XMAS NUM­BER ONE!

Lin­coln City beat Tran­mere to go top of the league

The Non-League Football Paper - - FRONT PAGE - By ALAN JOHN­SON

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.”

PIC­TURE: An­drew Vaughan

HAIR RAISER: Lin­coln City’s Nathan Arnold en­joys his goal in their 2-1 win over Tran­mere

PIC­TURES: An­drew Vaughan

EYES ON THE PRIZE: Adam Mar­riott fires in Lin­coln City’s win­ner af­ter Nathan Arnold, inset, notched the Imps’ opener

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