Lincoln United began their United Counties League – Premier North Division campaign with a narrow win over travelling Kimberley Miners Welfare.
The new division is a step down from last season, so there are hopes for a strong campaign. The positivity around a sunny Ashby Avenue ahead of kick off was translated onto the pitch, as The Whites dominated the first-half and produced a laundry list of chances. In the second-half, they turned that promise into a goal that proved enough for the three-points.
Lincoln United had the better of the first half, creating more chances and holding more of the ball. However, for all their promise, they were kept at bay by Kimberley Miners Welfare.
It was a frantic start at Ashby Avenue, with both teams seeking an early goal to kickstart their season. Lincoln had the best chance of the early goings, a close-range Joe Smith header that was tipped just over the bar by Kimberley goalkeeper Jack Fryatt.
Just shy of the 20 minute mark, veteran goalkeeper Jack Steggles was forced into a low save to his left from Kimberley midfielder Luis Penkes, who struck a tame effort from the edge of the box.
The home side began to take control before the half hour mark, producing a couple of good efforts on goal. First, Jake Park flicked the ball just wide from the near post, before Joe Smith’s curling effort a few minutes later evaded the far corner.
‘The Whites’ had the better of the half, with plenty of shots on target. However, none of them forced heroics from Fryatt in the Kimberley net.
As half an hour past, Joe Smith had a low effort stopped. The goalkeeper spilled the ball into the six yard box, but he scrambled to retrieve the ball before a Lincoln attack could pounce.
Kimberley were wasteful in possession, conceding the ball to the more dominant Lincoln throughout the half.
The most contentious moment of the half came with just a few minutes left, as Lincoln right-back Sam Swinn took down an on-rushing Kimberley attacker. The forward would’ve been through on goal if not for Swinn’s admittedly light intervention, but the card referee Ben Hopton brandished was a yellow one, not the red some Kimberley players and supporters were calling for.
After the scare, Kimberley had a short spell of dangerous play, with a free kick and subsequent corner forcing the United backline into action. They remained sturdy, making sure they went into the break on an even quell.
Lincoln United would be hoping their promise translated into goals in the second-half, not wanting to have to rue their missed opportunities.
The second-half started in a different vein, as Kimberley Miners Welfare came out the brighter side. Lincoln United weathered the early storm, but bad challenges began to fly.
Kimberley troubled the Lincoln net as Steggles was forced into an impressive, acrobatic save before the hour mark by Penkes. Lincoln replied in kind as Joe Smith went close at the opposite end.
As the game entered its last 30 minutes, tempers flared when a couple of late challenges, one from each team, resulted in a melee near the dugouts. The scuffle was soon stopped as both sides received a booking. Joe Smith for Lincoln and Ayleal Dill for Kimberley.
Just seconds later, in the 68th minute, Lincoln United went up the right flank with Tobias Liverside. He produced a thunderous cross that met the head of Jake Park, who guided the ball into the Kimberley net. Goalkeeper Jack Fryatt could only parry the ball into the top corner, as he saw his side go 1-0 behind.
Kimberley looked shell shocked, as soon after Smith was caught offside and denied the chance of doubling his side’s lead. He went close again, the other side of a Callum Foster header.
This didn’t stop the visitors creating their own chances, as Steggles was once again forced into a good save from a Ayleal Dill effort. He was equal to it, as ‘The Whites’ kept their narrow lead with just 10 minutes to go.
The game became a much more back and forth affair in the second half, in contrast to the control Lincoln United held in the opening half. Although, despite their best efforts, Kimberley couldn’t find the finishing touch to draw level.
Around the 80 minute mark, Joe Smith had a few efforts on goal, but none of them caused the Kimberley goalkeeper much trouble.
Lincoln made some changes as they stretched the game and ran down the clock. Goalscorer Jake Park, Harry Millard and assister Tobias Liverside all made way in the last ten minutes. Substitute Pierce Hudson went close to adding a cherry on top of the cake in injury time, as he rushed through on goal. Unfortunately for him, the goalkeeper was equal to it.
Lincoln United 1-0 Kimberley Miners Welfare
Lincoln United begin their season with a win. On balance, it was a game that they were the better side during, especially during the first half. They added the goal that their play deserved after the hour mark.
Kimberley Miners Welfare came into the game more in the second period, but even their best efforts couldn’t break into Lincoln’s narrow lead.
It’s a successful start to a season, which manager Chris Funnell was “delighted” with post-match. He added that his side were “good in spells” and “deserving of the three points”.