City took three points from Cheltenham and hoisted themselves back into the playoff spots in SkyBet League Two thanks to a memorable strike from Neal Eardley. The ever dependable full back scored and lit up Sincil Bank against a resilient Cheltenham Town who will have been disappointed to leave empty handed.
There were two full home debuts for Scott Wharton and Tom Pett in front of the Sincil Bank crowd and the game almost got off to the perfect start. After winning a corner within the opening minute, Michael Bostwick leapt to head a Sam Habergham cross but he unfortunately couldn’t direct it on target. Matt Green was in typical determined fashion, he won a footrace with Joe Rodon, then crossed to the back post where Matt Rhead forced a corner which was cleared. However, City immediately pushed forward again and Danny Rowe crossed to Rhead who nodded down for Green who just couldn’t get enough purchase on the ball to force it past Scott Flinders, the Robin’s ‘keeper was grateful for the opportunity to grasp possession on the goal line.
The threat posed by Mohammed Eisa was unleashed when Elijah Adebayo set Eisa away down The Imps’ left, the striker cut inside before unleashing a low drive but Ryan Allsop quickly got down to his right to make a smart stop.
It was somewhat of an attritional encounter as we approached the half way mark of the first half, with neither side able to really get on top.
Pett danced his way past two defenders before being unceremoniously stopped by Will Boyle just outside the area, Bostwick hammered the resulting free kick into the wall but a quick ball back into the area almost found Pett over the top, but Flinders raced off his line to claim. The final ball seemed to be missing from both sides, and when they did get a cross into the box defences were on top, highlighted by Eardley who denied Adebayo at the back post who was willing Carl Winchester’s cross to just beat the City full back.
Almost on the stroke of half time, Cheltenham had Flinders to thank, the ‘keeper made a fine stop to deny Green a certain goal as he connected sweetly with a Pett cross. But the breakthrough was to come from an unexpected source, Bostwick took control of play, played a lovely crossfield ball to EARDLEY who drove the ball hard and low into the bottom left corner of the goal.
The Imps 1 Cheltenham 0
The visitors made a change at the break to their forward line as Danny Wright came on, but it was Eisa who was still the man to threaten the City goal, the in form hitman firing low on the turn but Allsop was again equal to the task. With just five minutes of the second half gone the game seemed more open than the entire first half, Harry Anderson linked well with Rhead, the return ball though was a little too heavy and Flinders pounced to nick it off the toes of the advancing Anderson. Cheltenham pushed for the equaliser as Luke Waterfall somehow managed to fend off the ever-eager Eisa at the back post and hook the ball clear defended a dangerous ball right into the heart of the box majestically.
Eardley crossed for sub, Ollie Palmer to head inches over the top as the pace of the second half continued. A quick break down the left by Green was backed up by Habergham on the overlap, the full back whipped in a cross which Anderson almost turned on goal but Flinders was in the right place as the ball went straight into his midriff. Pett weaved some magic down the left and crossed for Palmer to head which Flinders did well to save, the Imps’ number eight then was unlucky to turn and flash a shot just over the top from the resulting corner.
Cheltenham had a brief sight of goal after a little head tennis on the edge of the area, Sammi Odelusi pounced quickly on the ball to shoot on the half volley, Allsop making a fine stop low to his right and keeping City in the lead. The stopper was at it again moments later, this time Eisa broke through on the right his low drive thundered into the midriff of Allsop who did ever so well to hold onto the ball.
Green raced through on goal, flanked by two Cheltenham defenders as four minutes of injury time were announced, Flinders just managed to throw out his right arm to block and keep his side in the game right to the final whistle but City held onto their lead.
The Imps 1 Cheltenham 0
22 Ryan ALSOP
3 Sam HABERGHAM
5 Luke WATERFALL
6 Scott WHARTON
7 Tom PETT
9 Matt RHEAD
10 Matt GREEN
16 Michael BOSTWICK
23 Neal EARDLEY
24 Danny ROWE
30 Alex WOODYARD
1 Paul FARMAN
2 Sean LONG
4 Elliott WHITEHOUSE (90’ for Pett)
8 Ollie PALMER (59’ for Rhead)
14 Jordan WILLIAMS
26 Harry ANDERSON (36’ for Rowe)
32 Cameron STEWART
GOAL: Eardley 45’
24 Scott FLINDERS
2 Jamie GRIMES
6 Nigel ATANGANA
7 Harry PELL
8 Kevin DAWSON
11 Carl WINCHESTER
14 Elijah ADEBAYO
15 Will BOYLE
20 Mohammed EISA
27 Joe RODON
33 Ilias CHATZITHEODOIDIS
22 Rhys LOVETT
9 Danny WRIGHT (46’ for Adebayo)
17 Jerell SELLARS
21 Brian GRAHAM
28 Taylor MOORE (81’ for Rodon)
29 Sammi ODELUSI (60 for Atangana)
30 Emmanuel ONARIASE
Booking: Boyle 26’ Winchester 87’
Attendance: 7,891 (108 Cheltenham Supporters)\\
Referee: Sebastian Stockbridge
Assistants: Joe Clark & Darren Strain