Lincoln City 2 (Stockley o.g. 58, Poole 90+2) Charlton (Lavelle 63).
Kevin Nolan reports from Sincil Bank.
Exploring new depths of frustration, Charlton polished off another display of crass ineptitude by blowing a useful draw in the first of five added minutes. It's entirely irrelevant whether they deserved any reward for their pallid, punchless performance; fact is a point was there for the taking. Instead, as so often in the recent past, their soft defensive underbelly was ripped apart by predatory opponents no doubt well aware of their fabled vulnerability to late sucker punches.
Back came that old, sinking feeling as Chris Maguire retrieved Anthony Scully's partially cleared right wing corner before recycling it to the far post, where right back Regan Poole, still upfield for the set piece, headed simply past Craig McGillivray. Manager Nigel Adkins hasn't been in the building that long but by now surely recognises the depressing process. In this case he had plenty to say about it.
"In the 91st minute," he lamented, "we've got a clear, blatant penalty. I've watched it back and it was a clear as day penalty. Then they go upfield and win it with an offside goal. So it's fine margins...some go against you." Adkins was referring to a spot of alleged shirt-tugging on Jayden Stockley to which referee David Webb turned a blind eye and to Poole's unopposed position, from which he headed City's match-winner. His irritation was understandable, the evidence in each incident far from clearcut.
There was unmistakeable poignancy in Nigel's comment that "we were good for 20 minutes and had three or four good opportunities in the opening 20 minutes." I'm frankly struggling to recall the "opportunities" he references, though he was justified in mentioning the early withdrawal of Elliot Lee as an important setback in a game short on turning points. Lee's departure brought Corey Blackett-Taylor, so exciting recently, into the action but the Imps had clearly done their homework on the young prospect. With his supply diligently cut-off, he faded into obscurity, as did Jonathan Leko on the opposite flank; switched up front in the re-shuffle, meanwhile, Charlie Kirk was anonymous, Alex Gilbey nondescript and Harry Arter apparently determined to add a second caution to the booking he received in the early going. Ahead of Charlton's non-functioning midfield, Josh Davison toiled thanklessly, his interval replacement by Stockley an act of mercy by Adkins.
Facing clueless opposition, Michael Appleton's men were less than impressive themselves. Their first half contribution amounted to a shot scuffed wide by danger man Scully and Lasse Sorensen's speculative effort which brushed the bar. Thirteen minutes after the break, however, they were generously handed a break by their helpful visitors. Following another of Scully's corners, Ted Bishop's fierce shot-cum-cross was pawed away by McGillivray, bounced off Stockley and rolled gently into the net. A goal, you might say, every bit as scruffy as its context; "a comedy of errors", as Charlton's beleaguered boss chose to describe it, though he didn't appear amused when he said so.
The Imps were in front for only five minutes before the Addicks to general surprise, including no doubt their own, equalised in similarly untidy circumstances. Arter's right wing corner was headed goalwards by Stockley, blocked by Joe Walsh, then nudged over the line by Sam Lavelle. A two-pronged pitch invasion greeted the goal, neither of the interlopers apparently sure how to proceed before sheepishly submitting to authority.
Once order was restored and the "hooligans" restored to their nannies, there remained the far-from-burning issue of a half hour's unappealing dross still to be endured before we could all head for home. McGillivray temporarily prolonged the agony by saving bravely from Scully's near post piledriver but Poole's late strike neatly picked Charlton's pocket and sent them back down the A1 pointless. There's more to football than winning or losing. If you can't manage the first, strictly avoid the latter. That leaves a third option. Draw the bloody game....
Lincoln: Griffiths, Poole, Montsma, Maguire, (Nlundulu 90+5), Scully, Bishop, Walsh, McGandless, Fiorini, Sorensen (Adelakun 88), Robson. Not used: Long, Jackson, Sanders, Bramall, Eyoma. Booked: Poole.
Charlton: McGillivray, Gunter, Famewo, Gilbey, Lavelle, Lee (Blackett-Taylor 20), Leko, Kirk, Arter (Watson 80), Davison (Stockley 55)). Not booked: Henderson, Pearce, Washington, Matthews. Booked: Arter, Gilbey, Kirk, Stockley.
Referee: David Webb. Att: 9169 (1355 visiting).