Neal Eardley’s stunner meant Lincoln City returned to winning ways with a 1-0 win over Cheltenham Town at Sincil Bank.
In a game where real chances were few and far between, Eardley’s moment of magic two minutes into first half stoppage time settled the destination of the points.
It meant City moved up to seventh in League Two with the battle for the play-offs hotting up on a cold night at the Bank.
Imps boss Danny Cowley made two changes to the side that started Friday evening’s goalless draw at Cambridge. Scott Wharton made his first start in place of James Wilson, while Danny Rowe returned for Harry Anderson.
And City’s first chance came six minutes in. Matt Green’s battling persistence down the left earned him the chance to cross for striker partner Matt Rhead, whose header back across goal looked destined for Tom Pett before Cheltenham cleared behind for a corner.
Before the visitors had fully cleared the set piece, Rhead nodded across goal again but Green couldn’t divert home from inside the six yard box and Scott Flinders clawed off the line.
It was a chance that Green should have converted – and it nearly cost his side seven minutes later. Mohammed Eisa, off the back of a hat trick at the weekend, ran at a city’s back four before drilling an effort which Ryan Allsop could only parry. The rebound fell back to Eisa, but a flying Michael Bostwick blocked his second effort.
But after their high energy start, the Imps looked more laboured as Cheltenham gained a foothold and the half hour mark arrived with little further goalmouth action.
The game remained that way until two minutes before half time, when Pett set up Sam Habergham to whip a ball in for Green, whose deft header was tipped over.
But just when it looked like the sides would go into the break level, Eardley’s stunner put the Imps ahead. Receiving the ball 35 yards from goal, he drove into space and unleashed a fine effort beyond Flinders to send City in a goal to the good.
Eisa had the first chance of the second half when Allsop comfortably held his shot from the edge, before Rhead’s through ball to Anderson at the other end was just too heavy and Flinders smothered.
As Lincoln sought a second, Eardley turned provider for Ollie Palmer’s header to land narrowly too high, before Habergham’s cross just evaded the onrushing Pett.
Then, Palmer was the threat again as his header from Pett’s cross was tipped behind for a corner, before the same player hooked over from the resulting corner.
But while the lead was only one goal, Cheltenham were always in the game and Robins substitute Sammi Odelusi almost levelled with his first touch, getting in behind the defence and calling Allsop into a smart save.
The keeper had to be alert again when Eisa broke through down the right, and could have squared for Odelusi and Pell but opted to go alone, Allsop denying him at the near post.
Green had a pair of chances to double the score late on, first flashing wide of the near post before racing on goal, only to be smothered by Flinders.
But it wasn’t to matter as the Imps picked up a vital three points in their quest for the play-offs.
Lincoln: Ryan Allsop, Sam Habergham, Luke Waterfall, Scott Wharton, Tom Pett (Elliott Whitehouse 93), Matt Rhead (Ollie Palmer 59), Matt Green, Michael Bostwick, Neal Eardley, Danny Rowe (Harry Anderson 36), Alex Woodyard. Subs not used: Paul Farman, Sean Long, Jordan Williams, Cameron Stewart
Goal: Neal Eardley (45+2)
Cheltenham: Scott Flinders, Jamie Grimes, Nigel Atangana (Sammi Odelusi 59), Harry Pell, Kevin Dawson, Carl Winchester, Elijah Adebayo (Danny Wright 46), Will Boyle, Mohammed Eisa, Joe Rodon (Taylor Moore 81), Ilias Chatzitheodoidis. Subs not used: Rhys Lovett, Jerell Sellars, Brian Graham, Emmanuel Onariase
Attendance: 7,891 (108 visitors)Tweet