XMAS NUMBER ONE!
Lincoln City beat Tranmere to go top of the league
LINCOLN CITY were on song to battle back to snatch the coveted Christmas number one slot – and take Tranmere’s place at the top of the tree.
The biggest match of the National League season so far lived up to its billing as the Imps overtook Rovers in the first-versus-second clash of the titans.
A late strike from substitute Adam Marriott was the perfect gift for most of the 6,345 crowd but it was winger Nathan Arnold who earned special praise in their 2-1 win. He put City in front before Jeff Hughes’ penalty looked to keep Tranmere at the summit.
But Marriott had the final say and Lincoln boss Danny Cowley said: “Nathan is tactically brilliant – he’s a footballing god to me!”
Forest Green stay third after Kieffer Moore’s late goal salvaged a 1-1 draw with Dover and in-form Barrow “got lucky” as they were held at Boreham Wood.
IN a pulsating title showdown at Sincil Bank, it was Lincoln who came out on top in the battle to be Christmas No.1 – much to the delight of boss Danny Cowley.
The Imps have now taken six points from Tranmere this season and are 16 games unbeaten – the club’s best run in 19 years.
After Tranmere’s Jeff Hughes penalty had cancelled out Nathan Arnold’s opener, a late strike from substitute Adam Marriott ensured it’s Lincoln who go into the festive season Top of the Pops in front of a bumper festive crowd of 6,345.
“It’s a great present for everyone here to be top of the league at Christmas, something that we’ve all paid good money towards,” said Cowley.
“We asked the players at half-time if they wanted to be the victim or the fighter – that was the question and they answered it emphatically.
“To be unbeaten for 16 games shows we have a whole number of qualities, but it’s still only December.”
The Imps got off to a dream start when Matt Rhead flicked Sam Habergham’s throw into the path of Arnold, who nodded past Scott Davies from close range.
“Nathan is tactically brilliant – he’s a footballing god to me,” enthused Cowley afterwards. “Very rarely do you get boys who have both ability and attitude, but he’s been fantastic for us.”
Rovers, meanwhile were almost level six minutes later when Andy Mangan latched onto a Jay Harris throughball and rounded Paul Farman, but the Imps stopper recovered well to tip behind for a corner.
Lincoln pushed for a second but on 29 minutes the visitors were level amid controversy. Callum Howe was adjudged to have fouled Mangan in the area, and exImp Jeff Hughes made no mistake from the spot.
Chants of ‘We are top of the league’ changed from one set of supporters to the other, not for the first (or last) time in the game.
Rovers had the better of the remainder of the first half, and indeed, after the break. Lois Maynard stabbed wide with 20 minutes to go, whilst Ritchie Sutton saw a back post header well held by Farman.
Theo Robinson perhaps should have put the hosts ahead moments later but lobbed over after latching onto another Rhead flick, much to his strike partner’s dismay.
It was to prove the striker’s last action, and he was duly replaced by Marriott which proved to be a master stroke by boss Cowley.
A minute after coming on, Marriott was picked out by Arnold and lashed the ball past Scott Davies from 20 yards with his first touch.
Lincoln held firm for the final ten minutes, though there was a big scare in the sixth minute of stoppage time when Rovers’ Maynard broke forward and drilled a 25 yard strike against the outside of the post.
Tranmere boss Micky Mellon was left to rue his first league defeat since being appointed in October.
“I thought half-time came too quickly because the penalty got us back into the game and into the ascendency,” he said. “We then began the second-half well, we were popping the ball around and playing good vertical football towards their goal.
“We should have had another penalty but if I had once criticism though, it would be that we need to show more composure and quality in the vital areas.”
HAIR RAISER: Lincoln City’s Nathan Arnold enjoys his goal in their 2-1 win over Tranmere
EYES ON THE PRIZE: Adam Marriott fires in Lincoln City’s winner after Nathan Arnold, inset, notched the Imps’ opener