The Imps slipped to their first defeat of the season in Skybet League Two as Crawley Town won by a single goal at Sincil Bank. Crawley were to take three points back to Sussex courtesy of an unfortunate own goal from Michael Bostwick on what was a damp and breezy September afternoon.
The damp conditions in the air and there was a brisk wind but it did little to dampen the spirits of the supporters as the game got underway with the home supporters in fine voice. Harry Anderson got the fans off their feet with a lovely touch and turn of pace to take him past two Crawley men in the centre of the pitch, his clipped ball through to John Akinde though was just cut out by Crawley ‘keeper, Glen Morris, who rushed of his line to gather.
Former Imp, Ollie Palmer, was trying to make his mark upon his return to Sincil Bank for the visitors but Anderson was the one in the thick of the action up the other end, getting the first shot on target away from the edge of the box which warmed the palms of Morris.
Palmer was close to opening the scoring for Crawley, Lewis Young making a break down the right before firing a low ball across the face of goal, Palmer diving in an attempt to head home but he couldn’t get the touch.
City were probing down the right and Akinde found space in the channel, holding up play for Neal Eardley to get involved, the cross was a dangerous one from the full back with Lee Frecklington making a late run into the box but the visitors cleared the danger. Crawley broke quickly and won a corner from which Panutche Camara took control of the ball, before curling a dangerous effort on target but Grant Smith was equal to the shot, expertly tipping the ball over the top.
As the rain kept pouring down, the action on the field was just as relentless, with both sides coming forward in an attempt to break the deadlock but defences were on top. Bruno Andrade hit a speculative effort from distance with the ball skidding off the wet turf, but it whistled wide of the goal with Morris diving to cover. Crawley’s Lewis Young was next to get a shot on target, cutting in from the right before curling an effort which Smith gathered with relative ease.
The Imps were growing in confidence, Anderson forcing Morris to rush out of his area to clear before Tom Pett almost played the perfect one-two on the edge of the area but the ball was cleared at the last as the home side turned up the heat. Just ahead of the break The Imps had the best chance of the game to that point, Andrade taking control down the left before playing a lovely guided cross into the box where Akinde fired at goal with the outside of his boot but it curled round the outside of the post.
Crawley were to get themselves in front in first half injury time courtesy of a fortuitous own goal, the cross came in from the right and Camara flicked on, the ball cannoned off Bostwick and past Smith. Camara looked to extend the visitors lead moments after the restart but his effort was watched all the way by Smith who gathered possession, clutching the ball to his chest.
The Imps 0 Crawley Town 1
City presses early in the second period, winning a corner after neat work down the right from Anderson. The resulting flag kick though couldn’t find the head of Bostwick at the back post. Akinde put Bondz N’Gala under tremendous pressure as he looked to play the ball back to his goalkeeper, the big defender just getting enough on it. The Imps continued their positive start to the half winning another corner with Andrade getting more and more involved, and it was a corner from the number 11 which found the head of Jason Shackell which almost brought the equaliser but Morris palmed it away.
City found themselves down to ten men when Frecklington went in to challenge for the ball with Mark Connelly, and the referee dismissed the Imps number eight. Bostwick headed a corner over the top at the back post as The Imps were undeterred in their quest to get back into the game despite the numerical disadvantage.
The home supporters were raising the volume urging their side forward, and The Imps won yet another corner as Akinde’s low drive was deflected wide of goal. The game was being played out in the Crawley half with the pressure from City growing.
Bernard Mensah came on to make his League debut for The Imps and he helped City win their eighth corner of the game. Pett whipped in the corner, Bostwick met it but Shackell couldn’t get the final touch as the ball skipped away from him and out for a goal kick.
The wind was swirling around the stadium with the game going into the final ten minutes, and the visitors had their first real chance of the half, a backheel from Camara found Ashley Nathanial-George but he hooked his effort way over the top of Smith’s goal. Matt Rhead came on for Pett with the hosts still looking for the equaliser going into the final ten minutes and the visitors were putting everything into defending their lead. Harry Toffolo hit a low skidding drive which Morris had to get fully behind to save as it bounced up off the turf.
Mensah was inches away from opening his account as the game went into injury time, the number 18 getting onto the end of an Akinde knockdown before firing an effort which had Morris beaten.
City threw caution to the wind and continued to throw men forward in a last ditch attempt for the equaliser, winning a free kick around 25 yards from goal, Shay McCartan hit a low shot on target but Morris was equal to it, sealing the points for the visitors.
The Imps 0 Crawley Town 1
21 Grant SMITH
4 Michael O’CONNOR
5 Jason SHACKELL
7 Tom PETT
8 Lee FRECKLINGTON
11 Bruno ANDRADE
14 Harry TOFFOLO
16 Michael BOSTWICK
23 Neal EARDLEY
26 Harry ANDERSON
29 John AKINDE
24 Sam SLOCOMBE
2 Kellan GORDON
6 Scott WHARTON
9 Matt RHEAD (83’ for Pett)
10 Matt GREEN
17 Shay McCARTAN (53’ for O’Connor)
18 Bernard MENSAH (72’ for Andrade)
Booked: Bostwick 76’
Red Card: Frecklington 54’
1 Glen MORRIS
2 Lewis YOUNG
6 Mark CONNELLY
9 Ollie PALMER
14 George FRANCOMBE
15 Ashley NATHANIAL-GEORGE
16 Joe MAGUIRE
21 Dannie BULMAN
22 Filipe MORAIS
28 Panutche CAMARA
33 Bondz N’GALA
12 Yusuf MERSIN
3 Josh DOHERTY (70’ for Francombe)
5 Joe McNERNEY (90’ for Nathanial-George)
10 Dominic POLEON
11 Luke GAMBIN
25 Mark RANDALL
Booked: N’gala 12 Bulman 22’ Maguire 46’ Connolly 68’ Palmer 90’
GOAL: Bostwick (og) 45’
Referee: Matthew Donohue
Assistants: Richard Wigglesworth & Alan Clayton
4th Official: Matthew McGrath
Attendance: 8,321 (81 Crawley supporters)