Michael Appleton rues Lincoln’s missed chances in Cambridge defeat
Michael Appleton admitted Lincoln delivered the performance but not the result as they crashed to a last-gasp 1-0 defeat at home to Cambridge.
The U’s FA Cup hero Joe Ironside – seven days on from his matchwinner at Newcastle – headed home in stoppage time to settle an entertaining contest at the LNER Stadium.
The Imps created a host of chances, particularly in the first half when they laid siege to the Cambridge goal.
But a combination of poor finishing and some excellent saves from Dimitar Mitov meant Lincoln could not make it three wins in a row following their excellent victories over promotion-chasing pair Oxford and Sunderland.
“Especially in that first half, I thought the performance was outstanding,” said Appleton. “We had countless opportunities. I don’t think they could have complained had it been four or five at half-time.
“But the reality is, if you don’t take your opportunities, the opposition stays in the game.
“As we saw against Cheltenham and MK Dons (Lincoln conceded late goals against both last month), if you allow balls to come into your box, albeit from the free-kick, it brings anxiety, it brings pressure because you’ve not taken your opportunities at the top end of the pitch. That’s what can happen.
“We shouldn’t let it get to that point. We should take our opportunities and then we don’t have to worry about defending our box in the 94th minute, or whatever it was.
“I know their goalkeeper has made some fantastic saves but they weren’t just half-opportunities, they were big moments in the game in the first half.
“The longer the game stayed at 0-0, the more their confidence grew and the more they came into the game. It adds that little bit more pressure to the game.”
For Cambridge, the result completed a perfect week. Following their famous win at St James’ Park, they defeated Portsmouth on Tuesday to reach the quarter-finals of the Papa John’s Trophy.
U’s boss Mark Bonner admitted he would gladly have taken a point prior to Ironside’s late goal.
“It’s a great result because Lincoln are a really good side and in a false position in the table,” he said. “Given how the first half went, it’s a major three points for us. We’re really thrilled with it.
“We didn’t keep the ball well enough in the first half. In the second half we were able to get more control and stopped it being too stretched, because they had counter-attacked on us too easily in the first half.
“Dimi has made a couple of really good saves, there were blocks in the goalmouth, we had to really scramble to get through that half at 0-0.
“It looked like it was heading for 0-0 – and we would have been fairly comfortable with that – so to take three points late on is a great result.”
The best videos delivered daily
Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox