Lincoln City capped off a fine week by beating promotion rivals Dover 2-0 at Sincil Bank on Friday evening, in a result that sees them go five points clear at the top of the National League.
A bumper crowd was expected, and it was the first time this season home fans had been able to get in the Stacey West end, traditionally the ‘home’ end for Lincoln supporters.
After their FA Cup heroics on Tuesday, City could have been forgiven for being off the pace, but they started with the same intensity that has pushed them to the top of the table.
Dover have already beaten City this season, but as early as the ninth minute Lincoln took control. A marauding run from left back Sam Habergham ended with a cross which deflected off Dover defender Tyrone Sterling and looped over the stranded keeper.
The game was scrappy and far more physical than midweek, but City almost doubled their advantage on 19 minutes through a Terry Hawkridge drive.
The Imps suffered a real scare just before the break. The league’s leading scorer, Ricky Miller, created a chance for himself from nothing, his hooked effort was first parried, and then held by Imps keeper Paul Farman.
Lincoln made a precautionary change at half time, big centre forward Matt Rhead came off for Theo Robinson. With three games in the past seven days, and another big clash coming up on Tuesday, Danny Cowley was protecting his key player.
City came close again immediately after the restart. Sean Long, on loan from Reading, whipped in a cross-cum-shot that came back off the crossbar. Theo Robisnon picked up the loose ball and crossed for Adam Marriott, but the striker poked his effort wide of Steve Arnold’s post.
As the game wore on Lincoln looked tired, and Dover almost levelled things up on 62 minutes. Ricky Miller first earned a cheap free kick on the edge of the area, then he stepped up and clipped the left hand post of Paul Farman.
The let-off prompted Lincoln to search for a second goal, and just a minute later Elliott Whitehouse had a great chance after good work from Long and Nathan Arnold, but his shot sailed into the home fans behind the goal.
Dover were edging into the game more and more, and on 74 minutes they had their best chance of the evening. A whipped corner caused the Imps defence problems, and the resultant header had to be cleared off the line.
The final ten minutes looked to be nervy as Lincoln hoped to hold on, but a moment of magic from Terry Hawkridge put the game beyond doubt. The left winger picked up the ball and strode towards goal before side footing a splendid effort into the right hand side of Arnold’s goal.
The win, in front of 6491 fans, gives Lincoln a five point lead at the top of the table until tonight’s other National League fixtures, and leaves them on course for a sustained title challenge.