City will rely on the result of the final group game next week to see if they progress in Group H of the Checkatrade Trophy following a penalty shoot-out defeat to Wolves after a four goal draw at Sincil Bank in normal time.
All the goals came in a blistering opening first half with The Imps twice taking the lead through Matt Green, but the fledgling Wolves side hit back first through Benny Ashley-Seal then Ryan Giles blasted home on the cusp of half time.
So the game would be resolved with a penalty shoot out, and the spot kicks went all the way into sudden death after both sides missed one in the first five, but Tom Pett missed City’s sixth spot kick after crashing it against the bar, Wolves taking the extra bonus point leaving The Imps to wait until the result of the final group game between Mansfield Town and Scunthorpe United being concluded next week to decide who progresses to the knock out stage.
Ideally needing a win, either in 90 minutes or virtue of a penalty shootout to be in with a chance of progressing to the knockout stages of this season’s Checkatrade Trophy City started the game with a strong side despite making number of changes to the side that defeated Forest Green Rovers at the weekend. A starting opportunity for the weekend matchwinner Kellan Gordon as well as a returning Ellis Chapman were amongst the different look to the side which began proceedings for the home side.
Wolves’ U21s had the first opportunity of the game following a free kick swung in from their left flank, Niall Ennis leaping highest to get the header on target which Sam Slocombe watched it all the way into his grasp.
The Imps had the ball in the goal moments later, Matt Green turning the ball home from Matt Rhead’s knockdown beyond the visiting defence, however Green was adjudged to have handled the ball so the strike was chalked off in a quickfire opening to the game. Ennis showed quickfeet and trickery in central positions for Wolves to then fire a shot towards Slocombe’s goal with the City ‘keeper confident that it was flying off target.
The game continued to be a competitive one, with the hosts fashioning more opportunities to penetrate the young Wolves’ defence. After fine work down The Imps’ right hand side, Green read the passage of play to run into space in the left channel with the Wolves defence claiming offside, playing to the whistle the City striker looked up and crossed the ball to Tom Pett who fired a shot which went over the top. Adam Crookes tried the more direct approach for City’s next foray forward with a long ball deep into the heart of the visiting box that Matt Rhead met powerfully, only to see the ball skip off the playing surface and just off target.
The persistence shown by The Imps and their high positioning on the pitch out of possession brought an error from the visitors, after a slip in the Wolves backline it saw the ball ricochet to GREEN who found himself in acres of space with only Will Norris to beat and City’s number ten did it with aplomb, slotting home into the bottom corner past the ‘keeper’s right hand.
Wolves’ chances to breach into the City box had been few and far between and it took a burst from Elliott Watt to win a corner, the ball into the box was headed clear by Jason Shackell who won the aerial challenge with Dominic Iorfa at the back post. However, the visitors perked up immediately and were to equalise moments later, a deep ball to the back post was fired towards goal, Slocombe saved the effort from substitute, Oskar Buur, but the rebounded to Benny Ashley-Seal who smashed home.
The scores remained level for a matter of minutes though as another ricochet set GREEN away, Wolves attempted a clearance but the ball rebounded to the striker, who showed great composure to slide the ball past Norris for his fifth goal of the season, this time past the ‘keeper’s outstretched left hand.
The scoring wasn’t done there though, the visitors coming from behind to level in first half stoppage time. This time Ryan Giles was the scorer, making his way in from the left flank and smashing an unstoppable effort into the roof of the net.
The Imps 2 Wolves U21 2
City made two changes at the break ahead of the start of the restart, introducing Bruno Andrade and Harry Toffolo for Anderson and Shackell respectively. The second period did start in a more subdued manner in comparison to the end of the first 45, but what was comparable was the amount of time play was taking place inside the visitors half of the field. It took some ten minutes before either goal was threatened, and rather unsurprisingly it was City on the Rhead pinging in a low driven effort which was deflected just wide of Norris’ goal. The lively Andrade was proving to be a handful for Alex Molberg and following a foul by the Wolves man on the City substitute, Crookes was a swing of the leg away from putting The Imps back in front but the ball just didn’t drop for him and the ball was hacked clear by Wolves.
Green looked to have raced clear to put in him the box seat to secure his hattrick but somehow, Wolves’ number 47, Cameron John showed lightening pace to get back to deny what looked like a third of the game for Green.
Gordon was to create an opportunity for Rhead, winning a fully committed challenge to then retain possession and cross but the big man’s looping header sailed just over the top as the play remained to be centred in and around the Wolves half of the field.
The game was one full of commitment, with Dominic Iorfa putting in a strong challenge on Rhead which incensed the home crowd, it only highlighted the intensity being shown by both sides to get on the right side of the tie as they both still were in with an opportunity to be in the hat for the next round.
Andrade fizzed a low cross into the near post which Norris did well to keep hold of as The Imps pressed forward as the clock ticked ever closer towards full time with the home fans urging their side forward. John Akinde came on for the final ten minutes of the game as City continued in the pursuit of three points with Green receiving an ovation from the supporters as he left the field. Akinde was in the thick of the action shortly after being introduced, Rhead kept Gordon’s cross from the right alive with Akinde being put off at the vital moment as Iorfa just did enough to block the striker’s route to goal.
Wolves were resorted to strikes from distance, as Watt curled a shot over the top in what was a rare attack from the visitors in the latter stages of the game as the pace of the game subsided somewhat.
Deep into three minutes of stoppage time, the visitors went close to stealing the points, a quick break down the left from Giles and a deep cross found Ennis who laid the ball back for Goncalves to strike, he didn’t hit it cleanly but Crookes had to turn it over the bar in the last action of normal time before the game went to the penalty shoot out.
The Imps 2 Wolves U21 2
Wolves U21 win 5-4 on Penalties
24 Sam SLOCOMBE
2 Kellan GORDON
5 Jason SHACKELL
6 Scott WHARTON
7 Tom PETT
9 Matt RHEAD
10 Matt GREEN
12 Ellis CHAPMAN
18 Bernard MENSAH
20 Adam CROOKES
26 Harry ANDERSON
1 Josh VICKERS
11 Bruno ANDRADE (46’ for Anderson)
14 Harry TOFFOLO (46’ for Shackell)
27 Jamie McCOMBE
29 John AKINDE (81’ for Green)
30 Jordan ADEBAYO-SMITH
32 Duncan IDEHEN
Booking: Green 2’ Rhead 70’
Goal: Green 23’, 42’
Penalties: Akinde SCORED, Rhead SCORED, Toffolo SCORED, Mensah MISSED, Andrade SCORED, Pett MISSED
31 Will NORRIS
23 Ryan GILES
24 Benny ASHLEY-SEAL
25 Elliott WATT
26 Pedro GONCALVES
43 Sadou DIALLO
45 Niall ENNIS
47 Cameron JOHN
49 Max KILMAN
53 Alex MOLBERG
67 Dominic IORFA
62 Andreas SONDERGAARD
38 Paulo ALVES
40 Oskar BUUR (33’ for Kilman)
42 Daniel CSOKA
46 Carlos HEREDIA
58 Austin SAMUELS
60 Enzo SAUVAGE
Booking: Ashley-Seal 24’ Giles 45’ Molberg 58’ Goncalves 63’
Goal: Ashley-Seal 39’ Giles 45’
Penalties: Watt SCORED, Goncalves SCORED, Giles SAVED, Ashley-Seal SCORED, Ennis SCORED, Iorfa SCORED,
Referee: Trevor Kettle
Assistant Referees: Alix Pashley & Duncan Street
4th Official: Declan Bourne
Attendance : 2723 (149 Wolves’ supporters)