Lincoln City edged past a stubborn Altrincham side to reach the second round of the FA Cup.
Goals from Sean Raggett and Alan Power either side of half time was enough to defeat their opponents from the National League North and despite Altrincham pulling back a late goal, Lincoln held on to seal their place in the hat for Monday’s second round draw.
The Imps went into the match full of confidence after last Saturday’s 5-2 win at Chester saw them go seven games unbeaten and second in the National League.
After a scrappy opening 10 minutes, in which both sides struggled to keep possession, Lincoln settled and had the games’ first real opportunity.
Nathan Arnold’s out-swinging corner picked out Sean Raggett but the centre back could only guide his header over the bar.
Soon after, Harry Anderson pressurised the Altrincham defence into conceding possession. The winger, on loan from Peterbrough, instinctively fired a shot at goal from 25 yards out which clipped the crossbar on its way over.
However after 21 minutes, the Imps weren’t to be denied. Sam Habergham’s deep corner found Raggett unmarked at the back post and the defender made no mistake on this occasion, burying his header into the back of the net.
By this point, Lincoln were dominating and nearly doubled their lead just a couple of minutes later. Matt Rhead’s knock down was met by Anderson who once again saw his shot fly just over the bar.
Arnold’s pace and skill was causing the Altrincham defence problems and with half an hour played his cut back found Theo Robinson in the penalty area. However, despite having time and space, Robinson couldn’t make the most of the opportunity, blazing his shot over the bar from 12 yards out.
As the first half wore on, Lincoln continued to create chances with Arnold and Robinson both calling Altrincham goalkeeper Andrew Dawber into action. Meanwhile, Dawber’s opposing number Paul Farman, was a mere spectator for much of the first half as Altrincham struggled to create a chance of any note.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first with Lincoln dominating. Shortly after the restart, Alan Power released Habergham down the left hand side.
The full back’s driven cross was met by Robinson but he glanced hus header wide of the right hand post. He should’ve scored.
The hosts did double their lead on the hour mark when a high Lincoln press again forced the Altrincham defence into giving the ball away to the dangerous Arnold. He drove forward and slipped the ball through to Power in the penalty area who slotted the ball into the bottom corner for his first goal of the season.
The Imps were in total control of the cup tie and should of added a third goal soon after. Rhead’s clever back heel sent Anderson clear in the penalty area but his low effort was kept out by the legs of Dawber.
With 15 minutes remaining, against the run of play, Altrincham pulled a goal back. John Cyrus rose highest to head a corner past a stranded Farman and into the net to give the visitors hope.
The goal unsettled Lincoln and stirred Altrincham’s forward players, who had been largely anonymously, into life. However, the Imps withstood the late pressure to make it eight games unbeaten and more importantly seal their place in the second round of the FA Cup.
Lincoln City manager Danny Cowley was disappointed with his side’s lack of control in the closing stages of the game despite seeing his team progress into the next round.
“I think the game showed where we are at the moment,” Cowley said after the game.
“We’re around 75% there, but we still have some work to do, you can’t just play for most of the game and turn it off when you want.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t get a clean sheet, I want my defenders to be disappointed with that, like I am.”
The Imps will find out who they face in the second round of the FA Cup on Monday.