Lincoln United returned to winning ways with a routine 2-1 victory over Kidsgrove Athletic at Ashby Avenue.
The Whites were good value for their win, playing with dynamism, pace and power. Goals late in the first half from Rob Norris and Andy Toyne did the damage before Kidsgrove halved the arrears with a consolation goal from Lee Cropper in added time.
United manager Sam Wilkinson made just one change from the midweek home defeat, Scott Matthews coming in for James Blunden with Callum Ward filling the void at centre-half.
Lincoln started on the front foot and were aggressive in their build-up play, clearly keen to put Wednesday’s disappointing 5-1 defeat to Stocksbridge Park Steels behind them.
Jack McGovern controlled an early long-ball on his chest before turning and letting fly, his fierce right-footed effort sailing over the crossbar. It proved an indication of the home side’s motivation to obtain victory after Wednesday evening’s defensive horror show.
Lincoln’s early aggression was epitomised when right-back Harry Millard flew in on Kidsgrove’s Daniel Cocks, taking both man and ball. Cocks was not impressed, however, berating both the referee and nearby linesman for not carding the Whites’ number two, to the delight of United’s supporters and Millard who threw a cheeky smirk in Cocks’ direction.
Lincoln kept their foot pressed hard down on the accelerator and, with 11 minutes played, Toyne hit a speculative free-kick from the left-hand side. The effort was sailing into David Parton’s top right-hand corner, but the Kidsgrove ‘keeper clawed the ball away brilliantly to keep the score at 0-0.
There was a feeling that Wilkinson’s side had run themselves into the ground with their powerful start as, midway through the first-half, Kidsgrove started to make their mark on proceedings.
25 minutes in, Cocks collected the ball on the left and sprinted towards the box, eventually laying the ball off to striker Kyle Diskin, completely unmarked in the middle, whose powerful right-footed drive flew just past the post.
Barely two minutes later, Kidsgrove were banging on the door again. Daniel Skelton picked up the ball in the middle and then, with acres of space in-front of him, charged forward before striking a sweet shot that sailed over the bar.
However, Lincoln soon regained their composure and the game’s early narrative resumed; the home side taking a deserved lead with ten minutes of the first-half remaining.
Jack Wightwick picked up the ball wide on the left and struck a sumptuous ball forward towards Norris in the box who, with his back to goal and swarm of orange shirts around him, audaciously flicked the ball over the charging Kidsgrove goalkeeper and into the net to make it 1-0.
Toyne doubled Lincoln’s advantage on the cusp of half-time. The Whites’ number eight started and finished the move, collecting the ball in the middle of the park and striding forward. He then played a neat one-two, stroking the ball calmly to his left before sprinting forward into the box to catch the return pass. The through-ball from Wightwick and Toyne’s run were timed to perfection and Lincoln’s best player in the first-half coolly dispatched his chance, accurately aiming the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.
Kidsgrove commanded greater possession of the ball early in the second half but failed to create anything of any real substance. The pacey, energetic Tom France went on a few buccaneering bursts down the right but failed to really get in behind Lincoln’s back-four, who looked solid for most of the game.
Lincoln soon came to the forefront of the action again, however.
From the referee’s advantage, the Whites found themselves in a two-on-two situation. Matt Cotton and McGovern raced towards the goal with only Kidsgrove’s two centre-halves for company. McGovern knocked it square to his strike partner who back-heeled back into the number nine’s path. With the goal gaping, McGovern struck his effort too near Parton who comfortably rebuffed his shot.
Just seconds later, McGovern had another opportunity. Wightwick crossed from the right and the striker hit a sweet volley that was full of power but lacking in accuracy as the ball flew high and wide.
Lincoln kept up their high intensity, attempting to pin their visitors into their own half. Cotton’s final action before he was replaced by Conner Robinson was to tee up Norris, pulling the ball back towards the inside-right channel. But Norris failed to double his own goal tally, his effort bobbling wide.
Lincoln very nearly added a late third when Robinson escaped on the right, powering away from his marker. He then drilled the ball across where a stretching McGovern stuck out his boot but only managed to redirect the ball onto the post before Parton regained possession.
Kidsgrove threw caution to the wind and poured forward late in the second half and into the three additional minutes, netting a consolation goal at the death when substitute Cropper knocked the ball in from four-yards out. It was a goal that denied Lincoln a first clean sheet since the middle of August.
But despite the late blemish on the score line, this was a thoroughly merited victory for the Whites who now face the prospect of four consecutive away matches before a return to Ashby Avenue to host Leek Town on October 21.
Lincoln: McGann, Millard, Matthews, Brooks, Watt (C), Ward, Norris, Toyne, McGovern (Cann), Cotton (Robinson), Wightwick (Foster)
Unused Subs: Blunden, Vince
Kidsgrove: Parton, Davidson, Thompson, Ashman, Austin, Skelton, France, Sanders (Johns), Diskin (Cropper), Malbon (C), Cocks
Unused Subs: Rhodes, Ackerill, HaughtonTweet