Brave LINBY COLLIERY WELFARE left their supporters scratching their heads in bewilderment after producing the performance of the season against mighty AFC Mansfield.
Neutrals expected a landslide win for big-spending Mansfield in the Central Midlands League Cup, Third Round (last 16) tie.
After all, they top the North Division with 17 wins and 87 goals from 19 matches, while Linby languish in the bottom three of the South Division with just two wins in 23.
But instead, a pulsating tie finished only 2-1 in Mansfield’s favour as Linby went close to a major upset -- despite being reduced to ten men for the last 27 minutes by a red card.
And their heroic display on a soggy Forest Town pitch left fans puzzled why they have been struggling so badly in the league.
Mansfield didn’t quite see it the same way. “Although the scoreline suggests a close game, it really wasn’t,” said a spokesman. “Had we taken some of our numerous chances and had two further goals not been ruled out for offside, the win would have looked a lot more convincing.”
However, the fact is that, in the end, the two sides were separated only by a controversial winning goal that also led to the sending-off.
It came in the 63rd minute withe the score locked at 1-1. As home striker Joe Naylor latched on to a ball in the left channel, he was clumsily challenged by Linby defender Matt Peberday, back at the club on loan from Arnold Town The linesman, who was only five yards away, indicated a foul outside the area, but the referee gave a penalty.
As the ref went to caution Peberday, the Linby man lost his head and was dismissed for dissent and abuse -- before Mansfield’s top scorer Dean Rick duly dispatched the spot-kick.
The incident left Linby with a mountain to climb. But in the face of such adversity, the locals refused to give up. Their workrate doubled and they pinned the home team back for long periods.
Man-of-the-match Tom Coupe suddenly went into overdrive, covering huge acres of ground down the left. And two of his lung-bursting runs led to chances as Kyle McDermott’s free-kick flew inches wide and a deflected cross struck the base of a post.
Terry Henshaw also went close -- before heading superbly off the line at the other end as Mansfield relied on speedy breaks.
Henshaw had made another goalline clearance earlier, to foil Naylor, as had Peberday, who blocked a shot from Rick.
Rick was always dangerous and it was he who gave Mansfield the lead in the 28th minute when racing on to a through ball from Danny Naylor, shrugging off claims for offside and making no mistake for his 28th goal of the season.
Only a terrific save by Rhys Watkinson denied Rick again. But Linby stuck to their neat football and were rewarded by an equaliser on the stroke of half-time. The move was started by youngsters Mason Frizelle and Ruban Mitchell, and involved Matt Murphy and Ash Winfield, before Rhys Davies crossed from the left for McDermott to hammer home at the far post.