Chris Sutton’s Lincoln City side made it six games without defeat as they played host to in-form Northampton Town at Sincil Bank this afternoon.
The Cobblers had been in superb form heading into this clash, and a run of five straight wins has seen them upwardly mobile and very much in promotion contention.
The Imps had opened up an 11 point gap over the dreaded relegation places prior to today’s match, and a win in all likelihood would have ensured League Two safety. As it happened, they had to make do with a point after the Cobblers rallied late on.
Joe Anderson drew a smart save from Jason Steele with a curling 20-yard free-kick barely two minutes in, as Sutton’s side started purposefully.
Steven Lennon tried his luck shortly afterwards; his low drive flashing wide of the near post from 18 yards.
The Imps had the better of the early exchanges and Davide Somma’ 25 yard drive had Steele scrambling across his line to see his shot wide.
Chris Herd and Matthew Saunders also drew saves from the on-loan Middlesbrough keeper as Lincoln searched for a way to breach the Cobblers’ defence.
Northampton struggled to exert any kind of authority in midfield in the first half, and the prolific Adebayo Akinfenwa and his strike partner were receiving very little service.
Indeed, the frustrated Akinfenwa mustered his first effort at goal on the half-hour mark; miscuing his strike harmlessly over Rob Burch’s untroubled goal.
Shortly afterwards, the Nigerian forward produced a more meaningful threat, meeting Ryan Gilligan’s teasing cross with a strong header which whistled past Burch’s right-hand post.
Gilligan managed the Cobblers’ first shot on target on the stroke of half-time with a weak shot straight at Burch.
The Imps started the second half much as they had the first. They dominated the midfield and attacked the full-backs. Their persistence paid off when Somma was brought down in a wide position by Northampton’s right-back John Johnson.
Matthew Saunders duly lashed the resulting free-kick from the acutest of angles into the far top corner. It was a stunning strike, and sparked something of a response from Ian Sampson’s men.
The disappointing Liam Davis was replaced by Luke Guttridge, and the Northampton midfield began to grow into the match. Changes in attack followed as Steve Guinan replaced the anonymous Billy McKay, but the Cobblers continued to be toothless in attack.
Lincoln remained comfortable and themselves offered the more potent threat. Howls of displeasure came from The Imps faithful as Somma was felled running at goal, but referee Jon Moss was unmoved by the South African forward’s appeals.
Petulance began to creep in to Northampton’s play, and yellow cards began to be dealt out. John Johnson and Abdul Osman both had their names taken for heavy challenges on Chris Herd and Matthew Saunders respectively.
Despite their lack of creativity, the visitors registered with just six minutes remaining. Alex Dyer floated a looping cross into the box. Neither Swaibu nor Green dealt with it, and Johnson was on hand to sweep the ball home with the aid of a deflection.
Deep into stoppage time, Chris Herd almost snatched all three points with an audacious lob from the left wing, but Steele scrambled to tip the ball from under the bar.
Attendance: 3,964 (738 Northampton fans)
The Linc‘s man of the match: Matthew Saunders
Imps manager Chris Sutton said:
“I think we did enough to win the game, but you need to see games through and we didn’t quite manage to do that. On balance, though, we’re disappointed to have not come away with all three points. We were in the ascendency in the first half and made their ‘keeper work. In the second half, we got the goal and it’s disappointing to have not seen it home.
“It’s great to have Matt [Saunders] back. He did particularly well today, he’s quick and very composed on the ball and we’ve missed him. I think eventually he will play at a higher level.”
Imps man of the match, Matthew Saunders said:
“The feeling in the dressing room is that we are frustrated to have been so close to a victory and have it snatched away right at the end. We have to look at it positively; we played well against a very good team.
“We stopped them getting their heads up and playing. You get good players in this league, and if you let them pick passes, they will calve you open. Scotty [Kerr] and I had to screen those passes and I think it worked.”