Thanks to Kyle Kennealey for this latest piece, a timely reminder of what is happening outside of the Wembley bubble.
Rewind a year back to Easter 2017
Good Friday. 14th April 85 minutes played- Lincoln 0-1 Torquay. Time for the Imps to step up, heroes to be made who had battled all season to make this moment. 90 minutes- Lincoln 2-1 Torquay- A result that typified Lincoln all season.
Easter Monday. 17th April 89 minutes played- Gateshead 1-0 Lincoln. Could the Imps replicate Friday’s showing or was it a bridge too far, even for Lincoln? 90+3 minutes- Gateshead 1-2 Lincoln- Promotion made possible on the Saturday thanks to an unbelievable comeback.
Fast forward to February 2018-Back to Back Promotion Hopes Dented Severely
After suffering back to back defeats towards the end of February, questions began to raise of the Imps play-off push and whether another season in League Two was likely. A trip to Mansfield and a hard-fought late point courtesy of Ollie Palmer was a spring-board. Despite having to wait until March 10th for the Imps next action they swept aside Chesterfield and set about the Lincolnshire Derby. Blustery conditions didn’t change the outcome though against a very poor Mariners with another three goals and three points putting the push, back on track. Next up was Morecambe away, on paper a City win looked likely. But a point would have to do, bringing up the argument of two points dropped or one point gained. Last season, the Easter period was one of the defining moments of Lincoln’s campaign, the results over this weekend would prove pivotal come May.
The importance of this clash couldn’t be emphasised enough. Victory and the play-offs would begin to seem a realistic goal, defeat could all but end any hope of consecutive promotions.
The days opponents Exeter, sitting five points ahead of the Imps and having only lost once in seven, were ready to stretch that run and whilst looking below them in the table, a win would mean that they could begin to look up to the automatic promotion spots. Lincoln brought Danny Rowe in for this one, replacing Williams after his recent stint in the side.
The highest crowd of the season was here to witness one of the most important contests that Sincil Bank would have to offer, for this campaign at least. The pressure on the players most certainly got to an Exeter defender as he almost gifted Matt Green a run in on goal, unfortunately he couldn’t find a red and white shirt in the box.
A free-kick straight from the training ground was the Imps next thought of attack when Habergham played in Rowe, but he was unable to finish past Pym in the Grecians goal. Exeter’s first meaningful venture forward saw Allsop make a fantastic save to keep out James, but the visitors weren’t to be denied twice from the resulting set piece, Jaden Stockley was able to easily free himself from Wharton and head powerfully into the far corner.
A topsy-turvy encounter constantly switched between each sides penalty box but the greatest of all the opportunities came from nothing, Bostwick powering forward to swing in a pinpoint delivery to the edge of the area for Whitehouse to volley agonisingly over. Exeter will still have been wondering how they didn’t double their advantage before the break as Stockley was given freedom in the area once again, but he couldn’t punish the imps as the ball crashed off both sides of the woodwork and into a very grateful Allsops hands. If both sides had taken their chances, it could’ve been a completely different story, but Exeter took their chance and therefore lead at the break.
The intensity of the first half had only provided one goal for the visitors and Lincoln looked to put that right straight from the off with Whitehouse twisting and turning to open a shooting opportunity that crept just past the post. The pressure the hosts put the Grecians under proved that it would only be a matter of time before the equaliser beckoned and it came when Whitehouse’s shot was only parried and on hand to head home was Danny Rowe to lift the Imps spirits and push for a winner.
If Exeter hadn’t learned their lesson for marking all men, they certainly would when just 90 seconds later, Eardley swift free-kick pass played in Matt Green to steer home past an onrushing Pym. Whitehouse’s luck hadn’t improved through the course of the game although he thought for a split second he’d grabbed the Imps a third from a looping Habergham cross that he pinpointed across to the far post, but it was scrambled off the line and hacked away. Missed chances though were not just to rue for Lincoln though, as the bar denied Storey from a rasping drive after neat build-up and after the ball crashed off the woodwork it fell to Stockley who fluffed his lines where he should’ve really scored.
The next free-flowing move saw Jake Taylor find the time and space to fire out of Allsop’s reach and draw the visitors level and set up the final ten minutes on a knife’s edge. Super sub Ollie Palmer looked to have put City ahead after heading home powerfully at the near post. But his dramatic celebrations were cut short when a supposed foul resulted in the goal being disallowed, much to the frustrations of the home fans. It was to be a mesmerizing finale to this encounter that had pretty much everything.
Waterfall will be wondering how he didn’t add a winner to that list as the frame of the goal, that had denied the visitors twice before, kept out Lincoln from grabbing a victory. Lincoln weren’t to be denied a crucial victory though when Eardley created yet another goal with his deep cross picking out Palmer with all the time and space to smash home and with a quick glance to check that the goal stood, ran to celebrate the dramatic late effort that had almost surely won the Imps the contest. Ollie Palmer continued as a super sub having score in three of his last five games coming off the bench. Allsop was called into action twice in the remaining minutes to play his part in securing a vital win in the race for promotion and secure half of the six points available over the Easter Weekend.