Town, last year’s beaten finalists, travelled to Lincoln City for their opening game in the Youth Alliance Cup on Saturday.
Lincoln started brighter and controlled possession in the opening stages but only creating openings from distance.
Town did, against the run of play, have the best chance when Milner fired over.
But it was City who opened the scoring after 35 minutes with a long-range effort finding the net.
Town were pressing more aggressively after the break and on the front foot, they got back into the game when Essel was brought down in the box, Tomlinson slotted home from the spot to level up the scores.
Soon after Town took the lead when Stratton finished from close range.
Town had a number of chances to extend their lead but Lincoln managed to keep them at bay.
The Imps started to gain more possession in the closing stages and a deflected effort found the net in the 93rd minute to make it 2-2.
Town are back in league action on Saturday when Harrogate Town visit the Bradley FDC.
Town: Jacobs, Markham, Hodgson, Wilkinson, Bramwell, Sims, Scott, Essel, Thorpe, Milner, Tomlinson.
Subs: Boyd, Dennis-D, Dennis-B, Stratton, Bradley.