Report: Notts County 4-1 Lincoln City
As I suggested might happen in the match preview, Danny Cowley dropped Matt Rhead to the bench and brought in Josh Ginnelly leaving Billy Knott to dovetail in behind Matty Green. This was the only change to the line-up which started the previous game, at home to Mansfield Town. I for one was particularly excited to see how differently we would play with this change and, without doubt, we started the game much the livelier of the two sides and should have taken an early lead had the likes of Green, in particular, taken the excellent opportunity he was given by a deft flick from Harry Anderson, but annoyingly he knocked the ball agonisingly wide. Michael Bostwick had a shot from distance which was well saved then Ginnelly saw a very good effort tipped over by home 'keeper Adam Collin. The resulting corner was curled in by Knott and Sean Raggett leaped above the rest but headed just wide. At this stage, my son and I were thinking we were well in this game and could take all three points from the encounter. I am sure that most of the other 4,138 Imps fans in Meadow Lane thought the same.
Then, it happened; the controversial incident that turned the game on its head and firmly put Lincoln on the back foot came in the 28th minute. Billy Knott, with his back to the oncoming Ryan Yates and clearly looking to swoop the ball over his own head and up-field, just as the County player stooped down appearing to try to head the ball, was adjudged by referee Sebastian Stockbridge to have had his foot up dangerously high and promptly sent him off. So, what was looking like being an excellent, end-to-end game suddenly took a sorry turn for the worse for the away side. I won't comment here about that challenge other than to say I sincerely hope that the FA will rescind the red card, but they won't be able to give us any points to make up for such a dreadful mistake. Ten minutes later and the inevitable happened as Terry Hawkridge's very good cross from the left was coolly slotted home by Jon Stead.
Half-time: Notts County 1 Lincoln City 0
As often happens with Lincoln sides of late, we began the second half in attacking mode and, in the 47th minute following some excellent work by Ginnelly on the left his cross was headed home by Anderson with Raggett trying to make sure the ball crossed the line. The Jimmy Sirrell stand erupted! The euphoria wasn't to last long though as the impressive County side pushed forward and, before long, right-back Matt Tootle struck a Stead pass low and hard into the bottom corner of Paul Farman's net. In the 68th minute, the Cowleys made two changes; Neal Eardley came off for Elliott Whitehouse and Ginnelly was replaced by Ollie Palmer as City went looking for a second equaliser. Three minutes later and Sean Long came on for Green as City continued with three at the back with Long and Sam Habergham pushing up as wing-backs. Sadly, we couldn't get back into the game and a dubious free kick for County resulted in a cracking goal from Jorge Grant who curled the ball over the wall hitting the post and bouncing into the net.
A second controversial moment then came as a County player appeared to put a very high foot into Sean Raggett's head but, instead of giving the offender his marching orders, referee Stockbridge saw nothing wrong with a challenge which was in fact much worse than Knott's earlier one, and instead booked Habergham for seemingly complaining too vehemently! Hawkridge then sealed a good win for the home side, scoring one of his typical mazy-run goals.
We mustn't be despondent, though, as on another day and with a fair referee who knows the rules, we could have got something from this game.
Keep the faith!