Date:Saturday April 5 2014
Lincoln edged a point closer to the certainty of mathematical safety in a quiet game against Dartford at Sincil Bank. The Imps lined up in a 5-3-2 formation that saw Arnaud Mendy play in the right-wing-back role. Foster and Brown played at the heart of the defence with Tom Miller sweeping in behind and Sean Newton offering width on the left. Charlie Adams and Jon Nolan sat in front of the three centre-backs, with Power playing slightly higher up, whilst Jake Sheridan continued up-front, alongside Kris Bright who returned from suspension.
In a dull first 10 minutes it seemed that Gary Simpson's decision to play Mendy on the right was a good one, as Dartford's captain, Bradbrook, played from the left and was the target of long, cross-field balls. The French midfielder's height nullified this threat, ensuring a scrappy, end-to-end opening. In the 10th minute, Mendy was caught up the pitch, leaving City's right-hand side exposed. Hard-working skipper Alan Power had got back, but was left on the floor by a piece of trickery from Bradbrook, whose cross was only cleared as far as Stevenson, whose half-volley was kept out by a piece of acrobatic goalkeeping from Nick Townsend. Lincoln tried to play football, with the midfielders passing among themselves, however, they lacked cutting edge and penetration down the sides, much to the frustration of their fans, and passing moves of two or three simple balls came to nothing as Dartford worked hard in the middle of the pitch. Power was busy throughout the opening minutes, pressing higher up the pitch than the rest of Lincoln's midfield and cutting Dartford's supply to their frontmen off early doors.
Halfway through the first-half, Dartford's Suarez saw a looping header from 12 yards be palmed off the line by Townsend, who collected it safely at the second attempt. A minute later, the impressive Bradbrook had to go off injured, and was replaced by Swallow, a smaller, trickier winger who proved to be a very different test for Mendy. Lincoln's first shot came as the half-hour mark approached, with Nolan blazing over from 30 yards. It was a poor attempt, but at least served as the first sign of any real attacking intent from the hosts. In the 38th minute, a Dartford corner wasn't properly cleared. The ball was crossed back in, and then headed across the six-yard box, where Stevenson wasted a glorious chance, heading over when well-placed and under little pressure. Throughout the first-half, Dartford looked to get in behind the Lincoln defence, but Miller made this very difficult, making up for the lack of pace from veteran defenders, Brown and Foster. The half-time whistle brought an end to what was a poor half from Lincoln.
Simpson changed the system for the second-half, moving the versatile Miller to right-back, and going to a four-man defence. Mendy moved up into a more familiar central-midfield position, alongside Nolan and Adams, whilst Sheridan went onto the left-hand side of a front-three, with the quiet Bright in the middle, and Power slotting in on the right. The first 10 minutes of the second-half were a non-event, as both sides struggled to adjust to Lincoln's change in formation. However, the game came to life somewhat as Sheridan went on a driving run from deep. His progress was halted by a Dartford defender at the expense of a free-kick, which was taken by Newton and deflected out for a corner. From the corner, Newton's impressive delivery evaded everyone and Dartford cleared. A couple of minutes later, Newton had another chance from a free-kick, this time from closer in, as a Dartford player handled the ball. The left-back's shot was only a yard-or-two away from sneaking in at the back-post.
Towards the hour-mark, an excellent cross from Alan Power was headed down towards the goal by Miller, forcing an excellent, full-stretch save by Dartford's Alan Julian, with what was undoubtedly Lincoln's best chance of the game so far. Just as it looked like Lincoln were finally gaining a foot-hold in the game, Dartford had a couple of excellent chances; first, Woodyard evaded everyone to receive the ball at the back-post, but got no power on his shot as the ball nestled safely into Townsend's hands, then minutes later Harris exploited the fact that Miller was no longer sweeping to get in behind Foster, however, the forward blazed over when well-placed to finish.
Towards the 70th minute mark, Koby Arthur came on to replace Nolan, who despite some decent passes couldn't really get into the game. The Birmingham loanee's pace and energy seemed to concern the Dartford defence, and not long after his introduction, a sublime through-ball from the impressive Power found Sheridan in space. The hard-working winger had only the 'keeper to beat, but his shot hit the side netting. This proved to be Sheridan's last action of the game, as he was replaced by Conner Robinson. In the 75th minute, a Newton free-kicked was flicked on and over by Mendy, who looked more comfortable in midfield than he had in any of his previous appearances. Three minutes later, excellent work from Arthur down the right-hand side saw him pick out Miller's run. The full-back beat his man and played an excellent cross into the box, however a last-ditch tackle from a Dartford defender stopped Adams from getting a shot in.
With 10 minutes of the game to go, Arthur and Robinson linked up well, and the former's cut-back found Power on the edge of the box. The Irishman's shot seemed to take a deflection, however, the linseman gave a goal-kick. Lincoln were in control of the game and the pace and energy of the two young wingers was causing Dartford real problems, as a throw-in was earned. Miller's long throw was cleared out, but only as far as Power, who found Arthur. The diminutive winger crossed with his left-foot, but Mendy's resulting glancing header went over the crossbar. Minutes later, as a Lincoln attack looked to have broken down, the ball found its way to Power on the edge of the box. His left-footed volley was saved only by the finger-tips of a goalkeeper at full-stretch. Just as Power was, justifiably, named man of the match, he helped Lincoln gain their final chance of the game, driving forward from midfield and finding Arthur on the edge of the penalty area. Arthur looked to place the ball, however he shot just wide. All in all, it was a pretty poor game in which Lincoln were never really stretched, but couldn't find a break-through. The Imps certainly looked better when they changed formation, as it allowed them to have two players - a full-back and a winger - down either side, whereas in the first-half, neither wing-back could get forward as there wasn't the necessary cover from midfield to fill in for them.
Date:Saturday April 5 2014
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