City boss Chris Moyses was forced to make a change to his starting line-up for this Vanarama National League home game against second-placed Forest Green Rovers with Liam Hearn ruled out with a hamstring strain. Hearn's absence saw Alan Power push forward, Bradley Wood move into midfield and Callum Howe's return at the centre of defence saw Lee Beevers go to right back.
It was a decidedly chilly mid-January as Forest Green kicked off and the visitors were quickly out of the traps with Keanu Marsh-Brown winning a corner in the opening seconds. Matt Rhead was back in defence though and cleared under pressure from Charlie Clough.
The first half chance went Rovers' way in the third minute with Jon Parkin heading a Dale Bennett cross well wide and three minutes later the experienced striker stabbed a low Keanu Marsh-Brown cross past the opposite post.
City's first attempt at goal saw Rhead volley wide after Terry Hawkridge sent in a deep centre following good play by Jack Muldoon. In the 13th minute Craig Stanley saw his goal-bound drive tipped behind superbly by Steve Arnold and after the corner caused panic in the Rovers defence Luke Waterfall hooked a shot across goal and wide of the target.
Brave goalkeeping from Arnold saw him smother under pressure from Muldoon after the City number seven latched on to a forward ball from Rhead and shortly afterwards there was a chance for Howe after Rhead flicked on a Wood throw but his header was held by Arnold.
In the 26th minute James Jennings went down easily in the box under a Beevers challenge but referee Tom Nield didn't buy it and waved play on and two minutes later a shot out of nothing by Elliott Frear crashed against the woodwork before Farman gathered the loose ball.
As the half-hour mark approached Rhead was taken out by Aarran Racine. The City striker needed treatment but no free-kick was awarded. Referee Nield spoke to Stanley as Rhead remained grounded and the next time the pair discussed matters following another non-decision by the official out came a yellow card.
Shortly afterwards Marsh-Brown found himself one-on-one with Farman but the City stopper produced a superb save to deny the former Barnet winger. Jennings then escaped a caution after tugging Muldoon back.
At the other end a deflected Darren Carter shot bounced a foot wide with City's response seeing Hawkridge fire inches wide from the edge of the box following a quick break by Muldoon.
Jennings was eventually cautioned following 39th minute trip on Muldoon and three minutes later a great City move involving a Muldoon cross and a Rhead dummy ended with Power firing over from the edge of the box.
The last action of an entertaining half saw Wood fire well over from range.
HT: IMPS 0 FOREST GREEN 0
Both sides emerged unchanged for the start of the second half with the Imps now attacking the Stacey West Stand.
City were the first to press with Rhead getting the better of Racine who dragged him to the floor just outside the box; a covering defender ensuring the resultant card was yellow not red. The free-kick ended with Waterfall having a header cleared off line before Power fired inches wide.
A couple of minutes later Wood was taken out by a late Sam Wedgbury challenge with the Rovers midfielder escaping punishment. Farman then did well to tip behind a curling Marsh-Brown effort which went through a crowd of players from just outside the box.
As the hour mark approached Rhead was pulled up for a foul on Clough who appeared to throw a punch at the City striker. With Rhead on the floor as a result, referee Nield went to his pocket but out came a yellow to the Rovers centre back.
The next incident saw Muldoon pick up a caution for a challenge on keeper Arnold, who charged towards the edge of the area to confront the City man before players from both sides got involved.
A minute later Conner Robinson replaced Alan Power with his new strike partner Matt Rhead taking the captain's armband as a result. Kurtis Guthrie for Darren Carter, meanwhile, was Rovers' first switch.
The visitors were reduced to 10 men in the 73rd minute when Racine went in high and late on Patrick Brough. Although he'd already been cautioned, this was an easy decision for referee Nielf who showed the Rovers defender a straight red card.
David Pipe quickly replaced Frear for Rovers who failed to let the sending off affect them as, after Parkin flicked a ball over the top, Marsh-Brown escaped the offside flag and duly beat Farman with a powerful volley.
City's response saw a Waterfall header from a Wood cross held by Arnold before Kegan Everington replaced Craig Stanley in the middle of the park.
The cards continued with Guthrie and Beevers squaring up following a tussle before seeing yellow whilst Wedgbury was also cautioned following a foul on Muldoon. The resultant free-kick ended with Arnold denying Waterfall again.
With five minutes on the clock Brett Williams replaced Jon Parkin for Rovers and the Imps had five additional minutes in which to salvage something for their efforts when the Fourth Official put the board up.
City kept getting the ball forward in added time but failed to grab what would have been a deserved point.
FT: IMPS 0 FOREST GREEN 1