Lincoln in control of tie as Sunderland face another season in third tier

Lincoln City sealed a deserved 2-0 win over Sunderland in an entertaining first leg of their League One play-off semi-final.

Second half goals from Tom Hopper and Brennan Johnson did the job for the Imps at a bouncing Sincil Bank.

Rewind the clock just five seasons and back then there was an absolute gulf of four divisions between the two. Sunderland were Premier League regulars back in 2016, whilst Lincoln were finishing 13th in the National League.

Plenty has happened at both clubs since then, with two relegations on Wearisde and two elevations for the resurgent Imps.

Such is the lack of correlating histories between these two, that this only represented the 14th meeting in their respective histories.

The hosts, buoyed by a 3,000-strong crowd, started brightly and peppered Sunderland's goal. Anthony Scully saw a lashed attempt fly over the bar whilst Manchester City loanee Morgan Rogers showed his strength before firing just over.

Centre-half Lewis Montsma had a long-range effort that Lee Burge dealt with comfortably enough as the hosts stepped it up.

Tom Flanagan fashioned Sunderland's first attempt just before the half-hour when he saw a header nestle into the grateful arms of debutant Josef Bursik – the Stoke 'keeper who only joined Lincoln yesterday following an injury to regular stopper Alex Palmer.

Ten minutes before the break the hosts came within a lick of paint within opening the scoring. A fine, free-flowing move saw Brennan Johnson unleash a shot that came back off a Sunderland post – much to the visitors' relief.

Sunderland ended the half brightest, but Lynden Gooch and Aiden McGeady both spurned chances for the visitors.

And they came close after the break too, with Jordan Jones drawing a speculative save from Bursik. From the resulting corner Bailey Wright planted a header against the bar.

But it was to be the hosts who were soon celebrating the opener.

Jorge Grant saw his effort brilliantly kept at bay by Burge but Lincoln reclaimed possession, kept it alive and once it was put back into the area, Hopper pounced to slide home.

Sunderland rallied as they looked to restore parity and McGeady looked to sprinkle some magic on the tie with a lovely stepover routine before seeing a goalbound shot tipped wide by the impressive Bursik.

But try as they might, Lee Johnson's side couldn't muster a leveller. And they were well and truly punished on 77 minutes when his namesake Brennan charged down Burge's clearance before tapping into the empty net.

It now sets things up nicely for Saturday's return leg when 10,000 fans will be inside the Stadium of Light.

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