FT: Imps 1 Ebbsfleet 1

Despite taking an early lead, City were held at The 12th Imp Sincil Bank Stadium on Saturday afternoon by visiting Ebbsfleet United.

Some early pressure from the Imps paid dividends in the third minute when Nicky Nicolau drilled past Preston Edwards and with both sides wasting plenty of chances to increase the scoring during the opening period, the outcome of the match was always on a knife-edge.

A minute after the restart leading scorer Jamie Taylor had a great chance to increase the lead only for his point-blank volley to go straight at Edwards and the Imps were made to pay shortly after the hour mark when an Ebbsfleet counter-attack saw the impressive Lanre Azeez square for substitute Liam Bellamy to earn his side a point.

Match report:

Andrew Boyce was back from injury and returned to partner Graham Hutchison at the back for this Blue Square Bet Premier game against Ebbsfleet United at The 12th Imp Sincil Bank Stadium.

Boyce's return saw Dan Gray move to right-back with Paul Robson dropping back to the bench. There was no place for new signing Mamadou Fofana, however, with international clearance still to be granted.

City kicked off and enjoyed some early possession and within three minutes on the clock the promising start paid dividends when Nicky Nicolau drilled his side in front. The goal came after Boyce got in a great challenge on the half-way line and with the ball falling to Alan Power he spread it wide for Nicolau who cut in, forced his man to back off and drilled a low shot past Preston Edwards in the Ebbsfleet goal.

Shortly after the restart Jamie Taylor fizzed a low effort past the post as the Imps went for the jugular again but the visitors were able to calm things down before Power stabbed a 20-yard volley wide of the same upright.

On the quarter-hour mark a foul on Colin Larkin by Patrick Ada gave the Imps a chance from a free-kick in a central position but after John Nutter's effort crashed straight at the wall, the visitors broke on the counter-attack and after Moses Ashikodi got the better of Boyce, the latter recovered and with the help from Paul Farman managed to keep the big striker out.

Shortly afterwards, Farman was forced to tip a Neil Barrett header over the bar as the visitors pushed forward again. Tom Phipp's delivery caused problems before Farman was able to smother and calm things down.

A second Ebbsfleet corner came along in the 20th minute and was cleared by Boyce and when City managed to get their foot on the ball a Nicolau free-kick was deflected behind for the Imps' first flag-kick of the afternoon. This, however, came to nothing.

Midway through the half Larkin and Jake Sheridan combined before the latter had a shot blocked and when Gray threw in long, Larkin saw his header claimed by Edwards. At the other end a harsh decision against Graham Hutchison saw the visitors gain a free-kick in a dangerous position but Liam Enver-Marum smashed his effort straight at Nicolau and the danger passed.

Seconds later Power wasted a great chance to increase the lead when, after he latched on to a weak Paul Lorraine back-pass, he decided to check back rather than go for goal or slide the ball across to an unmarked Larkin. This wrong decision gave the Fleet defence the chance to keep the score at 1-0.

A swift break from City then ended with Larkin curling over as the Imps pushed forward again in search of a second; another corner five minutes before the break then ended with Power cutting in only for his final ball to be cleared with Larkin ready to pounce.

A couple of minutes later Phil Walsh volleyed wide from the edge of the box after Ebbsfleet had forced their fourth and fifth corners of the game; at the other end Taylor fired wide on the turn after Larkin squared for his strike partner.

The half ended after one added minute.

HT: Imps 1 Ebbsfleet 0

Both sides emerged unchanged and City were quickly on the attack as, after a long ball from Gray released Taylor who was denied a sight of goal by Lorraine. The resultant throw-in, taken by Gray, was flicked on by Boyce for Taylor but he saw his volley go straight at Edwards from six yards out.

A long forward ball from Boyce then released Larkin who got the better of his marker before drilling over. A sweeping move down the left then ended up with the visiting defence hurriedly clearing from a dangerous Nicolau centre.

A double change for Ebbsfleet in the 57th minute saw Liam Bellamy and Nathan Elder replace
Neil Barrett and Liam Enver-Marum.

On the hour mark a long Farman punt led to a City corner but after this was cleared an Ebbsfleet counter-attack saw Azeez break at pace down the right. He had a couple of players up in support and duly squared for substitute Bellamy who blasted past Farman to level the scores.

Five minutes after this set-back, Paul Robson replaced a limping Gary Mills for City with Gray moving into midfield as a result. But it wasn't long before the visitors were pushing forward again, winning a corner on their right which was headed wide by Elder.

Wih 18 minutes remaining, Vadaine Oliver and Conner Robinson came on for Colin Larkin and Nicky Nicolau as manager David Holdsworth looked for his young substitutes to help edge his side in front.

Oliver was quickly in the action, meeting a Taylor cross only to be penalised for a push on Lorraine whilst at the other end Farman palmed away an Azeez shot after the winger sprinted forward before trying his luck.

Azeez was denied again by Farman as the visitors looked the more likely to add to the scoring whilst shortly afterwards Gray requred treatment after taking a knock before he was able to resume his duties.

A foul on Sheridan by Phipp gave the Imps a chance to create something of their own as the clock ticked on by Power's delivery was poor and the ball sailed straight out for a goal-kick. Gray then fired wide from range before Oliver headed a Nutter cross down and into Edwards' gloves.

With then game now in its last four minutes a Taylor corner was just missed by Boyce at the back post whilst play quickly switched to the other end with Farman holding a low centre following a United corner.

City had three added minutes in which to get something more than a point from the game whilst the visitors took the chance to bring Ben Greenhalgh on for Moses Ashikodi, eating up enough seconds to ensure the game finished one apiece.

FT: Imps 1 Ebbsfleet 1

City: Paul Farman, Dan Gray, Andrew Boyce, Graham Hutchison, John Nutter, Gary Mills, Alan Power, Nicky Nicolau, Jake Sheridan, Colin Larkin, Jamie Taylor.

subs: Paul Robson (for Mills 67), Vadaine Oliver (for Larkin 72), Peter Bore, Conner Robinson (for Nicolau 72), Jake Turner.

goals: Nicolau (3)

Ebbsfleet: Preston Edwards, Craig Stone, Phil Walsh, Paul Lorraine, Joe Howe, Patrick Ada, Tom Phipp, Neil Barrett, Liam Enver-Marum, Lanre Azeez, Moses Ashikodi

subs: Ryan Blake, Nathan Elder (for Enver-Mrum 57), Liam Bellamy (for Barrett 57), Ben Greenhalgh (for Ashikodi 90+2), Lucas Menz

goals: Bellamy (62)

Referee: Jason Whiteley
Assistants: Chris Ward & Alix Pashley
Fourth Official: Matthew Walsh

Attendance: 1,682 (35 visiting supporters)