Ebbsfleet United 1-1 Lincoln City
This weekend saw the Imps play out a hard fought draw away to Ebbsfleet to ensure that for 2013 they remained unbeaten. Ebbsfleet had taken the lead in the first half through Tom Phipp, it looked as though the Imps would get nothing from the match until substitute Conner Robinson scored in injury time to the delight of the travelling Imps fans.
An long list of injuries meant that David Holdsworth had no choice but to shuffle the side coming in to this game. The good news for Holdsworth was that new loan recruit Jake Thomson did receive international clearance in time. He partnered Dan Gray in the centre of midfield with Nicoalu and Sheridan providing the width behind Power who was in his usual advanced role just off of Taylor. In defence Robson was deployed at left back with Gilbert out injured and Nutter being released in the run up to this match Miller moved to right back. Both Platt and Barraclough returned to the Imps first team with places on the bench.
The Imps kicked off the match and started the game brightly with Sheridan winning a free kick in a dangerous area just minutes into the match, sadly Power wasted the delivery into the box. A corner awarded to the Imps shortly after this saw an effort from Power thunder off of the bar before bouncing out of play. Half way through the first half Ebbsfleet managed their first effort on goal, central defender and captain Lorraine had his shot well saved by Farman who needed treatment afterwards.
Jake Sheridan after being flattened earlier on in the half then was the recipient of another hard but fair challenge. This time he was unable to carry on and he was replaced by Colin Larkin. Shortly after this change Ebbsfleet took the lead in the match when a quick throw in to Phipp saw him unchallenged before hitting a shot from range which in all fairness Farman would be disappointed to let in, the ball flew past him with ease. A frustrating goal to concede for the Imps having started the game so well in attack.
Shortly after the goal Elder had the chance to double the lead but he failed to connect with a cross from Azeez. Elder had been lucky to receive just a yellow card when he lead with an elbow in an aerial challenge with Boyce, on another day the ref could have easily shown a red. Another effort was blocked by Garner as the half came to a close. Following the three additional minutes the sides went in for the break with the home side holding a narrow 1-0 lead.
The two sides came out after the break with the imps making one change. Bradley Barraclough came on to replace Garner who had struggled with a dead leg at the very end of the first half. Barraclough had barley made way on to the pitch before he was shown a yellow card. Apparently he had entered the field without permission. Something I can't recall seeing at any other football match in my life. He moved up in attack alongside Taylor in a more standard 4-4-2 formation.
The Imps hit the bar for the second time in this match around the hour mark after Nicolau hit a hard right footed effort from range, again the ball bounced harmlessly out of play. The Imps made their third and final change with just over 15 minutes of the match remaining with young striker Conner Robinson coming on to replace Nicolau. Robinson's impact was immediate, winning a free kick on the right side. Powers cross was met by Miller but his effort was cleared off the line in a packed penalty area. At this point it looked like the Imps were going to have one of those days where the ball just doesn't go into the back of the net.
Taylor had the next effort on goal, a header from Larkins cross ended up straight in the hands of Edwards in the Ebbsfleet goal. Shortly after Taylor, in action again, won a free kick on the edge of the box. The striker himself struck the free kick straight into the wall, Power hit a first time shot off the rebound but again Edwards claimed the ball with ease.
As the game drew to a close the fourth official indicated four minutes of added time, giving the Imps hope that a goal could still be found. The Imps grew more desperate and Boyce was pushed forward to try and compete in the air in the opposing box. A corner from the Imps saw Barraclough get a free header but his effort was wide of the mark. After all this pressure the equalising goal finally came in the final minute of the match. Larkin received a throw from Gray on the right side of the pitch before he crossed into the congested box, Robinson struck the ball first time and it flew into the back of the net. A late goal from the young striker but a hugely important one as it meant the Imps remained unbeaten in their last three matches.
The manner of the result sees this as a point gained following the last minute equaliser but with the run of matches coming up for the Imps we should really have looked to win this game. Whilst we are three matches unbeaten they are all draws and we are bang in mid table, just nine points off of the play offs but also only 6 points above relegation. With matches against Newport, Wrexham and Luton to come this month Tuesday game away to Southport really does need to be a victory to make sure we don`t start to slide down the table again.
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