Vanarama National League
Boreham Wood 1-1 Lincoln City
Attendance: 661 (away support 364)
WHEN the National League fixtures were published last summer, this was one of the first I looked for.
Three members of last season's Mansfield Town squad - Lee Beevers, Matt Rhead and Liam Hearn - made the move east to Lincoln City during the close season. Also now with the Imps are two players who appeared on loan at the Stags during the 2014/15 campaign - Luke Waterfall and Terry Hawkridge.
All five of those ex-Stags were in the Lincoln starting line-up at Meadow Park this evening.
It was a big night at the Wood. The Imps' 364 travelling fans outnumbered the home support; the two rows of media seats at the back of the main stand were full, leaving at least one local journalist and Wood's Press Officer needing to find a seat elsewhere; team sheets were like gold dust too - not even a spare one for England C manager Paul Fairclough, a frequent visitor to Meadow Park this season.
In a pre-match chat with one of the Lincoln match commentators sitting just behind me, I was reminded of Matt Rhead's last-minute equaliser at Sincil Bank in December 2012, when an FA Cup 2nd Round tie between the Imps and Mansfield Town had ended in a 3-3 draw.
It was Mansfield who went on to win the replay, setting up a lucrative 3rd Round home tie against Liverpool, where the Stags, despite losing narrowly, put in a performance which seemed to inspire them for the rest of the season. They would soon embark on a run of 20 wins in 23 games, charging up the Conference table and securing promotion back to the Football League.
After scoring 14 goals already this season, Rhead has - so I was told - now almost been forgiven for that last-gasp goal against his current club three seasons ago.
The pros and cons of Matt Rhead's three-and-a-half seasons with Mansfield are still an occasional topic of debate among Stags fans. Often used as an impact player during the club's Conference years, the big striker found himself starting more games after Stags' promotion and the departure of top-scorer Matt Green in 2013.
The fiercest critics of Mansfield's then-manager Paul Cox still bemoan too many long balls lumped forward to Rhead, who would find himself tightly marked by League Two defenders, wise to the tactic.
But it was with classic 'route one' football that Lincoln took an 18th-minute lead at Meadow Park this evening. Another of the former Stags, full-back Lee Beevers, sent a 50-yard punt straight onto the head of Rhead, who directed a downward header beyond Wood keeper James Russell.
Reacting positively, Wood drew level within seven minutes, also with a header. Anthony Jeffrey sent a high cross into the box from the left, and Clovis Kamdjo rose to direct the ball over Imps' keeper Paul Farman.
Rhead's strike partner Liam Hearn was also a Mansfield player last season, but sadly missed most of it through injury. Now at last enjoying a spell of injury-free football, Hearn came within a whisker of putting the Imps back in front less than a minute into the second half, as Jack Muldoon's ball across the Wood box passed just in front of the in-rushing number 9.
Wood then went on to enjoy a dominant spell of play, with the speedy Anthony Jeffrey becoming a particular thorn in Lincoln's side down the left flank.
Sadly for Luke Garrard's team, a second goal remained elusive, and during the last 15 minutes it was the visitors who came closest to snatching a late winner. Had the Imps succeeded, it would have been cruel on Wood, given the part they had played in what had become an absorbing contest.
This was a much-improved performance from Boreham Wood, unrecognisable from last week's hugely disappointing FA Cup exit here against Northwich Victoria. But Wood may still feel frustrated that they couldn't convert any of that second half pressure into a goal and a vital third home win of the season.
On the plus side, Wood gained a point - one more point towards securing a second season at this level.
And the performance has raised fans' spirits in advance of Saturday's home game against Tranmere Rovers - another game Wood fans will have had their eyes on since the fixtures were published some five months ago.
My report for Real Footy Talk is here.
My report for Real Footy Talk is here.