The Imps slipped to defeat at the hands of their hosts Port Vale courtesy of a solitary goal netted by Antony Kay. Vale’s number six nodded the winner just after the hour mark as City’s seven game unbeaten run came to an end.
Port Vale started the game on the front foot, with their spearhead Tom Pope looking in the mood, a cross from the right was met by the Valiants number nine who headed goalwards but Ryan Allsop wasn’t troubled by the attempt. Vale were quick to attack and after Pope released Anton Forrester, he had two attempts blocked by Luke Waterfall and Neal Eardley, the ricochet rolled to Luke Hannant who tried to measure a curler into the top corner but it flashed just over the angle of post and bar.
City took their time, easing into the game, getting the measure of their opponents and when Danny Rowe got the better of Joe Davis, he cut inside and fed Matt Green but a swarm of Valiant’s defenders managed to smother the ball away just before the shot was released by the Imps’ striker. City were finding a few spaces down the right, Rowe and Eardley linked with the latter curling a dangerous ball to the near post which Sam Hornby just managed to grasp as Green hurtled towards the ball.
Kyle Howkins got his head on a free kick to the back post for the hosts, his knockdown was almost pounced upon by Nathan Smith but much like Hornby a little earlier, Allsop was wise to the move. The game was end to end with not an inch given by either side, challenges were whole hearted and it was appreciated by both sets of supporters as they urged their respective sides forward.
The Imps won a corner after the first real attack which had come down the left hand side of the pitch, Lee Frecklington landed it on the head of Waterfall but the skipper just got ahead of the ball and couldn’t keep it down. City began to get control of proceedings just ahead of the half hour mark, Rhead took control out in the left channel and crossed towards Rowe, a clever dummy from him saw the ball make its way to Elliott Whitehouse who hit it first time but it just crept the wrong side of the post with Hornby beaten. Rhead was becoming more influential and his knockdown to Green was just cleared for a corner, Frecklington swung it to the near post where Whitehouse went for another effort on the full, but he couldn’t turn it home as Kay blocked, the rebound came back to him and his second effort went wide. The Imps were closing down the space off the ball and it was bringing unforced errors from Vale with the home supporters getting a little disgruntled. They almost fashioned a chance though when the ball was played to the back post, just as it appeared Pope would fire at goal, he tried to feed it back across the box but Waterfall was there to take a couple of touches to lash clear.
Port Vale 0 The Imps 0
The opening to the second half was somewhat attritional, neither side were able to get themselves anything like a goalscoring opportunity, Eardley had to be at his best to thwart an attack from Hannant as the home supporters urged their lads forward.
City were a threat on the break, the introduction of Harry Anderson added a new threat and he almost broke free down the right after good work from Sam Habergham and Green, but a combination of James Gibbons and Smith snuffed out the danger. Akin to the first half The Imps were growing in statue and almost got themselves in front after a wonderful, purposeful run from Green he just kept the ball in at the byline to pull back but Anderson was inches away from applying the finishing touch. Frecklington smashed an audacious volley just over the angle of post and bar, leaving him with his head in his hands.
The hosts were to get themselves in front just past the hour mark with their first attempt on target of the half, a wicked free kick was curled into the box and Kay rose to flick the ball into the corner giving Allsop no chance. The goal breathed new life into the home side and their supporters as they pressed for a quickfire second. Hannant tried a cheeky chip from the edge of the box, which drifted over the top that had the fans off their seats, but it didn’t bother the scoreline.
City did their utmost to get back on level terms, Ollie Palmer did well to first hold up the ball then release Anderson, he was well challenged and The Imps won a corner. It wasn’t to be forced home but Palmer then dropped in a deep ball to the back post which Hornby did well to claim as the visitors began to press higher up the pitch.
Jordan Williams made inroads down the right as the game went towards the final ten minutes, his direct run and pass to Green created space for the latter who shot at goal and somehow Hornby somehow kept it out after looking like it would sneak beyond his reach. City pressed for an equaliser winning a corner in the final embers of stoppage time but it just wasn't to be.
Port Vale 1 The Imps 0
12 Sam HORNBY
5 Joe DAVIS
6 Antony KAY
9 Tom POPE
10 David WORRALL
15 Anton FORRESTER
21 James GIBBONS
24 Nathan SMITH
32 Michael TONGE
33 Kyle HOWKINS
34 Luke HANNANT
23 Ryan BOOT
2 Callum HOWE
4 Charlie RAGLAN (43’ for Davis)
14 Tyrone BARNETT (90' for Pope)
19 Dan TURNER
31 Ben WHITFIELD (59’ for Forrester)
35 Harry MIDDLETON
Booking: Davis 14’ Kay 84’
Goal: Kay 63’
22 Ryan ALLSOP
3 Sam HABERGHAM
4 Elliott WHITEHOUSE
5 Luke WATERFALL
9 Matt RHEAD
10 Matt GREEN
16 Michael BOSTWICK
19 Lee FRECKLINGTON
23 Neal EARDLEY
24 Danny ROWE
30 Alex WOODYARD
1 Paul FARMAN
6 Scott WHARTON
7 Tom PETT
8 Ollie PALMER (66’ for Rhead)
14 Jordan WILLIAMS (70’ for Frecklington)
15 James WILSON
26 Harry ANDERSON (52’ for Rowe)
Booking: Waterfall 20’ Eardley 86’
Referee: John Busby
Assistants: Richard Bartlett & Alan Clayton
Attendance: 5,580 (1,492 Imps Supporters)