Superb second half showing sees City edge a dramatic game at Stevenage...
There was one change to the City starting line-up for this Sky Bet League 2 game at Stevenage with Harry Anderson replaced Nathan Arnold. There was a welcome return to the squad, meanwhile, for winger Josh Ginnelly who was named amongst the substitutes.
After a brief pre-match shower, the sun was shining as referee Anthony Backhouse - who officiated last season's National League Promotion Final at Wembley Stadium - led the two teams out and once the formalities with the two captains was complete, play got under way with the Imps kicking off.
The hosts were the first to press with the back-tracking Michael Bostwick forced to clear a low cross from the left before Sean Raggett got in a great block to deny Matt Godden. Both of these attacks, together with a Stevenage corner, came in the opening two minutes as Stevenage pressed for an early advantage.
In the sixth minute a push on Godden by Raggett gave Stevenage the chance to create something from a free-kick just outside the box but Joe Martin fired his effort straight at Alex Woodyard in the City wall.
City's first effort at goal came via the left boot of Billy Knott who sliced over from 25 yards whilst at the other end Stevenage wasted a second corner before the rain returned.
After a quiet spell there was a break in play as home left-back Martin went down and required treatment before returning. Shortly afterwards Harry Beautyman seemed to go in hard and over the top on Sean Long but referee Backhouse spotted nothing untoward. Once the ball went dead, the grounded Long received attention as the City players spoke to the official.
With Long up but off the pitch, the hosts took advantage and when the ball was threaded through to Godden he advanced before firing clinically across Paul Farman to give his side a 26th minute lead.
Stevenage pressed for a quick second and when skipper Ronnie Henry whipped in a cross from the right the ball was headed on to the post by Beautyman before the follow-up effort was cleared off the line by Raggett and Farman claimed another shot towards goal.
City's response came in the 33rd minute with Long forcing a corner on the right but before Knott could take the flag-kick, Martin needed a second bout of treatment before he was replaced by Kevin Toner.
Neal Eardley picked up a 36th minute caution following a trip on Godden, with referee Backhouse dishing out the yellow card two minutes after the offence after initially waving play-on
Good work from Matt Green saw him force another corner as the half wore on and when Knott whipped this one in, Matt Rhead clearly had his shirt pulled but once again referee Backhouse failed to spot the incident.
Before the Fourth Official indicated that a minimum of four minutes were to be added on Anderson surged past Toner before drilling powerfully wide. In the third added minute Bostwick had a shot charged down before skipper Luke Waterfall curled inches over as the ball seemed destined for the top corner.
HT: STEVENAGE 1 IMPS 0
Sam Habergham came on for Sean Long prior to the start of the second half, which began after Matt Green was booked for encroaching in the Stevenage half twice before the ball was kicked from the centre spot.
The Imps were the first to threaten once play eventually resumed with a dangerous cross from Eardley - moved to right back - went towards Rhead who was held down in the box but once again the officials failed to spot an obvious shirt pull, much to the annoyance of the travelling hordes behind the goal.
The frustration got the better of Green in the 51st minute when, after a clear block on him wasn't given, he was pulled up for a foul and after flicking the ball away referee Backhouse dished out a second yellow card before brandishing a red.
Ollie Palmer came on for Matt Rhead as the lone striker shortly after play resumed before former Stevenage man Bostwick fired over.
Palmer was quickly in the action, forcing Fraser Franks to clear for a corner and although this was cleared, the Imps kept the ball in the attacking third with Woodyard forcing another in the 58th minute. Knott duly delivered and there to plant home a powerful near-post header to level the scores was SEAN RAGGETT.
Raggett was inches away from a second five minutes later when he was picked out again by Knott only for home 'keeper Joe Fryer to flick his volley onto the crossbar with a superb finger-tip save.
At the other end Newton fired across and wide for the hosts who had just brought on Ben Kennedy for Harry Beautyman. In the 69th minute Josh Ginnelly replaced Harry Anderson for City.
Chris Whelpdale fizzed a long-range drive over the bar as Stevenage pressed forward again whilst at the other end a block on Ginnelly close to the corner flag saw Knott whip in a free-kick which was clearly handled by Luke Wilkinson. Referee Backhouse was on the spot and pointed to the spot. He eventually booked Wilkinson before OLLIE PALMER neatly slotted home the penalty to bring the noisy band of travelling fans to their feet.
Jamie Gray replaced Whelpdale for the shell-shocked hosts before play resumed and the next incident of note saw Bostwick pick up a booking following a meaty 81st minute challenge on Tom Pett.
Temperatures were raised again a minute later when Wilkinson stamped on Woodyard's back following a tussle on the half-way line. Referee Backhouse had no option but to dish out a second red card of the game. The home defender trudged off before appearing to vent his frustrations at some water bottles as the City bench took cover.
After Farman did well to keep out a Godden effort with his feet, Woodyard was booked following a challenge on Pett. The resultant 88th minute free-kick was curled well over the bar by Kennedy.
In the first of five added minutes an offside flag ate up some valuable seconds for the Imps as Gray strayed in front of Waterfall. A Stevenage corner was then headed well over by Franks.
Gray and Farman were the next players to enter the book; the former for dissent and the latter for delaying the taking of a free-kick. When the ball was eventually pumped forward Palmer released Ginnelly who was denied by Fryer at full stretch.
Play continued to go on but City held out for their first away league win of the season and in doing so inflicted a first league defeat of the season on the previously unbeaten Stevenage.
FT: STEVENAGE 1 IMPS 2
1 Paul FARMAN
2 Sean LONG
5 Luke WATERFALL
9 Matt RHEAD
10 Matt GREEN
11 Billy KNOTT
16 Michael BOSTWICK
23 Neal EARDLEY
25 Sean RAGGETT
26 Harry ANDERSON
30 Alex WOODYARD
3 Sam HABERGHAM (for LONG 46)
4 Elliott WHITEHOUSE
7 Josh GINNELLY (for ANDERSON 69)
8 Ollie PALMER (for RHEAD 52)
15 Rob DICKIE
28 Nathan ARNOLD
21 Josh VICKERS
GOALS: RAGGETT (58), PALMER (75 pen)
BOOKINGS: EARDLEY (36), GREEN (46), BOSTWICK (81), WOODYARD (88), FARMAN (90+3)
SENDING OFF: GREEN (51)
1 Joe FRYER
2 Jonathan SMITH
3 Joe MARTIN
5 Fraser FRANKS
6 Luke WILKINSON
7 Chris WHELPDALE
8 Harry BEAUTYMAN
11 Tom PETT
19 Danny NEWTON
24 Matt GODDEN
25 Ronnie HENRY
10 Ben KENNEDY (for BEAUTYMAN 65)
15 Alex SAMUEL
18 Tom CONLON
20 Terence VANCOOTEN
22 Kevin TONER (for MARTIN 34)
31 Jamie GRAY (for WHELPDALE 77)
16 Chris DAY
GOAL: GODDEN (26)
BOOKINGS: WILKINSON (75), GRAY (90+3)
SENDING OFF: WILKINSON (82)
REFEREE: Anthony Backhouse
ASSISTANTS: Matt Eva & Nicolas Cooper
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Sam Ogles
ATTENDANCE: 3,427 (1,171 City supporters)