Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Cheltenham Town v Lincoln City, 25 January 2011

Venue: Whaddon Road,Cheltenham
Final score:1-2

The confidence gained from Saturday’s vital victory over Stockport Town was plain to see even before this match kicked off.  Players and management have been sounding like a weight was lifted when talking to the media in midweek.  The trip to Cheltenham was a more difficult test than Stockport, however.  Despite being on a poor run of form in the last few games, Cheltenham sat in 9th place, just 4 points off the automatic promotion places.

The City lineup was virtually unchanged, with the introduction of Scott Kerr for the injured Mustapha Carayol the only alteration to the starting lineup.  Keeper Joe Anyon took a place on the bench after recovering from an ankle injury.

The game started quietly, with the two teams evenly matched.  Grimes looked particularly lively for City after his hattrick on Saturday and hit the top of the bar with a header on 2 minutes.  It was City who took an early lead, when on 8 minutes a City corner was lofted to the far post, where Danny Hone headed back across goal.  Stephen Hunt was on hand to poke the ball over the line from close range.

Conceding early spurred Cheltenham onto greater effort, and they immediately began pressing the City goal, but were not able to make the pressure count and City began to work their way back into the match.

From virtually out of nowhere, City extended their lead when, on 21 minutes, O’Keefe blasted home from wide on the left.  It was a sublime finish, one of a growing number of clinical finishes from City in recent weeks, and evidence of the growing confidence flowing through the side.

As has often been the case recently, however, the defensive frailties showed and City allowed Cheltenham a lifeline – poor marking allowing Artus to slip in and finish a cross to pull the score back to 2-1 on 30 minutes.  It was the first time that Cheltenham had seriously threatened the Imps’ goal, and it had an obvious impact on City’s confidence.  Cheltenham came close on a number of occasions, but City were able to hold out until half time to take their lead into the interval.  The news that Hereford were winning 1-0 increased the pressure on the Imps to get something from the game.

The second half began brightly for Cheltenham, who had obviously been fired up at half time.  They were playing the ball more quickly, using the wings more in an attempt to pull the City defence out of position, and putting lots of crosses into the box.

City were still dangerous on the break however, especially through the work rate of Grimes and the tireless Facey.  Lincoln thought they had extended their lead on the hour mark when a Grimes shot was cleared off the line.  The fans behind the goal thought the ball was in, but the linesman kept his flag down and Cheltenham survived.

The incident sparked a series of incidents at both ends in quick succession.  Cheltenham hit the inside of the City post, but the ball hit the shins of the advancing striker and bounced wide when it would have been easier to score.  City then broke away themselves and Grimes put the ball into the net from close range, only to see it disallowed, and Grimes receive a yellow card for dissent.

The match was on a knife edge, and it seemed that either side could score in the final 15 minutes.  As time ticked on, Cheltenham turned up the pressure, and City withdrew deeper and deeper to defend their lead and hope to hit on the break.  To bolster the defence, Grimes was replaced by Broughton (used more for his heading ability than to act as a striker), and Clapham replaced McCallum.  Five minutes of injury time were played, but the City defence held firm for a vital second win in succession.

The win lifts City off the bottom of the table, but although the bottom of the league is still very close, City have given themselves a good chance of putting a run together and starting to move away, leaving others to fight for survival.

1. Scott Brown
. Keith Lowe
. Steve Elliott
. Ashley Eastham
. Danny Andrew
. David Bird
. Marlon Pack
. Josh Low
. Frankie Artus
. Wesley Thomas
. Jeff Goulding
14. JJ Melligan for Low (62)
. Brian Smikle for Artus (73)
. Phil Walsh for Pack (85)
. Michael Pook
. Theo Lewis
. Shaun Jeffers
. Daniel Lloyd-Weston

24. Trevor Carson
16. Julian Kelly
4. Adam Watts
6. Danny Hone
23. Stephen Hunt
11. Scott Kerr
14. Josh O'Keefe
15. Luke Howell
9. Gavin McCallum
18. Delroy Facey
29. Ashley Grimes

10. Drewe Broughton for Grimes (87)
19. Jamie Clapham for McCallum (90+1)
2. Paul Green
5. Moses Swaibu
17. Albert Jarrett
27. Ben Hutchinson
1. Joe Anyon

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