Abject City sunk by Woking
The blaze of euphoria engulfing Lincoln City following the FA Cup draw and a potential tie with Premier League giants Liverpool was all but extinguished on Tuesday night as an abject Imps side were beaten 2-0 by Woking at Sincil Bank.
An early controversial penalty from Kevin Betsy, plus a second-half strike from Bradley Bubb sent the 63 visiting fans home happy, while Lincoln never really threatened to hit back in what was a very disappointing display and one which must give manager David Holdsworth food for thought.
Whether players' thoughts were already attuned to next week's crucial Cup replay at Mansfield or the fact they thought they just had to turn up to defeat a Cardinals side thrashed by Hyde last time out, no-one can say for sure. Or maybe it was just a blip in the grand scheme of things, a result of tinkering by Holdsworth, who made three changes to the side held 3-3 by Mansfield on Saturday.
Carrying knocks from the Stags match were Mo Fofana and Tom Miller and they were replaced by David Morgan and Scott Garner respectively, with the latter making his full debut for the club. Also absent was Adam Smith, with Holdsworth admitting afterwards he 'needed a rest' after a run of games in the side. In his place came the young on-loan winger Aristede Bassele who, it has to be said, produced one of the worst full debuts of a City player in living memory.
After showing a couple of nice touches in the opening five minutes, his performance nose-dived after that at such an alarming rate that Holdsworth hauled him off at half-time and it could be a while before we see him in a City shirt again. For the best part he never seemed to know what role he was supposed to be playing, he looked disinterested and just wasn't at the races to such an extent that even skipper Gary Mills on more than one occasion gave him a verbal lashing, as did goalkeeper Paul Farman.
On a night where there was an expectant buzz among the 2,500 home fans, Woking enjoyed a dream start when Dan Gray was harshly adjudged to have brought down Brett Williams in the box in what was the game's first real tackle and up stepped former Wycombe striker Betsy to send Farman the wrong way from the spot.
City fans hoped for a quick response, but the Imps hardly tested Cards keeper Aaron Howe, who was given a far easier night than he expected. Lincoln could well have won a penalty of their own when Morgan burst into the box chasing Alan Power's pass and he nipped past the dive of Howe, who did well not to clip the Ulsterman's heels.
Andrew Boyce then headed over, before Peter Gilbert underhit a back pass to Farman, who had to rush off his line to clear hurriedly as the on rushing Williams gave chase. That was symptomatic of Gilbert's night as nothing went right for the left-back, who looked a pale shadow of his former self.
Without Fofana in the centre of the park and the reasuring presence of Tom Miller at the back, City looked at sixes and sevens for most of the first 45 minutes, with their two big creative talents in Jamie Taylor and Power struggling to get a foothold on the game, although at least Jake Sheridan was giving his all for the cause.
Bassele was duly hauled off at the break, with Vadaine Oliver coming on in his place, and it was obvious Holdsworth was less than impressed with his charges as he sent them back out early for the second half. As the whistle sounded, City looked re-invigorated and they attacked from the off, with Oliver looking deciding menacing especially in the air.
A couple of half-chances came Morgan's way, but he fluffed his lines on both occasions, while Taylor was struggling to get a look in against a defence that had conceded 12 goals on their travels in their last two away games and he wa subjected to having potshots at distance, none of hitch seriously tested keeper Howe.
The killer blow came midway through the half when Bubb latched on to a through ball and as Farman came out to close the angle, the Woking top scorer calmly placed the ball past him into the City net.
Colin Larkin then came on for the ineffective Morgan and City nearly reduced the deficit when Gilbert headed a Power free-kick just wide. If anything, Woking looked the more likely next scores and Billy Knott had an effort saved by Farman, before he was denied by a crunching Boyce tackle.
Holdsworth threw his last roll of the dice when introducing Smith for Sheridan, but apart from a couple of tame efforts from Mills, City looked unlikely and unable to reduce the deficit as they limped disappointingly to a first defeat in the Conference since October 6.
Next up is Dartford away and they go there without Taylor, who picked up a seemingly tactical booking when attempting to block a drop kick by Woking keeper Howe, meaning he will be suspended for Saturday, but more importantly will be available for Mansfield next Wednesday should the Dartford game not be postponed.
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