First-half goals from Ollie Palmer and Harry Anderson returned Lincoln City to winning ways, but only just as they edged past Barnet 2-1 at Sincil Bank.
The Imps completely dominated the the opening 45 minutes, with Palmer striking early on, while in-form Anderson added a second just before half-time.
City should, in truth, have been out of sight by the break and were almost made to pay when Shaq Coulthirst reduced the arrears just past the hour mark.
This put the Bees in the ascendancy, with some stoic defending required by the Imps to ensure maximum points were earned ahead of Saturday’s trip to big rivals Grimsby Town.
Lincoln boss Danny Cowley handed a first home start to Palmer and Josh Vickers his league debut, while City target Simeon Akinola was, rather ironically, named in Barnet’s starting XI for the first time this season.
City should have been a goal up inside 30 seconds, when Palmer received Matt Green’s flick and jinked over a lovely cross for the unmarked Josh Ginnelly, whose header looped just over Craig Ross’ crossbar.
The Imps, though, only had to wait another six minutes for a goal when Palmer, in for the suspended Billy Knott, arrowed a low 20-yard drive into the bottom corner to hand City the initiative.
Amazingly, that was the Imps’ first goal inside the first half hour of a match since the win over Macclesfield back in April that saw Cowley’s men clinch the National League title.
Imps skipper Alex Woodyard was then lucky to escape a booking after leaving Mauro Vilhete crumpled in a heap following a hefty challenge. One can’t help but think that a certain Mr Stockbridge would have had his book out in a flash.
Unlike the controversial ref at Meadow Lane, tonight’s incumbent Trevor Kettle was content to let a few crunching tackles and iffy challenges go without too much fuss.
Green then latched on to a Ginnelly clearance over the top, but as he bore down into the box, he was tackled, although he managed to get back on his feet and retrieve the loose ball only for Michael Nelson to block his fierce effort for a corner,
Ginnelly whipped in the set-piece, which evaded everybody but nearly crept in at the far post.
The winger was in the thick of things again seconds later, meeting a Sam Habergham cross on the volley, but the ball deflected up off a Bees defender and behind for another corner.
The 617 squadron were in fine voice, even belting out a rendition of Twist And Shout after half an hour, although their off-kilter version was not a patch on The Beatles’ infamous 1963 release.
Man of the moment Ginnelly tested Ross with a 30-yard screamer that the Bees keeper did well to tip over as City remained well in control of proceedings.
Anderson then had a shot blocked and saw the rebound saved by Ross, before Sean Raggett somehow headed Habergham’s corner wide when it looked easier to score.
Barnet finally mustered an effort at goal after 34 minutes as Jamal Campbell-Ryce pounced on a rare error by Raggett, but his firm shot was well held by Vickers.
Anderson epitomised the character in this City side first winning and then losing the ball just over the halfway line, before sprinting a good 30 yards to the right flank to tackle Jean Louis Akpa Akpro and halt a Barnet attack.
Michael Bostwick had an effort blocked, before City’s dominance was rewarded with a second goal four minutes shy of the break.
Green sent a cross into the box, which Alex Woodyard hit back across the area and there was Anderson to crash home a volley to become the Imps’ leading league scorer this season with three goals.
Vickers had to be alert in first-half injury-time to ensure Campbell-Ryce’s effort didn’t drop into his net, pushing the ball over his bar for a rare Bees corner, which came to nothing.
Barnet defender Charlie Clough smashed a shot over the bar in the dying embers of the first half.
Early in the second half, Rob Dickie got in his body in the way of a Coulthirst drive as the visitors emerged from the dressing room much brighter than they had an hour earlier.
Normal order was resumed as City went on the attack and Palmer did well to chase down Neal Eardley’s clearance and eventually fashioned a chance for himself that Ross saved well down to his left.
From Habergham’s corner, Raggett rose to head goalwards, but there was Vilehete to boot his header of the line.
Vilhete then headed Harry Taylor’s cross well off target as the visitors enjoyed some longer bouts of possession and grabbed a lifeline as City went to sleep in their own box just after an hour, gifting Coulthirst (not Akpa-Akpro as wrongly announced by Alan Long) an opportunity of a strike and he made no mistake, rifling a shot into the the top corner.
Vickers then immediately flapped at a cross under pressure, but luckily City managed to clear and a couple of minutes later Palmer was replaced by Elliott Whitehouse.
Lincoln needed to get back doing what they had done so well earlier in the match and force Barnet back and an Anderson charge got the City crowd on their feet with his run earning the Imps a corner.
Habergham’s flag kick was too heavy, although Ginnelly retrieved the loose ball and turned back towards the Barnet goal, but thumped a shot well off target.
Akinola was withdrawn after 73 minutes and had shown little of the qualities described by Cowley following his failed pursuit of the striker on transfer deadline day.
Lincoln also made a change with Jordan Maguire-Drew replacing Ginnelly for his first taste of action in September.
Vickers was fortunate an almighty calamity didn’t result in a Barnet equaliser as he completely spooned a pass from Raggett, with Dickie on hand to clear with no visiting striker able to take advantage.
City were defending deep and letting the Bees come on to them and Taylor was afforded far too much space just outside the box, but his shot zoomed well over the bar.
Lincoln responded with Maguire-Drew getting a sight of goal, but he went for precision over pace and Ross comfortably saved his effort.
Green managed to set Whitehouse clear, but he took a couple of too heavy touches and the ball ran away from him and out for a goal-kick.
Despite their below-par second-half display, City were still making chances and Anderson could have sealed victory when he was set up by Maguire-Drew, but his powerful effort was tipped over by Ross.
Luke Waterfall came on in injury-time for the hard-working Green to help run down the clock and add another body at the back, to make sure the Bees were kept out and then referee Kettle played more than seven minutes of injury-time before finally calling a halt to proceedings to the relief of the 7,000-plus crowd.
Thank you to Graham Burrell and Lincoln City FC for the photograph.
? Vital Lincoln City (@VitalLincoln) 27 September 2017