Lincoln City clinched promotion to League One on Saturday afternoon, despite being held at home by Cheltenham Town.
The Imps went into the game full of confidence, with their unbeaten run stretching to 18 league matches.
The away side were sat in mid table, safe from relegation but without any realistic hopes of a play-off place.
A packed Sincil Bank was bathed in April sunshine as the game begun, the opening exchanges saw little to choose between the teams.
The first opportunity of note saw a neat Shay McCartan knockdown set up John Akinde, the striker’s shot veered well wide of the target.
After 15 minutes, Akinde was able to use his physical presence to rise highest and meet a Neal Eardley free-kick. However, he could only send his header over.
A few minutes later, McCartan was scoring and Sincil Bank was roaring. The Irishman continued his recent good form, jinking inside and striking low from 25 yards. The effort seemed to catch out Cheltenham goalkeeper Scott Flinders somewhat and his dive wasn’t enough to prevent Lincoln taking the lead.
The goal seemed to inject more tempo into the game and Cheltenham had their first real chance after 25 minutes. A breakaway from a corner saw Rakish Bingham running at a depleted Lincoln defence. He elected to shoot and saw his shot blocked by Neal Eardley.
Bruno Andrade’s cross was then met by Mark O’Hara whose header lacked the power to trouble Flinders.
Quick feet from McCartan won the home side a free-kick on the edge of the Cheltenham area. Eardley scored an excellent goal from a similar position in the previous home game and went close to repeating the feat, curling just over.
Lincoln maintained a significant level of control over the match throughout the rest of the half. Tom Pett slid in Akinde just before the break, but his attempt was blocked.
The half drew to a close with Lincoln deserving their goal lead and looking well set to add to it in the second period.
Soon after the restart, it was the away side threatening, Jason Shackell was forced into a brilliant defensive header to beat Bingham to a cross.
Danny Cowley looked to intervene from the bench fairly early, introducing Danny Rowe for Bruno Andrade on 53 minutes.
There was contention on 63 minutes as McCartan went down on the edge of the area, only to be booked for diving.
Soon after, he was close to playing Harry Toffolo through on goal, before being replaced by Lee Frecklington.
The game appeared to be drifting towards a comfortable Lincoln victory but there was a shock on 73 minutes as Cheltenham equalised. A cross was whipped in by Chris Hussey and sub George Lloyd produced a strong header to level proceedings.
Lincoln attempted to respond and find the goal that would clinch promotion. Rowe came close as he was played in down the right but his effort drifted wide.
The away side could have taken the lead as a cross came all the way through to Hussey on the left side of the penalty area, he could only fire over the bar.
Sincil Bank attempted to galvanise the team towards a winner and there was hope of it with Akinde causing problems and he struck a dangerous cross which Flinders palmed away.
Ultimately, the Imps couldn’t find a winner and the game finished 1-1.
This wasn’t the final act in the drama, everyone waited to hear the final results from around the league for confirmation of whether a point would be enough to secure promotion.
Finally, the news came in and those remaining in Sincil Bank heard that Lincoln had secured promotion to League One.
The gap to MK Dons and Mansfield was 12 and 11 points respectively and with four matches remaining and those two teams still to play each other, it was now impossible for both to catch Lincoln, meaning one of the three automatic promotion places was secured.
The Imps will perhaps be slightly disappointed not to have confirmed their achievement with a win at Sincil Bank, but this is the culmination of a season of hard work and determination which has seen Danny Cowley’s men reach heights not seen in Lincoln this century.
They also look set to win the League Two title, a win at Carlisle on Good Friday will seal that feat.Tweet