Injury-hit Rovers sunk by late Lincoln strike
HORRIBLE echoes of last season's sorry finish were evident as Forest Green slid to their first Skrill Premier defeat of the new campaign at Sincil Bank.
No amount of squad investment can negate the loss of four frontline strikers to injury, but Dave Hockaday was right not to blame bad luck after seeing Waide Fairhurst's brace prove decisive.
A fortuitous 20th-minute strike from Rovers captain Anthony Barry was cancelled out seven minutes later by Fairhurst, and a point was probably the best either side deserved to gain from a less than vintage encounter.
But Fairhurst struck again four minutes from time to pinch all three points for Gary Simpson's men, and leave Hockaday hoping for an end to the New Lawn injury jinx.
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He was forced into two changes to his starting XI, with a tweaked knee ruling out Matty Taylor and Danny Wright left behind at the team hotel suffering from illness.
Neither Andy Mangan nor long-term absentee Reece Styche have yet stepped off the treatment table this term, and it no exaggeration to say both men would walk into most sides at this level.
It meant first starts of the season for Yan Klukowski and Matthew Barnes-Homer in attack, but it was Lincoln who threatened quickest when Alan Power let fly from 25 yards with a shot that beat Sam Russell but ruffled the side-netting.
The visitors were guilty of surrendering possession too cheaply early on, despite a carpet-like surface at one of the division's most impressive stadiums.
Fairhurst was wayward with another shot from range as City sought to seize an advantage, only for Forest Green to break the deadlock out of the blue.
Summer signing Barry was afforded time to swing over a cross from the left, aimed at Barnes-Homer in the middle of the area but allowed to travel all the way into the far corner of Paul Farman's net.
The leveller came when Rovers failed to properly clear a Sean Newton free-kick from the left, Fairhurst showing neat footwork to create a shooting angle and defeat Russell with a low stabbed effort.
Barry tried to repeat his earlier feat with a set piece that whistled inches wide, while Danny Rowe came similarly close at the other end when he produced a howitzer from all of 30 yards.
Rovers could only improve after the break, and Klukowski was narrowly off-target with a header from Jared Hodgkiss' cross in the 49th minute.
Lincoln's Andrew Boyce was fortunate to escape with a yellow card two minutes later when he planted an arm in the face of Marcus Kelly as the midfielder tried to burst clear from the halfway line.
But still Rovers seemed to be lacking a spark, and Russell had to be alert to tip Fairhurst's drive over on 63 minutes after James Norwood had been robbed of possession by Mamadou Fofana.
Barnes-Homer was replaced by Magno Vieira with 17 minutes remaining in an attempt to pep up the visiting attack, only for the Imps to get their noses in front.
Fairhurst had been the liveliest player on the pitch throughout, and he rammed home his second of the afternoon into the top corner after a neat lay-off by Ben Tomlinson.
Lincoln City: P Farman; D Gray, A Boyce, N Brown, S Newton; M Fofana, A Power, J Nolan, W Fairhurst (L Foster 90), D Rowe, B Tomlinson. Subs not used: T Miller, J Sheridan, B Dixon, D Preece.
Forest Green: S Russell; J Hodgkiss, D Bennett, G Pilkington, C Stokes; A Barry (S Williams 88), A Bangura, M Kelly; Y Klukowski, M Barnes-Homer (M Vieira 73), J Norwood (O Koroma 88). Subs not used: E Asafu-Adjaye, M Bulman.
Referee: P Bankes (Merseyside)
Star man: Marcus Kelly – Full of running throughout and the provider of some excellent set pieces