Lincoln United have confirmed their place in the Evo-Stik First Division South play-offs after defeating Rugby Town 3-1 at Ashby Avenue on Tuesday night.
Jake Gibson, Matt Cotton and Danny Brooks scored the goals meaning the lowest Lincoln can finish is in fifth place.
The Whites were helped out by Stocksbridge Park Steels who beat Chasetown 1-0 with the goal coming from Lincoln United’s top scorer during last season’s campaign, Scott Ruthven.
Injury and suspension forced Lincoln United manager, Dave Frecklington, to change the starting eleven. Luke Hornsey came in at right back for the injured Jordan Lemon, who had recently been named in the division’s Team of the Year and Jake Gibson replaced the suspended Sean Wright at centre back. Unfortunately Jack McGovern has been ruled out for the rest of the season along with Lemon.
The first chance of the game fell to the visitors after just five minutes. Rugby Town striker David Kolodynski should have opened the scoring but he fired his shot way over the bar from close range.
The Whites had their first opportunity moments later when Mitchell Griffiths produced a great cross for Matt Cotton. The winger was unmarked in the box but couldn’t steer his diving header on target.
Throughout the opening stages, Rugby were proving to be a stern test for Lincoln. On 16 minutes, Mario Ziccardi had to produce a good diving save low down to his right to prevent Callum Powell giving the away side the lead.
Just a minute later Mitch Piggon silenced the home fans giving Rugby the lead. Ziccardi made another good save from Kolodysnki’s shot but he could only parry the ball in to the path of Piggon who couldn’t miss from close range.
After going a goal down it seemed to awaken the Whites. After 27 minutes, back to back corners led to a goal mouth scramble that almost levelled the game up but Rugby eventually cleared their lines.
It wasn’t long before the Whites drew level. Five minutes later, Rugby conceded a free-kick on the half-way line. Skipper Michael Jacklin’s header was pushed on to the crossbar by the keeper, who then dropped the ball into the path of his fellow defender who cleared the ball at Jake Gibson and rebounded in to the back of the net.
Lincoln United continued to increase the pressure on the Rugby goal and after 35 minutes the Whites went 2-1 ahead. Kallum Smith won the ball back down the left hand side. Gary King chased the ball and crossed for Matt Cotton who slid and finished off the move. The Lincoln fans behind the goal were ecstatic and joined in with the celebrations.
Just before half-time the Whites almost gave up their lead when Ziccardi and Gibson collided but Kolodynski failed to put the ball in the empty net with a turning shot.
The second half started quietly with both teams battling for possession.
On the hour mark, Cotton played a fantastic through ball for himself to chase which wrong footed the whole Rugby defence. He rounded the defenders and was brought down in the box by Josh Willis.
Referee Atkin showed Willis a yellow card for the challenge and awarded a penalty. Danny Brooks stepped up and smashed the ball in left footed putting the Whites 3-1 ahead.
Rugby’s best chance to get back in to the game came after 78 minutes when they won a free-kick on the edge of the box. However, Steve Towers could only drill the ball low in to the wall.
Gary King had a great opportunity to increase the lead with a few minutes left to play but he fired his shot across the face of goal after a good run down the right.
The referee’s final whistle was met with joyous scenes at Ashby Avenue as fans and players alike joined in the celebrations on the pitch. The stadium announcer had declared that Chasetown had lost and Lincoln United were guaranteed a play-off finish.
Lincoln’s next home game is on Saturday against Chasetown, however the result no longer matters and there will certainly be a party atmosphere around the stadium.
Full Time: Lincoln United 3-1 Rugby Town