Former Coventry City goalkeeper Lee Burge suffered heartbreak tonight as Sunderland slipped up in their bid for promotion to the Championship.
The Black Cats went down 2-0 at Lincoln City in the League One play-offs semi-final first leg at Sincil Bank and now have it all to do in Saturday’s second leg re-match at the Stadium of Light.
Burge, who was one of the Sky Blues heroes of the 2018 League Two play-off campaign, was involved in both goals in tonight’s setback against Michael Appleton’s Imps.
He did well to make a superb save for the first on 51 minutes but the ball fell loose for Tom Hopper to pop up to tuck it away.
And despite the visitors piling on some late pressure, Lincoln doubled their lead with an absolute gift on 77 minutes when Brennan Johnson charged down an attempted clearance from Burge and walked the ball into the empty net.
That puts the Imps firmly in the driving seat after a memorable evening as fans finally returned to the LNER Stadium.
Spurred on by a raucous home crowd, the Imps made a bright start.
Anthony Scully had the first chance of the game with an angled drive being tipped over by Lee Burge, only for the officials to inexplicably award a goal-kick.
The Imps suffered a blow on 14 minutes when Adam Jackson had to go off injured. With Joe Walsh not making the squad through injury, he was replaced by Lewis Montsma.
City continued to probe and went agonisingly close to taking the lead 10 minutes before the break when Brennan Johnson struck the post from outside the box.
Sunderland’s build-up, in comparison, was sluggish, although the Black Cats ended the half well, with Lynden Gooch firing just wide from long-range.
The visitors, however, made a bright start to the second half, hitting the frame of the goal twice in quick succession.
First, Jordan Jones cut in from the right, with his powerful shot being brilliantly tipped onto the bar by debutant Josef Bursik.
From the resulting corner, Bailey Wright headed against the bar from close range when he really should have scored.
That proved to be a costly miss as the Imps took the lead on 51 minutes.
After a cutback from Anthony Scully, Jorge Grant was denied by the legs of Lee Burge. It looked like the chance had gone begging but Liam Bridcutt did brilliantly to keep the attack alive. Grant regained the ball on the edge of the box and crossed for Tom Hopper, who slid it home from close range.
Sunderland responded with Bursik making another fine save to deny Aiden McGeady, who then fired just over from the edge of the box.
Lincoln head to Wearside on Saturday with a 2-0 advantage over their rivals who at this stage look set for another season in League One.
The atmosphere clearly made a difference, giving Lincoln a lift inside Sincil Bank.
The Black Cats will have 10,000 fans in the Stadium of Light, but will it have the same impact in a massive stadium?