Jake Sheridan returned from suspension and Vadaine Oliver was recalled to the starting line-up for this Blue Square Bet Premier local derby against Mansfield Town at The 12th Imp Sincil Bank Stadium. Jamie Taylor and Colin Larkin were the men dropping to the bench as a result of this double switch.
It was a cold late February evening as referee Darren Handley led the two teams out of the tunnel and once the pre-match formalities were done and dusted play got underway with City kicking off attacking the Bridge McFarland Stand.
The first incident of the game saw the overlapping Tom Miller cynically blocked by Colin Daniel, who somehow escaped a yellow card, and when Nicky Nicolau swung in the resultant free-kick, Alan Marriott did well to punch clear.
City kept the ball in the attacking third and when Mo Fofana broke down the left he picked out Alan Power who took a touch before curling a right footed effort inches past Marriott's left hand post.
A foul on Sheridan by James Jennings then gave the Imps a ninth minute free-kick in a decent position but Nicolau's low driven effort fizzed well wide with Marriott untroubled. Jake Jones then found himself in space inside the box but delayed his shot which allowed the Town defence to block his effort.
The Imps continued to dominate the opening quarter hour with a Lee Beevers foul on Oliver bringing about another set-piece with Power's dangerous free-kick somehow evading a team mate in the six-yard box as the bodies flew in.
Mansfield's first attack of note didn't come until the 22nd minute when a deflected Daniel effort went behind for a corner and when this was swung in by Jennings, Green saw his flicked header cleared. The ball was quickly played back to Jennings and when this ball came in, Paul Farman produced a superb point-blank save to deny Joihn Dempster.
City's response was immediate and when Sheridan broke forward, he skipped past a couple of challenges and slid a ball into the path of Oliver but the striker side-footed wide with only Marriott to beat.
From the Imps' next attack, Power fired over after Andrew Boyce had nodded a Miller free-kick into his path whilst on the half-hour mark another half-chance came along when Power and Oliver exchanged passes before the latter prodded with as Marriott came quickly off his line to put him off.
The pressure continued - and Marriott's goal somehow remained intact - with Paul Turnbull drilling just over whilst at the other end Daniel was penalised for hand-ball before he prodded past Farman from six-yards.
In the 37th minute Jones forced Beevers to concede a corner on the Imps' left with the former City defender duly heading Power's corner over his own bar. Marriott rose well to claim this corner, which was taken by Jones on the opposite flank.
Dempster picked up a caution three minutes later for a block on Oliver before Beevers needed lengthy treatment after remaining grounded following a challenge on Jones. The ex-Imp looked to be in some discomfort as he was helped to his feet by his physio before the Fourth Official indicated that a minimum of three added minutes were to be played.
Another break in play came when Fofana went to ground clutching his knee and although he returned he appeared to be struggling as referee Handley blew for the break.
HT: Imps 0 Mansfield 0
With Fofana and Beevers emerging for the start of the second half it was as you were as the Stags restarted things.
It was a cagey opening to the second half with Oliver caught by Beevers before Fofana was penalised for a trip on Lee Stevenson inches outside the box with the visiting fans appeals for a penalty waved away. Jennings' delivery was blocked by Power and cleared by Oliver before a counter-attack from Sheridan came to nothing.
With the atmosphere cranking up good play from Oliver saw him win a corner but Power's deep delivery was too high for Oliver who saw his stretched effort go well over. City's next break ended with Sheridan volleying over after a Power effort was deflected into his path.
At the other end a sliced Garner clearance led to a Mansfield corner and after this was cleared Fofana was harshly booked for obstruction on Briscoe. A Mansfield change then saw Matt Rhead replace Lee Stevenson.
Dan Gray for Fofana was the Imps' first switch and the changes continued with indon Meikle coming on for Louis Briscoe for the Stags. Meikle was quickly in the action, with a trip on him by Paul Turnbull earning the City man a caution.
Town defender Luke Jones followed Turbull into the book for a trip on namesake Jake Jones and as the game entered its final 20 minutes Rhead headed a Power corner past Marriott and behind for a corner which the Town 'keeper punched away.
Five minutes later a City break down the left ended with Turnbull curling over when a square ball to either Oliver or Sheridan would probably have been a better option. Shortly afterwards Farman did well to block an Adam Murray effort before Town forced two corners in quick succession as they enjoyed a rare spell of possession.
With just over six minutes remaining Meikle was booked for diving under a Turnbull challenge and a couple of minutes later the substitute fired well wide after he was set up by Rhead. Adam Smith then came on for Jake Jones for the Imps.
Five additional minutes was indicated by the Fourth Official and 90 seconds into these extra stages, Mansfield broke the deadlock when a ball into the box was nodded down by Meikle and there was Matt Green to slot past Farman. Green was booked for over-celebrating and Ben Hutchinson came on for him before play restarted.
In a last-ditch attempt to get something fully deserved from the game, Colin Larkin came on for Paul Turnbull but things only got worse as, when Rhead was left grounded following a clash with Gray, referee Handley after consultation with his assistant produced a straight red for the Imps' substitute. Sheridan was also cautioned before things calmed down.
Play eventually ended following almost seven added minutes with the Imps made to pay for their failure to break through a Mansfield defence from at least one of their chances, most notably those in the first half.
FT: Imps 0 Mansfield 1
City: Paul Farman, Tom Miller, Andrew Boyce, Scott Garner, Nicky Nicolau, Paul Turnbull, Mamadou Fofana, Jake Jones, Jake Sheridan, Alan Power, Vadaine Oliver.
subs: Adam Smith (for Jones 88), Jamie Taylor, Colin Larkin (for Turnbull 90+5), Dan Gray (for Fofana 64), David Preece.
bookings: Fofana (62), Turnbull (67), Sheridan (90+6)
sending off: Gray (90+6)
Mansfield: Alan Marriott, Lee Beevers, John Dempster, Luke Jones, James Jennings, Chris Clements, Adam Murray, Louis Briscoe, Colin Daniel, Lee Stevenson, Matt Green.
subs: Ritchie Sutton, Lindon Meikle (for Briscoe 65), Nick Wright, Matt Rhead (for Stevenson 63), Ben Hutchinson (for Green 90+3).
goals: Green (90+2)
bookings: Dempster (40), Jones (69), Meikle (85)
Referee: Darren Handley
Assistants: Chris Ward & Simon Mather
Fourth Official: Matt Walsh
Attendance: 2,734 (1,107 visiting supporters)