Lincoln City conceded a dramatic late equaliser as they drew 2-2 with Stevenage at Sincil Bank on Saturday afternoon.
Story by Matthew Williams.
The Imps went into the game looking to return to winning ways after draws in their previous three matches. They had to do without the suspended Harry Anderson after he picked up a red card against Newport County.
They were aware Stevenage represented a significant challenge, with the play-off hopefuls sitting in ninth place in League Two going into the game.
The first ten minutes saw little goalmouth action. The first test for Lincoln goalkeeper Grant Smith came from an Ilias Chair cross which Smith caught well under pressure from Alex Revell.
Smith also had to cope with an obstructed view during the first half as he looked into the February sunshine which covered Sincil Bank.
The first attempt of note came from Stevenage’s Joel Byrom, a long range effort which sailed well over the bar.
Just after the 20 minute mark, Chair went closer for the away side. Another long range effort which this time went narrowly over.
The lively Chair then produced a moment of real quality. He floated a cross to the back post, it was met by John Hunt, the full back’s volley went agonisingly wide.
It was a let off for Lincoln and after 25 minutes it was the away side who’d had the better of the game.
The home side did manage their first shot on target after half an hour. A Neal Eardley free kick was dealt with comfortably by the returning Paul Farman.
Minutes later, Farman made a real error, dropping the ball to present a golden chance to John Akinde to open the scoring. The striker headed towards the empty net but was denied by a heroic clearance from Scott Cuthbert. All eyes looked to the linesman. Had it crossed the line? The official was unmoved and Farman’s blushes were spared.
Soon after, Lincoln were appealing again, this time for a penalty as Akinde went down but referee Jeremy Simpson instead pointed for a goal-kick.
Chair then produced another good effort, testing Smith with a rasping drive from 30 yards out.
The game had really livened up and Akinde was denied by another goalmouth clearance. Hunt denying the powerful forward’s header.
That was the last action in a first half which took a while to come to life but saw both sides come close to breaking the deadlock. Lincoln improved towards the end of the half and would need to build on this in the second period.
They were able to do just that as they opened the scoring just a few minutes after the restart.
Great work by Danny Rowe created space for the Ipswich loanee to cross for Bruno Andrade who headed back across goal and into the far corner. The linesman caused some confusion as he raised his flag for offside. The referee overruled him and the goal stood, 1-0 to the home side.
Lincoln looked to extend their lead but Stevenage showed why they are play off contenders and weren’t going away without a fight. A neat move on 60 minutes gave Michael Timlin the opportunity to shoot from just outside the box, his effort drifted over the Lincoln bar.
The away side continued to press for the equaliser. Chair rattled the crossbar with a curling free-kick that almost caught Smith out.
Danny Cowley looked to strengthen his sides grip on proceedings, introducing Michael O’Connor and Shay McCartan for Lee Frecklington and Rowe.
The Imps got their second goal after 70 minutes and what a goal it was. Andrade picked up the ball 25 yards out, jinked, picked his spot and rifled home his second of the match and fourth in the last three matches.
Chair had been the away side’s brightest spark and he went close with another strike from distance.
With just over ten minutes to play, Akinde provided the chance for Andrade to complete his hat-trick. On this occasion, the winger missed his kick and the chance went begging.
The away side were given a lifeline with 86 minutes on the clock. Chair finally got the goal he’d been striving for, curling past Smith from just inside the Lincoln area.
Chair almost repeated the trick moments later, Shackell producing a crucial header to divert his goal-bound effort.
Six minutes of injury time were shown and what a dramatic six minutes they were.
Chair had the Stevenage fans off their seats and celebrating wildly again in the 93rd minute. The tricky Moroccan produced a special strike to level the scores at 2-2, striking with precision from 30 yards out.
Amid the chaos, Stevenage manager Dino Maamria was sent off for his celebration which saw him sprint down the touch line towards his team’s supporters.
The Stevenage man almost conjured up a third spectacular strike to win all three points. Smith was forced to palm another curling effort wide.
Harry Toffolo had a chance to win the game for Lincoln, but drove over from inside the box.
Both teams pressed for a winner but ultimately the points were shared as Jeremy Simpson brought a pulsating match to its close.
Overall, Lincoln will be frustrated at having dropped two points after Andrade’s double had put them in such a commanding position.
However, credit has to go to Stevenage and particularly Chair who produced two moments of outstanding quality to earn his side a point.
The Imps remain top, but are without a win in four. Their next test is a trip to Morecambe next Saturday.