After the poor defeat at the hands of Accrington Stanley last Friday, Imps manager Chris Sutton had been repeatedly emphasising the importance of a reaction in this clash with Stevenage.
The Imps had been in indifferent form going ahead of this one, with two defeats and one win in the last three outings. Sutton opted for a 4-5-1 formation with Ben Hutchinson leading the line on his own.
Stevenage have made a similarly stuttering start to their first season back in the Football League, and despite a strong defence they have struggled in front of goal, hitting just six in this league prior to their visit to Sincil Bank. With this in mind, manager Graham Westley handed a debut to on-loan Brighton forward Chris Holroyd.
Given the manager’s demands for a “reaction,” and pressure from the the fans for an improvement, a good performance was an imperative for the Imps. From the outset, City looked sharp, with Carayol and Jarrett getting forward and linking well. Inside the second minute, Hutchinson’s good work engineered a chance for Albert Jarrett, who was unlucky to see his drive fizz wide.
Stevenage’s main threat came in the form of Holroyd, who was making some astute runs. Indeed, after half an hour, Holroyd had already had two penalty claims waved away by referee Kevin Wright. The second, in particular, was a poor decision as Adam Watts body-checked him on his way through on goal.
It was the Imps, though, who were in the ascendency. Jarrett’s teasing runs were again the source of danger for the Stevenage defence. His cross was hacked behind by Lawrie Wilson and had it not been for another desperate clearance, Moses Swaibu’s header would have had Lincoln ahead.
It ultimately cost City on 39 minutes. An innocuous Stevenage throw-in somehow looped its way into the Imps’ box unchecked and Chris Holroyd was on hand to rifle it into the top corner from six yards. It was an embarrassing goal to concede, especially considering the possessional superiority the Imps had enjoyed.
Shortly afterwards, Anyon was again called into action to expertly turn over as Charlie Griffin met John Mousinho’s cross to send a looping header towards the top-right corner.
Half time: Imps 0-1 Stevenage
Half time swung the pendulum firmly in the favour of Boro, who put considerable pressure on the Imps goal during the opening exchanges of the second half. Gavin McCallum’s introduction on 54 mins saw Lincoln provide a little more threat and allowed Albert Jarrett to move over to his favoured left side.
The inventive Sierra Leone international immediately set about involving Joe Anderson more in the attack, and the full back was soon played through with a neat exchange. His excellent low cross was hastily cleared by Boro centre half Jon Ashton with Hutchinson and O’Keefe ready to put it away.
Shortly afterwards, Stevenage set about running the clock down and as the game went on, chances become few and far between.
With 15 mins left to play, Boro right-back Lawrie Wilson tried his luck with a dipping effort from 20 yards, only to see it fly inches wide.
As the game entered the final ten minutes, the Imps became more desperate and resorted to throwing bodies forward and sending in crosses from deep positions, all to no avail.
With five minutes left, Josh O’Keefe met Jarrett’s excellent cross, only to glance it wide from four yards. It summed up Lincoln’s day; good play with no end product.
Full time: Imps 0-1 Stevenage
The Linc’s Man of the Match: Albert Jarrett – The Sierra Leonian certainly did not deserve to be on the losing side. His invention, flair and intelligent use of the ball caused Stevenage all sorts of problems. It was disappointing to see that his good work went unrewarded.
Attendance: 3215 (326 Stevenage fans)