MATCH REPORT: Stags old boys come back to haunt them in City fightback
Former Mansfield Town strikers Ollie Palmer and Matt Green made sure their old club suffered a losing start to their Checkatrade Trophy campaign with two late goals as Lincoln City fought back from behind to win 3-1 in the group opener at the One Call Stadium tonight.
Palmer, barracked by the home fans all night, had twice forced saves from Bobby Olejnik early in the second half before he stole in near the end to score from close range.
Mansfield legend Green then added a third in the sixth added minute, rolling the ball into an empty net with keeper Bobby Olejnik upfield for a last ditch corner.
Defender Johnny Hunt impressed on his Mansfield debut as the Stags made 10 changes and dominated the early proceedings.
Alex MacDonald and Alfie Potter were in lively form, City struggling to handle them and Potter fired the home side ahead after just six minutes.
But the home failed to build on that and City were level against the run of play with their first goal attempt as Elliott Whitehouse headed in five minutes from the break.
That goal woke the visitors up and they were much improved in an end-to-end second half with Paul Digby heading against the crossbar just before Palmer and Green stole victory.
The game had its usual ‘local derby’ edge with tackles flying in and City manager Danny Cowley sent to the stand just before half-time for something he said to the fourth official.
Despite the result there were some decent performances to give boss Steve Evans some food for thought for Saturday’s trip to Carlisle.
Evans had promised wholesale changes, though it was still a strong side comprising first team squad players and no youngsters to blood on a very strong bench.
There was also a first start of the season for George Taft in the centre of defence and Jack Thomas in midfield.
Winger Alex MacDonald made a welcome return from a knee injury for his first outing of the season.
Lincoln made six changes from the side that beat Carlisle at the weekend with starts for ex-Stags Ollie Palmer and Luke Waterfall and another three former Stags on their bench in Green, Nathan Arnold and Matt Rhead.
Early balls in from both flanks by Potter and MacDonald had Lincoln on the back foot.
And the home side were ahead on six minutes through an excellent goal by Potter.
He began the move, finding Spencer to his right who then picked out the perfect return pass as Potter burst clear down the centre to slot home a finish wide of Farman for his first goal of the season.
It looked certain to be 2-0 on 14 minutes as Potter and Spencer passed the ball superbly to give Hunt sight of goal 10 yards out only for Long to slide in with a crucial tackle.
Taft was too high with a header from a MacDonald free kick on 17 minutes as the home side continued to press.
Taft then made a block to stop a Palmer shot - Lincoln’s first - from getting much more than six yards into the penalty area on 21 minutes.
Stags defended Lincoln’s corner on 33 minutes and quickly broke with Thomas sending Potter away down the centre with a well timed pass.
He found Sterling-Thomas overlapping him to his right on the edge of the box. But the finish flew across the face of goal and wide.
MacDonald was booked on 38 minutes for taking both Anderson’s legs in a sliding challenge.
The winger then sent in a free kick from the left which Digby headed over six minutes from the break.
But on 40 minutes, against the run of play, City were level with their first real effort.
Long sent in a cross from the right which Whitehouse flicked past Olejnik with a deft header to square it up.
Two minutes later Digby was booked for kicking the ball out the keeper’s hands which provoked some strong words from Danny Cowley on the touchline.
The fourth official called over the referee and the Lincoln boss was sent to the stands.
Stags almost retook the lead on 45 minutes as Sterling-Thomas found Potter at the far post. But his shot hit the turf and shot up before deflecting over for a corner.
Buoyed by their equaliser, City began the second half well and Olejnik had to touch round a Palmer shot on 50 minutes.
Stags again broke well from the corner until Thomas made the wrong choice to pass to a heavily marked Potter.
On 52 minutes Olejnik again denied Palmer, turning his rising shot over the bar.
City forced another corner on 55 minutes with their big away following now noisly behind them and this time Waterfall headed straight at Olejnik.
Mansfield broke back downfield where MacDonald had a deflected shot easily smothered by Farman at his near post.
On 62 minutes MacDonald forced a better save from Farman after a fine, flowing series of passes had worked the ball to him in the box, City then blocking MacDonald’s follow-up from a tight angle.
Olejnik timed his challenge well to take the ball off Palmer’s toes as he chased a through ball.
Then Knott wasn’t far off with a speculative long range curler on 66 minutes.
Stags sent on Atkinson for Thomas on 72 minutes and, having already made a double change, City sent on Stags legend Green on 77 minutes.
The game restarted with a free kick from Hunt on the right which found Digby’s head, only to see the ball hit the bar.
Instead it was City who went in front on 79 minutes. Long got down the right and drilled the ball hard and low in front of goal where Palmer turned it home from close range.
With eight minutes to go Mansfield threw on the pace of Hamilton and goalscoring ability of Rose in place of Sterling-James and MacDonald, who deserved his ovation.
Eardley was booked for time-wasting with five minutes left.
Atkinson came close to levelling the game on 86 minutes as he volleyed a half-clearance inches wide into a back stanchion.
Waterfall was booked for a foul on 90 minutes as five minutes were added on.
That went into a sixth minute in which Stags won a corner.
Keeper Olejnik went up for it, but the ball was cleared and City broke downfield where Green was never going to miss his shy at the empty net to kill off the Stags.
STAGS: Olejnik, White, Taft, Pearce, Hunt, Potter, Thomas (Atkinson 72), Digby, MacDonald, Sterling-James (Hamilton 82), Spencer (Rose 82). Subs not used: Logan, Bennett, Benning, Byrom.
LINCOLN: Farman, Long, Habergham (Eardley 65), Whitehouse, Waterfall, Palmer, Knott, Maguire-Drew (Green 77), Dickie, Anderson, Woodyard (Bostwick 65). Subs not used: Vickers, Rhead, Raggett, Arnold.
REFEREE: David Webb of Lancashire.
ATTENDANCE: 2,495 (898 away). CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Alex MacDonald.