Despite a strong finish to the game, Mansfield Town under-18s were made to settle for a point against Lincoln City under-18s at the RH Academy on Saturday.
After going behind early on in the contest, the Stags had to show their resolve to battle back for a draw and certainly had enough chances to win a tightly-contested match.
Jimmy Knowles was the standout performer for the amber and blue and he showed his quality with a stunning volley in the first-half.
Neither team could find the winner in a match that could have swung either way. The Stags looked the more likely to find the decisive goal towards the dying embers of the match, but the Imps held on for a share of the spoils.
The Stags started the game brightly, but failed to create much despite a couple of testing corners into the box from Kian Sketchley.
Despite the Stags’ strong start, it was the visitors who had the best chance in the opening exchanges. Mansfield ‘keeper Maison Campbell could only punch a testing corner from Tobias Liversidge to the edge of the box. The ball dropped perfectly for Niall Parsons who struck a perfectly timed volley just wide.
The visitors did not have to wait too long to open the scoring and were ahead in the 16th minute. The Stags opted to play out from the back and defender Frank Cooper had his pocket picked by Nathan Odokonyero. The striker composed himself and tucked the ball past Campbell to give his side the lead.
The Stags responded well but their efforts to find an equalising goal were thwarted by Lincoln ‘keeper Samuel Long.
Long was first called into action in the 24th minute. A beautifully weighted cross-field pass from Stags’ defender Nathan Saunders found Shamar Lawson on the left. Lawson cut inside and was unlucky to see his fierce drive palmed wide by the Lincoln stopper.
In the 28th minute, great link-up play between Larell King and Ethan Hill created an opening for Knowles in the box. The striker took a touch and created room for a shot, but it was straight down the throat of Long.
The Imps were always a threat on the counter and were unlucky not to add to their lead on the half-hour mark. Lewis Inglis was teed up by the impressive Odokonyero but could only hit the side netting from a tight angle.
Then the Stags found their equalising goal.
With a goal kick, Campbell found the head of striker Joshua Scott, who headed it into the path of Knowles. From the knockdown, the striker made no mistake with a stunning volley from outside the box.
The second-half mirrored the first as two evenly matched teams both pressed to find their first win of the season.
Stags’ goal scorer Knowles thought he should have had a penalty in the 55th minute. The striker was played through by a defence-splitting pass from Ethan Hill. Knowles raced into the box and went down after tangling with Gianluca Bucci. The referee was not convinced, though, and waved away calls for a spot kick.
Lincoln had the chance to retake the lead shortly after. Ben Salt found himself in space after good hold up play from Inglis but the midfielder blazed his shot over the bar from inside the penalty area.
The Stags were dangerous from the flanks after impressive displays from their two full backs. Larell King fizzed an inviting ball across the area in the 59th minute, but it flashed past a lunging Scott.
Knowles was at the centre of most of Mansfield’s attacking play as the Stags looked for the all-important second goal. The striker’s quick feet sent two defenders the wrong way but could only fire wide from just inside the box.
The amber and blue’s best chance to win the game came ten minutes from time. Again, Knowles was at the heart of the attack, finding Hill in space. The midfielder set himself and unleashed a powerful long-range strike which Long was forced to tip onto the bar.
From the resulting corner, Kyle Tomlin should have won it for Mansfield. The midfielder lost his marker but seemed as surprised as anyone that the ball had dropped to him in such an inviting position as he fired straight at the ‘keeper from six yards.
Neither side could force a winner and had to settle for a point in a tight affair and despite three strong performances, the Stags are still searching for their first win of the season.
STAGS XI: Campbell, King, Sketchley, Tomlin, Cooper, Saunders, Caine (Ingram 45’), Hill (Bayliss 83’), Knowles, Scott, Lawson (Fisher 67’).
UNUSED SUBS: Phillips, Adams.
LINCOLN XI: Long, Al-Oyauni, Woodcock, Liversidge, Bucci, Parsons, Gee, Salt, Odokonyero, Inglis, Brooks.
SUBS: Finlay, Wooley, Wadington, Olivant.