A mouthwatering second half performance from Charlton Athletic helped ensure a vintage victory against a side they could potentially face in the play-offs.
Lincoln City simply failed to turn up today, with the Imps perhaps setting their sights ahead to a very difficult League One play-off battle.
But goals from Jayden Stockley, Ryan Inniss and Chuks Aneke helped guide the Addicks to a crucial win if their play-off hopes are to stay alive, with it all coming down to Sunday now as Charlton host champions Hull City.
Harry Anderson did snatch a late goal back, but it proved to only be a consolation in a game which Lincoln fans will be quickly trying to forget.
Nigel Adkins’ Addicks boasted four changes from their draw with Accrington Stanley, as Adam Matthews, Ben Purrington, Ben Watson and Liam Millar all returned to the lineup.
Charlton Athletic: Amos; Matthews, Innis, Famewo, Purrington; Forster-Caskey, Watson, Gilbey; Maatsen, Millar, Stockley.
Subs: Maynard-Brewer, Gunter, Pearce, Pratley, Morgan, Aneke, Washington.
The Imps made three changes to their starting eleven, as James Jones, Tayo Edun and Callum Morton were all reinstated into Michael Appleton’s side. Joe Walsh also made a return to the bench.
Lincoln City: Palmer; Poole, Montsma, Eyoma, Bramall; Grant, Jones, Anderson; Scully, Morton, Edun.
Subs: Hopper, Howarth, Long, McGrandles, Rogers, Sanders, Walsh.
Story of the match
Prior to kick-off, Charlton needed at least a win from their remaining two games to keep their late play-off hopes alive, and Adkins was well aware of this, he said:
“We need to win the game, it’s as simple as that, we need to win a game of football. It’s one we’re looking forward to, we know it is going to be tough, Lincoln have put themselves in the playoff situation, so you’ve got to expect the unexpected from them.
“I expect them to be as strong as they can, to keep the momentum going, that’s what we’re preparing for but we’ve got to think about ourselves and how we want to approach the game with the players we can get on the pitch and impact the game as well coming off the bench, it’s quite clear we need to win this game of football.”
And Adkins’ praise for the high-flying opponents Lincoln was understandable ten minutes in, as Jorge Grant manoeuvred his way through the Charlton defence before his one-on-one effort was heroically saved by Ben Amos.
Lincoln’s early pressure prevailed as some nice link-up play involving Edun, Cohen Bramall and Anthony Scully resulted with the latter firing wide from inside the box.
There were bizarre scenes at the Valley however as referee Kevin Johnson picked up an injury whilst following play, and was substituted for the fourth official Carl Brook, which later lead to eight minutes of stoppage time at the end of the first half.
Heading into the second half, Adkins’ words at half time must have been inspiring, as the Addicks immediately hit the ground running. A quick fire opener was assisted by substitute Aneke, who replaced Purrington at half time, as the forward cushioned down a teasing cross from Alex Gilbey, allowing Stockley to have the goal at his mercy as he buried the ball past Alex Palmer on the half volley and netted his eight of the season.
Aneke evidently wanted to be in the play-off battle, as the towering centre forward received the ball from Albie Morgan and forced a valiant save from Palmer.
Lincoln had to soak up this Charlton pressure however, as Millar crossed deep onto the head of Stockley but he couldn’t divert his header on target.
In the space of two minutes, a one goal lead turned into three. Morgan, who had nearly assisted Aneke moments earlier, lifted a delightful cross to the back post, where an on rushing Inniss could dart into space and attack the ball, nodding an unstoppable effort past Palmer.
Just two minutes later, the former West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper had his woes worsened, as Aneke got the goal he deserved. Millar created space for himself down the left before cutting inside to the substitute, who thanks to a deflection, managed to convert past Palmer and strengthen the lead to three. A potentially season defining few minutes.
As the clock ran down, Lincoln snatched a late goal back courtesy of Anderson, who fired in from the edge of the box, but it proved to only be a consolation as Brook, who had done a fine job as stand-in referee, called the game to a close.
Can Charlton do it?
With the final game of the League One season beckoning, all eyes will be on the Valley next Sunday as Charlton host champions Hull in a game which could decide which league the Addicks play in next season.
If tonight’s performance and victory is anything to go off of, then Charlton fans should remain optimistic, despite Oxford United and Portsmouth both holding their play-off dreams in their own balance.
Lincoln in the play-offs - should there be cause for concern?
The Imps have already confirmed their place in the play-offs for this season, but is there cause for concern after a dreary performance tonight?
Probably not, but it may be a time for rest now with nothing to play for currently, but Michael Appleton will be looking to see who deserves to take part in the play-off semis, something which tonight can’t have helped with.
An inspired performance from the 27-year old, who netted his 15th of the season and second assist in the Stockley’s opener. With performances like that, it has to be questioned why he started on the bench, but Aneke definitely showed Adkins he deserves to start on Sunday.