Lincoln City   1-3  Sutton United

Sutton brought Lincoln’s fine start to the Vanarama National League season to a juddering halt at Sincil Bank with an outstanding performance to pick up their first victory of the season.

Ahead midway through the first half when Dan Wishart’s free kick punished a brainless piece of defending, U’s then found themselves playing against ten men after Bradley Wood had been sent off following an off the ball incident with Roarie Deacon, but from looking in control they were rocked by a freak equaliser from Sam Habergham six minutes after half time. As the second half went on, though, U’s looked the likelier winners and inside the last seven minutes skipper Jamie Collins and Deacon turned that in to reality.

After Lincoln’s first two games had produced nine goals U’s went with a powerful defence, Simon Downer recalled at right back, Kevin Amankwaah switching to the left and Dan Wishart playing on the right in a more attacking role, while Max Biamou was given his first competitive start and justified Paul Doswell’s faith with every bit as hard working a performance as Dan Fitchett had produced at Forest Green, with Chris Dickson continuing the good work in the last twenty minutes.

It wasn’t a surprise to see Lincoln, well backed by a noisy crowd, start brightly and Ross Worner had to come off his line quickly twice to dive at the feet of Jonny Margetts, but the home side suffered a blow when powerful striker Matt Rhead was forced off injured after just fifteen minutes, and U’s had established some control when they were gifted the chance to go ahead midway through the half. Biamou had just about given up on chasing a Worner clearance that seemed set to run through to Lincoln keeper Paul Farman but that didn’t deter Sean Raggett, Lincoln’s summer signing from Dover, from grabbing the French striker round the neck. Referee Simon Barrow immediately awarded the free kick and booked the tall centre back, and Wishart delivered further punishment with a fine free kick that was in from the moment it left his foot.

Lincoln’s afternoon soon became worse as, after play had been waved on when they wanted a free kick for a challenge by Deacon, Wood clashed with the Sutton player off the ball as U’s launched a counter attack. The referee was in the majority of people in the ground who didn’t see the incident, but having consulted with assistant Sam Lewis the outcome was a yellow card for Deacon, who had been left on the ground, and a red for Wood.

In a febrile atmosphere for much of the rest of the half in which the football took something of a back seat U’s, and the referee, had to keep their heads and they did so excellently, even having a chance to extend the lead when Ross Stearn’s cross picked out Dean Beckwith at the far post but the defender’s header was blocked.

U’s would have been delighted to hear the half time whistle, but that good work all seemed to have been undone when Habergham’s cross from the left, which seemed overhit, dropped just under the angle of post and bar with Worner unable to regain his position and keep it out. Boosted by the goal and with the crowd behind them, Lincoln briefly had their best spell of the game and when Worner spilled another Habergham cross under pressure from Lee Beevers, Margetts hit the outside of the post.

U’s held firm, though, with Nicky Bailey again showing his experience in his tackling as well as his passing, and Ryan Burge and Joe Morrell both impressing after coming off the bench, and they began to create chances of their own. Beckwith, outstanding at the back, was denied for a second time when his downward header from Amankwaah’s cross was saved on the line by Farman, and after Worner had set up a counter attack with a quick throw after claiming a corner, Stearn took the wrong option and failed to find Wishart who was storming through unchallenged on the right. Seven minutes from time, though, Stearn’s shot was deflected over the bar, and when Burge swung in a deep corner Collins bundled the ball in at the far post although the final touch may have come off a defender. Lincoln pushed for an equaliser with no great conviction, Farman joining the attack at two set pieces, and the game was put beyond their reach in the third minute of stoppage time as Dickson and Burge combined superbly on the left, and although Burge’s shot was blocked the deflection took the ball across goal and Deacon reacted quicker than the scrambling Farman to knock it in to the net.

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