Report: Stevenage 1-2 Lincoln City
A veritable game of two halves and no mistake was witnessed by the excellent Imps turnout of 1,171 in a total crowd of 3,427 (nearly one third of the total!) as City lined up with just the one change from last week as Harry Anderson came in for his first League start at the expense of Nathan Arnold.
Stevenage, whose shirts looked like someone had bleached them by mistake, came very quickly out of the starting blocks and a highly disjointed Imps team seemed not to have a clue as to how to stop them and they deservedly took the lead on 26 minutes when a superb through ball to Matt Godden saw the striker calmly slot home under the diving Paul Farman. This goal came while Sean Long was off the pitch receiving treatment following a very poor challenge by Harry Beautyman which went unpunished much to the dismay of all Imps fans behind the goal. Shortly after, another flowing move by the hosts saw Beautyman crash his header against Farman's bar and, not for the first time this season, a bit of Keystone Cop defending managed to keep the score down to just the one goal. City then began to come more into the game with Anderson cracking a shot just wide followed by a block from a Michael Bostwick effort which rebounded to Luke Waterfall who curled a lovely effort just over the bar.
Half-time: Stevenage 1 Lincoln City 0
During half-time, my son and I discussed a possible Imps resurgence in the second half, as we have seen so many times in the recent past, but we both agreed that City had played their worst 45 minutes either of us had seen in a very long time. It was going to be a case of not whether Stevenage would win the game, but by how many! This was then compounded by yet another farcical situation before the second-half even got underway. The ref blew his whistle but before the ball was kicked, Matty Green encroached the centre circle and the ref, quite rightly, stopped proceedings and made Stevenage take the kick again. So, again the whistle went and, like we were watching a replay, Green again pushed into the centre circle before the ball was kicked and then, also quite rightly, the referee gave him a yellow card. With Neal Eardley now in his more favoured right-back position and Sam Habergham over on the left following his introduction for the unfortunate Long, City looked more able to block the threat of the home forwards. Then, just six minutes after his first booking, Green was involved in a harmless looking challenge which most of us thought was a City free-kick, but the referee thought otherwise and gave it to Stevenage. Green, unsurprisingly, kicked the ball away in disgust but seemed to know immediately what that would mean; a second yellow was brandished and off he went. 39 minutes to go and down to ten men against a formidable opponent did not bode well. I for one fully expected a heavy defeat. But, this Lincoln City never gives up and we were about to witness an amazing turn around as the ten men began to take the game to Stevenage. Ollie Palmer was brought on to replace Matt Rhead and proceeded to have his best game so far for the Imps.
Successive corners a few minutes later saw Billy Knott place the second of these perfectly in to the near post where Sean Raggett jumped unmarked to head the ball home for one of his trademark goals! 1-1 and game on; Stevenage looked as much out of sorts as City had earlier in the game and it began to look like the boys in black were going to reproduce yet another fighting comeback from a goal down to nick all three points, especially as Raggett had another effort, a screamer which was headed for the top corner, tipped over the bar by the home 'keeper. Then from a free kick close to the corner flag, Knott whipped the ball into the box only for Chris Whelpdale, under no challenge, to give us a surprising penalty for hand ball. Palmer, who I didn't know at the time was ready to take his first ever penalty in a competitive match, calmly sent the 'keeper the wrong way. 2-1 Imps!!
And that's how it stayed, even though a beautifully chipped ball from Palmer put Josh Ginnelly through near the end but his shot went narrowly wide.
Final score: Stevenage 1 Lincoln City 2