Lincoln City 0-1 Doncaster Rovers: Imps denied from penalty spot twice in shock defeat
Photo by Andrew Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Doncaster Rovers scrambled to a 1-0 win and a second consecutive league double over Lincoln City in a massive game for the League One promotion race.

Ellery Balcombe made two magnificent penalty saves, and Lincoln midfielder Jorge Grant hit the bar all in the second half as Rovers stood firm to move three points closer to the top.

Story of the game

Both teams came into the game in great form, with Lincoln having won five of their last six and Doncaster seven of their last eight, scoring at least two in their last three away outings.

Darren Moore’s side did the double over Michael Appleton's outfit last season and had handed them their only away defeat of this campaign, so revenge was on the cards for the hosts who had not tasted success against Rovers since 2004.

Lincoln started the game at a frightening pace with TJ Eyoma and Brennan Johnson linking up on multiple occasions down the right-hand side, but they could not fashion a clear chance from their early dominance.

Surprisingly, the visitors took the lead against the run of play with a ruthless counter-attacking move. The ball ended up with Taylor Richards just outside the box, and he found the bottom right corner with great precision.

The Imps could not seem to unlock the Rovers defence for all their possession, with the biggest chance in the first 25 minutes being a handball claim from a Conor McGrandles shot.

Johnson did have a big chance; however, half an hour into the game as a cross from the left was guided into his path, but his shot whistled just past the left post.

Moore’s plan for the game was clear, and it worked to perfection in the first half as his side stood firm to take their slender lead over the league leaders into the half-time break.

The second period started similarly to the first as Lincoln pushed for an equaliser.

Their best opportunity to do just that came just five minutes into the half as Balcombe made excellent save to stop McGrandles volley flying into the net after Johnson had a shot blocked in the box just beforehand.

Following that was an even better chance to level the game, as Jorge Grant played a one-two with Edun just inside the box and was fouled to give himself a chance to score from 12-yards.

It was a well-taken penalty, but Balcombe was equal to it as he got down to his left and grabbed the ball to preserve his side’s lead.

Grant was involved again at the attacking end as he jinked his way into the box once more, rolling the ball back to Johnson at the edge of the D but his shot failed to test Balcombe as it soared over the bar.

The Lincoln number ten was left with his head in hands again in the closing stages as his thunderous effort smashed off the bar from just outside the box.

To add to Lincoln’s woes that chance was just before they had a second penalty saved, this time Balcombe denied substitute Anthony Scully, diving and grabbing the ball to the opposite side as the first spot-kick.

Takeaways from the match

Grant new deal huge boost for unlucky Lincoln

Despite the disappointment of losing a game, they dominated for large periods, those involved at City will be pleased to have tied down their midfield talisman to a new contract.

With 11 goals and five assists in all competitions this season, the 26-year-old Grant has been at the heart of everything positive for Lincoln this season.

Counter-attack football at its best for Doncaster

Moore's side put on a clinic in counter-attacking football in the first half and stood tall in defence in the second to see out what has to be the biggest three points of their season so far.

They certainly rode their luck at times, although they also showed ruthlessness in their finishing and resiliency at the back which was key in the 'backs to the wall' situation they found themselves in towards the end of the game.

Stand out players

Lincoln City - Jorge Grant

Embed from Getty Images

Grant deserved at least one goal from the game it what was another virtuoso display from Lincoln midfielder, which had everything but the final finish. All the chances created by the home side in the game went through him at some point.

Doncaster Rovers - Ellery Balcombe

Embed from Getty Images

The Doncaster goalkeeper was magnificent in the second half alone, tipping a scorching volley from McGrandles over the bar before saving two penalties. Rovers may have walked away with nothing if not for their 'keeper on this occasion.