Lincoln United beat Corby Town on penalties after thriller

Lincoln United are through to the next round of the Integro League Cup after a thrilling penalty shoot-out win over Corby Town.

With Lincoln on the brink of being knocked about after a frantic spectacle at Ashby Avenue, Matt Cotton scored to make it 4-4 in the 95th minute to send the tie to penalties.

After both sides scored their first five spot kicks, Jamie Anton missed the first penalty of sudden death, allowing Kallum Smith to send the Whites through.

Earlier, Lincoln had taken the lead three times in the opening 45 minutes, being pegged back each time by a Corby wide who refused to let them get away before taking the lead themselves with 19 minutes left.

And the Steelmen looked to be heading through until Cotton’s late show.

Despite making several changes to give match action to other members of his squad, Sam Wilkinson’s side started the better and opened the scoring just seven minutes in. The goal came from Danny Brooks’ piledriving free kick 25 yards out, which flashed past visiting ‘keeper Paul Bastock and into the corner.

Then, Bastock raced out to deny Sean Cann but the ball spilled out to Jack Wightwick on the corner of the box. The winger’s clever chip was so nearly perfectly executed but the retreating Kern Miller headed off the line.

As Lincoln continued to dominate the early stages, Smith’s strike from range deflected off a visiting defender, but Bastock scrambled back across his line to smother.

Approaching the midway point of the half, Corby came more into the game. Paul Malone’s powerful header fired just over, before Steven Leslie’s free kick failed to trouble Phil McGann.

And the Steelmen grabbed an equaliser on the half hour. Lee Beeson’s free kick resulted in a scramble six yards out, and Leslie prodded home to level.

By this stage, Corby were had gained control and Jack McGovern spotted McGann off his line, only for his long range lob to drop wide.

So it was against the run of play when the Whites regained the lead. Cann beat the offside trap to latch onto a long ball over the top, and he lofted over the advancing Bastock.

But Corby pegged their hosts back again just two minutes later. McGovern’s cross was only half cleared, and Jordan Crawford knocked down for Leslie to fire home his second of the half from 12 yards.

With both sides looking to end a frenetic first half on top, McGovern’s angled drive was saved by McGann and Lincoln’s Ryan Oliver saw a scuffed effort comfortably held.

But it was Lincoln who did go into half time in front. Cann was tripped in the box, and Brooks emphatically converted from 12 yards in the final action of a frenetic first half.

Corby came out for the second half eager to take control and level for a third time, and they managed it eight minutes into the half. Leslie set up Crawford, whose 20 yard volley swerved beyond McGann’s reach and crossed the line via the inside of the post.

The frantic nature of the game continued, and Corby felt they should have taken the lead for the first time shortly afterwards. Crawford’s cross was turned just over his own bar by James Blunden, and from the resulting corner Malone rose highest, powering a downward header that McGann saved. Corby felt it had crossed the line, but the assistant disagreed and the Whites remained on level terms.

But they didn’t remain on level terms for long, and Corby did take the lead for the first time on the night with 19 minutes to play. Blunden battled with Crawford in the box and handled as he fell to the floor, allowing Leslie the opportunity to bag the matchball from the spot. He duly sent McGann the wrong way to make it 4-3.

Substitute Jordan O’Brian then came within inches of adding a fifth, the sliding winger just failing to connect with McGovern’s low cross to the far post.

But the Whites weren’t going to lie down, Smith’s dipping volley forcing Bastock to scramble across his goal as the ball flew wide.

Neither side let up their intensity late on, and Ben Diamond twice came close to securing the win but McGann saved both times.

Given the nature of the game, it always felt like the Whites would get one big chance, and two minutes into stoppage time they got one. Wightwick’s deep free kick was headed back across goal by Brooks, and Andy Toyne headed over from inside the six yard box when he should have forced it home.

And with Lincoln staring defeat squarely in the face, Cotton’s deflected 20 yard effort nestled inside the far corner to force penalties with the final action of the game.

Such was the nature of the night, the drama didn’t end there. The standard of penalties was exceptional, with each of the first ten penalties finding the back of the net until Anton scuffed wide, allowing Smith to send Lincoln through to play Grantham Town in round two.

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