Lincoln 2 Carlisle United 2: In the circumstances, this was far from the ideal time for Carlisle United to face League Two leaders Lincoln. But a heroic display from the injury-hit Blues saw them earn a 2-2 draw against the Imps.

Ashley Nadesan twice gave Carlisle the lead in the first period at Sincil Bank but, on both occasions, the hosts responded. First through midfielder Michael O’Connor and then a Bruno Andrade free-kick.

In the second half, both teams had late chances to grab a winner but neither side could force, what would have proved to have been, the all-important fifth goal.

As expected, there was a makeshift feel to the United line-up, with striker Richie Bennett playing alongside captain Anthony Gerrard in the heart of defence, while Jack Sowerby filled in at right-back.

Loanees Regan Slater and Adam Campbell came into the team in the two changes from Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to basement boys Macclesfield, with Tom Parkes out injured and Gary Miller dropping to the bench.

The Imps looked to put early pressure on Carlisle’s backline but they held their own and soaked up the pressure in the opening five minutes.

And it was John Sheridan’s side that took a surprise lead with six minutes on the clock to stun the home fans. Campbell played through Nadesan who broke through the offside trap, and despite the hosts’ keeper Josh Vickers getting something on his effort, he couldn’t stop the 24-year-old from bagging his second goal in four days.

Lincoln hit back on the 13th minute when O’Connor was given space around 20 yards from goal and drilled into the net, past United goalkeeper Adam Collin who stood little chance.

Having undone the Cumbrians’ early start, Harry Anderson then nearly gave Lincoln, who drew 1-1 with Cambridge on Saturday, the lead on the 16th minute, firing into the side-netting.

There were then penalty appeals turned down by referee Neil Hair as Lincoln appealed for handball against midfielder Kelvin Etuhu who blocked a Shay McCartan right-wing cross.

On 24 minutes, Northern Irishman McCartan flew past both United’s Gerrard and Slater but no Imps player could get on the end of his cross which was cleared to safety by Macauley Gillesphey.

But, three minutes later, Fleetwood loanman Nadesan was again on hand to give United the lead again after a header back to goalkeeper Vickers from central defender Scott Wharton had fallen short.

Just after the half-hour mark, Lincoln management duo Danny and Nicky Cowley were forced into an early change as Wales international Neal Eardley was replaced by James Wilson.

Then, a header from Lincoln skipper Matt Rhead was headed off the line by Mike Jones on the near post with 36 minutes played.

But the Imps levelled just before half-time. A big mistake from Collin saw Andrade’s free-kick from the left go straight through the former Workington Reds and Notts County man’s hands and into the back of the net.

It was a quiet start to the game after the restart.

Perhaps the gulf between the two teams in terms of squad depth was shown seven minutes after the restart when former Barnet hitman John Akinde was brought off the Lincoln bench to replace skipper Rhead. Akinde almost made an instant impact, too, although couldn’t pick out a Lincoln player in the away penalty area.

Akinde, again, went close just after the hour mark when he stung the palms of Collin who beat the ball away from danger.

With 64 minutes played, United man Sowerby got away with a back pass to Collin that was waved away by referee Mr Hair.

Jerry Yates showed great trickery down the right for Carlisle, cutting on to his left, before he unleashed a low drive. But his strike from the edge of the box was comfortably gathered by Vickers.

The next opportunity also fell the way of the visitors. Former Newcastle youngster Campbell’s cross eventually was cleared but only as far as Etuhu on the edge of his box, only for his effort to fly over the bar.

As the match entered the final stages, it was the Cumbrians that looked the more likely to snatch an all-important fifth goal in front of the 146 supporters that had made the trip last night.

And after good play down the right by United, Campbell found space on the right three minutes from time, but nobody could get on the end of the delivery.

A minute later, at the other end, Green poked the ball past Collin but Gerrard was on hand to scramble the loose ball clear as Carlisle held on for a point against all the odds.

Lincoln: Vickers, O’Connor, Wharton, Pett, Rhead (c) (Akinde 52), Andrade, Toffolo, Bostwick, McCartan (Green 74), Eardley (Wilson 32), Anderson.

Lincoln unused subs: Slocombe, Gordon, Mensah.

Goal: O’Connor (13), Andrade (43)

Carlisle United: Collin, Gerrard (c), Jones, Gillesphey, Bennett, Slater, Campbell, Yates, Sowerby, Etuhu, Nadesan.

Carlisle unused subs: Gray, Miller, Glendon, Adewusi, Egan, McCarron, Birch.

Goal: Nadesan (6 and 27)

Ref: Neil Hair

Crowd: 9,119 (146 visitors)