In my match preview, I asked if Lincoln City could ‘cobble’ together a win at Sixfields; well, we certainly did just that! More of that later. Last season, we kicked off our return to the Football League with an away game at Wycombe; would you be surprised that just three of the eleven who started that day would also start at Sixfields? Well, to save you time looking it up, the three were, Neal Eardley, Michael Bostwick and Matt Green with one other, Matt Rhead, who this time was on the bench. Two others on the bench that day were Josh Vickers and Harry Anderson. Saturday, therefore, saw eight changes to the side which faced Wycombe a year earlier. Northampton manager Dean Austin certainly did his homework on this new-look Imps side who started (and finished) the game with three at the back.
The Cobblers soon showed their intent by repeatedly getting in behind our wing backs to create alarm and confusion in the City defence. How we managed to keep them from scoring is probably down to the form of returnee ‘keeper Josh Vickers. Three times they broke through, including from one dreadful back pass by Luke Waterfall, and three times Vickers kept them out. Slowly but surely, the Imps began to get into the game more and went close themselves following a move involving Green and Lee Frecklington before the ball made its way to Harry Toffolo whose vicious, dipping strike from outside the box went narrowly over, with some shouts for a corner which referee Lee Swabey was having none of. The first half couldn’t come to an end quickly enough, just as last year’s fixture at Stevenage where the home side should have been out of sight by the end of the half, as Vickers, yet again, denied Daniel Powell with his legs. The half concluded with Green seeing a looping header taken safely by home ‘keeper David Cornell.
Half-time: Northampton Town 0 Lincoln City 0
The second half began much as the first, with Northampton on the front foot but Toffolo broke up a promising run by Sam Hoskins to keep the scores level. Soon after, a deft pass by Bostwick to Eardley out on the right saw the latter move forward with the ball before sending in a pinpoint cross over the home defence which dropped beautifully for GREEN to force home with a bullet-like diving header. You don’t see Green score many headers, but that was a beauty! That’s now two seasons running that Matt Green has scored the Imps’ first goal of the season and the travelling 1,453 fans went wild behind the goal! Interestingly, at Wycombe there were exactly 20 fewer Imps there that day, 1,433 compared to Saturday.
Northampton pressed for an equaliser, but the Imps defence stood firm, and then there was Vickers to mop up anything that did get through. Green was the first to be substituted in the 64th minute and he received a deserved standing ovation from all Imps fans as Bruno Andrade made his way on to the pitch for his début. Shay McCartan then came off for Harry Anderson in the 70th minute and John Akinde was replaced in the 73rd minute by Matt Rhead. The two new boys both had a fairly quiet start to life with the Imps, but both will progress well and become integral to the team. Rhead, looking much trimmer than before, was soon winning headers as we all know he can and Anderson injected a bit of pace without necessarily using it advantageously. Time was running out for the home side and it was, in fact, City who nearly added a second goal; a lovely ball through to Andrade from Rhead saw the former squirm a shot from a tight angle which evaded both the onrushing Anderson and the far post to roll out for a goal kick. Five minutes were added at the end, and just when it looked like we had claimed all three points, Northampton had one last, desperate effort to draw level. A long ball forward was met by Andy Williams who took the ball well and headed for goal with nobody close to him. Vickers, bless him, had one more excellent save in his locker and he not only kept the initial shot out but, as the ball looped dangerously in the air, he dived to catch it safely, much to the joy of his fellow players and the 1,453 Imps fans alike. Soon after, Swabey blew the final whistle to ecstatic scenes amongst the faithful. A smash-and-grab win make no mistake. Three valuable points then, and already two more than this time last year!
Final Score: Northampton Town 0 Lincoln City 1
— Vital Lincoln City (@VitalLincoln) August 6, 2018
Thank you to Graham Burrell and Lincoln City Football Club for the photographs!