Lincoln City failed to claim their second home victory in five days as they were held by Accrington Stanley 0-0 at Sincil Bank.
Stanley arrived at Sincil Bank just one point and one place better off in League Two than their hosts, and despite finishing 2010 without a single win to speak of on the road, boss John Coleman has since guided his side to four away victories in five attempts since New Year’s Day.
Imps boss Steve Tilson was forced into one change after Luke Howell damaged a hamstring in City’s 3-1 win over Oxford United. Mustapha Carayol deputised, while Julian Kelly continued at right back after on-loan Arsenal full back Gavin Hoyte’s season ended prematurely with the news that he has torn his anterior cruciate ligament, medial ligament and lateral collateral ligament.
Stanley, on the other hand, were without the suspended forward Rory Boulding and full back Leam Richardson, who is nursing a groin injury. Terry Gornell and Ian Craney continued their partnership in attack, sparing the Imps another encounter with Sean McConville, who put City’s defence to the sword as he netted a brace in Stanley’s 3-0 victory at the Crown Ground in September.
The match started evenly, with neither side able to exert any kind of sustained pressure. Ashley Grimes was briefly presented with a half-chance early on, but could not latch on to Dean Winnard’s short back pass, and keeper Alex Cisak managed to beat the Millwall loanee to the loose ball.
Grimes again had an opportunity on 10 minutes, but sent his right-footed strike from the edge of the box straight at Cisak after Gavin McCallum’s good work on the left.
Luke Joyce replied five minutes later with a dipping strike that Trevor Carson in the Imps goal dealt with with minimal fuss, before Stanley wasted the resultant corner.
With the match degenerating into long bouts of head-tennis, it came as something of a shock when Josh O’Keefe’s astute header sent Gavin McCallum through, only to go down under the challenge of Stanley’s Phil Edwards. Despite the ire of the Imps faithful, referee Graham Horwood was left unmoved.
McCallum and Carayol continued to be the Imps’ biggest threats and, on the half-hour, Cisak was called into action, saving low to his left after Carayol’s fizzing drive.
Two minutes later, Cisak again had to be alert to tip McCallum’s ferocious, rising drive away.
Stanley did have chances of their own, but they were repeatedly profligate. The first guilty party was winger Jimmy Ryan, who skewed Ian Craney’s cut back towards the corner flag from 10 yards out. With half time approaching, Charlie Barnett followed Ryan’s lead, lashing his shot high into the Stacey West stand after Gornell’s clever through ball.
The second half began in much the same vein as the first had, with both sides seeing plenty of possession, but doing little to engineer opportunities. When one did present itself to Accrington substitute Sean McConville, he failed to show the form he had in the reverse fixture and snatched at his shot, dragging it wide.
Four minutes later, Ian Craney bundled his way through Danny Hone, but his curling effort drifted agonisingly wide of Carson’s top-right corner, with the Sunderland loanee rooted to the spot.
Chances were becoming increasingly fewer and further between, as both sides failed to hold on to the ball. Ben Hutchinson – on for the isolated Ashley Grimes – typified proceedings when he struck a weak free kick into the arms of Cisak from just outside the Stanley box.
As the game petered out, there was time for one final effort. Carayol skipped beyond Winnard’s challenge and sent a low cross into the box. Hessey’s stabbed riposte could only find Ali Fuseini, whose high, drilled effort flashed narrowly wide.
The draw leaves Tilson’s side in 15th place, and he feels that guaranteeing League Two football next season is not far away.
He said: “Eight more points should see us okay. You’re going to get games like today, though. The one thing we did today was compete, and that probably got us the point today. It wasn’t a great game and there weren’t many chances at either end.”
The Imps next face a trip to Burton Albion on Tuesday, 8th March. Kick off is at 7.45.