Last-gasp Rhead denies Lincoln
Matt Rhead’s dramatic last-gasp equaliser earned Mansfield Town an FA Cup with Budweiser Second Round replay against Lincoln City after a pulsating encounter at Sincil Bank.
The burly striker came off the bench to guide home Louis Briscoe’s right-wing cross deep into second-half stoppage-time and deny the Imps victory.
In what was an encounter packed with non-stop drama, Matt Green fired the Stags ahead when he capitalised on some slack defending from Andrew Boyce.
Lincoln hit back through Alan Power on the cusp of half-time, before Jamie Taylor tapped home a loose ball as the Imps established a lead soon after the break.
Briscoe’s sensational volley temporarily drew Mansfield level, until Power re-established Lincoln’s lead midway through the second period.
And the Imps looked set for a famous cup victory right up until Rhead broke the hearts of David Holdsworth’s side with his last-gasp equaliser.
Backed by over 1,000 travelling fans, Mansfield enjoyed more possession than the hosts in the early minutes of the game, but struggled to find any holes in the resilient Imps defence.
The Stags continued to dominate territorially, and after Paul Farman comfortably claimed a right-sided corner from Chris Clements, star-striker Green almost chased down Tom Miller’s sloppy header back to the Imps shot-stopper.
Nevertheless, it was Lincoln who created the first meaningful chance on 15 minutes, when Dan Gray’s looping long-throw from the left flank reached Adam Smith at the back post, who stabbed his shot well wide of Shane Redmond’s left-hand post.
Mansfield almost opened the scoring moments later when Lee Beevers’s cross from deep on the left flank was agonisingly flicked wide of the target by Green.
But the troublesome Stags striker, who posed a constant threat to the Imps defence, soon broke the deadlock when he capitalised on Boyce’s sloppy intended back-pass to Farman, before superbly rounding the shot-stopper and slotting home.
Devastated and despondent by conceding an early goal, Lincoln struggled to keep at pace with Mansfield, and Green in particular, who came within inches of doubling the lead on the half-hour mark.
A defence-splitting ball from Beevers down the inside-left channel cut the Lincoln defence wide apart, and when Farman again came aimlessly rushing from his line, Green once again rounded the athletic custodian, but saw his final shot from a tight angle trickle agonisingly wide of the post.
Chances proved to be few and far between, though Lincoln registered their first attempt on target when Taylor fired a speculative 35-yard free-kick straight at Redmond, who saved comfortably.
The Imps only seemed to pose a serious threat from set-pieces and it was from Power’s free-kick that the hosts undeservedly drew level just before half-time.
Skipper Adam Murray fouled Taylor on the edge of the area, which allowed Power to curl the subsequent free-kick around the Mansfield wall and into the bottom left-hand corner, despite Redmond’s best attempts to scupper across goal and make a save.
The Stags then suffered more misery two minutes after the re-start as Holdsworth’s side struck again.
Gray’s long-throw from the left caused pandemonium inside the Mansfield six-yard-box, and after Redmond saved Taylor’s header at point-blank range, the Imps striker capitalised on some static defending and swooped to stab home the resulting loose ball.
But the Stags weren’t to be behind for long and soon drew level in spectacular fashion.
Mo Fafana hacked down Green on the inside-left, and when the Imps defence only partially cleared Clements’s subsequent delivery into the box, Briscoe, stationed on the edge of the area, crashed a thunderous left-foot volley into the top corner, which gave Farman no chance.
With the Sincil Bank crowd at tenterhooks with the end-to-end action, Mansfield then survived a nervous moment on 65 minutes, when Power floated a well-struck free-kick across the face of Redmond’s goal.
But less than 60 seconds later, the Imps re-established their one-goal lead.
Taylor weaved his way past two men and did well to hold off a challenge from Lindon Meikle, but his superbly struck shot from the edge of the area was palmed away by Redmond, only for Power to hook the resulting delivery into the back of the net.
Now in the ascendency, the Imps began to look even more threatening and after Redmond turned Power’s low free-kick around the woodwork, Boyce rose highest to head over from the resulting corner.
Jake Speight replaced Ben Hutchinson in attack as Mansfield searched desperately for a route back into the tie, and the substitute almost delivered an equaliser when Geohaghon’s long-throw reached him in the area, but under pressure, the Imps managed to bundle the ball clear.
Lincoln could have then put the tie beyond doubt, seven minutes from time, when Gray’s long-throw was met by Miller on the overhead-kick, who saw his thunderous effort crash back off the woodwork, before a relieved Stags defence hurriedly cleared the danger.
Each minute continued to pass in agonising fashion for Paul Cox’s side, but in second of what proved to be four nail-biting and gruelling added minutes, Rhead snatched a dramatic equaliser.
Rhead, who had seen a powerful header palmed away by Farman just seconds earlier, rose highest at the back-post to meet Briscoe’s ball into the six-yard box, and placed his effort into the bottom left-hand corner, which sparked scenes of jubilation amongst the Mansfield faithful.
But with minimal-time left, Lincoln carved out one final chance as Vadaine Oliver’s goalbound header looked destined to ripple the net, until Briscoe, superbly positioned at the back-post, headed from the line and saved Mansfield from what would have been torturous despair.
Attendance: 4,127 (1,176 away supporters).