The Imps lost their grip on the Checkatrade Trophy after a tremendous game at the Wham Stadium, packed with goals and much more for the supporters in the ground at both ends of the pitch but it ended in a 4-2 win for Accrington on penalties.
City had taken the lead through Matt Green’s early strike but Stanley drew level within a minute courtesy of Scott Brown. Jamie McCombe came off the bench to put The Imps back ahead but Jordan Clark equalised and forced the game into a penalty shoot out. ‘Keeper Johnny Maxted was the match winner for Stanley saving two penalties in the shoot out to see the League One side through to round three.
City had to make a late change as Jordan Adebayo-Smith came in for James Wilson picked up a knock in the warmup, giving a first start for the academy youngster. The Imps were backed by over 150 supporters who had made the trip to the Wham Stadium as the game got underway under the floodlights on what was a cold December evening.
Ellis Chapman featured heavily on the ball for The Imps in the opening exchanges, first he was close to setting Matt Green away down the left but then he started the move which brought the opening goal. Chapman played a measured pass out to the left flank to Bernard Mensah, he took a touch before looking up and delivering a low skidding cross over the turf which was missed by Ben Richards-Everton and GREEN tucked the ball away, his third goal in the competition. But before anyone in the ground could draw breath, the hosts levelled things up as Scott Brown made a purposeful and determined dart forward with the ball from midfield before smashing a low drive in at the near post past the dive of Sam Slocombe.
Green was causing all sorts of problems for the home defence with his pace, Ross Sykes hauled him down right on the edge of the box giving City another chance to get a shot on goal. Eardley lined up the set piece on the right-hand corner of the box with Chapman in close attendance, the latter stepped up and fired a curler just over the top.
It was an enthralling encounter with both sides looking to get ahead as the high tempo continued, first Green was close to latching onto a ball slid through but Johnny Maxted raced off his line to win the foot race with the City striker, the ball rebounded to Adebayo-Smith who tried a first-time effort which struck the Stanley ‘keeper before being cleared. Then immediately Stanley’s Offrande Zanzala was to then break free down the left and slide the ball into the box where Eardley made a wonderful interception to deny what would have been a golden opportunity for Connor Hall at the back post.
The pace slowed a little but both sides still looked dangerous in the final third of the pitch, Joan Luque almost got his name on the scoresheet after a quick break following a Stanley corner. The Spaniard burst down the left flank with Mensah also making the forward run, Luque took a touch and looked up, while the home side expected the cross Luque hammered a low drive across goal which cannoned off Sykes but it was saved by Maxted who knew nothing about it as it simply hit him.
Back in the Imps’ half, Slocombe was called into action to save a Piero Mingoia free kick from the left which seemed to gather pace as it skipped off the greasy surface through the penalty area, the City ‘keeper doing very well to keep his eye on the ball despite the traffic impeding his view.
The home side were close to taking the lead just before half time as the pace of Zanzala stretched the Imps’ defence, he was supported by Hall but elected to shoot only to see the ball cannon off the base of the post and before the City number ten could get onto it, Wharton smashed it clear. Slocombe kept the scores level moments later with a wonderful diving save, Matt Platt hit as sweet an effort as you could wish for and it looked to be heading for the top corner but the City ‘keeper dived and stretched every sinew in his right arm to somehow tip the ball over the top with his fingertips.
Accrington Stanley 1 The Imps 1
City made a purposeful start to the second half, positive in possession and determined as ever when the opposition had the ball, Jamie McCombe winning the aerial battles first with Zanzala then Hall as the home side went a little more direct to try and get their noses in front.
Although the hosts were having the better of things in terms of possession for a short spell, there was no real danger to The Imps’ goal. Luque showed two Stanley players a clean pair of heels before being clipped, the resulting free kick was crossed to the back post by Chapman and McCOMBE was there to turn the ball home in front of some of the travelling supporters. The Imps had a chance to extend their lead within minutes of the restart, Green getting in beyond the Stanley defence only to see his progress halted by Maxted and the referee pointed to the spot, the home ‘keeper however atoned for the error by saving the spot kick from Matt Rhead to keep his side within touching distance.
Stanley levelled the scores when sub, Jordan Clark, took possession of the ball out on the right and jinked inside before looking up and curling a measured effort beyond Slocombe and suddenly the game burst back into life. The home side piled on the pressure in an attempt to take the lead in the game for the first time, pushing forward with a renewed intensity and vigour.
Stanley continued their push forward with the ball spending a long period inside the City half, but there was no way through for a third goal for the hosts. Wharton and McCombe standing firm as crosses were hoisted into the area, and on the break Green’s pace was as much a worry for the home defence as it had been all game. Sean McConville came off the bench for Stanley and he was denied by Slocombe at the near post after he had ghosted into the box and the City stopper was in the right place to gather a header from Platt as the game went into the final five minutes.
Wharton sidefooted the ball clear in front of goal with Zanzala waiting to pounce as the ball spend an extended period in City half but the determination and grit shown by The Imps defensively was tremendous. Green forced Maxted into a low save at his near post after being found by Gordon with time ticking down. Stanley made one last push ahead of full time following six minutes of stoppage time, McCombe was in the thick of it and Chapman throwing his body on the line to ensure the game went to penalties.
Accrington Stanley 2 The Imps 2
Stanley won 4-2 on penalties
1 Johnny MAXTED
5 Ben RICHARDS-EVERTON
8 Scott BROWN
9 Offrande ZANZALA
10 Connor HALL
15 Ross SYKES
22 Piero MINGOIA
24 Nick ANDERTON
25 Matt PLATT
27 Luke CHARMAN
28 Seamus CONNEELY
40 Toby SAVIN
7 Jordan CLARK (65’ for Charman)
11 Sean McCONVILLE (70’ for Mingoia)
18 Harvey RODGERS
19 Andy MANGAN
23 Andrew SCOTT
26 Daniel BARLASER (79’ for Conneely)
Goal: Brown 8’ Clark 71’
Booked: Sykes 13’ Richards-Everton 44’ Brown 60’ Barlaser 83’
Penalties: Hall (scored), Zanzala (scored), McConville (scored), Barlaser (saved), Clark (scored)
24 Sam SLOCOMBE
2 Kellan GORDON
6 Scott WHARTON
9 Matt RHEAD
10 Matt GREEN
12 Ellis CHAPMAN
18 Bernard MENSAH
19 Joan LUQUE
20 Adam CROOKES
23 Neal EARDLEY
30 Jordan ADEBAYO-SMITH
21 Grant SMITH
27 Jamie McCOMBE (46’ for Eardley)
28 Tom SHAW (64’ for Adebayo-Smith)
31 Elliott SARTORIUS
32 Duncan IDEHEN
33 Tim AKINOLA
Goal: Green 7’ McCombe 61’
Booked: Eardley 25’ Chapman 72’ Rhead 79’
Penalties: Gordon (saved), Chapman (scored), Green (saved), Rhead (scored)
Referee: Anthony Backhouse
Assistants: Barry Cropp & Gary Hilton
4th Official: Paul Marsden
Attendance: 746 (154 Imps’ supporters)