Lincoln City Women vs Loughborough Lightning

Lincoln City Women fell to defeat on the final day, as they were beaten by Loughborough Lightning who just missed out on the league title via goal difference.

The Imps came into the game in a buoyant mood, having secured safety in The FA Women’s National League with a 1-3 away win over Notts County at Meadow Lane last time out.

Lee Mitchell made two changes to the side that won that day, recalling Millie Quaintance and Neve Hincks to the 11.

Loughborough could have secured the title and promotion if they bettered Sporting Khalsa’s result on the final day, an outcome that was unlikely but not impossible.

Loughborough deserved winners:

It was an even start to the game, but Loughborough created the best early opportunity. Lauren Purchase cut in from the left wing and struck the post.

Then just two minutes later, Lightning took the lead. A delightful out-swinging corner found the head of Hannah Langford, who was unmarked and thundered a powerful header into the net. It was a perfect start for the visitors.

The game then fell into a bit of a lull, with Loughborough controlling possession and rarely allowing Lincoln a chance to get out their own half.

Lincoln City Women vs Loughborough Lightning
The Imps finish their season with defeat on a sunny Bank Holiday weekend. Credit: Graham Burrell

On 35 minutes there was a flashpoint as Imps defender Tilly Fantom was sinbinned for her continued complaints to the referee Chris Lawson. City boss Mitchell took no chances with having one less player at the back and immediately replaced striker Leah Hardy with the more defensively minded Lauren Nicholson.

With just seconds of the first half remaining, Lightning doubled their advantage. Ferne Powell was put through on goal and having just stayed onside, slotted past Irvine to make it 0-2 to the visitors.

Lincoln started the second-half boosted by the return of Fantom as her stint in the sinbin ended. The Imps began to impose themselves on the game more so than in the first 45.

On 60 minutes it was Fantom who probably had City’s best chance of the afternoon as she rose highest from a threatening corner, but could only head wide.

Then Loughborough found the goal that surely sealed it. A clever pass broke the Lincoln back-line and found Tilbury-Henry who slipped it under the onrushing keeper to make it 0-3.

With 12 minutes to play, and in the midst of another mini Lincoln resurgence, Millie Quaintance saved what could be the goal of the season for the final day. The ball dropped to her perfectly and she volleyed it with her backheel, looping the ball over the goalkeeper to score an extraordinary consolation goal.

Loughborough controlled the closing stages and saw out a comfortable victory to put pressure on their title rivals, though it was not enough as Sporting Khalsa won at Sheffield to secure the trophy.

Lincoln City Women's manager Lee Mitchell
Lee Mitchell reflected on a season of “ups and downs”. Credit: Graham Burrell

“Positives to build on”:

Lincoln City Women’s manager Lee Mitchell summarised the game and their overall campaign, saying: “Yeah, ups and down throughout the season but we stuck together. Loughborough are a very good side, and you can see the quality they have. I was just pleased with the way the game ended, we had a go at them no matter the result, and that’s what we’ve been about all season.”

“Half the team is youngsters and the experience they’ve gained this season is invaluable and they’ve come into their own in the second half of the season,” he added.

Goal-scorer Millie Quaintance spoke on her goal of the season contender: “I thought I’m going to go for it why not, against my old club as well, so yeah it was a good moment.”

Lincoln finish the season eighth, seven points clear of the drop and five behind the top-half.

Feature Image Credit: Graham Burrell/Lincoln City FC

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