City made a positive return to action as they defeated Accrington Stanley in front of almost 9,000 at Sincil Bank. Michael O'Connor and John Akinde were the names on the score sheet as Danny Cowley's men got their 2019/20 SkyBet League One campaign off to a winning start.
Summer signings, Jack Payne, Tyler Walker, Jorge Grant and Joe Morrell were all named in the starting eleven with Alex Bradley on the bench as the sun beat down on the glorious Sincil Bank playing surface ahead of kick off, the scene also being set by a wonderful noisy atmosphere from both sets of supporters.
The Imps team:
Stanley Team: Evtimov, Johnson, Hughes, Sykes, Clark, Finley, Prichard, McConville, Maguire, Bishop, Conneelly
Subs: Bursik, Edwards, Sherif, Francis-Angol, Simmonds, De Souza, Carvalho
Danny Cowley’s men started the game on the front foot, with Tyler Walker and Harry Anderson combining to feed Jack Payne out wide, his cross was just ahead of Jorge Grant but the early signs were positive from the home side.
Payne’s influence in the early throws of the game were there for all to see and within the opening ten minutes he fired a low effort that just sneaked the wrong side of the post, and the City number ten was involved minutes later which again ended with the Imps just missing the target. Payne fed Grant who set Neal Eardley free, his deep cross almost sneaked in at the back post but was cleared by Jordan Clark for a corner. The inswinging ball in found Cian Bolger, his effort however just looped over the crossbar with Stanley ‘keeper Dimitar Evtimov rooted to the spot.
Stanley’s threat was coming from the ever-busy Sean McConville down the left, the number eleven creating a half chance before Joseph Maguire then crossed for Clark to thump a header just wide of target. The visitors were gradually edging forward with a little more intent, they were to be met though with a resolute and well drilled City defence who gave little away, typified by Bolger throwing himself in the way of a well struck Sam Finley volley.
The Imps were soon back on the attack, Eardley curling a dangerous cross following some good hold up play by Walker, Grant looked to race onto it but the delivery was inches above the City debutant.
McConville was brought down by Bolger with half an hour gone just outside the box, in the D, the Stanley talisman stepped up to take it and curled the ball over the City wall but it clipped the top of the bar and went over. The Stanley number eleven was then to be involved at the other end as he brought down Harry Anderson on the right corner of the box, Grant played the ball to Bolger whose effort was deflected for a corner and City were to punish their opponents with the second set piece. MICHAEL O’CONNOR leapt highest to loop a header beyond the despairing attempts of the Stanley defender on the line.
The goal visibly boosted the morale of everyone of a City persuasion on and off the pitch, as they forced another two set pieces in quick succession but this time Anderson couldn’t profit as he couldn’t keep his header underneath the crossbar.
Grant hammered a free kick just over the top as injury time was announced at the end of the first half, then Walker forced another City corner although it wasn’t to result in a change to the scoreline The Imps finished their first half of SkyBet League One football on top.
The Imps 1 Accrington Stanley 0
The second half at breakneck speed when Stanley won a corner within 60 seconds of the restart but it was met with gusto by Bolger, heading away and City broke at pace down the right. Anderson putting in a delightful cross for Walker to head on target, Evtimov somehow though made a fantastic diving save to keeping out the goalbound effort on the line.
Harry Toffolo was proving important at both ends of the park, firstly providing an outlet in offensive positions then showing great energy to deny Clark a chance to cross back in his own half.
Evtimov then made even at this stage, one of the saves of the season to deny Michael Bostwick putting City two goals up, a wicked cross from the right by Payne was flicked on by Walker to Bostwick who looked to have diverted it into the goal but the Stanley stopper showed cat like reflexes to save.
After that near miss by The Imps, Stanley regrouped and bared their teeth again as Joe Prichard tried a measured effort which slid just beyond the grasp of Josh Vickers but also wide of goal as a reminder that the game was far from out of reach of John Coleman’s men.
The Imps though at times were superb and decisive in possession, manipulating the ball well and taking it away from their counterparts, Payne and Joe Morrell in particular linking superbly with the Bristol City loanee showing terrific vision and range of passing.
City were continually knocking on the door and doing it in some style, a fantastic passage of play down the right between Grant, Toffolo and Payne found Walker who turned the ball on target but Evtimov was once again proving to be a thorn in the side of the hosts.
Morrell made a purposeful burst which took him right to the edge of the Stanley area before being hauled over, Payne had two bites of the cherry from the free kick after initially hitting the wall but Stanley managed to clear.
Stanley changed shape a little after the introduction of Wilson Carvalho and a more direct approach gave them a different angle of attack and it almost bore fruit as McConville lashed a shot with very little backlift just wide of goal but Vickers had it well covered at his near post. Moments later The Imps’ ‘keeper made a fantastic stop to deny McConville who smashed a half volley hard and low on target which would have levelled the game.
City were again so close to getting their noses further in front and it was Evtimov who was the hero for the visitors, Anderson pressed high and won the ball from Mark Hughes as he tried to clear, the ricochet fell into the path of Walker who did well to get the ball out of his feet before poking on target but the big ‘keeper did enough to save.
The Imps finally made another mark on the scoresheet when Bruno Andrade was clattered inside the box after being fed by Grant, up stepped JOHN AKINDE and he rolled the ball into the goal from the penalty spot. In injury time Vickers made a fantastic save to keep a clean sheet, scrambling across the length of his goalline to deny Colby Bishop a last minute consolation for the visitors.
The Imps 2 Accrington Stanley 0
1 Josh VICKERS
3 Harry TOFFOLO
4 Michael O’CONNOR
6 Cian BOLGER
10 Jack PAYNE
16 Michael BOSTWICK
17 Tyler WALKER
18 Jorge GRANT
19 Joe MORRELL
23 Neal EARDLEY
26 Harry ANDERSON
21 Grant SMITH
11 Bruno ANDRADE (78’ for Anderson)
12 Ellis CHAPMAN (82’ for O’Connor)
14 Jordan ADEBAYO-SMITH
15 Alex BRADLEY
29 John AKINDE (76’ for Walker)
Booked: Toffolo 21’ Morrell 84’
GOAL: O’Connor 35’, Akinde (PEN, 81)
1 Dimitar EVTIMOV
2 Callum JOHNSON
3 Mark HUGHES
5 Ross SYKES
7 Jordan CLARK
8 Sam FINLEY
10 Joe PRICHARD
11 Sean McCONVILLE
12 Joseph MAGUIRE
19 Colby BISHOP
28 Seamus CONNEELY
30 Josef BURSIK
4 Phil EDWARDS
6 Lamine SHERIF (79’ for Conneely)
14 Zaine FRANCIS-ANGOL
15 Okera SIMMONDS
17 Erico DE SOUZA
23 Wilson CARVALHO (73’ for Prichard)
Booked: Sherif 87’
Referee: Tony Harrington
Assistants: Mark Dwyer & Adrian Waters
4th Official: James Bell
Attendance: 8,668 (257 Stanley Supporters)