The Linc’s man of the match: David Stephens

Attendance: 3,403 (540 Bury fans)

The Imps headed into this clash with promotion-chasing Bury knowing that a win would secure their Football League status.

Injuries had left manager Chris Sutton with a depleted defence, with the former Celtic man handing a debut to on-loan Norwich youngster David Stephens and drafting in Cian Hughton and Joe Anderson to replace Shane Clarke, Nathan Baker and Paul Green respectively.

In his programme notes, Sutton emphasised the need for his side to retain their focus, branding his side a ‘nearly team,’ after another promising performance was marred by a late goal away at Shrewsbury last weekend. It has been a feature of the Imps’ season, and with safety beckoning, it was imperative that the makeshift Lincoln defence stayed composed against a dangerous Bury frontline.

Despite their play-off dream still a strong possiblity, the Shakers had been in indifferent form prior to their visit to Sincil Bank, picking up just four points in their last three games. Their place in the promotion lottery was far from certain, and Alan Knill had to make do in this one without the prolific Ryan Lowe, who has hit 17 goals this season.

The opening exchanges were a scrappy affair, with neither side able to retain possession effectively and mis-placed passes a regular occurence.

The Imps’ main threat came predictably from Davide Somma, who has already ensured that he will finish the season Lincoln’s top goal scorer, with seven goals to his name in just 11 games before this encounter. He threatened early on, but as the game wore on, he became more and more isolated.

As expected, Bury had their moments going forward, but debutant David Stephens started in a remarkably assured manner at centre half, stifling Andy Bishop and Andy Morrell.

Indeed, when Morrell was played through with an astute pass by winger David Worrall in the 25th minute, it was Stephens who spotted the danger and snuffed out the opportunity before the former Coventry man could pull the trigger.

If Stephens was the picture of composure, his opposite number in the Bury defence, the vastly more experienced Efe Sodje was the polar opposite. Twice, his dithering led to half-chances for the Imps, but neither Steven Lennon nor Somma could capitalise.

Despite Sodje’s uncertainty, Bury were slick in possession once the game settled down, counter-attacking at pace through wingers Worrall and Stephen Dawson at every opportunity. However, without top scorer Lowe, they lacked a certain incisiveness, and for all the Bury’s pressure, Rob Burch continued to be untroubled in the Lincoln goal.

Burch was finally called upon with six minutes of the first half remaining, acrobatically tipping Morrell’s drilled effort over from eight yards out.

The second half followed much the same pattern, with neither side managing to create anything clear-cut.  As the match became more scrappy, petulant fouls crept in from both sides, Scott Kerr earning himself a yellow card for a hefty challenge on Dawson.

On the hour mark, the frustrated Somma ran though on goal only to be felled by David Buchanan, but referee Jarnail Singh was unmoved and denied the Imps what appeared to be a stonewall penalty.

Somma again had a chance on the 70th minute, but failed to beat Cameron Belford in the Shakers goal after a sharp turn from a Joe Anderson throw.

An incredibly quick break-away followed from Bury, and a neat exchange between Worrall, Morrell and Bishop put Michael Jones clean through on Burch, but he could only skew his shot high and wide from 15 yards.

Bury were soon made to pay for their profligacy when Davide Somma raced through onto Clark Keltie’s lobbed through ball and guided his shot beyond Bury ‘keeper Belford to take his goal tally to eight this season.

Bury threatened to level when Buchanan flashed a cross-come-shot across the face of goal from 20 yards, but Somma’s goal proved to be enough to ensure the Imps’ safety.