Sunday, 9 January 2011

Lincoln City v Hereford United, 8 January 2011

Venue: Sincil Bank, Lincoln
Final score: 3-4

Lincoln City took a break from League 2 action this afternoon, to finally complete their FA Cup second round replay against Hereford United – at the fourth attempt.  The game certainly had some bearing on the league, however, as both teams are struggling at the wrong end of the table, and were looking for a confidence boosting win as much as progression through to the next round, where Wycombe Wanderers await.

Lincoln’s team selection was partly enforced by injury and eligibility, particularly in defence.  With Danny Hone cup-tied and Adam Watts injured, the Imps lineup saw the return of Paul Green and Cian Hughton.  The dropping of the hard working Scott Kerr to the bench also raised a few eyebrows.

The game started in a lively manner, with both sides setting out their attacking intentions.  The first real chance fell to the Imps on just 3 minutes, with a chance falling to Carayol, who seemed to have large gap to aim for to Bull’s keeper Bartlett’s right, but failed to find enough power in his shot, and the keeper duly saved.

Hereford’s response was immediate, and only a minute later the powerful Manset had managed to get the ball away from the two Imps centre halves and blasted his shot low past Anyon.  Imps fans’ minds immediately turned to the early goal given away against Bradford barely a week earlier and pessimistic thoughts began to surface.

The Imps were far from buried, however, and the reply was almost immediate.  A deep cross saw Delroy Facey’s shot blocked on the line, and as the appeals went up that the ball had crossed the line, Jamie Clapham followed up and made sure there was no doubt.

The Imps defensive troubles seemed to increase after 8 minutes when Gavin Hoyte limped off, being replaced by Kerr.  This meant a reshuffle of the Imps lineup, with Hughton dropping to right back, Green moving to centre back and Clapham going to left back.

As the half continued, it seemed inevitable that there would be more goals, as both sides kept pressing the attack.  It seemed like it would be a game decided by defensive errors – the winners being the ones who made the fewer.

With 15 minutes gone, Hereford nearly regained their lead, with danger man Manset again powering a drive past Anyon, but this time the inside of the post denied the Frenchman.  It was Lincoln that broke the deadlock though, when Facey swiveled well in the area, and just when it appeared he had missed the chance to shoot, he put a low shot past the despairing reach of Bartlett to make it 2-1 to the Imps.

Lincoln then enjoyed a spell on top, with Grimes shinning a volley wide, and Howell putting a diving header over the bar.  City also seemed to have a good penalty shout on 31 minutes, when Carayol was tugged back after bursting into the area, but the referee wasn’t interested.

The threat from Hereford on the break was still present, and on 36 minutes Lincoln’s defensive frailties once again revealed themselves.  Manset got away from Swaibu to put a low cross in from the touchline, which was met by Fleetwood.  The shot glanced off Paul Green on its way past Anyon into the back of the net.

Both side still seemed unable to take control of the match, and both would have been happy to not concede again before half time.  Hereford nearly took the lead on 41 minutes, when Fleetwood won a rather dubious free kick near the sideline, having gone down very easily as he would do a number of times during the afternoon.  The delivery was good, and a header smacked the underside of the bar, bouncing back into the arms of a grateful Anyon.

Barely a minute later Hereford had taken the lead.  Fleetwood was left unmarked on the edge of the area after the referee played an advantage, and when the ball came to him he lofted a speculative shot towards the far corner.  It did not seem threatening and Anyon appeared to leave it to go wide.  The curve must have deceived the Imps’ keeper however, as the ball nestled inside the post to leave both players and fans stunned at the turnaround in the score.

Lincoln made a single change at halftime, bringing on Ben Hutchinson for Carayol.  The Imps knew they had to make a positive start, and that the next goal was crucial – another goal for the Bulls would surely kill off the match.  The response was exactly what Imps fans had been hoping for.  On 48 minutes Grimes, who was having another lively afternoon, curled in a shot from almost exactly the same position as Fleetwood’s goal before the break to bring the game back to 3-3.

The game was now wide open again, and no-one was sure who would be the winner, though it seemed certain there were more goals to come.

Both sides had half chances, and the play continued to be end to end, though neither keeper was severely tested.  The decisive goal came on 72 minutes when the ever-dangerous Manset was allowed too much time to turn on the edge of the box and drilled the ball past Anyon.  Despite the trouble he had caused all afternoon, the Lincoln defense still failed to get close enough to the powerful Frenchman, who on today’s performance is a step above League 2 football, and will surely end up at a higher level.

Lincoln now had to go for broke, and created a number of half chances as time ticked onwards.  Hereford, to their credit, showed immense workrate, and closed Lincoln’s midfielders down tirelessly.  The equalizer seemed to have come when a shot squirmed under Bartlett’s body and Grimes had the ball virtually on the line.  It seemed the simplest tap-in, but somehow he got the ball caught up under his feet, and a defender was able to get back to get the block tackle in.

As the final minute of injury time was entered, there was one last piece of drama, as Ryan Green saw a second yellow card for a deliberate handball.  It was not enough to change the outcome of the game, though, as Hereford had edged a close game to progress into the third round.

Although it was a disappointing result, with some lackluster defending, Lincoln can feel unlucky not to have won a game which could easily have gone in their favour.  The Club will be very disappointed with the attendance, which won’t help Steve Tilson’s ability to bring in new blood to strengthen the squad.  Another disappointing element of the afternoon was the boos ringing out from some sections of the crowd at the final whistle, which were surely underserved, and will do little to aid the players at a time when they need all the confidence they can get in their battle to avoid relegation.  The League results mean that Lincoln have slipped to second to bottom, though they have matches in hand.  The winning of these is now vital, starting with Stockport County next Saturday.

1. Joe Anyon
. Cian Hughton
. Paul Green
. Moses Swaibu
. Jamie Clapham
. Gavin Hoyte
. Luke Howell
. Mustapha Carayol
. Albert Jarrett
. Delroy Facey
. Ashley Grimes
11. Scott Kerr for 28 (9)
. Ben Hutchinson for 7 (HT)
. Joe Anderson
. Gavin Mccallum
. Drewe Broughton
. Paul Musselwhite

1. Adam Bartlett
. Ryan Green
. Janos Kovacs
. Michael Townsend
. Richard Rose
. Joe Heath
. James Mcquilkin
. Kenny Lunt
. Nicky Featherstone
. Stuart Fleetwood
. Mathieu Manset
27. Guillem Bauza for 9 (80)
. Daniel Stratford
. Sam Gwynne
. Joe Colbeck
. Tyler Weir
. Zac Evans

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