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Friday, 14 December, 2018

Dogged Imps need to improve to secure another promotion

Home advantage could be crucial for Cowley's crew

Lincoln manager Danny Cowley
1 of 1

Sky Bet League Two

Lincoln 2                     Swindon 2
Frecklington pen 23     Richards 35
Bostwick 90                 Banks 38

Refuse to lose. That was Lincoln boss Danny Cowley's motto during City's National League promotion campaign last season and it served them well in a dramatic draw with ten-man Swindon at Sincil Bank.

Having played against ten men for 70 minutes it will definitely feel like two points dropped in Lincoln's quest for successive promotions but despite dominating territory in second half they did not deserve to win and will have to improve in a tight division.

"We are disappointed with the way we played in the first half,” admitted an honest Cowley, who changed the dynamic at the interval with the introduction of huge target man Matt Rhead as the Imps went more direct in a 4-4-2 formation having started 4-3-3.

Maybe Rhead was being saved for Tuesday's EFL Trophy semi-final against Chelsea's academy side - a massive game for Lincoln seeing as victory would secure their first ever trip to Wembley - and the dodgy Sincil Bank surface should certainly suit the League Two side more.

However, promotion is the main aim and this point could yet be crucial in that quest despite the need for improvement.

Swindon went close three times before a long through-ball saw Lincoln's Matt Green outpace Matt Preston and the defender brought him down to concede a penalty.

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It was a definite pen, but with the new double jeopardy rules in place the red was a touch harsh on Preston.

Homecoming hero Lee Frecklington's weak spot-kick just about squirmed in but Swindon's ten men still dominated.

Marc Richards should have equalised when blazing over but the veteran levelled shortly after and Ollie Banks deservedly put the Robins in front. Lincoln keeper Paul Farman should have done better with both goals and could find his place under serious threat from new Bournemouth loanee Ryan Allsop.

It was difficult to see what Lincoln were trying do in the first half with no real pattern to their play.

Defensively they looked nervous. Alex Woodyard, possibly due to an early booking which put him in danger of a red, and Frecklington never managed to get Lincoln on the front foot, while Green was isolated, feeding mainly off scraps.

Rhead's introduction for Woodyard changed the atmosphere. The crowd got going, Lincoln moved the ball wide and flooded the visitors' penalty box with long throws, corners, free kicks and crosses from general play.

It was a corner which earned Lincoln a point in stoppage time with Michael Bostwick claiming the equaliser, although it looked as if visiting keeper Reice Charles-Cook may have just dropped the ball over the line under intense pressure.

TV replays were inconclusive and Bostwick had a chance to win it as Lincoln made it nine unbeaten at home with seven wins and two draws. Swindon will be cursing Timi Elsnick's effort which hit the bar minutes earlier when he could have put the Robins 3-1 up.

On the second-half evidence, albeit against ten men, you can see why Lincoln are so strong at home. They get great backing from a loud crowd, Cowley leads the cheerleading on the touchline, sirens go off when Lincoln get a corner and visiting teams could crumble in a difficult environment.

That could well take Lincoln close, although it is reflected in their odds of 12-5 for promotion. On this evidence the 5-1 about Swindon going up looks like a more attractive option.

The opposition

Swindon are away-day specialists - their road record reads ten wins, four defeats and this draw - and it is easy to see why David Flitcroft's men are a major threat on their travels.

Their 3-5-2 formation (switched to 4-4-1 after Preston's red card) worked well and debutant defender Rollin Menayese caught the eye in difficult circumstances after being introduced to replace Luke Norris in the rejig.

On-loan Slovenian teenager Elsnik knitted the team together in midfield, Keshi Anderson's pace from a deep attacking position helped with two target-men forwards in Norris and Richards, while there was a threat from wing-backs Matt Taylor and Kellen Gordon.

Swindon have a tough run on the horizon with Accrington (away), Mansfield (home) and Wycombe (away) up next but they go into those matches in good shape.

Lincoln 4-1-4-1:
Farman; Eardley, Waterfall (Palmer 89), Wilson Habergham; Bostwick; Rowe, Frecklington, Woodyard (Rhead 46), Anderson (Pett 61); Green.

Swindon 3-4-1-2: Charles-Cook; Purkiss, Lancashire, Preston; Gordon (Mullin 57), Elsnik, Banks, Taylor; Anderson (Robertson 89); Norris (Menayese 24), Richards.  

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Sirens go off when Lincoln get a corner and visiting teams could crumble in a difficult environment
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