Match report...Greg Tempest and Lee Beevers both returned to the starting line-up and George Maris was handed his full debut as the Imps took on Tranmere Rovers in front of the BT Sport cameras for this Good Friday fixture. Robbie McDaid and Courtney Wildin dropped to the bench whilst Matt Sparrow missed out.
For once it was a bright sunny afternoon and after referee Adrian Holmes and the two captains had done the necessary in the centre circle, a minute's silence as a mark of respect to those who lost their lives in the atrocoties in Brussels play got underway.
City kicked off and were the first to threaten; Maris firing an overhead kick wide of the target after Matt Rhead knocked down a long Paul Farman free-kick, given for a foul on Luke Waterfall.
Shortly afterwards hesitant goalkeeping from Rovers' Scott Davies saw him clatter into a colleague but as the Imps looked to capitalise an offside flag went up against Jack Muldoon. At the other end a corner taken by ex-Imp Jeff Hughes was dealt with by the City defence.
City's decent start continued with Muldoon almost getting the better of Steve McNulty only to slip at an inopportune time and in the 19th minute a long Bradley Wood throw lead to a City corner which was cleared by the Tranmere back line.
Tranmere's response saw Jay Harris test Farman with a 20-yard drive; the City stopper saving well before smothering the loose ball under pressure from Gary Taylor-Fletcher.
After a quiet period Hughes fired a low effort wide after a rare Tranmere foray forward in the 31st minute and shortly afterwards Greg Tempest went down and looked to be in some pain. Referee Holmes eventually brought play to a halt to give Kev Oxby the chance to administer treatment.
There was drama in the 37th minute when, after Farman blocked a shot, Hughes' follow-up effort crashed against Wood. Referee Holmes, who dismissed Luke Waterfall in front of the cameras earlier in the season, was quick to award a penalty for hand ball before showing Wood a red card. Once Wood had trudged off pointing to his side, James Norwood blasted the home side in front from the spot.
City's heads didn't drop though and within three minutes they were level; Hawkridge sending in a peach of a cross for GEORGE MARIS to head home his first for the club.
The half ended with Tranmere on the offensive and shortly after the Fourth Official indicated that a minimum of two minutes were to be added on, Rovers took the lead again; the ball bouncing around in the box after the flag had stayed down with Jake Kirby prodding home from six yards.
HT: TRANMERE 2 IMPS 1
Both teams emerged unchanged for the start of the second half and the Imps were the first to press with Davies failing to hold a Muldoon snapshot with the ball bouncing out for a corner. This ended with the flag going up against Waterfall.
At the other end Bush cleared a Kirby effort off the line and after the City defence repelled another attack, Maris was left grounded after taking a blow to the head in what the officials deemed to be a fair challenge.
City's response to this scare saw Hawkridge whip in a cross which found Muldoon but his flicked header flew just wide. Robbie McDaid then replaced Matt Rhead up front for the Imps and Alex Simmons came on for Greg Tempest a couple of minutes later.
A Maris cross almost found Simmons at the back post but a covering defender cleared for a corner and after this was cleared superb covering defending from Power saw him clear a Hughes effort off the line after Farman produced a fine block to deny Norwood.
Adam Mekki for Jake Kirby was Tranmere's first change and in the 65th minute a foul on Hughes earned Power a yellow card. Three minutes later an excellent volley on the turn from McDaid was superbly tipped behind by Davies.
City forced another corner as they continued to press for a leveller and said leveller eventually came along; Hawkridge chipping in a free-kick from the right and there to head home was ROBBIE McDAID to silence the natives.
Scott Fenwick replaced Gary Taylor-Fletcher for Tranmere three minutes later and as they looked to get their noses in front again, a home corner ended with Hughes hooking well wide.
With the home fans starting to get twitchy, their nerves were settled when Mekki received the ball on the left of the box and saw his drive deflect past a luckless Farman to put Rovers in front in the 87th minute.
In the second of four added minutes Michael Ihiekwe took out Simmons and earned a yellow card and with City continuing to push forward a deflected Simmons cross was hurriedly cleared before Power was pulled up for a trip.
The game ended as a Hawkridge cross was flicked out for a corner by the Tranmere defence but referee Holmes completed a questionable performance by blowing the full-time whistle.
FT: TRANMERE 3 IMPS 2
1 Paul FARMAN
2 Bradley WOOD
3 Greg TEMPEST
5 Luke WATERFALL
6 Chris BUSH
7 Jack MULDOON
8 Alan POWER
9 Matt RHEAD
12 Terry HAWKRIDGE
18 Lee BEEVERS
29 George MARIS
16 Alex SIMMONS (for TEMPEST 57)
19 Robbie McDAID (for RHEAD 55)
24 Courtney WILDIN
26 Callum HOWE
13 Aidan GRANT
GOALS: MARIS (41), McDAID (72)
BOOKING: POWER (65)
SENDING OFF: WOOD (37)
1 Scott DAVIES
4 Steve JENNINGS
7 Lee VAUGHAN
8 Jay HARRIS
9 Gary TAYLOR-FLETCHER
10 James NORWOOD
12 Michael IHIEKWE
16 Matt HILL
20 Jeff HUGHES
23 Jake KIRBY
24 Steve McNULTY
15 Martin RILEY
17 Adam MEKKI (for KIRBY 64)
29 Michael HIGDON
37 Scott FENWICK (for TAYLOR-FLETCHER 75)
13 Iain TURNER
GOALS: NORWOOD (38 pen), KIRBY (45+1), MEKKI (87)
BOOKING: IHIEKWE (90+2)
REFEREE: Adrian Holmes
ASSISTANTS: Justin Hayes & Tom Harty
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Peter Wright
ATTENDANCE: 5,366 (230 City supporters)