Lincoln City vs Portsmouth

Portsmouth snatched all three points to deny Lincoln City a play-off place on the final day of the season.

Myles Peart-Harris clinically finished off a counter-attack to pinch the game, after Danny Mandroiu missed a penalty earlier in the second-half. Paddy Lane then added a second late into additional time.

The Imps knew a win would almost certainly guarantee a play-off place, with a six goal difference swing needed in the favour of Oxford United to knock them out the top six in that case.

Michael Skubala named an unchanged side from the one that came back to win at Cheltenham Town. The headline news was Tyler Walker returning from injury to join the substitutes. 

John Mousinho rotated half a dozen of his Portsmouth side. They came to the LNER Stadium already-crowned SkyBet League One champions, looking to close the season on a high after Wigan Athletic ended their 17 game unbeaten run.

Lincoln City vs Portsmouth
Lincoln City and Portsmouth remember the lives lost in 1985’s Valley Parade Fire, which included two Imps fans – Bill Stacey and Jim West.

First-Half:

After all 1,006 in the crowd silently remembered the 56 lives lost in the 1985 Valley Parade Fire, Lincoln top-scorer Joe Taylor got the game underway.

After a patient first few minutes, the Imps had the first chance. Jack Sparkles conceded a needless free-kick, bundling Lasse Sorensen over on the by-line. Sean Roughan took the set piece, which Danny Mandroiu left for the Dane to pull just wide.

That was a glimmer of hope in an otherwise Portsmouth-dominated opening 20 minutes. Adam Jackson only half cleared with a header, allowing Pompey top-scorer Colby Bishop a stab at goal. However, on the turn, his shot rolled well wide of Lukas Jensen’s net.

You could sense the nerves in the Lincoln side, as they held a chance at the play-offs in their hands. The game was a battle of two of the division’s best defences, as only Derby County had conceded less, but neither had been tested until just shy of the half-hour mark.

Pompey had two chances in quick succession as Bishop forced a sharp stop before Callum Lang’s effort was blocked by a Lincoln man.

Referee Sunny Singh Gill brandished a few cards before the break. Ryley Towler went into the book for a cynical foul on Mandroiu. Ben House and Myles Peart-Harris followed for what can only be described as a shoving contest, before Pompey head coach John Mousinho was cautioned for his protests. 

The man in the middle had time for one more before half-time, as Taylor was rightfully booked for a late challenge on Towler. The scoreline at the break left Lincoln outside of the play-offs place, with work to do in the second-half.

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

Second-Half:

The game shot into life after 50 minutes. The hosts went close as Paudie O’Connor headed a floated Mandroiu free-kick down to House. However, the striker’s volley was high over the bar.

Seconds later Pompey ‘keeper Will Norris gave the ball away to Ethan Erhahon, he played a neat pass to Mandroiu. The Irishman was taken down in the box by Tom Lowrey, giving the referee no choice but to award the spot-kick. 

Mandroiu picked himself back-up, but fired his penalty straight into the hands of Norris.

The Imps rallied well, keeping the pressure on the visitors. Substitutes almost combined when Dylan Duffy curled a divine cross towards Jovon Makama. Taylor then went close, as he headed over from a corner.

With 20 minutes to go, there was a nervous energy around the LNER Stadium. Lincoln were struggling to create clear cut chances, instead making uncharacteristic mistakes.

Shot-stopper Jensen was called into action, as he recovered well from a misjudged catch to parry Jack Sparkes’ effort over the bar. 

At the other end, Sorensen looked to take advantage of Norris being down in his penalty area. He curled an effort from near the touchline that the Portsmouth ‘keeper recovered just in time to tip over.

With just over ten minutes left on the clock, Michael Skubala rolled the dice. Tyler Walker came on for his first minutes since August, replacing defender Alex Mitchell. 

However, the breakthrough came at the other end. Peart-Harris finished off a counter-attack, clipping the ball into the bottom corner of Jensen’s goal.

Jensen made another great save, denying Paddy Lane inside 11 minutes of added-time. However, Lane managed to add Portsmouth’s second as he tapped home the re-bound after Jensen saved an effort from Christian Saydee. 

Lincoln City 0-2 Portsmouth:

Pompey’s 81st minute goal was enough to end Lincoln City’s hopes of a League One play-off place, before a late second ended the game. 

It had been a nervous afternoon, in which the Imps never truly looked comfortable. A win would’ve secured Lincoln’s first shot at the play-offs since 2021, when they lost to Blackpool at Wembley, but there ended up finishing seventh. 

However, Michael Skubala’s men will have to wait until next season for another stab at promotion into the second-tier.