March 1st was the date when Steve Tilson announced his Lincoln City side would be safe if they reached the 50-point mark. But the 3-0 defeat to Aldershot Town on Saturday, May 7th has condemned the Imps to relegation.
Their fate became pre-cursed when Izale McLeod took the lead for Barnet just after the second-half restarted at Underhill.
It would be an honest assessment to suggest that Lincoln deserved to disappear through the trap door into the Blue Square Premier.
Tilson was forced to make one change to the team that were defeated 2-1 against Oxford United last Saturday, with Jamie Clapham replacing the suspended Danny Hone.
Goals are something City have found hard to find all season and in the last ten games before Saturday’s match they had only managed to net on five occasions.
Ashley Grimes, the prolific striker on-loan from Championship outfit Millwall has scored a third of City’s takings this campaign and is sure to be on Tilson’s wish list come the closed season.
In any relegation fight it is essential that the supporters offer as much help as possible by building a ferocious atmosphere. Each time the Imps surged into Aldershot’s half during the first 20 minutes the City faithful rose to their feet in expectation.
That electric atmosphere they had created was nearly rewarded on 26 minutes when the ball found Grimes in the box. But as City’s top scorer swivelled he couldn’t keep his half volley down and it went over Jamie Young’s goal.
The best chance of the game was to fall to Grimes again after a Luke Howell cross caught out the Shots defence, but striker’s shot only met the right knee of the defender and rebounded away.
As well as fans support, luck can also play a significant factor in fixtures of great importance. With just over ten minutes of the first half remaining Adam Watts looked to have pushed Shots striker Damian Spencer over in the box, but Jon Moss gave the matter no second thought, and really, neither did the visiting players.
Many may blame former manager Chris Sutton for this season’s meltdown, but part of the legacy he’s left is in the form of Cian Hughton. And the 22-year-old came close to celebrate taking the lead when his pinpoint cross met Ali Fuseini, but the midfielder failed to convert.
Imps fans were on the verge of leaving for half-time refreshments when an Aldershot attack ensued and ended in a goalmouth scramble, which left captain Paul Green with the job of clearing the lines when it looked certain City would go in at the break one down.
The mood inside the stadium was momentarily boosted when news came through that the score was still 0-0 between Barnet and Port Vale at Underhill.
That same mood was mellowed somewhat when news came through again that Barnet had taken the lead at Underhill, Tilson’s men now went into the second half knowing that only a win could save them from relegation.
It all went very wrong on 56 minutes for Lincoln when Clapham fouled Danny Hylton inside the penalty area, and a penalty was duly given. Hylton stepped up and put it to the left of Elliot Parrish putting Aldershot in the lead and near condemning Lincoln to the Blue Square Premier.
Fans were left deflated when Luke Guttridge accepted a cutting through ball 25-yards out before dribbling into the City area and burying a right-footed effort into the bottom left corner.
7,414 City fans that came to Sincil Bank went into raptures when a sector of fans in the Stacey West Stand began celebrating an apparent Port Vale equaliser at Underhill. That goal never happened, nor did it ever come.
Five minutes remained when Guttridge once again took control of the ball just outside the City area and proceeded past the on-looking Adam Watts and Green before placing his shot into the bottom-left corner.
The full-time whistle went and the City faithful flooded the pitch at Sincil Bank. Next season Lincoln City will be a non-league side and will review this campaign with depressing memories of their second departure from the Football League in 24 years.Tweet