FA Trophy First Qualifying Round
at the Sun Hat Villas & Resorts Stadium,
Ashby Avenue, Hartsholme, Lincoln
Lincoln United (3) 4
Jordan Hempenstall 23 25 69
Matt Cotton 30
Gresley FC (0) 2
Pearson Mwanyongo 60
Courtney Meade 82
Admission £8. Programme £1. Attendance 202
Today marked the Whites eleventh cup game of the season and impressively they have only lost one.
Lincoln were on the front foot from the word go and Harry Millard almost beat the former United keeper, Rob Peet, inside the opening three minutes, but saw his thundering long range shot go wide.
Both sides were obviously psyched up for this one, but the competitive edge spilled over during the opening exchanges, as around a dozen players fronted up to each other in front of the dug out area, but the referee Richie Watkins soon had them all walking away in opposite directions.
It's just a shame that he hadn't spotted the smallest player on the pitch, Reece Morris, spark the melee when he trod, quite deliberately, on Matt Cotton.
The fluent manner in which the Whites were knocking the ball around on a playing surface that appears to be recovering well from it's recent bout of yellow jaundice and they threatened to take the Moatmen apart with a wave of attacks that the visitors were struggling to deal with.
Michael Jacklin played the ball out wide to Cotton on the right flank, who exchanged passes with Luke Hornsey as the duo played the ball around Gresley's static back line. before picking out Jack McGovern with a cross, who rolled a sideways pass into the path of Jordan Hempenstall, whose first time shot was blocked en route to goal by Jamie Barrett.
As Lincoln continued to press, the visitors were reliant on Matt Roome who made two last ditch clearances inside a minute to preserve Peet's clean sheet.
Gary King launched a deep cross into the visitors six yard box that Lucas Harrison headed behind from in front of his own goal. Danny Brooks delivered the resulting flag kick, which was only half cleared to Jack McGovern who forced Peet into making a save down by his post with a well struck
Gresley enjoyed a brief respite from Lincoln's dominance and Leandro Browne had a chance to break the deadlock, but he planted a dipping free kick over the Whites crossbar.
Oh well, at least Browne drew everybody's attention to the MGB TOOL SUPPLIES advertising board behind the goal, which ought to help Lincoln United secure their continued patronage next season.
On 23 minutes, Cotton knocked the ball away from the Gresley goal to Hempenstall on the right hand corner of the area, who spanked a shot just inside the right hand upright, beyond the despairing reach of Peet's outstretched arms.
Within two minutes Hempenstall head home his and United's second goal, when Sean Wright headed the ball back across the face of Gresley's goal from Brooks corner kick to the back post from out on the left.
And the seven minute smash and grab was complete when Kallum Smith chased the ball down towards the left touchline, kept it in play and crossed and Jordan Wakeling slipped and fell as he tried to clear the ball that he knocked to Cotton who gratefully accepted the gift from ten yards out.
Wow! Gresley were reeling, but things almost got even worse for them before half time, when Millard's diagonal pass released King and he crashed a shot against the bar with Peet clutching at fresh air.
The Moatmen had a chance to reduce the arrears just before the interval, but Matt Melbourne didn't just clear the crossbar with his wildly lashed attempt on goal, he actually sent the ball sailing out of the ground and onto the adjacent cricket field.
McGovern put the ball narrowly wide when he looked odds on to score and Peet at the other end, Browne kept his shot on target but Phil McGann turned the ball away to safety.
Just in case I haven't already mentioned him, and there is no reason that I should've done, McGann was actually playing in goal for the home side today.
HT: Whites 3 v Moatmen 0
|Apparently there is a market stall in Lincoln doing a great deal on black coats|
McGovern forced a corner inside the opening minute of the first half, but Peet held onto Brooks flag kick, but Lincoln were a little bit subdued at the start of the second half, although I doubt that anybody really expected them to keep up the gung-ho, crash, bang, wallop pace of the first half up for a whole ninety minutes.
With the Whites sitting back on their lead, for the moment at least, it afforded Harrison the opportunity to push forward, but it still remains a mystery where his ambitious long range shot finally landed.
Gresley came a bit closer to putting a dent in their hosts lead, when Melbourne headed over the bar from Toby Fura's long free kick.
Gresley's manager Damion Beckford-Quailey used his last throw of the dice on 56 minutes, well last three chucks if you wish to split hairs, when he made a triple switch, sending on Pearson Mwanyongo, Courtney Meade and Dexter Morris-Clarke, in a bid to salvage a possible (but hardly probable) replay from this game that had been getting away from the visitors since the half hour mark.
His gamble paid immediate dividends, when four minutes later his side clawed a goal back.
Morris' right wing cross hitBrooks arm and the referee blew for a free kick. Browne knocked a short ball to Mwanyongo, who nudged it forward a couple of steps, paused, moved a couple of feet tohis left and then unleashed a curling and unstoppable shot into the top left hand corner of McGann's goal.
It was a sublime finish, if that had been televised and scored by a Brazilian it would've been... well, y'know!
|You don't stop them!|
But any hopes of a comeback for the visitors were short lived when Hempenstall finished off his hat trick, with a close range acrobatic shot, after Wright's shot from Brooks ball into the box, rebounded into the path of the Whites number 9.
Not just yet. Wright was too casual as he rolled a pass back to McGann and Meade chased the ball down, forcing the United keeper to rush his clearance which fell straight to Meade and although his shot hit Wright who had dashed back to make amends for his error, the Gresley fans shouts of "Handball!" from behind the goal, soon turned to cheers and they retracted their appeals as the ball made it's way, slowly but surely over the line and into the goal.
With eight minutes still remaining you had to wonder if Lincoln were about to end the game regretting and ruing their string of near misses earlier in the game, when they were completely in control.
as Beckford Quailey's tactical substitutions continued to give the visitors some new found impetus.
But Reece Morris sabotaged his side's comeback, when just as Lincoln were breaking up an attack down Gresley's right flank, he added Callum Ward to his 'stamp collection' in clear view of the referee and was probably lucky to be dismissed straight away before any of the angry Lincoln players heading his way reached him first.
It was game over now and despite Mwanyongo seeing a long range shot fly narrowly over the goal, a good number of visiting supporters had already resigned themselves to their inevitable fate and were already in the clubhouse drowning their sorrows.
I hope they made Morris walk home!
FT: Lincoln United 4 v Gresley 2
United were irresistible to watch at times today and although Gresley's defending left a lot to be desired at times, you couldn't fault their application in that final half hour, apart from the actions of a one diminutive player with a screw loose.
An entertaining afternoon was had by all I reckon. Good luck in the next round to Lincoln United... and much kudos and respect to the helpers and volunteers at Ashby Avenue who were a credit to the club they represent. The Gresley supporters club lot that I spoke to in the bar after the game were a friendly bunch too, in spite of their team's sometimes lacklustre showing today.
Enjoy your football travels one and all.
Enjoy your football travels one and all.