The Imps slipped to a narrow defeat this afternoon against Doncaster Rovers in South Yorkshire in what was a game of few real chances at either end of the pitch.
With chances at such a premium it always looked like it would need to be something out of the ordinary to take the points and it proved to be so as there was little that could have been done to stop Ben Whiteman’s effort late in the first half which was to be the decider.
The Imps made one change to the starting line up to take on Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium this afternoon, Adam Jackson returned to the starting line up in place of Joe Walsh. Ahead of kick off there was a minute’s applause in memory of England World Cup winner, Nobby Stiles, who passed away earlier this week.
It was a cagey opening to proceedings, with neither ‘keeper called into action in terms of shots on target. The closest either side came to opening the scoring was a blocked effort from TJ Eyoma at one end, with Josh Sims curling a shot wide for the hosts. However, the first save of note came from the Rover’s ‘keeper as a Tayo Edun left wing cross was diverted towards his own goal by Ben Whiteman, and it would have sneaked into the corner but for Bursik’s diving stop.
The close call for the hosts appeared to kickstart them into action as they had their best spell of possession so far, but their only reward for plenty of the ball was a high cross into the box which Alex Palmer dealt with comfortably. Whilst Rovers were pressing high, it left room for Brennan Johnson to try and exploit and his pace was causing issues.
It was a similarly quick break from Rovers though which saw them go close, The Imps had got back to halt a marauding Matt Smith from finding space on City’s left but the ball was worked back to the right and Sims poked a shot which just went wide.
Smith tried to go it alone just after the half hour mark, chipping the ball over Edun’s head but his subsequent low drive was well blocked as The Imps’ defence remained cool and collected. Palmer then made a fantastic stop, as Tom Anderson turned a mishit effort from Ben Whiteman towards goal, the ball took a wicked deflection which took it away from the ‘keeper but somehow he managed to block. The save started a sharp break for City as Johnson carried the ball deep inside the Rover’s half on the left, his low cross forced Bursik into a save and Tom Hopper raced in towards the rebound but Joe Wright just managed to poke the ball clear ahead of the striker.
City went close as a goalmouth scramble inside the Rover’s box saw two chances being blocked inside the area, before Harry Anderson lashed over the top. The Imps were to rue that chance as Ben Whiteman smashed a volley which looped over the top of the outstretched arm of Palmer who dived to his right and into the goal.
Doncaster Rovers 1 The Imps 0
City made a lively start to the second half and won a corner within the opening couple of minutes although it was cleared it was an early indication of attacking intent from Michael Appleton’s side. Jorge Grant had moved to a wider position on the left of midfield and he was getting more of the ball than he had previously as a result and it was a cross from The Imps’ number 10 which brought panic in the box, but TJ Eyoma’s knockdown at the back post couldn’t be finished off.
Rovers almost caught The Imps on the break as Jon Taylor got in behind the defence after being slipped in by Whiteman but Palmer was there standing tall giving no way through and keeping the game within the reach of City. Fejiri Okenabihirie then warmed the hands of Palmer with a shot from distance as the home side finally broke The Imps’ dominance of possession since the restart.
Lewis Montsma denied Sims the opportunity to stretch the home side’s lead after Taylor had broken free down the right and The Imps were inches away from levelling moments later. Hopper held the ball up from Edun’s lofted header forward, Johnson took over and jinked wide of Cameron John before lashing a low, drilled effort that was beyond the dive of Bursik but also just wide of the frame of the goal.
The Imps made a double change with Theo Archibald and Anthony Scully coming onto the pitch and within seconds of the new personnel entering the fray, one of threatened the goal immediately. Archibald connected with a corner at the back post, his side footed effort though just sneaked the wrong side of the post from a City perspective.
Going into the final ten minutes The Imps were pushing hard again for the leveller, Adam Jackson looping a header into the arms of Bursik who grabbed the ball under the crossbar.
Right to the final whistle City pushed high again and again, forcing Rovers into the backfoot but the killer touch just eluded City and the hosts hung on to take the spoils.
Doncaster Rovers 1 The Imps 0
1 Josef BURSIK
3 Reece JAMES
4 Tom ANDERSON
5 Joe WRIGHT
8 Ben WHITEMAN
9 Fejiri OKENABIRHIE
11 Jon TAYLOR
14 Matt SMITH
16 Danny AMOS
20 Josh SIMS
24 Cameron JOHN
13 Louis JONES
2 Brad HALLIDAY (84’ for Taylor)
10 Jason LOKILO (88’ for Sims)
18 Ed WILLIAMS
21 Andy BUTLER
26 James COPPINGER
31 Liam RAVENHILL
GOAL: Whiteman 43’
Booked: Wright 71’
1 Alex PALMER
4 Lewis MONTSMA
5 Adam JACKSON
7 Tayo EDUN
8 James JONES
9 Tom HOPPER
10 Jorge GRANT
18 Conor McGRANDLES
20 Brennan JOHNSON
22 TJ EYOMA
26 Harry ANDERSON
29 Ethan ROSS
11 Anthony SCULLY (69’ for Scully)
14 Theo ARCHIBALD (69’ for McGrandles)
17 Remy HOWARTH
21 Jamie SOULE (82’ for Hopper)
24 Robbie GOTTS
30 Sean ROUGHAN
Booked: Eyoma 75’
Referee: Robert Madley
Assistants: Graeme Fyvie & Matthew Smith
4th Official: Barry Gordon
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