A late Doncaster Rovers goal condemned City to their first Papa Johns Trophy defeat of the season.
Mark Kennedy’s side were unable to hold onto a third-straight victory after Charles Vernam’s header was cancelled out by goals from Kyle Hurst and Adam Long at the LNER Stadium, losing 2-1.
In the 11th minute, Doncaster had a good chance to open the scoring as Jacob Davenport’s misplaced pass was deflected into the path of Kieran Agard who was denied by a last-ditch block from Adam Jackson - who made his second competitive start of the season.
Following a reasonably quiet opening 20 minutes for both sides, Vernam almost put City ahead when Tom Hopper spread the play to him before he found a yard of space to let fly just over the crossbar.
Vernam proved to be an influential player for the hosts again in the 28th minute after he got away from Adam Long on the edge of the area to drag a shot against the base of the post.
An inswinging Max Sanders’ corner caused Doncaster some trouble shortly afterwards as the defensive header was flicked up across the goalmouth and bounced just past the far post.
In the 48th minute, Louis Jones was called into action when Robson made a darting run from the left and got away from Long to fire low into the goalie’s gloves from inside the area.
City’s early pressure at the start of the second half paid off when Jackson’s lofted ball down the right was crossed in by TJ Eyoma to Vernam who got in front of his defender to nod through the goalie’s legs and score his first competitive goal for the club.
Gary McSheffrey’s side responded and almost found an equaliser in the 57th minute as Kyle Hurst chopped inside away from Eyoma and sent a ferocious shot into the side netting of Jordan Wright’s goal.
An Eyoma cross from the right troubled the visitors’ defence again in the 68th minute, and after it failed to be dealt with, Vernam picked up the pieces and struck a right-footed shot over the bar.
Doncaster found an equaliser in the 72nd minute after Luke Molyneux’s inswinging free-kick from 30-yards out was headed away only as far as Hurst on the edge of the area who lashed his shot across goal and into the bottom corner.
Charlie Seaman went close to putting Doncaster ahead for the first time after his 20-yard free-kick flew over the wall and had to be parried clear from the bottom corner by Wright.
The visitors took the lead in the 84th minute from set-piece when Agard’s header from a corner was cleared off the line by Regan Poole into the path of Long who tapped in from a yard out.
Doncaster then had a golden chance to go even further ahead minutes later when the ball sat up nicely for Molyneux near the penalty spot but he scooped his shot over the bar - leaving Doncaster to settle for a 2-1 victory.
Imps: Jordan Wright, Regan Poole, Adam Jackson, Max Sanders (Lasse Sorensen 86’), Charles Vernam, Tashan Oakley-Boothe, Tom Hopper © (Jovon Makama 71’), Jordon Garrick (Jack Diamond 86’), Jamie Robson, TJ Eyoma, Jacob Davenport (Matty Virtue 71’). Subs (not used): Carl Rushworth, Paudie O’Connor.
Goals: Vernam (49’).
Doncaster: Louis Jones, James Maxwell, Joseph Oluwu © (Bobby Faulkner 68’), Adam Long, Charlie Seaman, Ben Close (Kyle Hurst 46’), Liam Ravenhill (George Miller 68’), Harrison Biggins, Kieran Agard, Luke Molyneux, Aidan Barlow (Kyle Knoyle 63’). Subs (not used): Johnny Mitchell, Jak Whiting, Faris Khan.
Goals: Hurst (72’) Long (84’).
Attendance: 2,338 (157 away).
Referee: Adam Herczeg.