Steve Tilson experienced defeat for the first time as Lincoln City manager, as the Imps lost 2-0 to Northampton Town on Tuesday night.
The result means Tilson’s side drop into the relegation zone in League Two – a point behind in-form Hereford United in 22nd place.
Goals either side of the interval from defensive-pairing Dean Beckwith and John Johnson won it for the Cobblers, who move up to 19th place.
Gillingham loanee Josh Gowling made his debut for the Imps, partnering Adam Watts in the heart of the Lincoln defence with Moses Swaibu dropping to the bench, in what was the only change from Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Wycombe.
Other new arrivals – Gavin Hoyte and Luke Howell – made their home debuts, whilst Ashley Grimes had to settle for a place on the bench, alongside Delroy Facey, back in contention after international duty with Grenada.
It was the Imps who made the better start, with Mustapha Carayol having two decent chances within the first 15 minutes. The first – from distance – was straight at Northampton ‘keeper Chris Dunn, and the second he managed to scoop over the bar from 12 yards after good work by Albert Jarrett on the left hand side.
The Imps’ best move of the first half, though, came just after the half hour mark, when Clark Keltie neatly played in the overlapping Jamie Clapham who took the ball to the byline and put in a low cross into the Cobblers’ box towards Ben Hutchinson, only for a Northampton defender to get there first.
Then, on 33 minutes, young Cobblers midfielder Nathaniel Wedderburn hit a venomous shot from 25 yards straight at Joe Anyon, who seemed to have it covered, but the Lincoln ‘keeper spilled the ball and watched it trickle dangerously past his post for a corner.
A few minutes later, from another corner, the ball came out to Billy McKay whose shot rebounded off the post straight to Dean Beckwith, and the defender hit a first-time half-volley through a crowd of bodies and into the Lincoln net to make it 1-0 to the visitors going into the break.
Instead of pushing for an equaliser after the restart, the Imps found themselves on thin ice. On the hour mark, Cobblers midfielder Abdul Osman saw his header hit the crossbar, with Nathaniel Wedderburn’s follow-up effort narrowly missing wide of the post.
Steve Tilson then decided it was time for a change up front – bringing Delroy Facey and Ashley Grimes on for Drewe Broughton and Ben Hutchinson. Grimes almost made a fairytale start to his career at Sincil Bank, but his shot from the edge of the box was blocked well by the Northampton defence.
With just over 15 minutes left on the clock, though, Northampton sealed the victory, again from a corner. This time it was fullback John Johnson who easily shrugged off Delroy Facey to head in from close range, doubling his side’s lead.
Five minutes later, Facey almost grabbed one back for the home side, in what was the Imps’ best move and best chance of the whole game. However his header from Gavin Hoyte’s cross wasn’t well directed, and Chris Dunn watched the ball pass his post.
The Imps didn’t really offer any reply in the last ten minutes, but Northampton nearly made it three on a couple of occasions – Joe Anyon doing just enough to tip the ball onto the bar from a long-range effort, and Cobblers fullback Liam Davis almost making it a hat-trick of defenders on the scoresheet with an attempt from the edge of the box.
After the game, Imps boss Steve Tilson pointed out where he thought his side went wrong: “I thought we did OK in the first half, but the second half disappointed me. I thought we gave them too much respect, and too much time on the ball, and we got punished from another set play.”
He continued: “We’ve put some decent balls in the box, but we’ve got to be a little bit braver. I don’t mind people getting in the box and missing, but it’s when they’re not getting in there that concerns me.”
Tilson also asked for more time to really stamp his mark on the Imps side: “It was always a big challenge [taking the Lincoln job] and a challenge that I’m looking forward to succeeding in, but it’s not going to happen overnight.”
The Linc’s Man of the Match: Josh Gowling
Attendance: 4,459 (217 visitors)