Penalty Woe as City Slip – Imps 0-1 Doncaster

City missed the chance to seize the advantage in the League One title race this afternoon, in a frustrating encounter at Sincil Bank.

A moment before I wrote this report, I got a message asking if it was acceptable to simply write a report with just three letters in it – FFS. I toyed with the idea; I really did. City had the better chances, dominated possession and put 23 crosses into the area, which is one every four minutes or so. That alone would usually be enough to leave me wondering how we didn’t win, but throw in TWO missed penalties and you get a sense that we were never going to score.

The Imps made one change from the side which beat Portsmouth in midweek, with Anthony Scully dropping to the bench and Morgan Rogers coming into the side. Buoyed by both Jorge Grant’s new contract and the capture of Regan Poole, confidence certainly should have been sky-high at a blustery Sincil Bank.

The Imps definitely started the brighter of the two sides, controlling possession and getting into good positions in wide areas. As early as the third minute, Eyoma, Grant and Johnson combined to deliver a ball into the area. It was a weak cross gathered by Balcombe in goal, but it was perhaps the first meaningful touch the visitors had.

Crosses were the main route of City’s attack, with both full-backs linking well with the wide players to create space. On six minutes, Tom Hopper started a move on the left, which ended with Eyoma delivering a ball in from the right, which nobody anticipated.

Sincil Bank today – Credit Graham Burrell

Doncaster are in the top six for a reason and they gave an early suggestion of what that reason was on seven minutes, with Taylor Richards driving forward with real danger. His run wasn’t unlike those Tom Lawrence made for Ipswich back in our big FA Cup game, and briefly, City looked vulnerable. Richards’ shot was blocked, and the follow up fired high and wide.

City kept pushing for the opener, some good work from Grant and Edun fed in Morgan Rogers, but the on-loan Man City man had a rush of blood and blasted the ball miles over. Shortly after, he worked well with Grant, flicking a backheel into the path of Edun, who again looked to deliver into the area, only for it to be blocked for a corner. Sadly, the Imps excellent play was let down a real lack of presence from corners, with every one dealt with easily by a strong Doncaster defence.

On 15 minutes, Doncaster took the lead. The words ‘against the run of play’ are easy to band about, but it was part of their plan. Grant looked to have been tugged back in the middle of the park and ended up losing the ball, which found its way to Richards. He drove forward, unchallenged, and hit a shot low to the left of Alex Palmer, who might be disappointed not to have got a touch on it.

Another strong showing – Credit Graham Burrell

The goal certainly shook City and for a brief spell the game looked to be trickling away, but within ten minutes we were back on the attack. Conor McGrandles, who looked back on form, got away and delivered a cross which was blocked. There might have been a shout for handball, but it wasn’t given and once again Doncaster cleared their lines.

On the half-hour mark, excellent work from Edun created out best chance. He kept a loose ball in, played a one-two and rushed free on the attacking left. His cross wasn’t dealt with, and Johnson strode onto the loose ball, only to fire wide. Five minutes later it was Morgan Rogers going close, this time from the right-hand side. He put yet another cross in (one of 15 from the Imps in the first half), but Balcombe took to off Hopper’s toes.

City had dusted themselves down after the goal and enjoyed 70% possession in a busy first half, but the last decent chance of the first period fell to the visitors. Adam Jackson gave away a rash free kick on the edge of the box, but Matt Smith’s effort tamely dropped into Palmer’s arms with players rushing in.

Oddly, despite what seemed like a one-sided first half, both teams registered seven shots at goal, with not a single one on target for City. Doncaster had two on target, both from Brighton loanee Richards, one of which was the difference heading into the break.