‘All’s fair in love and war’
I’ve said this many times before and I’m sure I’ll say it many more times until we return to the promise land – the blue square bet premier has its positives and its negatives – a massive negative for us has been the lack of ‘derby’ action. Fair enough in our first season, we drew the C word (I refuse to dirty my blog with the full title) in the FA Cup, however taunts from start to finish about the gap in league standings plus a humiliating defeat saw us all curse the magical FA Cup. The agony about that game was the fact we didn’t know when both sides would lock horns again, in fact we still don’t! My point is, the BSBP has thrown up no derby league action at all – that was until we travelled to Lincoln City’s Sincil Bank on Tuesday for the first time since January 2008.
Each trip to Sincil Bank has given me some memories, some good and some not so. Take for instance the time the home support chose to throw flares at us travelling fans – one landed right in the middle of the stags support, missing a small child by inches. I’m glad the individuals responsible we’re dealt with and that, the following year in stand it was the football that made the headlines as a struggling Mansfield struck in the last minute to get three points and inject some hope of relegation survival. We all know what happened there (excuse me whilst I cry once more).
Back to the current season and following a 3-1 defeat at home to Southport at the weekend, Paul Cox made five changes to his side. In came Martin Riley, Joe Kendrick, Paul Connor, Paul Bolland (Full debut) and Lindon Meikle, whilst Ben Futcher, Tom Naylor, Louis Briscoe, Jon Worthington and Andy Todd went out.
Luke O’Neill – Martin Riley (Futcher) – Ritchie Sutton – Joe Kendrick (Naylor)
Ross Dyer – Paul Bolland (Worthington) – Adam Murray (C) – Lindon Meikle (Todd)
Paul Connor (Briscoe) – Matt Green.
BENCH: Shane Redmond – Jon Worthington – Louis Briscoe – Andy Todd – Rhys Day.
With the trip to Sincil Bank being one of the shortest, it wasn’t a surprise to see so many stags fans out in force, from the far side (stood at the back of the main stand behind the dugouts and tunnel) the away end looked rammed, the noise was electric and as the stags we’re lead out by skipper Murray, I had to remember I was live on air to stop myself singing along with the magnificent travelling support!
As the game got underway, the visiting support refused to be silenced as the struggling home side started brightly, Good combination play between Alan Power and John Nutter saw the latter deliver a ball into the box which former imp Alan Marriott collected with ease. Moments later, Nutter delivered a quick free kick following Murray’s foul, however Sam Smith was flagged offside.
Luke O’Neill delivered some testing long throw ins from the right hand side, however it was his covering movement which played a key part in creating Mansfield’s first real chance of the game with 11 minutes gone. Kendrick’s free kick was headed away to Lindon Meikle who combined with O’Neill, Meikle whipped in a testing cross from O’Neill’s return ball, Lincoln headed away but didn’t bank on Adam Murray’s eagerness for a first goal of the season, the stags skipper controlled neatly and fired a half volley from distance into the hands of the grateful keeper.
Mansfield had been undone on several occasions by the long throw in on Saturday, O’Neill continued to attempt long throws for the stags, nearly seeing one pay off with 19 gone. The ball whizzed in and fell nicely for Paul Connor, his shot deflected into the path of Dyer who couldn’t find the back of the net under pressure – from the hosts scurried clearance, stags built again, Martin Riley fed O’Neill wide right, his first time left footed cross was headed on by Connor who found Green, however the Oxford loan man was flagged offside.
Three minutes later it was the home side who created problems, John Nutter’s left footed in swinging corner was chipped back in after being headed away, Sam Smith pulled away from his marker to force Marriott into a neat save on his return to Sincil Bank.
A good passing movement saw Meikle fire into the side netting as the half passed the midway point, Meikle then set another good passing move up which ended in Matt Green being denied by Imps shot stopper Joe Anyon. However it was Meikle who was closest to opening the scoring seven minutes from the break. Joe Kendrick’s left sided throw found Green who in turn fed Meikle, who smashed a curling effort against the corner of the cross bar, the ball agonisingly bouncing back down and away rather than down and in.
No real chances of note followed Meikle’s spectacular effort and the half fizzled out, the half time whistle signalling 2,944 supporters plus two members of the press racing for the warm half time refreshments!
Half Time: Lincoln 0-0 Stags
An end to end couple of minutes opened the second half, Joe Kendrick & Lindon Meikle we’re stopped in their tracks by Tony Sinclair, his clearance wasn’t dealt with by Sutton or Riley and Gavin McAllum screwed a shot wide.
Lincoln began to look livelier as the game went on, Alan Power controlled things well for the imps and Karl Cunningham was unfortunate not to see his effort find the target. Mansfield needed someone to take control once more so typically up stepped skipper Murray, and his midfield partner Paul Bolland to start one of the stags’ best moves of the game. Bolland, making his first start since joining us from Macclesfield in the summer, found O’Neill wide right who nipped off to find space giving the ball to Murray. Paul Connor then provided the link to send O’Neill on his way once more, however his pass to Matt Green was pressured and Lincoln got half a foot too it. Bolland picked up play again and allowed Murray space to work some passes, eventually spraying the ball left for Kendrick to deliver a testing cross – Ross Dyer rose highest at the back stick heading narrowly over.
Mansfield should have been ahead with 67 on the clock, Luke O’Neill delivered a free kick perfectly for Martin Riley who headed powerfully towards goal – denied only by a fine save from Anyon in the imps’ goal, and Ritchie Sutton was also unfortunate to put the rebound wide.
Despite Mansfield’s chances, it was the home side who opened the scoring with 76 minutes on the clock, Adam Murray looked to get Mansfield moving down the right but couldn’t find Dyer with the pass, Joe Anyon sprinted off his line to intervene – his clearance stayed in play and dropped kindly for McCallum at the other end after Martin Riley tied himself in knots. McCallum fired fiercely past Marriott who stood no chance.
Lincoln 1-0 Stags
Paul Cox introduced Louis Briscoe for Ross Dyer and the stags kept creating chances as the noise from the away end got louder with each kick, Anyon kept out efforts from Briscoe, Connor, Kendrick & Meikle before finally conceding four minutes from time. Paul Bolland sent Paul Connor through with a lovely weighted pass, the former imp’s striker saw the run of strike partner Green and slotted in a neat left footed pass which Green slid onto and tapped home to level the game, before sprinting over to the away end which had erupted in celebration.
Lincoln 1-1 Stags
Mansfield sensed a winner and nearly got one straight from the restart, Adam Murray won the ball back and played a neat ball over the top in search of Green, however Anyon was determined not to concede a second in quick succession and powered out to clear the loose ball.
Lindon Meikle curled a tame effort miles wide, much to the disappointment of Green, Connor and Briscoe who were all cueing up inside the box as Lincoln crumbled. This would prove to be Meikle’s last kick as he pulled up with cramp; Andy Todd replaced him for the final few minutes of the game.
A late chip by Murray found Connor who sent Green on his way wide left, doing well to earn the stags a throw in – Luke O’Neill raced across to deliver it long, but no sooner had O’Neill launched the ball back into play; the referee blew the full time whistle.
Full Time: Lincoln 1-1 Stags
Sorry for the lateness of this post, I’ve had some personal issues to deal with which has taken up a proportion of my time, I promise normal service will be resumed at the weekend! Join myself & Scott Rogers on 106.9FM & online (link on the right) for regular updates on Stags Vs Alfreton on Saturday afternoon from 2.
Thanks for reading.
PICS: Dan WestwellPODCAST: