A relieved Liam Manning after the enthralling 3-2 win over Lincoln City on Boxing Day
Warren O’Hora’s own goal and Chris Maguire’s penalty saw the Imps race into a two-goal advantage after just eight minutes, while Hakeeb Adelakun should have put the game to bed on 25 minutes but somehow missed the ball with the goal gaping.
Dons fought back though, and pulled one back through Scott Twine on the hour before another stunning miss, this time from Anthony Scully, should have put the game beyond reach for the visitors. Within seconds, Matt O’Riley levelled at the other end with 15 minutes to go before Twine won it in the last minute courtesy of a massive deflection off former Dons defender Regan Poole to lift them up to seventh in League One.
But after their first half performance, Manning said it was a relief to come away with the win.
“The first half wasn't to the level we have come to expect,” he said. “We started too slowly, we lacked discipline, we were sloppy and lacked intent. And that can happen at this level when you start like that. I was really disappointed with the first half and we made that clear at half time.
“But the group showed character, resilience and we have quality, and we showed that in the second half so it's a typical cliche of a game of two halves.
“Of course though, we're delighted with the response and the win. The players were frustrated with the first half, but we have to stop it happening again.”
Scully’s miss though, when it looked easier to score into the empty net than put it wide, swung momentum back in Dons’ favour. The Imps have won just twice all season at home and haven’t kept a clean sheet all term either, so as Dons built up momentum towards the end of the first half, the notoriously boisterous home support were eerily quiet.
“Momentum is massive,” Manning continued. “When you're chasing a game, you leave yourself open to those sorts of chances, conceding on the counter. To go straight down the other end and score, it speaks volumes for the culture.”
And after his side levelled, there was only one thought in his mind. “Go for it! The biggest thing from there was not to lose the game, but if you have intent you have to win matches and we showed the right response.
“It’s a nice way to win a match. I’m sure in my career we’ll lose some like that as well.”