Lincoln City took a further step towards League Two safety on Friday night after beating Hereford United 3-1 at Sincil Bank.
Davide Somma’s vicious finish put the Imps a goal up, before a sensational strike from Matthew Saunders doubled Chris Sutton’s side’s lead.
Marc Pugh pulled one back on the stroke of half time but Saunders’ second with 20 minutes to go made sure of all three points for City.
The match took place in the context of contrasting moods. Despite the much-anticipated visit to Sincil Bank of the World Cup trophy, the club was also still mourning the loss of legendary manager Keith Alexander who died only last week.
As all 6012 fans crammed into the ground, the specially installed big screen in between the Stacey West stand and the Lincolnshire Echo stand showed an emotional video tribute to ‘Big Keith’ before a period of silence and applause took place just before kick off. Fans also sang the first verse to the hymn ‘Abide With Me’.
Ian Pearce was declared fit to start the game despite injury fears while youngster Shane Clarke partnered Scott Kerr in the centre of midfield. Paul Green returned to the Imps’ squad but could only achieve a place on the bench, as could former Nottingham Forest youngster James Reid who signed on non-contract terms this week.
Hereford surprised some onlookers by starting the game with the experienced Kenny Lunt in central midfield. Lunt had been tipped to miss the game because of a groin injury.
Lincoln started brightly against the Bulls, who were playing in their away colours of all orange. A Joe Anderson cross was aimed towards Drewe Broughton, but the big striker could only glance the ball away from goal, leaving goalkeeper Adam Bartlett with an easy recovery.
Hereford, under the stewardship of caretaker manager Graham Turner, were looking to exploit Lincoln’s right side early on by testing Steven Lennon’s willingness to track back.
The away team were looking spritely under the new management team, but Lennon was looking lively himself, jinking his way past Ryan Valentine before rolling the ball towards Davide Somma who was unlucky to be given offside.
The first real opportunity of the game came on nine minutes when Kenny Lunt volleyed just wide of Rob Burch’s goal.
Lincoln took the lead soon after. A brilliantly weighted lofted pass from Scott Kerr found Somma racing in on goal. After getting the better of the last Bulls defender, Somma blasted the ball ferociously past Bartlett via the crossbar to give the Imps the advantage.
An extremely weak backpass from Ryan Valentine almost gave Lincoln an even better start. It was Somma once again who had the opportunity, but the onrushing Bartlett marginally beat him to the ball and managed to clear the danger.
For all their defensive frailties, Hereford were looking decent going forward—especially left winger Gavin McCallum. He was almost rewarded on 16 minutes when he beat Cian Hughton on the outside, only to see his powerful shot parried way by Rob Burch.
Soon after, a Hereford corner was directed towards goal by a Daniel Preston, only for Imps left back Joe Anderson to clear it off the line.
Despite Hereford’s positive reaction to conceding, they were hit by a hammer blow after 20 minutes. With nothing seemingly on, Matthew Saunders let rip from thirty yards out. The ball flew past Bartlett and into the roof of the net. Lincoln were 2-0 up and cruising.
More Davide Somma flair gave Lincoln a golden opportunity with ten minutes of the half to play but his pass to Drewe Broughton was delayed and Broughton was frustratingly caught offside.
Hereford’s increasingly direct play was being easily dealt with by the Imps. Hereford’s main threat, striker Leon Constantine, was being marked by Ian Pearce who was depriving Constantine of time on the ball and cutting off the supply to his head.
But then came a lapse in concentration. Just before half time, a cross into the box somehow found its way to an unmarked Marc Pugh. His powerful low effort beat Rob Burch and got Hereford back in the game.
The teams re-emerged unchanged from the opening half as the Imps looked to hold on for a vital three points.
It was a tentative start from both teams. While Hereford continued to try and expose Lincoln’s right flank, the Imps were having success of their own by taking advantage of Hereford’s high line.
Hereford were continuing to probe and a Marc Pugh cross was almost directed into his own goal by one of the Lincoln defenders- luckily it floated just wide of Rob Burch’s goal and spared him much embarrassment.
For the first time in the game, Lincoln were being put under pressure for a prolonged period of time. Referee Darren Deadman awarded Hereford a free kick to the left of the area. Burch flapped at the ball, and it dropped in the area. After a scramble, the Imps eventually managed to get rid of the danger- but the fans were becoming visibly anxious.
Hereford won a free kick on 65 minutes, which was floated into the area. Daniel Preston won the header and, after another scramble ensued, the ball eventually fell to a Bulls player with an open goal at his mercy. Somehow, he only flashed wide.
Just after that the injured Swaibu was unable to continue, with youngster Danny Hone taking his place at centre back.
With 71 minutes gone, Lincoln stretched their lead completely against the run of play. Matt Saunders grabbed his second of the game. After being presented with the ball from six yards out, he could hardly miss. The Imps had restored their two goal advantage and they could breathe again.
The match was getting more heated and a vicious tackle from Hereford full back Ryan Valentine earned him a yellow card. It could have been a red one and the home fans certainly showed their disapproval.
With around ten minutes to play, Hereford made two changes in a bid to save the game. Matthew Done and Mathieu Manset came on to replace Craig King and the disappointing Leon Constantine. Lincoln themselves were forced into making another change as Ian Pearce limped off to worsen the Imps defensive crisis. He was replaced by the returning Paul Green.
Despite more defensive upheaval, there was no sign of the Imps letting their guard down for a second time.
It was a fitting tribute to ‘Big Keith’ and a fantastic win for Lincoln who now find themselves well away from relegation trouble.Tweet