A much-changed Mansfield Town were defeated 3-1 by Lincoln City in the Checkatrade Trophy group stage at One Call Stadium this evening.
The home side made 10 changes to their starting XI from their last match against Luton Town, and were the better side for much of the contest.
Stags took the lead in the sixth minute of the match, when winger Alfie Potter bent the ball home from the edge of the box after being fed through by striker Jimmy Spencer.
The Imps got back on level terms late in the first half when midfielder Elliott Whitehouse headed home from eight yards out, before second half goals from former Stags Ollie Palmer and Matt Green sealed the victory for the Imps – the latter in second half stoppage time when Stags had sent everybody forward in search of an equaliser.
Stags’ boss Steve Evans made 10 changes to the side which drew 2-2 with Luton Town on Saturday, with defender Krystian Pearce the only man to keep his place and was also handed the captain’s armband for the affair.
Defenders George Taft and Johnny Hunt made their first starts of the season, whilst midfielder Jack Thomas was named in midfield, along with Alex MacDonald, who made his first appearance since returning from a knee injury.
Stags started brilliantly and immediately put the visitors under pressure when frontman Omari Sterling-James was brought down on the right flank, but winger Alex MacDonald’s free-kick was headed away from danger.
Winger Alfie Potter showed great pace to nip past former Stag Ollie Palmer and left-back Sam Habergham with the ball, but was then brought down as he went to cross. MacDonald was again the man to take it, but Palmer headed away.
Potter and MacDonald were both in the thick of the action early on and in the fourth minute, the latter expertly shifted the ball onto his right foot and clipped a great cross into the box, but it fell loose the Imps’ six-yard box before it was hacked clear.
Stags then took a much-deserved lead in the sixth minute. Olejnik cleared the ball first-time towards the halfway line, where Potter rose beautifully to flick the ball on to striker Jimmy Spencer.
The former Northampton Town winger carried on his run and received the ball back from Spencer before bending it past Imps’ stopper Paul Farman from the edge of the box.
Lincoln did well to contain Stags after the opening goal, but the next real action of the game involved the Imps needing a last ditch challenge to prevent Stags’ lead from doubling.
Spencer, who started impressively, received the ball on the edge of the box and slotted it through the smallest of gaps to on-rushing left-back Johnny Hunt, who was denied what looked to be a certain goal by a superb last-ditch tackle by Sean Long.
Stags were overpowering their Lincolnshire opponents and Potter again proved to be a thorn in their side when he won a free-kick on the right-edge of the box in the 16th minute. MacDonald clipped it onto the head of defender George Taft, but he couldn’t direct his effort on target.
The Imps didn’t have their first sight of goal until the 27th minute, when skipper Krystian Pearce brought down Lincoln forward Billy Knott 25 yards from goal. Habergham took control of the situation, but curled his kick harmlessly over the bar.
Lincoln won their second corner of the game in the 32nd minute but Stags cleared the ball to Thomas and he set Potter away on the counter attack. The winger carried the ball from just inside the Stags’ half to the edge of the Lincoln box, where he fed it through to Sterling-James, but the former Solihull Moors man dragged his shot just wide of the far post.
Spencer was excellent for the Stags in the first half and his clever through ball towards midfielder Jack Thomas almost perfectly found the 21-year-old, but Luke Waterfall was there to intervene.
Despite being second-best for almost the entirety of the first half, the Imps were level five minutes before the break. Hunt and MacDonald were both sucked into the ball in the corner, but Jordan Maguire-Drew managed to escape their attentions and lay it off for right-back Sean Long, who whipped the ball onto the head of midfielder Elliott Whitehouse and he directed his header beyond Olejnik in the Stags’ goal.
Three minutes later, Lincoln boss Danny Cowley was sent to the stands by referee David Webb.
As the game edged towards the half-time interval, Stags had another good chance to add to their goal tally.
Sterling-James was given the opportunity to run at the Lincoln defence for the first time and he got to the byline before finding Alfie Potter at the back post, but his volley was deflected over the bar.
The two sides came out for the second half and Stags should have had a penalty in the 47th minute. The ball was played into the box and Jimmy Spencer went racing after it, only to be pulled back by Waterfall, but nothing was given by referee David Webb.
Lincoln came forward three minutes later and Olejnik was called into action after Johnny Hunt misjudged his header and Billy Knott hit a half-volley which the former Exeter man had to tip around the post.
The Imps had a corner a minute later but Stags broke forward through Potter and should’ve done better. The former Havant and Waterlooville man carried the ball through the middle of the pitch, fed it to Thomas on the right, then received it back in the box but his touch was loose and Lincoln cleared long up-field.
Boss Steve Evans’ men started piling on the pressure and winger Alex MacDonald had two chances within as many minutes.
Thomas and Sterling-James combined down the left and the latter rolled the ball into the box for the over-lapping Alex MacDonald, but his shot was deflected and Farman saved easily.
The next effort tested the Imps’ stopper much more vigorously, however. Spencer played an intricate reverse pass to MacDonald and he hit a stinging effort towards the near post, which Farman got down to and held at the second attempt.
Olejnik had to be alert in the 64th minute as former Stag Ollie Palmer was sent through on goal, but the Stags’ ‘keeper came racing out of this goal and collected the ball from the feet of the Imps’ frontman.
Lincoln were enjoying a good spell of possession and they had a golden opportunity to take the lead from a header. Waterfall peeled off to the back post and the ball was planted perfectly on his head, but he could only direct his effort into a crowd of players and Stags cleared.
Stags replaced Jack Thomas with midfielder Will Atkinson after 72 minutes.
MacDonald, whose delivery from set pieces had been good all night, curled a ball into the box on 77 minutes and midfielder Paul Digby flicked a header against the bar.
Just two minutes later, however, Stags were behind. MacDonald appeared to be pushed on the edge of the box, but the referee allowed play to go on and Sean Longs low drive was turned in by Ollie Palmer from a yard out.
Manager Steve Evans reacted to going behind by introducing striker Danny Rose and winger CJ Hamilton in place of the Alex MacDonald and Jimmy Spencer.
Stags went close to equalising in the 86th minute when Hunt’s long throw was headed out to Atkinson on the edge of the box, and the substitute hit an excellent volley marginally wide.
Stags were piling bodies forward as the fourth official indicated a minimum of five minutes would be added, and the visitors scored their final goal in the last minute of extra time.
Goalkeeper Bobby Oleknik made his way forward as Stags were awarded a last minute corner, but the Imps broke and with second half substitute Matt Green one-on-one with Will Atkinson, the Bath-born forward rolled it into the net from 25 yards to ensure Lincoln secured maximum points in the first Checkatrade Trophy fixture of the season.
STAGS’ XI: Olejnik, White, Pearce, Taft, Hunt, Thomas (Atkinson 72), Digby, MacDonald (Hamilton 82), Potter, Sterling-James, Spencer (Rose 82)
SUBS NOT USED: Logan, Bennett, Benning, Byrom
LINCOLN XI: Farham, Long, Waterfall, Dickie, Habergham (Eardley 65), Anderson, Whitehouse, Woodyard (Bostwick 65), Maguire-Drew (Green 77), Knott, Palmer
SUBS NOT USED: Vickers, Rhead, Arnold, Raggett
REFEREE: David Webb
ATTENDANCE: 2,495 (898 away)