The Imps recorded a memorable win at Carlisle United courtesy of a Matt Green strike. The winning goal came late in the first half and was backed up by a tremendous defensive performance in the second half which meant the three points were going back to Sincil Bank.
Danny Cowley kept faith the same matchday eighteen following the win over Exeter City on Good Friday. The rain began to lash down as the game got underway leaving conditions very slippery underfoot despite the playing surface being on the hard side.
The Imps were quickly attacking the Carlisle defence and the home side had Jack Bonham to thank as early as the second minute, a searching ball into the box from Sam Habergham found Matt Rhead and his knockdown was hit first time on the volley by Lee Frecklngton but Bonham somehow got down to his left to save.
The Cumbrians looked to get an opportunity of their own in front of goal following a free kick award on the City right, Tom Parkes whipped the ball in, Hallam Hope flicked on but Scott Wharton and Michael Bostwick were commanding their penalty area and equal to the danger. Wharton was then close at the other end of the pitch, ghosting onto the end of a Habergham corner, but the centre back couldn’t turn it goalwards. The pattern of the game continued with play going from one end to the other, Clint Hill winning an aerial challenge to head a deep Gary Liddle cross on target but Ryan Allsop was in the right place to gleefully clutch the ball to his chest.
The game settled down somewhat before Matt Green warmed the palms of Bonham in the host’s goal, the ‘keeper diving quickly to his left and deflecting the ball clear of goal. Carlisle upped the tempo somewhat and were attacking with a little more purpose, after a short corner Jamie Devitt forced Allsop into a smart save before Matt Rhead was on defensive duties after a corner from the home side, blocking two shots inside the area. It ignited the home support but once again City stayed strong under considerable pressure and it was The Imps who almost profited on the break. A smart touch and pass from Frecklington released Neal Eardley, his looping cross held up in the wind and Rhead found Danny Rowe, however his close range effort was wide of the mark.
The Cumbrians were holding their head in their hands when Parkes met a Devitt corner but the ball flashed wide of the goal, it was arguably their best chance of the half at that point. City’s defensive strength was being fully tested as Carlisle continued to probe around the edge of the penalty area, but Allsop wasn’t forced into action.
Just before half time The Imps were thankful for that earlier rearguard solidity and built on it perfectly from a superbly worked free kick. Eardley slid the ball into the path of GREEN who raced into the penalty area on the right hand side before confidently finishing past Bonham.
Carlisle United 0 The Imps 1
City began the second half positively and had the advantage territorially with the hosts not really getting their own game going. Eardley curled the most teasing of crosses into the box and Rhead got there but his downward header was too directly into the turf, taking the pace off the ball and it allowed the home side to clear their lines.
Chances were at a premium from the home point of view but when Bennett latched onto a ball down the right channel, a neat turn from the former Barrow player created space to shoot inside the box but his finish wasn’t as good as his initial touch as it went well wide of goal. The burst of pace shown by the Blues’ number 14 got the home contingent on their feet, in the only breach of the Imps’ backline to that point in the second half.
Carlisle thought they may have had a claim for a penalty and a way back into the game as they claimed an infringement in the penalty area, however the referee and his assistant deemed the offence to have been from a player wearing a blue shirt. It was a real battle in midfield from both sides; their supporters urged the Cumbrians on while City’s solidity was shining through.
Carlisle poured men forward as the resolute Imps’ defence continued to match everything thrown at them, Cole Stockton tried an audacious effort from the edge of the box but it was over the top of Allsop and the frame of the goal as the hosts were desperate in their attempts to equalise.
City saw out six minutes of injury time to record the double over the Cumbrian sans solidify their spot in the playoff spots ahead of the trip to Wembley next weekend in the Checkatrade Trophy final.
Carlisle United 0 The Imps 1
1 Jack BONHAM
4 Luke BOYCE
5 Gary LIDDLE
6 Tom PARKES
8 Mike JONES
9 Hallam HOPE
11 Jamie DEVITT
14 Richie BENNETT
16 Mark ELLIS
29 Clint HILL
30 Ashley NADESAN
15 Louis GRAY
3 Danny GRAINGER (63’ for Parkes)
13 Jamal CAMPBELL-RYCE (63’ for Boyce)
17 James BROWN
19 Reggie LAMBE
23 Cole STOCKTON (77’ for Hope)
28 Kris TWARDEK
Booked: Parkes 45’ Jones 68’ Devitt 86’
Red Card: Jones 90’
22 Ryan ALLSOP
3 Sam HABERGHAM
4 Elliott WHITEHOUSE
6 Scott WHARTON
9 Matt RHEAD
10 Matt GREEN
16 Michael BOSTWICK
19 Lee FRECKLINGTON
23 Neal EARDLEY
24 Danny ROWE
30 Alex WOODYARD
1 Paul FARMAN
5 Luke WATERFALL (80’ for Whitehouse)
7 Tom PETT
8 Ollie PALMER (59’ for Rhead)
14 Jordan WILLIAMS
15 James WILSON
26 Harry ANDERSON (66’ for Rowe)
Booking: Green 34’
GOAL: Green 43’
Referee: Robert Lewis
Assistant Referees: Richard Wild & Barry Gordon
Attendance : 5,058 (618 Imps Supporters)