Reds failed to halt Lincoln’s march towards the League 2 title as the leaders enjoyed a comfortable 3-0 win at The People’s Pension Stadium.
Goals from Bruno Andrade, Shay McCarten and Cian Bolger stretched the visitors’ unbeaten run to 16 games and although Reds had some decent spells of possession, particularly in the first half, they struggled to create much of note.
There were two changes for Reds. George Francomb (illness) was replaced by Bondz N’Gala who was making his first appearance since Boxing Day while Panutche Camara came in for Filipe Morais in midfield. Joe Maguire and Dominic Poleon were on the bench while Lincoln’s squad included four ex-Reds: Michael Bostwick, Harry Anderson, John Akinde and Jordan Roberts.
Akinde had the first chance after three minutes, directing a header from Danny Rowe’s cross back across goal but wide.
The leaders started on the front foot but Reds began to settle although neither Panutche Camara or Matty Willock could test keeper Matt Gilks with efforts from outside the box.
Neither keeper was tested in the first third of the game but Lincoln took the lead with a smartly-taken goal by Andrade on 36 minutes. Neal Eardley whipped over a good ball from the right and Andrade nipped ahead of N’Gala to guide a low right-foot shot past Morris.
It was a little harsh on Reds that stage but Lincoln had ruthlessly punished a lapse at the back.
Ollie Palmer made a chance for himself in the 44th minute when he bulldozed past a couple of defenders, but Wilks got down to make a comfortable save from his right-foot effort. It summed up the first half for Reds, who had precious little to show for some good possession.
Lincoln were quicker out of the blocks in the second half too. Anderson found the side netting on 51 minutes after Andrade’s effort deflected to him then Rowe headed Anderson’s excellent delivery from the right over the bar.
All the time it remained one goal Reds were still in the contest but they were still struggling to create much. Grego-Cox and Palmer linked up on the hour to set up Camara but his side-footed effort lacked power and was easily held by Gilks.
Reds’ best moment of the half so far came on 69 minutes when Willock robbed Tom Pett to find Camara who skipped a challenge but saw his effort from the right clear the bar when a cut-back might have been the better option.
It had been a controlled display by the leaders and they doubled their lead on 76 minutes. Substitute McCartan picked up the ball in a gap between Reds’ midfield and back three and burst into space on the left before burying a low shot past Morris from 15 yards.
With ten minutes to go Dominic Poleon came on for Willock but it was Lincoln who continued to dominate and defender Bolger made it 3-0 with five minutes to go, heading unmarked past Morris from inside the six yard box.
Joe McNerney nearly got a late consolation but his diving header from a free kick was cleared off the line, but it was a rare moment of concern for a disciplined visiting defence.
Reds: Morris, Young, McNerney, N’Gala, Dallison, Sesay, Bulman, Camara, Willock (Poleon 80), Grego-Cox, Palmer (German 84).
Attendance: 3355 (1059 Lincoln)
Pictured: Reds prepare to attack a free kick in a crowded penalty area. Photo: Simon Dack