An early opener from Kell Watts set the precedent in a ding-dong battle as goals from Danny Mayor and Conor McGrandles saw Plymouth Argyle lead at the break. Jorge Grant’s quickfire spot-kicks put Lincoln City ahead before Conor Grant and Joe Edwards fired home late on to seal the win for the hosts.
Ryan Lowe opted for a shake-up of his attacking options after a string of two matches without finding the net. Panutche Camara missed out as Adam Lewis returned to the starting line-up for the first time in nine games, while stalwart striker Luke Jephcott made way for Ryan Hardie.
Lincoln brought two changes down to the south coast as Regan Poole and Tayo Edun returned to the starting XI in place of Cohen Bramall and TJ Eyoma, who were both relegated to the bench.
Story of the match
Argyle took the lead with their first attack of the match through centre-back Watts. The move began with a free-kick from Lewis, which bounced to the wing after striking the wall. A dangerous delivery into the box followed and, after ricocheting off a number of defenders, the ball fell kindly for 21-year-old Watts to coolly sweep home into the bottom-left corner.
The game continued to fare remarkably evenly as the Imps turned on the style as they sought a return to the summit of League One. Just beyond the ten-minute mark, however, City found their deficit doubled after a magnificent solo effort from Mayor.
Receiving the ball from Tyrese Fornah just inside the Lincoln half, 30-year-old Mayor danced through brittle defending and tried his luck from the edge of the box. Goalkeeper Alex Palmer reacted late to the strike and was beaten despite having little ground to cover to make a stop.
The lead was reduced 10 minutes later through McGrandles. The defence retreated as the Scotsman charged forward on a dangerous counterattack. McGrandles displayed little intention of finding a pass for his limited options and looked up once before curling a delightful finish low into the bottom-right corner from the edge of the box.
Suddenly, Lincoln were on top. The visitors plundered Plymouth’s defensive ranks in numbers as they pressed for an equaliser before the break. Morgan Rogers worked brilliantly in the heart of midfield as he masterminded a sleek show of passing around the penalty area, asking questions of the awareness of Argyle’s defence.
The Pilgrims picked up shortly before halftime and put a halt to a lengthy onslaught from their guests, successfully holding out to retain the advantage at the close of the first period.
Lincoln started the second half brightly and forced a save out of Cooper soon after the restart. Camped deep into the Argyle half, Brennan Johnson executed a luscious turn on the edge of the box to set himself up for a low shot at the young ‘keeper, who stretched well to tip the ball beyond the post. Jorge Grant sent the subsequent corner into the mixer, but the Pilgrims managed to clear after the ball pinballed across the box.
Grant equalised from the penalty spot as the hour mark loomed. Johnson was brought down under challenge from goal scorer Watts, and the referee had no option but to point to the spot. 26-year-old Grant’s penalty deflected in off the foot of Cooper for his 10th goal of the season.
Three minutes later, the Imps led for the first time as Grant converted another spot-kick. Grant created the chance for himself after he was fouled inside the area by Argyle’s other goal scorer, Mayor. The Englishman beat Cooper more comfortably this time as he found the bottom-right corner of the net, despite the glovesman guessing the right way.
Argyle saw a gilt-edged opportunity of their own go begging with 15 minutes left on the clock.
Scotsman Hardie broke free of the defence and drove towards goal, trying his luck from the edge of the box. The ball deflected high into the air, and the sprightly striker beat the onrushing ‘keeper as he brought it under control. Hardie stayed honest and jumped the challenge before hooking it back for captain Joe Edwards, who ignored the awaiting green shirts and went for goal from an angle. Although scrambling, goalkeeper Palmer was alert enough to palm the ball to safety.
The Pilgrims drew level minutes later when Conor Grant took aim from range and found the top-left corner. Firing into a bustling penalty area, the wing-back’s shot took a touch off one of the many bodies in the way as it flew beyond a hapless Palmer.
Moments after the fourth official had indicated an additional six minutes, Edwards rifled home Plymouth’s winner from the edge of the box. A stray pass was picked up by Camara at the halfway line, who neatly laid the ball off to his captain. Edwards took one touch before smashing the ball beyond Palmer.
Takeaway from the match
On paper, it looked as though title-fighting Lincoln should have seen off Ryan Lowe’s side with ease. The plucky Pilgrims looked a well-drilled side as they brought the game to their visitors and stole a win late in the day. Argyle now sit four points adrift of the playoffs after a run of good form.
Man of the match
Grant was exceptional throughout and deserved to have earned his team a point. The midfielder’s display was cut short after an injury sustained late in the tie, but he was the key figure in the Imps’ second-half resurgence.