Haig Avenue, 13th August 2011.
Relegated Imps begin life in non-league with a hard fought 2-2 draw in Merseyside.
Written by Matt Scrafton
A new look Lincoln City side were forced to settle for a point at Haig Avenue this afternoon following a cagey encounter.
Lincoln, who twice took the lead through headed goals by summer signings Sam Smith and Kyle Perry, played some neat football in limited spells, yet were caused plenty of problems by a dogged home side. With the skillful brilliance of the mercurial talent, John Paul Kissock, Southport cut Lincoln open on more than the one occasion, with right-back Adam Watts feeling the full brunt of Kissock's unpredictable talent and incisive passing with a wayward performance.
Yet it was the Imps who took the lead on the half-hour mark, in front of 578 away fans, thanks to an instinctive corner from Russell, which was expertly placed on Sam Smith's head following Ali Fuseini's curling cross. This came after Southport had dominated the opening 15 minutes of the match, causing several disturbances amongst the City defence yet failed to beat Lincoln's Joe Anyon.
Southport deservedly drew level just a few minutes before the half-time whistle, in a half that they matched the visitors. Josh Gowling hacked down Kissock 25 yards from goal, and predictably the diminutive figure fired into the top corner away from Anyon's leaping dive.
Whilst the City fans entertained themselves baiting the local stewards, the two sides arrived back onto the pitch for the second half, both unchanged. Lincoln came rapidly out of the firing blocks, edging one ahead again thanks to Russell's superb delivery from the right wing, following good build-up play from the midfield. This time it was ex-Mansfield striker Kyle Perry who nodded in from a difficult angle.
Yet just as Lincoln fans were celebrating excitedly and expecting their side to go on and win the match comfortably, they were pegged back for the second time just four minutes later. Fuseini dithered with the ball dangerously just outside of the City box, and Kissock impulsively slid the ball in to winger Shaun Whalley behind Watts, who then cut inside the Lincoln centre-backs and fired home at Anyon's near post.
Both sides traded half chances towards the end of the game, but neither managed to find a way past their opposing 'goalkeepers, which brought an end to an entertaining game where both sides were satisfied to share the spoils of the opening day fixture.
Attendance: 1,687 (578 City supporters)
Lincoln Match Ratings:
Joe Anyon - 6/10 - Didn't do much wrong, although he only had 1 or 2 shots to deal with. Can't fault him on today's game & he couldn't have done much about either of the goals.
Adam Watts - 4/10 - Struggled with Southport's wingers and was caught out on numerous occasions.
Josh Gowling - 6/10 - Won his headers and dealt with the long ball pretty effectively. Not great with his distribution, however.
Danny Hone - 6/10 - As above.
John Nutter - 6/10 - Wasn't tested too much down Southport's right side, so was pretty solid. Good crossing ability and supported well going forward.
Gavin McCallum - 7/10 - Rarely found space due to the narrow pitch, but beat his man consistently when he had the opportunity. Crossing was also good.
Ali Fuseini - 5/10 - At fault for their second and rarely found himself involved in the play despite the assist for City's opener.
Alan Power - 6/10 - Spread the play well at times, as seen for the Imps' second. But failed to stamp his mark on the midfield.
Sam Russell - 7/10 - Impressive delivery from wide positions, corners and free-kicks. Hasn't got the pace of McCallum but he provides something different.
Sam Smith - 7/10 - Held the ball up efficiently and worked well with Perry at times. Took his goal very well.
Kyle Perry - 8/10 - my MOTM today. Won the majority of his headers, pestered the Southport defence and headed home expertly.