Lincoln United drew 1-1 with Sheffield FC in a tense encounter at Ashby Avenue on Saturday afternoon.
Report by Matthew Williams.
The Whites were looking to bounce back from last week’s 4-1 loss away at Brigghouse Town.
Sheffield knew a win would close the five point gap on Lincoln to two, a real incentive considering the three games in hand they hold over United.
The game started at a fast pace, with several long range efforts from the away side, all of which failed to trouble Michael Emery in the Lincoln goal.
Lincoln’s first attack of note saw an enticing cross from Scott Matthews nodded behind by a Sheffield defender for a corner which nothing came of.
Paul Grimes was then sent racing away down the right but couldn’t pick out a teammate in the penalty area.
As the Whites began to build some momentum in the game, Johnathan Williams sent a shot fizzing across goal which Grimes was close to diverting on target.
Lincoln thought they’d taken the lead after 18 minutes. Scott Matthews whipped a free-kick low into the Sheffield area, the ball took a deflection and nestled in the bottom corner. Unfortunately for Lincoln, the linesman’s flag saved the away side and kept the score level.
Kallum Smith was next to threaten, sending a powerful shot just wide of the Sheffield post. The Whites well on top but yet to make the breakthrough after 25 minutes.
The lively Matt Cotton looked to do just that, bringing the ball down in the box and getting a shot away which looked goal bound until it was well blocked by a Sheffield defender.
Matt Wilson was given the first yellow card after he brought down James Gregory as the winger went on a direct run at the heart of the Lincoln defence. After the resulting free kick was cleared, Stuart Ludlum had Sheffield’s best chance of the first half. The centre back volleying wide from 15 yards.
The remaining minutes of the first half saw the game drift somewhat, the sides going in to the break level at 0-0.
Lincoln had grown into the game and asserted themselves well on the first half without finding the opening goal.
They would take the lead five minutes into the second half. More good work from Cotton set up captain Sean Wright on the edge of the box. His low shot was saved by Adam Kelsey, however, the Sheffield keeper could only parry the ball into a dangerous area and Smith was first to react to turn the ball home.
The away side responded well to going behind, building momentum before grabbing an equaliser in the 59th minute. After a free-kick was initially cleared, the ball was fizzed back in by Gregory and Mark Newsham was able to divert the ball into the Lincoln net and level the game at 1-1.
Sam Wilkinson looked to regain control of the match shortly after, replacing Grimes and Norris with Kevin Hemagou and Tom Garrick.
With 15 minutes remaining, the game was on a knife edge and the tension began to show on the pitch as both teams sought a winner, but were also aware one mistake could mean a defeat.
The next chance came with ten minutes to go, Cotton striking over from just outside the box for Lincoln.
Soon after the Whites defence were under pressure, frantically clearing away after a goal bound header was blocked on the line by Smith.
As the minutes ticked away towards the final whistle it was Sheffield who looked more likely to get a decisive second goal.
They came close on two occasions in injury time. First, Michael Jacklin sliced a clearance and the defender was grateful to sit it drift narrowly wide of the post. The whites were then thanking their goalkeeper as Emery produced a fingertip save to see an Adam Chapman header round the post.
After clearing the corner, Lincoln tried to launch one last attack but couldn’t create a meaningful chance and the match ended in a hard-fought draw.
Manager Sam Wilkinson said the result was a fair one: “I thought we were good first half and was pleased with how we came out second half but we just didn’t kick on…we had no real sustained pressure on Sheffield in the second half.”
The Tadcaster game sees a second home game in a row for the Whites and another chance to face one of their play-off rivals.