JOHN Coleman admitted the scoreline doesn’t lie - but it didn’t tell the whole truth of the Friday clash at Sincil Bank.
A 5-1 scoreline looks like a thumping and, in the end, it did turn out to be just that as the Imps laid siege to Stanley’s goal and scored five goals in the final 22 minutes.
But it didn’t explain Reds keeper Kenny Arthur playing the second half with what turned out to be a bleeding kidney - which led to three nights in a Lincolnshire hospital after a seemingly innocuous challenge at the end of the first half.
It also didn’t take into account Stanley’s depleted squad - with four teenage outfield players on the bench.
Star man Paul Mullin didn’t make it through with his broken toe, left back Chris King was a shock omission with a groin injury while Leam Richardson (stomach) and Peter Cavanagh (Achilles) remained sidelined and Rostyn Griffiths had returned to Blackburn. It certainly made for a patched-up side with teenager James Bell coming into the right back slot for a rare start.
But, saying that, on first half evidence the new look Stanley should have been 3-0 up against a Lincoln side low on confidence and with four defeats in their previous five games.
But a half-time gamble by Imps boss Peter Jackson - where he put on three substitutes - swung the game in the home side’s favour and Stanley’s defence, so often praised this season, fell apart in the final 20 minutes to make it the worst loss of the season.
"There wasn’t five goals in it but that’s what it will say in the papers and what it will say in the goal difference column," said the Reds boss.
"If Jeremy Beadle hadn’t sadly passed away I would expect him to come round the corner in a minute. It was like an episode of "You’ve been framed" and the way we have capitulated in the last 10 minutes is embarrassing.
"I have got to take a lot of the blame. Kenny Arthur was passing blood at half time, he took a whack in the kidneys, we had him looked at by a doctor. He thought he was okay to go back out when perhaps he wasn’t. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but maybe we should have taken him off.
"I didn’t expect to have as many injuries as we did before the game but the lads who have come in have got to be capable of playing or else they shouldn’t be here."
And in the first half, they showed they were more than capable. Winger John Miles scored his second wonder goal of the season on 11 minutes, cutting inside and unleasing a shot from the edge of the area into the top corner of the net.
The Imps could conjure up little and didn’t have a shot until the half hour mark which was easy for Arthur.
Other than that it was all Stanley with John Mullin and Andy Procter in charge in midfield and the new look back line keeping things tight.
And the Reds should have had more - keeper Rob Burch missed a Miles ball in with Lee Beevers back to clear as Jamie Clarke and Gregg Blundell were lining up to score.
Then, on 38 minutes, another Miles ball in was dropped by Burch and a melee followed with Procter stabbing the ball over the line - but referee Mark Haywood ruled it out for a foul which seemed harsh on the Reds as it was a loose ball.
And, on the stroke of half time, the visitors broke and Blundell passed the ball back to set up Clarke but his deflected effort was hacked off the line by Lincoln defender Daniel Hone.
Then came the challenge on Arthur for which he had lengthy treatment but he was soon back out warming up at half-time so it seemed the 30-year-old had recovered.
And the Reds boss would have been the happier at the break as his side were in total control. The only worry was they hadn’t turned it into a bigger goal margin and the Imps had the strong wind advantage after the break.
And that and the combination of three subs including Adrian Patulea - a Romanian striker who was spotted by Jackson while running round the Imps training pitch carrying his wife on his back to get fit - made the difference.
Ben Wright and Sam Mullarkey also came on in a new forward line and, from the off, they camped out in Stanley’s half with Imps keeper Burch largely redundant after the break.
The Lincoln fans banged their drums harder and really got behind their team.
The equaliser came on 68 minutes when Scott Kerr’s ball in found Wright. He got ahead of Kieran Charnock and his initial header hit the chest of Arthur and it fell to Patulea who poked the ball home from close range.
The Romanian then hit the post but number two wasn’t far away on 77 minutes when Mullarkey’s ball in to the back post found left winger Aaron Brown.
Stanley just couldn’t keep the ball and there was hardly any relief for the backline as the ball just kept coming back to the dangerous Lincoln frontmen. Every time they attacked they looked like they were going to score and five minutes later any hope was swiftly snuffed out.
A short corner led to Brown’s ball in being poked home by Ben Wright to seal the three points for Lincoln.
That was bad enough but, as the fourth official held up four minutes of injury time, number four was hitting the back of the net as Lee Frecklington was allowed to run into the area unmarked before teeing up Patulea for his second.
Surely that was it? No, one last Lincoln attack, Colin Murdock was harshly judged to have tugged Patulea in the area and, with almost the last kick of the game, Frecklington tucked the ball home from the penalty spot despite Arthur getting his hands to it.
"The wind has been a big factor in the game," said a dejected Coleman. "It let both teams dominate and Lincoln have cashed in when they have had their domination more than we did. We missed quite a few chances in the first half and possibly the goal that was disallowed might have been a big factor.
"But we didn’t keep the ball like we can and we spoke about trying to keep a high line but we didn’t do it and have gone to sleep.
"The goals we conceded were very avoidable and were individual errors. By the end we were like a boxer who was failing to defend himself.
"With the first, we have given the ball away - Gregg (Blundell) has held his hand up - but their lad still had a long way to travel to score.
"The second goal is a cheap throw-in which maybe Kenny, if he was in the right frame of mind, could have come and swept it up better.
"The third goal - we can do better with a block on their corner, Kenny can come and deal with it but he doesn’t.
"Then we give the ball away cheap for the fourth goal and then the penalty.
"But the way we conceded the goals is the main thing as you can’t give goals away like that so cheaply.
"We knew it would be a difficult second half and we seemed to do most of the hard work. But to concede the way we did and capitulate the way we did that’s disappointing as it is shades of last season and we thought we were over that."