Oxford United 0 Imps 1

Danny Mandroiu’s cool penalty conversion kept battling City’s play-off hopes alive with a vital victory at Oxford United.

Mandroiu’s finish, after Ben House was fouled in the area, edged an entertaining match at the Kassam Stadium between two sides looking to claim sixth spot in the Sky Bet League One table.

The Imps had to show determination in abundance to see the win out against a well-drilled Oxford side, but closed the gap to them to just two points behind the U's with each side having two games left to play in the regular season.

Head coach Michael Skubala made one change, bringing Freddie Draper into the starting line-up to try and give himself the greatest breadth of attacking options.

Both sides started confidently, with an early ball from Paudie O’Connor looking for Draper just having too much power on it.

City were forced into a change after eight minutes due to an injury to Reeco Hackett, with Dylan Duffy coming off the bench to replace him.

The visitors enjoyed a good spell of possession starting with a corner won by Duffy after a brilliant ball from Danny Mandroiu.

O’Connor had the first effort on goal from the set-piece, connecting with the delivery well but unable to direct his header to the side of Jamie Cumming in the home goal.

City did well to keep hold of the ball through Ben House and Lasse Sorensen, with Draper heading wide from Alex Mitchell’s head down.

There were nearly 20 minutes on the clock before the home side’s first real opportunity, but Greg Leigh’s shot from a well-worked free-kick was blocked by the Imps wall.

And when Tyler Goodrham found space for a shot after 25 minutes, Lukas Jensen was well-placed to stop the effort.

Jensen came to City’s rescue after 34 minutes, with a brilliant close-range save from Goodrham after a pull-back from Leigh - who had surged into the area with one of the best-worked moves of the game.

And moments later City threatened when House won the ball back in the Oxford half, playing through Draper who saw his low effort go agonisingly wide.

City opened the second half brightly and an incisive move in the opening minute after the restart led to the decisive goal.

Sorensen broke away down the right and fired in a low ball looking for Taylor. The No.9 was unable to connect with the ball but House was well-placed to turn the ball home - only to be fouled while challenging to do just that.

Referee Lee Swabey had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot, with Mandroiu stepping up to blast the Imps ahead.

Oxford, one of the best technical sides City have faced this season, inevitably enjoyed plenty of the ball as they looked to find a way back into the game. The Imps contained well and looked to counter, with Taylor sending an effort wide after 57 minutes following a quick counter.

Another City counter after 67 minutes led to Taylor winning a corner. O’Connor felt he was held as he tried to connect with Mandroiu’s delivery, but the ball fell to Draper whose half-volley landed on the roof netting.

City had to defend resolutely and with precision, and did a fantastic job limiting opportunities for the in-form home side. When Brannagan - on as a sub for the home side looking to make an impact - tried his luck with a powerful shot from distance Jensen was again up to it with a brilliant diving save.

Both head coaches made double changes to try and change the final stages of the match, with Marcus Browne and Billy Bodin coming on for the hosts. Browne’s first action was to foul Sean Roughan in a dangrous area -  the set-piece move ended with Mitchell flicking an effort wide.

Skubala’s substitutions saw Jovon Makama and Jack Moylan come on as he looked to see the game out.

That challenge was made harder with five minutes to go when Duffy was booked for a second time in the match and City had to play the remainder of the game with 10 men.

But they showed exactly what they were made off as they fought through for all three points.

Imps: Lukas Jensen, Alex Mitchell, Paudie O'Connor, Sean Roughan, Ethan Erhahon, Ben House, Danny Mandroiu, Lasse Sorensen (TJ Eyoma, 90+2), Reeco Hackett (Dylan Duffy, 8), Joe Taylor (Jack Moylan, 76 ((Adam Jackson, 90+2)), Freddie Draper (Jovon Makama, 76). Subs (not used): Jordan Wright, Jack Burroughs.

Goal: Mandroiu (47' pen).

Oxford: Jamie Cumming, Sam Long, Ciaron Brown, Josh McEachran (Billy Bodin, 70), Mark Harris, Fin Stevens, Tyler Goodrham (Cameron Brannagan, 58), Ruben Rodrigues (Marcus McGuane, 87), Greg Leigh, Josh Murphy, Owen Dale (Marcus Browne, 70). Subs (not used): Simone Eastwood, Jordan Thorniley, Oisin Smyth.

Referee: Lee Swabey.

Attendance: 9,587 (1,114 away).