Sunday, 16 January 2011

Lincoln City v Wycombe Wanderers, 15 January 2011

Venue: Sincil Bank, Lincoln
Attendance: 2,890
Final score: 1-2

Lincoln City’s league games in 2011 are beginning to follow a depressingly familiar pattern – a close game in which the Imps show a decent amount of effort and create chances, only to be scuppered by amateurish defensive errors.  All three league games in 2011 have finished in a 2-1 reverses.

Today’s match, on a windy and surprisingly chilly Saturday afternoon, was of course overshadowed by the events of the week, and the match was preceded by an impeccably observed minute’s silence in memory of Richard Butcher.  As the afternoon would pan out, I think the greatest testament to Butcher is how much the Imps would love to have a midfielder with his drive, determination and skill in the side at the moment.  The Imps’ cause was not helped by an injury to Mustafa Carayol which kept him out of the side, and the midweek illness of Scott Kerr which only saw him able to take a place on the bench.  New loan signing Julian Kelly took his place in the starting lineup.  For Wycombe, the name on the teamsheet of interest to Lincoln fans was that of Gareth Ainsworth – the Imps legend returning to Sincil Bank for his first competitive match since 1997.

The game began brightly for City, with Albert Jarrett firing a dangerous cross into the box on 5 minutes, which unfortunately no-one could get onto the end of.  Almost immediately after, Grimes found himself one on one with the keeper, albeit at an angle, but the keeper managed to smother the shot.

On 13 minutes, Grimes was again presented with a golden chance to give the Imps the lead, when he burst free of the defence.  He lifted his shot over the advancing Nikki Bull, but unfortunately also over the bar.  Lincoln really should have taken the lead, and the fear of being punished on the break by Wycombe, who were using Ainsworth to good effect, was beginning to worry Imps fans.

However, the deadlock was broken on 17 minutes.  A ball to Grimes on the edge of the box saw the young striker control it well and turn it inside to the onrushing McCallum who struck a sweet half volley into the far corner without breaking stride.  It was a wonderful strike from a player who has done little else to impress during his time at City.

The Imps’ defensive failings would once again come back to haunt them, however.  As Imps fans were mumbling clichés about the 5 minutes after you score being the most dangerous, Wycombe got their equalizer in comic circumstances.  A freekick from 25 yards by Sandell was hit straight at Anyon, who seemed to misjudge the flight of the ball, was wrongfooted, and allowed a weak shot to bounce pathetically past him into the back of the net.  It was the first time he had been tested, and it was a test he spectacularly failed.

The goal brought a flurry of confidence from Wycombe, and they began to press the Imps’ goal.  On 23 minutes Anyon’s crossbar was rattled from range, and the keeper was looking shaken by his earlier error.  Imps’ fans keeping an eye on the other games being played in the league would have been dismayed to see that Hereford were leading 2-0 at Stockport at this point, leaving the Imps bottom of the league.

It appeared that the situation would get worse for city when Kevin Betsy burst into the box on 33 minutes.  While trying to maneuver for the space to get a shot away, he was bundled over by Swaibu and the referee duly awarded Wycombe a penalty.  Betsy himself was injured in what had not seemed a fierce challenge and had to be stretchered off.  Anyon had been presented with a chance to redeem himself, and it was a chance he took.  Strevons hit a weak shot but Anyon guessed the right way and turned it around the post.

Lincoln’s luck was not to last long though, as a corner given away by Danny Hone was punished.  The corner was scrambled away, but only as far as Sandell, who headed home his and Wycombe’s second goal of the afternoon.  Lincoln’s shaky defence once again looked to undo the good work of the forwards.

The Imps pushed forwards again in the 4 minutes of injury time, but to no avail and the half ended with Wycombe leading 2-1.

The second half started with neither side able to take control.  Lincoln had the majority of the play but were not able to create any real chances, while Wycombe were content to sit back and make use of Ainsworth’s lethally accurate balls over the top to try and sting the Imps on the break.  Lincoln almost managed to sneak their way back into the game on 60 minutes when hesitation in the Wycombe defense allowed Jarrett to sneak in and stab a shot goalwards, but Bull was able to stop it at close range.  Almost straight after, a long range strike from O’Keefe nearly caught Bull out of position.  The Imps were beginning to show signs of life.

On the 62 second minute, City were forced to make a substitution, when a clash of heads saw Paul Green have to go off with a head injury, to be replaced by Clapham.  On 75 minutes, Jarrett was also replaced by Hutchinson.

Wycombe nearly extended their lead soon after but Anyon first made a good save from a header, then palmed a fierce shot around the post.  The Imp’s number 1 had by now undeniably redeemed his earlier error.

The only other real incident of note was the substitution of Gareth Ainsworth, to a rousing chorus from the Imps faithful.  Ainsworth himself obviously appreciated the sendoff, and took the time to applaud each of the Lincoln stands in turn.

The Imps were unable to create any more chances, and a sub-par second half ended with yet another defeat for the Imps.  It was another game in which they could look back on missed chances and schoolboy defensive errors, but such issues simply have to be eradicated if the Imps are to have any chance of avoiding the dreaded and fatal drop into the non-leagues.

1. Joe Anyon
. Paul Green
. Moses Swaibu
. Danny Hone
. Julian Kelly
. Josh O'keefe
. Luke Howell
. Albert Jarrett
. Gavin Mccallum
. Delroy Facey
. Ashley Grimes
19. Jamie Clapham for Green (63)
. Ben Hutchinson for Jarrett (76)
. Joe Anderson
. Drewe Broughton
. Scott Kerr
. Cian Hughton
. Paul Musselwhite

1. Nikki Bull
. Marvin Mccoy
. Dave Winfield
. Chris Westwood
. Andy Sandell
. Matt Bloomfield
. Stuart Lewis
. Gareth Ainsworth
. Kevin Betsy
. Stuart Beavon
. Ben Strevens
22. Scott Donnelly for Betsy (36)
. Lewis Montrose for Ainsworth (83)
. Danny Foster
. Alan Bennett
. Leon Johnson
. Matt Mcclure
. Steve Arnold

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