had gone with the half-time break, they came out still on the front foot and Sheridan should have done better when well placed in the Stags box, but he fired over the bar, something he was to repeat later in the half. Rotund Stags sub Matt Rhead, then nearly made up for his late equaliser in the FA Cup clash at the Bank earlier in the season, by almost heading a clearance past his own keeper Marriott as the Imps kept up the pressure.
The sight of City players attacking at will and surging forward in numbers was sight to behold, but without a clinical frontman on the pitch - both Jamie Taylor and Colin Larkin were dropped - there was no one available to get on the end of some free-flowing moves. Turnbull became the latest player to shoot over the bar, but Farman had to be alert to brilliantly block an Adam Murray effort and then dived superbly to his left to keep out another effort, although unbeknown to him the whistle had gone for a free-kick to City.
Dan Gray had by this time replaced Fofana, who had taken a knock late in the first half and was taken off as a precautionary measure, but still City went in search of that elusive goal, with Power, Jones, Sheridan and Turnbull all getting forward to support lone frontman Oliver.
But just as it looked as though the Imps' efforts were to be rewarded with a point, Mansfield broke forward and Green seized on Lindon Meikle's pass to slot past Farman and crush the morale of every City player and supporter in the stadium. Lincoln's woes were compounded when frustration got the better of Gray and he followed in on Rhead and was shown a straight red card. And despite nearly seven minutes of added-on time, the imps just could not find a route to goal and were left cursing their luck once more.