Lincoln City lost their final chance to qualify for Europe after a 2-1 defeat to Mansfield Town in the FA Cup second round replay.
The game, which took place on Wednesday, December 13th, was held at Field Mill, as both teams were fighting for a place in the third round against Premier League giants Liverpool.
On a day when the subject of every Tweet and Facebook status update was about the date 12/12/12, it seemed fitting that David Holdsworth’s side lost two goals to one.
However, the game did not befit the occasion. With fans expecting a contest akin to the first game between the two sides in which The Stags produced a late equaliser, the result was a dire game of hoof ball.
Mansfield Town started well, putting a well-aimed pass over the top to pacey striker Matt Green, but defenders Tom Miller and Andrew Boyce, who were shaky in the first fixture, managed to clear it.
The first real effort for the Imps came after a speculative long ball to lone frontman and top scorer Jamie Taylor, who ended up colliding with former Lincoln City keeper Alan Marriott.
It was Mansfield though who drew first blood, after a well hit free-kick from Chris Clements met the head of John Dempster and looped over the onlooking Paul Farman. The ball bounced off the post and rolled in off Farman’s foot, as Lincoln City trailed 1-0 after fifteen minutes.
Against the run of play, a neat Dan Gray flick saw pacey Imps winger Smith beat the offside trap, race clear of the onrushing Exodus Geohaghon and dink a weighted lob over Marriott to level the scores at 1-1 just before the half-time whistle.
Smith once again proved to be the danger man as he rushed down the left hand side, before firing a powerful shot which Marriott could only punch away for a corner.
Chants of “you’re not singing anymore” and “you’re supposed to be at home” rang out around the stadium from the 1,604 away supporters.
The teams went in at the half-time break level, while the fans continued to berate each other across the pitch.
In the second half, two early corners for Mansfield Town saw centre back Dempster again rise above his marker to glance a strong effort on target which was saved by Farman. The rebound was pounced upon by the lively Stags captain Dempster, forcing Farman into another save.
Down the other end though a neat trick from Alan Power on the right played in goalscorer Smith, whose through ball was flicked out by Taylor.
Around the 50 minute mark, the Imps started to see the better of the play as a low drive from Power across the box had the Stags defence at sixes and sevens to clear it.
With the home side searching for the breakthrough, super-sub Matt Rhead was brought on for ex-Imp Ben Hutchinson, whose ill-fated spell at the club led to a chorus of boos as he departed the ground.
Late in the game, an incisive Lincoln counter-attack after a Mansfield throw saw Taylor play in an onrushing Sheridan, whose flick deflected off the keeper to Smith, whose cross met the head of Taylor, only to be saved by Marriott.
Nevertheless, Mansfield were not going down without a fight and, after some confusion in the box, winger Louis Briscoe fired in a thunderbolt which had Farman well beaten, making it 2-1 to the Stags with 15 minutes left on the clock.
After falling behind, the Lincoln City boss went all out, bringing on Vadine Oliver and Colin Larkin, but it was a case of too little too late as Mansfield ran out 2-1 winners and any hopes of facing Liverpool in the third round were dashed.
A pitch invasion followed, which saw Holdsworth having to be escorted down the tunnel by police.
Paul Farman – 6
The Linc Sport Man of the Match. May have got an own goal, but it wasn’t his fault. Kept the Imps in the game and pulled off some good saves.
Dan Gray – 5
Set up one goal and at fault for Mansfield’s second. His crosses were often abysmal, however his throws were dangerous.
Andrew Boyce – 6
Dealt well with the long ball onslaught, but lacked ideas with the ball at his feet.
Tom Miller – 5
Some good interceptions, but managed to make average strikers look quick with how slow he is.
Peter Gilbert – 6
Solid, if not uninspiring in possession.
Gary Mills – 4
Went missing against his old side. Outmuscled often and gave the ball away too much.
Mo Fofana – 4
For a big lad, he was outmuscled a lot and beaten in the air often. Not a good performance by a normally good player.
Adam Smith – 5
Scored but squandered possession and ran into cul-de-sacs too often.
Jake Sheridan – 5
Anonymous in the first half, but put some good defensive contributions in in the second half.
Alan Power – 5
Some nice flicks and tricks, but contributed nothing of any real value throughout.
Jamie Taylor – 5
Fed off scraps and was up against a 6′ 9” beast of a defender in a game of hoof ball. Only one outcome.