Lincoln City bounced back from successive defeats with a thoroughly impressive 3-1 triumph over Port Vale at Sincil Back.
The Imps took an early lead when Harry Anderson’s cross was nodded in by Matt Green, only to be pegged back on the stroke of half-time when Tom Pope set up Danny Pugh who swept Vale level.
Danny Cowley then rallied his troops during the interval and they came out firing in the second-half, the returning Michael Bostwick blasting Lincoln back in front within minutes of the re-start.
Luke Waterfall then confirmed the victory as he converted from Matt Rhead’s knock down with 20 minutes to play.
Three goals, three points and now just two points off the play-offs. Smiles all around.
Danny Cowley’s will be the biggest, though, he rang the changes for this game and it paid off.
In total, he made six changes to the side that fell to defeat at Colchester United on Tuesday, a match in which Cowley was critical of his side’s performance. Into the side to face Port Vale – who sat 21st in SkyBet League Two prior to this encounter – came Waterfall, Green, Rhead, Josh Ginnelly, Sam Habergham and bearded midfield warrior Bostwick, who passed a late fitness test.
A fantastic atmosphere reverberated around Sincil Bank, aided by a strong Vale following, as both sets of players made their way onto the field.
Lincoln started well, Ginnelly struck the outside of the post early on, before they took the lead with 11 minutes played.
On the right flank, the impressive Anderson toyed with full-back Gavin Gunning, feinting to dive inside only to cut back outside and cross to the near post. There buying himself half a yard was Green, who readjusted his body brilliantly to deceive ‘keeper Ryan Boot and plant his header into the net for his first goal in 17 matches.
Lincoln looked comfortable after that, playing some neat football out from defence into midfield, whilst also having the option of hitting the ball long, seeking target man Rhead.
Lincoln’s powerful forward endured a frustrating first 45 minutes, though. He was pushed and his shirt tugged frequently and when he retaliated against Port Vale’s centre halves, he was penalised by referee Andy Haines.
City, though, were enjoying a lot of success in wide areas. Ginnelly and Anderson were causing a plethora of issues for Port Vale’s full backs going forward, whilst at the same time getting back to defend epitomising the work ethic expected of Cowley’s side.
The Imps continued to create opportunities. Bostwick powered forward and launched an effort over, Waterfall nodded a Habergham corner wide and Anderson blazed high over the crossbar.
As the first half tapered down, however, Vale came alive, threatening to equalise. Ten minutes before half time, they had their best opportunity. Christian Montano skipped beyond Neal Eardley on the right before knocking square to Gunning, but Vale’s left back wasted the opportunity, shooting over.
The Vale chances kept coming. Five minutes from the break, James Gibbons found space on the edge of the box and curled a left-footed effort over. Talismanic striker Tom Pope then had a header cleared off the line, before Neil Aspin’s side netted their deserved equaliser in the first of two additional minutes.
David Worrall, who grew into the game on the right hand side, crossed into the box and Pope cushioned a header down into the path of Danny Pugh 12 yards out, who emphatically finished passed Josh Vickers in the Lincoln goal, to level proceedings.
Cowley clearly got stuck into his players in the dressing room at half time, and Lincoln flew out of the blocks in the second-half. They were sharper, showed greater desire to win the second balls and pressed from the front.
As a result, the Imps deservedly regained their lead in the 53rd minute. Habergham bombed down the wing, crossed from the left and Green collected the ball in the middle. With little support, he attempted an audacious backheel only to see Vale clear their lines. The clearance fell to Bostwick 25 yards out who took a touch to set himself and struck a sweet shot that sailed into the bottom right-hand corner via the post, prompting an explosion of euphoria from the Sincil Bank faithful.
Lincoln’s vibrant start to the second 45 continued. Rhead should have had a penalty after being bundled to the turf from a corner, before the Imps extended their lead with 20 minutes to play.
A cleared free kick was recycled and crossed from the right. Rhead used his height and strength to hold off challenges from those in white and nodded the ball down to Waterfall, who added the decisive touch in notching his first goal of the season, putting Lincoln 3-1 up.
It could have been four with eight minutes left to play but Rhead’s header was rebuffed on the goal line. A solid afternoon’s work for the big man, whose effort and endeavour merited a goal. He was replaced by Ollie Palmer shortly after.
Lincoln’s supporters started to relax. There was a feeling the home side had learnt from first half mistakes and were not going to let Vale back into the game this time. “Can you hear the Port Vale sing? Noooo noooo,” bellowed the 617 Squadron in the Co-op Stand.
This was an accomplished, professional performance from Lincoln, both physically and mentally in a win that moved City up into 10th place, just two points off the play-off places.Tweet