Steve Tilson paid the price for drastically changing his starting line-up, as Lincoln City were hammered 6-0 by promotion-chasing Rotherham United at Sincil Bank – their biggest home defeat of the season.
Having not beaten the Millers in eight attempts, the pre-match statistics didn’t read well for the Imps, but Rotherham, who had sacked manager Ronnie Moore in midweek after picking up just three points in five games, had slipped off the League Two title race in recent weeks – something which could’ve spurred the home side on.
However, a hat-trick from the outgoing manager’s son, Ian Thomas-Moore, and goals from Danny Harrison, Ryan Taylor and Jason Taylor, left Tilson’s men still four points off that elusive 50-point mark.
Lincoln made no less than seven changes to the side that lost 2-1 to Stevenage last weekend, with midweek loan signings Elliott Parish and Tim Kilbey going straight into the starting 11.
With Ashley Grimes, Luke Howell and Stephen Hunt on the sidelines, Gavin McCallum, Ben Hutchinson and Ali Fuseini were restored to the line-up, with Patrick Kanyuka partnering stand-in captain Adam Watts at centre back for only his second City start and Joe Anderson featuring for the first time since early January.
Rotherham’s temporary management partnership of Andy Liddell and Paul Warne also rung the changes after losing 5-0 to Chesterfield last week, with 20-goal man Adam Le Fondre having to settle for a place on the bench in one of five changes for the visitors.
It was the Millers who started the better, and on nine minutes, striker Ian Thomas-Moore clinically lashed in from close range to open the scoring with his first Rotherham goal, after the Imps failed to deal with a corner.
Midfielder Danny Harrison then worsened the Imps’ woes when he capitalised on a Mark Bradley flick to finish coolly past an outstretched Parish in the Lincoln goal, to put the visitors 2-0 up after just 14 minutes.
The home side’s first goalmouth action came five minutes later, when Mustapha Carayol did well to float a ball in from the right-hand side, only for Ben Hutchinson’s header to go straight up in the air, before Millers ‘keeper Andy Warrington pounced on the loose ball.
The visitors were denied a third by Parish shortly after, when Marcus Marshall’s header from a Nicky Law cross was acrobatically tipped over the bar by the Aston Villa loanee.
Law himself went close 10 minutes before the break with a well-struck free kick from 25 yards that whistled past Parish’s left-hand post.
Lincoln’s first real shot at the Millers’ goal, though, came in the final minute of the first half, when Scott Spencer speculatively tried to curl in from outside the area, only for the ball to dribble across the turf to a grateful Warrington.
Five minutes after the break, Rotherham added a third, once again through Thomas-Moore, who thrashed in a half-volley from the edge of the area after some good work on the left by Marcus Marshall.
Forward Ryan Taylor got in on the act just three minutes later with a powerful left-footed drive across Parish’s goal to take his tally into double figures for the season.
Although their fate had already been well and truly sealed, Lincoln responded with efforts from Adam Watts and Ali Fuseini. Watts’ header was cleared off the line by a Millers defender, before Fuseini’s long-range strike was gathered with ease by Warrington.
Then, with just less than half an hour left on the clock, Ian Thomas-Moore nicked the ball off a dallying Patrick Kanyuka in the Lincoln box, causing the Congolese defender to cynically wrapped his legs around the striker – a decision which earned him a red card and Rotherham a penalty.
Thomas-Moore himself coolly despatched the spot kick to seal his hat-trick, before being replaced to a standing ovation by Adam Le Fondre, who despite having scored 21 goals in all competition this season, hadn’t netted in four appearances for the Millers.
Knowing that three points were safely on the way back to Yorkshire, Rotherham stepped off the gas for the final 20 minutes, and simply controlled the game against a tiring 10-man Imps side.
However, there was still time left for the visitors to add a sixth in the dying minutes, with substitute Jason Taylor firing in arguably the best goal of the night with a 30-yard rocket, to add yet more direness to the already grim evening for Lincoln.
Barely any of the 2,931 home fans were left to boo their side off the field at the final whistle, whereas the majority of the 835 visiting fans stayed to congratulate their side on a tremendous performance.
Stand-in captain Adam Watts said there were no excuses for the Imps’ lacklustre display, before commenting on Steve Tilson’s well-documented 50-point barrier:
“The team he [Tilson] put out should be doing a job – we’re all paid to play football and being defeated like that by a local side is just horrendous.
“It’s just not good enough. We need to pick our performances up. Yes, we need three points to stay up, but we need to be striving for more.”
Lincoln’s next match is an away trip to Port Vale on Tuesday, 29th March.