The Imps continued to turn our season around leap-frogging Barnet and Stockport to jump clean out of the relegation places with a win at Cheltenham Town last night. Bottom and adrift on Saturday morning we completed our rise from 92nd in the Football League to the somewhat lofty and secure position of 22nd place. To boot the Imps are level with 20th placed Burton and 21st placed Hereford after a night of do or die drama at the foot of the Football League.
The Teams & Schemes.
Lowe Eastman Elliott Andrew
The Imps 4-4-2
16 Kelly 4 Watts 6 Hone 23 Hunt
15 Howell 11 Kerr yellow 14 O’Keefe 9 McCallum
18 Facey 29 Grimes yellow
Cheltenham 1-2 Lincoln City FT (HT 1-2)
Scorers Robins Artus 31 Imps Hunt 9 O'Keefe 22
Att: 2,292 (89 IMPS) Ref: Taylor
Possession Cheltenham 60% Lincoln City 40% Shots on target Cheltenham 4 Lincoln City 4 Shots off target Cheltenham 5 Lincoln City 5 Saves Cheltenham 4 Lincoln City 7 Corners Cheltenham 5 Lincoln City 5 Fouls Cheltenham 4 Lincoln City 4 Yellows Cheltenham 0 Lincoln City 2
Substitutions Melligan on for Low on 62, Smikle on for Artus 73, Walsh on for Pack 84.Broughton on for Grimes 87 Clapham on for McCallum 90+1
But to The Game Fellow football fans to the game.
A lull before the storm saw two troops of thespians initially trade little of note for the two thousand thrill-seeking theatre goers. Perhaps nerves from sides with different aspirations, yet they shared a common desire to attempt to get the all important upper hand in the opening exchanges.
That honour, happily for us would go to the Imps and set the tone for the Platimum shirted visitors to exceed golden expectations once again on our travels Hat trick hero Grimes chimed, rising to meet a Kelly centre only to see his header bounce over the bar. The young lion then curled wide from just outside the box after some great work by Hunt and McCallum down the left.
Captain Facey and his band were clearly enjoying the upper hand with our leader heading a sweet cross from Mad dog McCallum, clearly with a bone between his teeth, just over the bar. Make it count Imps we prayed, make it count. We did on 9, when McCallum won and took a corner that found homespun Hone. He found Grimes who turned and crashed a drive against the post that Hunt prodded home in the ensuing melee.
The Robins, as you would expect, stormed back with Facey heading clear a corner and noticeably then encouraging his young peers to calm it down and to keep the faith in the face of the foe. It worked as the Imps took the sting out of things and again earned the right to play.
A sublime cross field ball from Howells – Oakes peeler anyone - saw Facey mugged by a fabulous saving challenge from Eastman, the loanee from Blackpool clearly has the timing of a clockmaker. Brown’s full length save from a Delboy pile driver destined for the top corner, was tough on Facey who had been at the centre of everything positive for the opening 20 minutes.
Brown could do little two minutes later. Mad Dog McCallum chewed through the Cheltenham right flank before choosing to pass the ball inside early. O’Keefe hit a howitzer of a thirty yard humdinger that fizzed in off the underside of the bar. Halleluiah, its certainly divine intervention to keep the Imps from dropping downstairs – if not where does he get them from? He nearly parted the red sea a second time, flicking McCallum’s corner just wide.
Keith Lowe put the Robins first shot of the game well wide just before the half hour but moments later they would be back in the game. Josh Low scampered down the right and delivered a delectable cross that Frankie Artus headed home with aplomb. There was little the Imps defence or Carson could do about that one – a quality goal at any level.
The Gloucestershire heavens opened, no, no, no have faith fellow footy fans, it started raining! Fortunately Carson showed his class to deny Artus his brace and 13 goal Thomas – no doubting his ability – chipped nonchalantly onto the roof of the net. Kelly then picked Thomas’s pocket with a fantastic tactical just as he looked clean through.
No changes at the interval bar the sodden shirts for both teams, as the home sides onslaught continued. Kerr laid down his normal marker, earning a yellow for a challenge on the towering Goulding. The bigger they are the harder they fall eh Scott? Although that one was so late the uninspiring linesman had time to finishing cleaning out both nostrils with his flag.
Grimes was unlucky not to give us a third on the counter as McCallum again roasted their right., as left back Andrew cleared his drive off the line. Keeper Brown was then forced to clear into row Z after another fabulous up and under pass from Howells appeared to have put Grimes in. Even Hunt on the overlap routed their right to fizz one across the six yard box.
The Imps got really lucky on the hour, part hesitation in the defence and part class from Thomas. He tried another of his dinked curly chips – a pleasure to behold - which beat Carson all ends up only to bounce back off the post. It bounced off Goulding, still clearly shaking off Kerr’s challenge, to creep barely a foot wide. Those are the psychological moments in games we League 2 fans know only to well, are they not? The Imps responded with a set piece from McCallum, but Grimes was deemed to use an arm to force it home at the expense of a yellow card.
Yates decided to change things a bit bringing on first Melligan for Josh Low and then schemer Brian Smikle for goalscorer Artus. The message was clearly a more direct approach, the tried & trusted League 2 aerial bombardment. Fortunately this is meat and drink when you have three over 6 foot in your back four. Hats off to Hunt, Hone and Watt, although Goulding headed an Andrews cross wide and a clash of heads saw Adam Watts receive some treatment.
However despite having to absorb a lengthy bombardment for the last 20 minutes, plus an interminably long 5 minutes of injury time; the Imps held on for a priceless win. It takes us from bottom to relative safety after a harrowing fortnight that saw us at one stage look all at see and 3 points adrift. Yes we had the games in hand but you must win them.
The League Two season is a long one, a 46 match marathon at the end of which the table cannot lie. Although our safety is not assured, for there are many twists as turns as the fates continue to conspire; lady luck certainly appears to be wearing red and white for now at least. Hereford have lost Manset and Lenny Lawrence, Stockport are in freefall, Barnet drew 0-0 with Saturdays opponents Port Vale; to allow us to leapfrog to 22nd and just above the trap door. Above us on goal difference only sit The Bulls and the Brewers on 25 points. We have a game in hand over the Bulls yet Burton have played two fewer than ourselves suggesting a run from either of us could see us enjoy the relative sanctuary of mid table mediocrity. Now there’s a thought.
UTI - See you for another Sincil Super Saturday
Npower L2 standings
Pos team P GD PTS
18 Bradford 26 -10 30
19 Macclesfield 24 -11 27
20 Burton Albion 21 2 25
21 Hereford 24 -13 25
22 Lincoln City 23 -13 25
23 Barnet 27 -16 25
24 Stockport 27 -31 24