Port Vale secured a hard-earned point away at table-topping Lincoln City on New Year's Day, courtesy of a Manny Oyeleke screamer at the death. After falling behind to Shay McCartan's 58th-minute effort, the Vale midfielder fired a strike into the top corner to ensure he began 2019 with a bang.
It was the Valiants who started the brighter of the two teams as they attacked the end where the travelling supporters were situated, and they were almost given something to cheer after just three minutes. Oyeleke fired two shots on goal in quick succession from close range, but Bruno Andrade was on hand to clear his second attempt off the line.
Lincoln then went close up the other end two minutes later as Matt Rhead got on the end of a Neal Eardley cross, but the bustling centre-forward couldn’t direct his header on target. Despite the early opportunities for both teams, Vale continued to have more of the ball as they looked to find a breakthrough.
The next chance of the afternoon did fall to the Imps, however, as another cross from the right caused problems inside the Vale area on 15 minutes. McCartan and Harry Anderson combined before the latter picked out Rhead with a looping cross, but his downwards header was well parried away by Scott Brown.
Danny Cowley’s men took encouragement from that opening and they began to dictate the tempo of the game, and it was the hosts who had the next sighting of goal after 27 minutes. Another deep Eardley cross caused the danger as it reached Rhead at the back post, but once again, the striker was unable to direct his effort on target from a tight angle.
Anderson then spurned an opportunity following a well-worked Lincoln move with seven minutes remaining of the first half, sending a stooping header over from a Harry Toffolo delivery. That proved to be the final goalmouth action of the opening 45 minutes, and the two sides headed into the break with the scores level.
Following the restart, the battle for superiority continued as both teams looked to make their mark on the game. It was Lincoln who had the first effort on goal during the second period, however, as McCartan met a low Eardley cross to divert a diving header just wide of the post with Brown scrambling.
With 58 minutes played, the home side took full advantage of a corner to pull themselves ahead. Michael O’Connor’s delivery found the head of John Akinde and the substitute’s powerful header was scrambled off the line, only for McCartan to react first to bundle the ball home from six yards.
Vale responded with a positive spell and the Lincoln defence were forced into some rearguard action, but they were able to get bodies in the way to clear several balls into the box. McCartan managed to let fly up the other end in the 74thminute, but Brown watched it all of the way to make a routine save.
The Valiants almost salvaged an equaliser late on following a spell of attacking pressure, but they were denied by the woodwork as Oyeleke curled one onto the crossbar. That wasn’t the end of the action though, and the midfielder sent the away end into raptures in the 90thminute as he thundered a long-range effort into the top corner to secure a point.
Lincoln City: Grant Smith, Michael O’Connor, Jason Shackell, Lee Frecklington ©, Matt Rhead (John Akinde 45’), Bruno Andrade (Kellan Gordon 65’), Harry Toffolo, Michael Bostwick, Shay McCartan (Tom Pett 75’), Neal Eardley, Harry Anderson.
Unused Substitutes: Sam Slocombe, Scott Wharton, James Wilson, Bernard Mensah.
Port Vale: Scott Brown, James Gibbons, Luke Joyce, Leon Legge, Antony Kay, Manny Oyeleke, Tom Pope ©, Luke Hannant, Nathan Smith, Mitch Clark, Ben Whitfield (Cristian Montano 71’).
Unused Substitutes: Sam Hornby, Theo Vassell, Danny Pugh, Tom Conlon, David Worrall, Louis Dodds.