Lincoln City head coach Michael Skubala

Lincoln City head coach Michael Skubala was left devastated as his side’s 2-0 defeat to Portsmouth was not enough to claim a SkyBet League One play-off place.

Skubala said: “I’m gutted. I think we are all gutted. We didn’t start the game how we are usually, but we worked ourselves into the game. In the second-half we were in the ascendency and moments change games. I’m proud of the run we have been on. I’ve said to them you have been magnificent; you have made us proud. But it was probably just one step too far today for us.”

It was a nervy tie, with the Imps knowing that a win against the champions would confirm a play-off place.

He said: “I think that’s natural with this group, they are young. But what the most important thing is that we learn from it and if we do it again then we are not as nervous. The last few games we haven’t started how we wanted to start but they are a really good team. We held them at 0-0.”

The big moment – what could have been…

On 52 minutes midfielder Danny Mandroiu squandered a golden opportunity to give the hosts the lead from the penalty spot. However, an unfortunate slip allowed for Pompey goalkeeper Will Norris to palm the effort away.

The head coach said: “You just don’t want that moment do you. That’s heartbreak because you work so hard to get into the box, we were on the ascendency, wins the penalty and he has been brilliant he has scored penalties this season. When he steps up you think its going to be one nil. A slip is the last thing you want in this moment. It’s one of those things, it’s football.”

A run to be proud of:

The Imps’ rise up the League One table since the start of 2024 has been nothing short of phenomenal and Skubala was quick to recognise the brilliant achievement of being in the play-off picture on the final day.

He said: “We thought we could do it. We pushed to get to this moment, we said back then if we could just get here then we are in with a fighting chance and we want that fighting chance. I think everyone is gutted today. Everyone will be gutted tonight, but when everyone wakes up in the morning the players can be proud of themselves.”

“It’s been an amazing journey. It’s been a brilliant journey for all, and you can see how when we are getting going in the second half again how we want to play, what we look like when we are aggressive. We are positive with what we do, and we can beat anyone,” he added.

Lincoln City vs Portsmouth
Lincoln City’s play-off dream ends with defeat to champions Portsmouth.

A look ahead to next season:

The defeat confirmed that the Imps will be staying in the third tier of English football, and the work into next season behind the scenes has already started.

The City boss is already looking forward to the 2024/25 campaign.

He said: “If we do what we have just done for 46 games we will be a decent side and clubs don’t want to come here and also, we have been great on the road also. Everything off the pitch is in a good place and it’s up to us now to push it on the pitch as well and hopefully we can keep pushing and have another good season next season.”

Return of Tyler Walker:

The forward returned to the pitch for the first time since August to try and salvage something from the game and keep the play-off dream alive. Skubala was pleased to have him back in time for pre-season.

He said: “Threw him on there, it wasn’t the easiest game to come into after such a long term injury, he’s not even played a friendly. Welcome back to Tyler, it’s good to have him back, but it was more throwing the kitchen sink at it if you like.”

Player of the season – Ethan Erhahon:

Midfielder Ethan Erhahon was voted as the fan’s player of the season. He was presented his award post-match at the LNER Stadium, before Skubala echoed the thoughts of the fans over the Imps number six.

He said: “He has been phenomenal. For me he is the best number six in the league by a mile. We will struggle to hold onto him if I am honest, he’s growing all the time and you forget that he Is only 22. He has got such a huge desire to win. He has been magnificent.”