– Mikey Mumford contributed with this report
A brace from Ashley Grimes against Southend United helped Steve Tilson dispatch of his former club at Sincil Bank this afternoon as Lincoln won 2-1.
The City manager made two changes to the side that were comfortably beaten at Burton on Tuesday evening. Jamie Clapham replaced Gavin McCallum on the left and there was a rare start for Ben Hutchinson who relegated Ali Fuseini to the substitute’s bench.
Tilson’s intentions were clear from the outset with an attack minded 4-3-3 formation with Facey, Grimes and the aforementioned Hutchinson spearheaded the charge.
Lincoln started the brighter of the two with Hutchinson stinging the palms of the Shrimpers ‘keeper Rhys Evans inside a minute.
But it was Southend who were having the lion’s share of possession in the early exchanges and Paul Sturrock’s son Blair gave Trevor Carson some catching practice on 7 minutes with a tame half-volley.
Southend forced the first corner on ten minutes, and the aerial threat of bustling centre-half Graham Coughlan almost caught the Imps sleeping but his headed knock-down was hacked away before a blue shirt could react.
City’s first real attempt at goal came minutes later when Clapham received a short Carayol corner from the right and, after turning inside onto his favoured left foot, his low drive was claimed at the second attempt by Evans.
After a few nearly moments in attack it was Southend who were looking slightly more dangerous. Peter Gilbert broke from left-back and delivered an inviting centre which Adam Watts dealt with expertly to deny the onrushing Barry Corr on 33 minutes.
But the momentum was now with the home side and the game finally got the goal it needed. The lively Carayol was left in acres of space through the middle and when his fairly weak effort at goal was spilled by Evans, Grimes was on hand to prod home under the hapless keeper’s legs on 37 minutes.
Grimes, who had been quiet up to this point could have doubled his lead almost straight from the restart but his header from another Carayol cross glanced harmlessly wide.
Paul Sturrock made the first change of the match just before the interval with Miguel Comminges taking the place of Peter Gilbert. And it was the Essex club who had the final chance of the first 45 but Corr’s weaving run could only see him find the side netting from an acute angle.
The sides re-emerged from the break and the game quickly burst into life. Southend’s Lee Sawyer’s mazy run from the half-way line needed a last ditch Julian Kelly intervention to preserve the Imps 1-0 lead.
Tilson’s men though, to their credit, went straight down the other end when Carayol chased down a lost cause and squared for Hutchinson. The former Celtic man’s cross was a little deep for goalscorer Grimes and his pull back failed to find a red and white jersey on 50 minutes.
Lincoln continued to take the game to the play-off hopefuls. Delroy Facey powered down the left flank in the 55th minute and his excellent floated cross found Ben Hutchinson. He headed past Evans but not Chris Barker who cleared his goal-bound effort off the line.
However, on the hour mark Southend somewhat fortuitously found an equaliser courtesy of an error from Watts. The ball was flicked on and Watts could only get a toe on the ball; Blair Sturrock accepted the gift when he slammed home into the bottom of Carson’s net.
With twelve minutes left to play Lincoln regained the lead. A long punt up field from Carson found Grimes and he cut inside his marker brilliantly before firing in via the crossbar for his second of the game.
The Imps rallied to see out the victory but were not content to sit on their laurels and this was evidenced when Josh O’Keefe almost added a third with a low drive in the 83rd minute.
Scott Spencer, who had replaced the impressive Grimes, had a gilt-edged chance right at the death to inflict more misery on Southend but he fired over with the goal at his mercy.
City are now just five points off the 50-point mark Tilson says will keep them in this division, but the boss is adamant there is still work to be done.
He said: “Apart from being Southend it was a big three points for us – 45 points and another five and we should be safe, so we’ve got to go again Tuesday, but obviously it was a fantastic afternoon for us.”
After the game, a jubilant Tilson went and acknowledged the travelling supporters housed in the Echo Stand but said it was nice to put one over his former employers, “I was desperate not to lose the game but travelling back to Essex tonight is going to be a sweet, sweet feeling [for me].”Tweet