Lincoln United sealed their passage through to the fourth round of the Isuzu FA Vase after a narrow 2-1 victory over Congelton Town at the Sun-hat Villas and Resorts stadium.
Both teams had had impressive seasons leading into the fixture, with United sitting second in the United Counties Premier Division whilst Congelton lead the way in the Midlands Premier Division.
The game started frenetically as both sides tried to assert control over proceedings.
In the 5th minute, Congelton won a free kick in a dangerous position, but Carl Dickinson blazed over from just outside the box.
The Whites responded well and opened the scoring in the 11th minute when captain Matthew Cotton rifled a sumptuous strike past Congelton keeper David Parton from the edge of the area.
It was Cotton’s fourth goal in successive games and his 19th goal of the season.
United doubled their lead shortly after in the 15th minute when Jack McMenemy slid Tobias Liversidge through on goal to cooly finish past goalkeeper Parton.
The Whites remained in the ascendency, sustaining attacks on the Bears defensive rearguard, who were struggling to cope with the energy and movement of United’s frontline.
There was a rare forward foray from the visitors in the 24th minute when Ethan Hartshorn’s low cross caused panic in the Whites defence who eventually managed to scramble the ball to safety.
After a spell of possession for the visitors, United almost inflicted another blow on the counter-attack as McMenemy laid a perfectly weighted pass off to Elliot Dye on the edge of the box, but the midfielder lifted his shot over the bar.
Congelton pressed for a route back into the game and were unfortunate not to score in the 35th minute when Darren Chadwick’s goal-bound shot was blocked excellently by Callum Foster.
The Whites showed good game management and defensive solidity for the remainder of the half frustrating the visitors into speculative shots from range. This meant the home side went into half-time with a two goal advantage.
United were fastest out of the blocks after the interval and came close to extending their lead in the 46th minute when Ted Gibbons’ cross from the left narrowly evaded Liversidge at the back post.
The increasingly blustery conditions were affecting both sides as they both struggled to gain a foothold in the subsequent 15 minutes.
In the 62nd minute, Congleton winger Hartshorn sparked the game back into life with a penetrative run and shot which forced Jack Steggles into a save diving to his right.
The Whites goalkeeper was unable to deny the visitors for much longer however, as Max McCarthey slot a precise drive into the bottom left-hand corner from close range to make it 2-1 in the 65th minute.
Backed by their passionate away supporters, Congleton searched for an equaliser and were close to levelling the scoreline in the 70th minute when Dickinson skewed his effort just wide of the target.
In the 74th minute, Steggles made a crucial save to thwart George Sankey as he bared down on goal to preserve the Whites lead.
The visitors began to through caution to the wind in the final ten minutes which provided United with opportunities to capitalise on the break.
On such chance fell to Jack McMenemy in the 87th minute but he squandered a guilt-edged opportunity from close range.
The Whites were almost left to rue this miss two minutes later when Dickinson struck a powerful free kick towards goal, but Steggles was there again to produce an astonishing sprawling save.
Then, with the last kick of the game Parton was close to sending the game to extra time as he headed an effort just over the bar.
Lincoln United 2-1 Congleton Town:
Despite intense late pressure, United hung onto their advantage to set up a fourth-round encounter with Ashville FC or South Liverpool FC in the Isuzu FA Vase.