Cambridge United displayed huge character to secure a well-deserved point away to League leaders Lincoln City, in a 1-1 draw at Sincil Bank.
A stunning strike by Jevani Brown cancelled out Matt Rhead’s early header for the Imps to ensure United ended their losing streak in Sky Bet League Two, although they pushed to take the spoils against Lincoln who were a man short after the dismissal of Ellis Chapman in the first half.
Reggie Lambe returned from international duty with Bermuda and stepped back into the starting eleven in place of David Amoo.
United soon found out why the hosts sat top of the League Two tree when Bruno Andrade’s cross from the left wing swung perfectly into the path of Matt Rhead, where the hulking centre forward headed into the top corner to give the Imps a one goal lead on seven minutes.
Joe Dunne’s men responded impeccably however, as Jevani Brown produced a moment of pure quality when the midfielder cut in from the right and stuck a sublime shot with his left foot that beat Josh Vickers from 20 yards four minutes later.
The U’s grasped the momentum and were handed an even more enticing challenge when Lincoln City’s Ellis Chapman was shown a straight red card by referee Lee Collins on 20 minutes, following a late arrival into a 50/50 challenge with Gary Deegan.
United immediately created a golden chance on goal with Brown picking out an intricate pass through for Azeez, where the striker was closed down quickly by Vickers though who got his body behind a shot from eight yards.
Lincoln showed they were still a threat going forward, as David Forde had to stop Harry Anderson’s mid-range effort before Michael Bostwick blazed over from six yards out from the resulting corner.
John Akinde and James Wilson were brought on to the field ten minutes before half time, as Lincoln manager Danny Cowley looked to shuffle his tactics and make amends for the sending off.
Both sides were denied penalty claims in the space of a minute, with Lambe and Akinde both hitting the turf in the respective opponent’s 18 yard boxes.
Gary Deegan tested Vickers with a half volley from 30 yards out, before he and Greg Tayor went into the referee’s book for late fouls at the end of an exhilarating first 45 minutes.
David Amoo was introduced after half time, in place of Liam O’Neil as Joe Dunne and the U’s went for three points.
After weathering a mini Lincoln storm in the early part of the second period, in which Greg Taylor produced an excellent last ditch challenge on Shay McCarten at the far post, Joe Dunne’s men took a grip of the numerical advantage and largely controlled the tempo for the remainder of the fixture.
Reggie Lambe and George Maris were not far away from finding the target with efforts from the edge of the area around the hour mark, whilst Brad Halliday couldn’t get the better of Vickers when curling a shot towards the bottom corner on 71 minutes.
Vickers proved to be the man in United’s way of the three points, with the shot stopper pulling off a great stop to palm away a Maris free kick with 15 minutes to play, and producing a superb double save in stoppage time to deny both Jevani Brown and David Amoo.
Despite the U’s best efforts to win the encounter, they were forced to settle for a thoroughly deserved draw.
Lincoln City: Vickers, Wharton, Pett, Rhead (Akinde, 34 mins), Andrade, Chapman, Toffolo, Bostwick, McCarten (Green, 76 mins), Eardley, Anderson (Wilson, 30 mins)
RED – Ellis Chapman
Cambridge United: Forde, Halliday, Taft, John, Taylor, Deegan, Maris (Osadebe, 88 mins), O’Neil (Amoo, 45 mins), Brown, Lambe, Azeez
Bookings: Deegan, Taylor, Halliday
Attendance: 9108 (272)