United deservedly draw as Fleming reign begins

Lincoln United and Market Drayton Town battled out a 1-1 draw at Ashby Avenue as the Whites’ newly-appointed boss Terry Fleming experienced his first taste of management with a well-deserved point.

Market Drayton captain Marc Stallard opened the scoring for the visitors within the first 10 minutes with a commanding header from a corner, but Sam Mullarkey’s 82nd minute equaliser made sure Fleming’s men didn’t go home empty-handed.

Fleming has been at United since 2008, but made over 200 appearances for local rivals Lincoln City in the '90s. Photo: Tom Farmery

The result leaves Lincoln in 13th place in the Evo-Stik League Division One South – a comfortable 18 points outside the relegation zone, whilst Market Drayton climb to 19th – a point ahead of 20th-placed Leek Town.

Fleming made two changes to the side that lost 2-1 to Belper Town two weeks ago – former manager John Wilkinson’s final game in charge – with Sean Wright and Liam Bull coming in for Kallum Smith and Steve Melton – both of whom had been struggling with injuries.

The visitors took the lead after just eight minutes, when central defender and Market Drayton skipper Marc Stallard rose above the United defence to comfortably head home.

But the Gingerbread Men, who had lost four league games in a row going into the fixture, didn’t test the Whites’ ‘keeper Craig Turner for the rest of the first period.

Former Lincoln City striker Sam Mullarkey nearly leveled things up for United, turning neatly in the box before firing a shot across Andrew Spooner, but the Market Drayton ‘keeper did well to divert the ball behind for a corner.

United captain Brendan McDaid twice went close with headers – neither of which troubled a largely untested Spooner in the visitors’ goal – as the home side went into the break behind.

The Whites’ onslaught continued throughout much of the second period, with Market Drayton struggling to get the ball out of their own half.

Fleming brought on Sam Wilkinson whose dominant presence in the United attack signalled a new lease of life for George Zeurner, who switched to the right wing after struggling up front.

Almost immediately after the change, Lincoln were level. Sean Wright picked up the ball on the half way line and played a searching ball into the Market Drayton box. His pass somehow found its way through a line of bodies to Sam Mullarkey, who coolly finished for what was a deserved goal for the striker.

The visitors, who had only had one further attempt at Craig Turner’s goal to add to their first half opener, almost stole all three points in dramatic fashion with practically the last touch of the game, though.

As the sides entered the final minute of stoppage time, Jason Oswell broke free of the United defence and found himself one-on-one with Turner.

The Crewe Alexandra loanee’s shot evaded the Whites’ ‘keeper, but crashed against the near post.

Speaking after the final whistle, the Whites’ manager Terry Fleming reflected on his side’s performance.

“Overall, I think we dominated the game and probably should’ve got more out of [it], but we’ll take a point.

“We created three or four really, really good chances and on another day, we’d win that 4 or 5-1, but on the flip-side of that, we could’ve lost it 2-1.”

Fleming also commented on how he felt his first experience of juggling the playing and managing sides of his career went.

“It’s difficult, because I’m on the pitch. I don’t think there’s an ideal position to be player-manager, but [right back] is one of the better positions to play and manage.

“When I’m on the pitch, I’m not a manager, I’m a player, and if I’m not doing my job right, I still want people to tell me.”

United’s next game is also at Ashby Avenue, as they host 6th-placed Carlton Town on Tuesday, 1st March.

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