City made it three wins out of three as they defeated Cheltenham Town with two goals in the second half at the Jonny Rocks Stadium to stay at the top of the Skybet League Two table.
The deadlock was broken when Cheltenham’s Craig Alcock put past his own goalkeeper, before a second goal in as many games for Shay McCartan extended the lead and sealed victory.
The Imps fielded an unchanged starting eleven from the side which defeated MK Dons last weekend, the only change in the matchday squad being the return of Scott Wharton from injury as he replaced Kellan Gordon on the substitutes bench. The game got underway under the bright autumn sunshine and the travelling City fans behind Josh Vickers’ goal in the first half were their usual buoyant selves.
Chances were limited at either end of the pitch with neither side able to really get into their groove in a quiet start to the game, defences were on top and it took a moment of quality from Shay McCartan to open up a chance for The Imps as he danced his way past two players only to be unceremoniously brought down. The Northern Irishman got to his feet to take the free kick and the ball cleared the wall, Scott Flinders scampered to his left and was grateful to see it slide just wide of the upright. City were growing in confidence and it was highlighted by Bruno Andrade who showed great skills to shake off the attentions of Jordon Foster to clip in a dangerous cross which Harry Anderson couldn’t keep under control before Neal Eardley floated in a delightful ball but the home side managed to clear. City were beginning to turn the screw, McCartan close to creating a chance for Andrade who raced in from the back post but the Robins poked the ball clear.
Andrade was to create another chance, once more beating Foster and sliding a ball to the back post where John Akinde raced in, but the striker was unable to turn home the opportunity. The close call seemed to invigorate Cheltenham, they pressed forward with a little more intensity, City’s defence however remained unruffled. Akinde fired a shot just off target, and McCartan was inches away from getting on the end of an almost perfectly executed free kick that caught the Robin’s defence somewhat flatfooted.
City’s ability to run with the ball was constantly putting Cheltenham on the back foot as they struggled to contain the marauding Akinde, McCartan and co but the scoreboard remained unchanged come the half time whistle
Cheltenham Town 0 The Imps 0
City started the second half positively, pressing high up the pitch and Andrade was involved yet again, shooting just wide with the aid of a deflection before Michael Bostwick tried a measured curler which was well stopped by Scott Flinders. The Robins’ ‘keeper was then quick to pounce on a dangerous centre from Eardley, just getting there ahead of the onrushing Anderson.
The Imps continued on the front foot as Akinde showed great strength to hold off his marker on halfway before slipping in Anderson down the right, he held things up to Eardley who whipped in a dangerous cross, Tom Pett hared in but just missed making the connection for what would have been a majestic goal. Anderson then was to put in a dangerous ball which McCartan sidefooted towards goal but it struck the unlucky Akinde on its way through taking the sting out of the effort and Flinders gleefully clutched the ball to his chest.
Josh Vickers had cut a lonely figure at one end of the field for much of the field, his only real involvement being a claim from a corner in what was a rare Robin’s foray into City territory for the hosts in the second half.
Just as the home supporters were getting behind their team hoping to break the deadlock, The Imps were to break their hearts with a wonderful breakaway goal. O’Connor did well in central midfield, Akinde then fed the ball wide to Andrade who slid in the overlapping Harry Toffolo whose first-time centre was turned past his own ‘keeper by the unfortunate Craig Alcock.
The goal breathed new life into the Imps who went looking to strike the killer blow, pressing forward with a new intensity and the Cheltenham Town defence buckled. Andrade smashing a effort from outside the box which Flinders did well to save but McCARTAN swept home the rebound from close range.
Anderson broke into the Robins’ half at pace, getting the better of Alcock to get a shot away that skimmed across goal which O’Connor lunged at but he was inches away from the decisive touch for a third goal. But it wasn't to be a chance rued as City saw out five minutes of injury time, sending the 754 travelling away supporters home happy.
Cheltenham Town 0 The Imps 2
1 Scott FLINDERS
5 Johnny MULLINS
6 Nigel ATANAGA
8 Kevin DAWSON
9 Manny DUKU
11 Ryan BROOM
15 Will BOYLE
20 Jacob MADDOX
23 Jordon FOSTER
27 Tom FIELD
29 Tyrone BARNETT
22 Rhys LOVETT
4 Ben TOZER
24 Kalvin KALALA (81’ for Broom)
26 Chris CLEMENTS
28 Kelsey MOONEY
30 Craig ALCOCK (46’ for Field)
32 Luke VARNEY (59’ for Duku)
Booked: Broom 38’,
1 Josh VICKERS
4 Michael O’ CONNOR
5 Jason SHACKELL
7 Tom PETT
11 Bruno ANDRADE
14 Harry TOFFOLO
16 Michael BOSTWICK
17 Shay McCARTAN
23 Neal EARDLEY
26 Harry ANDERSON
29 John AKINDE
21 Grant SMITH
6 Scott WHARTON
9 Matt RHEAD (85’ for Akinde)
10 Matt GREEN (88’ for McCartan)
12 Ellis CHAPMAN
15 James WILSON
18 Bernard MENSAH (82’ for Andrade)
Booked: Anderson 42’,
Goal: Alcock (og) 74’ McCartan 80’
Attendance : 3,202 (754 Imps’ supporters)