Lincoln’s Ben Tomlinson proved too hot to handle as he bagged a hat-trick in FC Halifax Town’s 3-1 defeat at Sincil Bank.
Tomlinson stole the limelight from fellow striker Lee Gregory, who experienced a rare off-day hours after the January transfer window ended without a much talked about move away from the Shay materialising.
Tomlinson’s own price tag has probably increased after a highly-impressive display made it 12 for the season, including the one he notched at the Shay back in December.
Lincoln looked a radically different side to the one that surrendered so meekly in West Yorkshire, but Town never threatened to reach those giddy heights here as they failed to add to their solitary away league win this season, despite Ryan Crowther capping his debut with a goal.
Fellow new boy James Bolton on the bench after Simon Ainge and Matt Pearson both shook of injuries to play.
The pre-match spirits among Town fans arguably hadn’t been higher all season after the delight of keeping hold of Gregory the day before and on the back of impressive draws against Cambridge and Aldershot.
So Ben Tomlinson’s third-minute opener felt like a pin prick bursting that bubble of optimism, especially as he was left unmarked to convert a long-throw; a threat Town had clearly done their homework on as Crowther tried to make a nuisance of himself by standing inches from the thrower on the touchline.
The blustery wind around Sincil Bank was reminiscent of that draw at Aldershot and caused havoc for both sides when any high balls were attempted or landed at their feet.
That certainly played a part in Tomlinson’s second 10 minutes in but another lofted ball escaped a Town touch as the Lincoln striker charged through and chipped Matt Glennon to well and truly burst that bubble and leave the Town fans behind that same goal feeling rather deflated.
Neil Aspin had warned that Lincoln would be out to avenge their 5-1 hammering at the Shay, and they certainly started like a team on a mission, adapting much better to the windy conditions and bobbly surface and not looking like a team with one win from their last nine games.
Town managed to stem the tide of early Lincoln pressure, at least for a spell, but not before Marc Roberts’ attempted clearance struck Conner Robinson and almost went in but for Glennon’s save.
A delightful one-two between Lincoln old boy Adam Smith and Craig Clay produced Town’s first chance of note, but Paul Farman kept out Clay when the midfielder should perhaps have found the net.
Smith then got a hint that it might not be a day to remember on his return to the Imps when he was booked for what referee Wayne Barratt deemed a dive in the box.
Crowther showed some neat touches as Town tried to slowly work their way back into the contest, but looked a tad rusty, as you’d expect for someone making their first start in more than three months.
Despite the visitors gradually enjoying more possession, Lincoln still carved out the better chances, with Tomlinson poking Robinson’s cross over before Charlee Adams hit the post after Roberts’ attempted clearance.
The Imps were slicing through the Town defence with an ease rarely enjoyed by an oppoosing side this season, while Halifax looked too ponderous on the ball themselves to offer a similar threat.
After all the relief from keeping Gregory at the Shay less than 24 hours earlier, the Town skipper hardly had a sniff during the first-half, which was ended not a moment too soon for Town’s liking.
The introduction of Reece Gray at the interval immediately seemed to pep up Town’s attack, and they were handed a lifeline when Crowther’s free-kick near the touchline flew straight in without a touch, bringing back more memories of that draw at Aldershot.
But it took Lincoln just two minutes to burst the bubble again when Tomlinson latched on to another through ball and lofted it over the on-rushing Glennon to complete his hat-trick in fine style.
With the wind now blowing in Town’s favour, the visitors took every chance they could to use it to their advantage, as Lincoln had before the break, with Roberts’ long-throw from near the halfway line reaching the penalty area thanks to the blustery conditions.
Ainge got a header on target from another Roberts missile before Robinson nearly put Lincoln out of reach when his shot curled just wide.
Gregory then hit the post as he tried to squeeze the ball in before it ran behind for a goal kick as Town built up their best spell of pressure yet, with Farman also forced into a double save.
Gray then led a rapid counter-attack that should have bore fruit, but shots by Gregory and the Rochdale loanee were blocked before Crowther blazed over.
Alan Power missed a glorious chance to add a fourth late on when he missed a half open goal before Town knew it wasn’t going to be their day when Roberts’ header was tipped over before Lincoln survived a manic goalmouth scramble with their two-goal lead preserved.
Lincoln: Farman, Miller, Brown, Audel, Newton, Tomlinson (Sheridan 86), Adams, Power, Jordan, Robinson (Austin 73), Sam-Yorke. Subs not used: Rowe, Gray, Nolan.
Scorer: Tomlinson (3, 10, 54)
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 8
Halifax: Glennon, Challinor, Ainge, Roberts, McManus, Smith (Jackson 71), Pearson, Maynard, Clay (Gray 46), Crowther, Gregory. Subs not used: Senior, Wilson, Bolton.
Scorer: Crowther (52)
Shots on target: 9
Shots off target: 4
Town man of the match: Ryan Crowther