Imps must take points to stay in the play-off hunt

City travel to Mansfield this evening in a game which will make or break our play off ambitions. A failure to bring home any points at all would open up a gap between us and the top seven which would be incredibly tough to close over the next two months.

The Stags have been rocked by the departure of ‘larger than life’ manager Steve Evans, but with new manager David Flitcroft already embroiled in the hunt for a top seven finish, the impact may be lessened significantly.

City have no new injury worries, January signing James Wilson is still out injured whilst keeper Josh Vickers remains a long-term absentee. Scott Wharton, Luke Waterfall and Michael Bostwick will all by vying for a place in the centre of defence, although the latter is perhaps better employed in a midfield role.

Flitcroft already knows some of the squad having had Jacob Mellis and Danny Rose at Bury and it will be Rose likely to lead the attack for the Imps visit. He sat on the bench for our clash earlier in the season, but emerged from the dugout to score the only goal of a tightly-knit game. Rose has 17 for the season, five from the last eight matches and he’ll be the one to stop if City are to come away with anything at all.

They’ve clearly outspent most, if not all of the League Two promotion hopefuls, so it is rather ironic that their star man was already at the club prior to Evans arriving.

In truth, Mansfield are finally beginning to ascend to the heights expected for a majority of the season. They’ve clearly outspent most, if not all of the League Two promotion hopefuls, so it is rather ironic that their star man was already at the club prior to Evans arriving.

Midfielder Alex McDonald is another significant threat, he leads the Stags assist charts with six, but his all round game is about much more than just creating goals. He’s their midfield livewire, he created the goal that earned them a 1-1 draw against Coventry last time out and again, he’s one City must look to stop.

The most likely outcome, according to Footstats prediction model, is a 1-0 win for the home side, followed closely by a 1-1 draw. Whilst a draw would be a satisfactory result, City could really do with a win to edge closer to the top seven. For the first time in a long while, we can’t end the night in a play off spot, but we can do our hopes the world of good by finding a result.

One thing a prediction model cannot factor in is the personal motivation of players and between Matt Green and Matt Rhead, there’s plenty of motivation to succeed. Green was bombed out of Field Mill by Evans, despite his never-ending hard work and constant goal threat. He’ll want to score against his old club almost as much as Rhead. It was Rheady, back in 2012, who scored the goal against City to earn an FA Cup replay, where the winner ultimately got a tie against Liverpool. Green scored in that game too and tonight we hope they’ll both be on the mark in City colours.

Matt Green will be hoping to shine against his old employers

Expect a tight game, despite the home advantage for the Stags. They average 13 shots per home match whilst we usually manage nine away, meaning there is very little to separate the sides. In terms of corners they average 5.41 at home, us 4..88 away. Our set pieces were once our most favourable route to goal and that may be the case again tonight. We tend to commit more foul, 15 on average per away game whilst they concede 11 on average at home.

Danny Cowley was dismissed during our last encounter at Field Mill, the 3-1 win in our opening Checkatrade Trophy game. Ollie Palmer, another former Mansfield player, scored that evening and he’ll be hoping for the same again. Danny, unprovoked by the pantomime of Raynor and Evans, will be hoping to remain on the touchline and avoid a fourth sending off of the campaign.

The referee is Graham Salisbury, he’s sent of five players in his last six matches and dismissed ten for the season from 31 games. He took charge of our win against Everton in the Checkatrade, but hasn’t officiated an Imps league game since 2011 when we lost 2-1 at home to Wycombe Wanderers. He’s been on the circuit for eighteen years and in 2002 he sent off Carlisle’s Darren Kelly as we lost 2-1 in the FA Cup first round. Rather ironically, Ben Futcher scored for City that afternoon and will be in the Mansfield dugout tonight after moving with Flitcroft. Salisbury was the referee that also sent off Leon Mettam ten minutes after coming on as a sub as we lost 4-1 at home to Hereford in 2007.

Tonight’s match isn’t easy, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it is one Lincoln need to turn up for. Two defeats on the spin have made it as close to a ‘must win’ as you can get when you’re comfortable in mid table, but if we have aspirations of anything bigger than consolidation then tonight is the time to stand up and be counted.