Patrick Roberts shines as magnificent Wright earns Lincoln another point towards safety



Lincoln City’s Jordan Wright pulled off a save from right out of the top drawer to deny playoff-chasing Sunderland a significant victory at Sincil Bank.

Lincoln escaped with a point, having been dominated by Alex Neil’s Sunderland side for most of the 90 minutes in front of a bumper home crowd. The Black Cats were left to rue several missed chances. Forgotten men Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke shone for Sunderland, but neither could capitalise on a plethora of opportunities to claim victory.

The ex-Manchester City starlet was the pick of the bunch for the visitors, and a sublime piece of dribbling took him to the edge of the box, where his shot was deflected over the bar. Keen to pick up the ball from deep and run at the opposition, a few moments later, Roberts combined well with Lynden Gooch and as Dan Neil’s pull back ran across the box, Clarke met the ball with conviction but agonisingly wide of the far post.

Clark has found himself out on loan after his big-money move to Tottenham Hotspur hasn’t worked out to date and the former Leeds United man could have won the game on his own with a number of chances that came his way.

A slip by Imps wing-back Brooke Norton-Cuffy let in the winger once more and as he advanced towards the box, his right-footed curling effort clipped the far post with Wright beaten in the Lincoln goal. Clarke was presented with another opportunity just before the half-hour mark, but his first-time effort flashed wide at the mercy of the travelling fans.

In the second period, the visitors searched for their elusive goal the moment referee Craig Hicks had blown for the restart. Clarke once more almost came closest to opening the scoring as his low effort once had Wright beaten but rolled just wide of the far post.

Roberts continued to probe away and having progressed into the area, the forward had the presence of mind to pick out his unmarked Corry Evans, but Sunderland’s skipper could only plant his side-footed effort against the far post. Roberts felt he should have had a penalty just before the hour. As he latched onto Luke O’Nien’s through ball, the ex-Celtic man went down under minimal contact which referee Hicks waved away.

Not to be discouraged, Roberts then set up the chance of the match. Following another marauding run, he slid Clarke through on goal bit once more; he couldn’t convert as Lincoln hung on by the thread.

Imps boss had seen enough and changed the formation to a flat back four as Morgan Whittaker replaced Joe Walsh. Immediately, Lincoln looked better and soon found themselves in proceedings for the first time in the afternoon. Fellow substitute Liam Cullen came closest to equalising after a spell of Lincoln pressure but was denied by a superb save from Anthony Patterson.

With the game in the balance, both sides searched for the winner, but The Black Cats had the chance to win it. In the final moments, wright made an excellent save to tip away Corry Evans’ long-range hit but saved his best until last with the magnificent stop to deny the visitors all three points with seconds to go.

Dennis Kirkin’s well stood up cross into the penalty area was well met by Ross Stewart’s header but Jordan Wright did magnificently to tip the ball around the post when it looked certain to nestle in the far corner of the net.


At full time, Michael Appleton was the happiest of the two managers as his side had clung onto to a clean sheet throughout but was delighted with his players’ application to stick in the game.

“There was a lot of grit and determination from the players. We had to defend well at times. Their attacking players, the likes of  Clarke and Roberts, were excellent for them and Stewart is a handful.

“For us to dig in today like we did at times was really pleasing. To get two clean sheets in the week, when we’d only had two clean sheets all season, I’ve got to be happy with that I suppose.

“They had the better opportunities in the game, there’s no hiding away from that. They’re a good side who are in a good place at the minute. Big Jordan’s had to come up with a big save. I was delighted with him to come up with that one.”

Neil, who had been a frustrated figure on the touchline thanks to some suspect refereeing decisions from Hicks, was disappointed that his side did not take all three points. Pre-match, the former Preston manager has warned that substance would have to take presidence over style at this stage of the season, but the Black Cats could not find the luck to get in front despite some excellent play in the final third.

“If you look at the performance as a whole, it certainly deserved to win the match comfortably in my opinion. I thought it was a really good performance and we created more than enough chances to win.

“Ultimately at this point I’d take a 1-0 off someone’s bum having played poorly all game to give us three points. With the other results, you could look at it both ways. You could look at it as one point gained but I certainly see it as a missed opportunity.

“On another afternoon we might have won the game three or four-nil, but that’s the difference. What we need to do is find that little bit that takes it from being a really good performance to being a good victory because that’s what matters at this moment in time.”

Despite not coming away with the victory, there was some comfort that promotion hunt rivals Wycombe Wanderers, Oxford United and Sheffield Wednesday all dropped points. Whilst those sides could not pull away, it will have added a tinge more frustration for Sunderland fans that they could not capitalise on those results.

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