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22:53 18th March 2003

Antony Moxey Presents a Fan's eye view o

So City steamroller a bamboozled Lincoln side 2-0 at a chilly St. JP in front of a bumper 4000 crowd to keep the dream alive. City lined up: Miller; Power, Todd, Santos, Hiley; Pettefer, Walker, Ampadu, Coppinger; Devine, Sheldon.After the splendid week long plus Express and Echo build up to the game, the first fifteen minutes were somewhat of an anti-climax. Plenty of endeavour and surefooted defending, but little else. Lincoln, riding high in the division, suddenly didn't know what hit them. City decided it was time to win the game and set about their task with bags of tackling, getting stuck in, running and slowly but surely passing. That our heroes forged ahead mid way through the half was neither shock nor surprise (except maybe for our relegation rivals watching on Ceefax), and deserved it was too: a corner, bit of a scramble, blocked Sheldon effort and Coppinger on hand to scoop the ball into the net from a couple of yards out a mere ten days after being stretchered off at Orient with a suspected broken leg. But grit and determination are the watchwords at City now - everyone wants to play and injuries just get in the way. Being forced to wait on the sidelines nowadays means that when you do get given the chance you seize it with both hands. Enter Gareth Sheldon: with players running back and defenders stood arms aloft claiming offside, Sheldon timed his run to perfection, bursting through wide on the left just inside the touchline. At breakneck speed he made a beeline for the goal and in one decisive strike sealed the game for City by coolly slotting the ball past a stranded keeper to make it 2-0 just before half time. A damned fine goal it was, and a fully deserved scoreline. The whistle soon blew and the players made their way off, tails up, to resounding applause.The second half was soon underway and Lincoln again offered nothing. A lot of it has to be that really they didn't know what hit them, and moving their twelve foot defender up front had little impact for Santos won everything, ably assisted by the intelligent mopping up of Todd, and distribution of Hiley and Power - yup, Power, not the long hoof today, more measured passing, good support and some big tackles (fnarr!). As the half wore on, so it got ragged and the game as a spectacle deteriorated. City's commitment never wavered though, even if skill was at a precious premium. But faced with a Lincoln side short on ideas, guile, pace and stomach, our heroes had little to do but see the game safely out for the final twenty minutes, in absolute and complete control. This despite substitutions of first Ampadu for Cronin, the excellent but clearly battle weary Coppinger for another welcome appearance of Breslan, and finally the enforced withdrawal of Santos with apparent concussion after his third knock-down with a head injury for the prompting of Curran. At the final whistle an appreciative team in turn applauded three sides of the ground, and we applauded them back. Marvellous.So in the end a very comfortable win against very ordinary opposition. Bucketloads of passion and commitment in place of skill and silky football, but this is what survival is about - the ability to grind out important results by out-uglying the opposition. Of the players, Miller was a virtual spectator and the back four ensured he had not a single save to make. In midfield Ampadu was solid and Cronin back to his niggling persevering best. Walker again ran the show - neat passing, huge industry and an engine that refused to stop. Coppinger was a revelation with plenty of tackling throughout, and always willing to scamper on to the full blooded lamp up field. Pettefer, although strangely quiet, did the dirty stuff without fuss. Up front Devine was willing and played most of the game by himself as Sheldon ran from wing to wing and all points in between. A backheel in front of the bench nearly sent Coppinger away, but unfortunately for Devine, his sumptuous effort to split all four defenders with one minute of magic was foiled at the death. At the end of the game he almost got his reward with a glorious turn and shot, but the keeper was alert enough to smother the ball at point blank range. And it seems as well that we are starting to turn the Park into something of a fortress - no goals conceded and two wins and a draw since Peters took over.And on to Rochdale, and out of the relegation zone for the first time in what seems like months. No time for resting on our laurels though, for all we've achieved so far is to give ourselves a chance. Our future is in our own hands, and should we continue as we have done in the last couple of weeks then surely league football will be here in August. It was great to be there tonight, a good crowd, a spirited performance and a hugely deserved result. The crowd played their part enthusiastically - constant encouragement a welcome alternative to previous barracking. Let's all keep it going - players, supporters, local media, everyone, and let's all turn up in force again Saturday. I can't  wait.Antony Moxey
    Data provided by Press Association