The Imps were to slip to only their second defeat of the season as Tranmere Rovers won by a solitary goal. James Norwood scoring the winner for the hosts in a feisty game at Prenton Park. However, City remain at the top of Skybet League Two
City made one change to the starting line up as skipper Lee Frecklington returned from suspension with Michael O’Connor dropping to the bench.Close to the banks of the Mersey the game got underway with a brisk wind swirling around the stadium, and The Imps were the first to get an opportunity to open the scoring. A corner won by Harry Anderson out on the right flank, the ball was pinged in by Harry Toffolo and it was met powerfully by the head of John Akinde and Scott Davies flung himself to his right to palm the ball away.
City pressed immediately again and Shay McCartan found himself in acres of space and burst into the area, Davies came out to close down the angle and force the Northern Irishman wide, McCartan tried to finish but back came the Rovers defence to clear from almost under the crossbar. A breathless 60 seconds or so still wasn’t over, McCartan again in the thick of the action, running to meet a cross and flick a header goalwards but the ball nestled just on top of the net rather than in it.
The Imps continued on the front foot, forcing the home side to backtrack, this time it was Bruno Andrade who skipped past his marker to fire a shot just wide with the aid of a deflection for City’s fourth corner with less than ten minutes of the game gone.
The atmosphere was electric and City continued to press high into the opposing half, Akinde was battling with Manny Monthe and Stephen McNulty and the effervescent Anderson down the right was working ever so hard on and off the ball. It was a real full blooded affair which was impossible to take your eyes off, Andrade skipped past Adam Buxton and his low cross into the box was just hacked clear with Akinde and McCartan looking likely to pounce. A lovely sweeping move from right to left involving Anderson, Tom Pett, Frecklington and Andrade ended with the latter getting a shot away, although it was blocked it only served to highlight some of the slick play from the visitors up to this point.
Anderson won a free kick down in the right channel, it was played in low by Toffolo and only half cleared by Rovers to Pett who smashed it first time the ball was deflected wide for yet another Imps’ corner, the ball was played to the back post by Andrade and was met by Michael Bostwick but it flashed wide.
Tranmere weren’t to trouble City’s defence too much in the opening half of the game with Josh Vickers only called into action to claim possession on the odd occasion, the most notable chance for the home side coming when McNulty met a left wing corner to loop a header at goal which the City stopper grasped at the second attempt.
McCartan’s pace got him away from Bakayogo before slipping the ball to Akinde, who in turn kept the ball moving to Andrade, the ball was hammered towards goal, however it struck Buxton taking the sting out of the shot in the final goalmouth action of the half.
Tranmere Rovers 0 The Imps 0
He home side came out quickly in the second half pushing forward with a little more intensity than in the opening 45 minutes but they found City as resolute as ever, Rovers were getting shots away but Jason Shackell and Bostwick were standing strong. Tranmere’s top scorer James Norwood did manage to get on the end of a testing cross from Jonny Smith, which went off target but it lifted the home supporters.
Norwood lashed a shot off target as the volume from the home fans behind Vickers’ goal urged their men forward, almost trying to suck the ball into the goal. Bakayogo’s curling cross fizzed through the heart of the box but no one was there to convert for the home side.
When it initially looked like City had quelled the threat, the home side were to strike as a quick ball through midfield found Norwood and he raced through to slot home past Vickers. Naturally it ignited the fire in the home supporters and they were off their feet and baying for another goal. Anderson almost silenced the home fans within minutes with a wonderful snap shot from outside the area which Davies did very well to save, diving to his right.
The Imps made a double switch looking to restore parity, with Matt Green and Matt Rhead coming on for Akinde and McCartan with just over 20 minutes remaining. City pushed forward as Eardley expertly made his way past Bakayogo, he clipped the ball to the back post where Bostwick headed down and Green tried an acrobatic overhead kick but the ball flew over the top.
City were back knocking on the door making inroads into the Rover’s defence, but the home side were holding firm and then looking dangerous on the break, the pace of Smith being a threat. In typical Imps fashion though the game was far from over, Toffolo floated in a dangerous free kick which was defended well. Andrade was the next aiming to find a City shirt in the box as Rovers dropped a little deeper. Michael O’Connor tried his luck from range, only to see the ball go over the top with the clock ticking ever closer to full time.
Toffolo did very well to fire in a ball into the box which landed at the feet of Green, his effort was blocked in the box as it arrowed goalwards, a block which brought the home fans to their feet as they sensed victory.
With City pushing forward, Rovers looked to find the spaces to exploit and Ollie Banks almost put the game out of sight, firing a low drive which just missed the target. Deep into injury time the home side were reduced to ten men, Norwood receiving a second yellow card giving The Imps a man advantage for the final couple of minutes but Rovers were to see the game out to pick up three points.
Tranmere Rovers 1 The Imps 0
1 Scott DAVIES
2 Adam BUXTON
5 Stephen McNULTY
6 Manny MONTHE
10 James NORWOOD
11 Connor JENNINGS
12 Luke McCULLOUGH
18 Jonny SMITH
20 Cole STOCKTON
24 Zoumana BAKAYOGO
28 Ollie BANKS
23 Shamal GEORGE
9 Paul MULLIN
14 Jake CAPRICE
16 Mark ELLIS
17 Dylan MOTTLEY-HENRY (82’ for SMITH)
22 Harvey GILMOUR (46’ for STOCKTON)
29 Larnell COLE
Booked: Bakayogo 29’ Norwood 73’ McCullough 78’
Goal: Norwood 62’
1 Josh VICKERS
5 Jason SHACKELL
7 Tom PETT
8 Lee FRECKLINGTON
11 Bruno ANDRADE
14 Harry TOFFOLO
16 Michael BOSTWICK
17 Shay McCARTAN
23 Neal EARDLEY
26 Harry ANDERSON
29 John AKINDE
21 Grant SMITH
4 Michael O’CONNOR (81’ for ANDERSON)
6 Scott WHARTON
9 Matt RHEAD (68’ for AKINDE
10 Matt GREEN (68’ for McCARTAN)
15 James WILSON
18 Bernard MENSAH
Referee: Andy Haines
Assistants: Peter Gooch & Ollie Williams
4th Official : Danny Gratton