City slumped to another defeat this evening, going down 2-1 to a spirited Fleetwood side at Sincil Bank.
There was a surprise in the starting XI, with Adam Jackson thought to be unfit, be he ruled himself in to Michael Appleton’s side. James Jones came in to replace the injured Jorge Grant, with the Imps reverting to a 4-2-3-1, offering protection to the central defensive pairing.
The game started at a decent pace, both sides having a bit of the ball without any real threat. Jackson did have to be alert with a header early doors to keep Vassell from getting a scoring chance, but the best chance of the opening exchanges fell to Lincoln. Anthony Scully bought a foul close to the touchline almost in line with the corner flag, which James Jones took. His delivery had power and that perhaps caught the onrushing Regan Poole by surprise, as he flashed a free header over from eight yards out.
The Imps enjoyed a decent spell of pressure and the next to have a pop was Brennan Johnson. He was still in central midfield as he has been in recent week, and after good work by Rogers, he raced forward 50 yards before fizzing a shot wide of the keeper’s left-hand post. That ushered in a spell of Fleetwood pressure, with a deep cross from Wes Burns causing a bit of panic. Poole was able to head it up into the air, with Palmer grabbing it as it dropped with Vassell lurking.
Fleetwood certainly had plenty of promise in possession, and good work from Vassell and Batty saw Camps have a good effort from the edge of the area, which Palmer saved. City kept pressing though and on 22 minutes another good chance went begging. A ball into the channel from Edun found Johnson, who flicked it back to Hopper. The captain for the evening stroked it into the path of Scully, who could only curl over the goal from 18 yards out.
That marked the end of the clear-cut chances for City, and the visitors began to edge into the game as the Imps early promise faded. Burns, causing Edun plenty of problems on the left, looked to be offside as he got away on 26 minutes, but the flag stayed down and Palmer was forced into a save. The resulting corner landed on the head of former Imp Callum Connolly, but his header wasn’t accurate.
Johnson was certainly putting in the hard yards, looking to pressure Fleetwood high up the pitch, and he almost bought a goal on 30 minutes. He chased down three players as the visitors played out from the back, and the eventual clearance cannoned off him and drew something of a save from the keeper.
The Imps might have done better with a chance on 37 minutes. A quick free-kick played McGrandles into trouble, but he shifted his way around three players to find James Jones. The recalled midfielder had lots of options, the worst of which was to shoot wildly and inaccurately at goal. Sadly, that was the option he took.
Fleetwood exposed the Imps’ defensive frailties on 38 minutes when a ball straight down the middle found Vassell in space. He took it slightly wide of Palmer’s goal, but still drew a save from the West Brom man. On 42 minutes, despite an even first half, City went behind. A high boot by Jones was punished, rightly, by a free kick, and City didn’t deal with the delivery, leaving Gerard Garner to smartly volley home from the edge of the area. It was a dismal end to a decent first half for City, although we were far from our free-flowing best.
It might be fair to point out Edun, Scully and Rogers all looked off the pace, and as we know if one or two cogs don’t work in the Imps machine, then it can be a forced, laboured performance. It wouldn’t be fair to say the first half was terrible, but we did look more like top ten hopefuls than Championship contenders.