Newport County AFC have suffered their first defeat of 2018 after falling to a 3-1 loss away at Lincoln City.
The home side were in-front after just 14 minutes on the night, Matt Rhead calmly finishing a quick-paced move with a free header from just three yards after his strike partner Matt Green had sent an inviting delivery into the box.
Padraig Amond gave County some rest bite by finding an equaliser in the 34th minute, instinctively passing into an empty net after home goalkeeper Paul Farman had found a Matty Dolan attempt too powerful to hold.
But the home side duly ensured that they would leapfrog County in the League 2 table by making sure of the three points with two well worked second-half goals.
The combination of Rhead and Green were at it again for the second, this time Green the benefiter of some intricate Lincoln play, calmly slotting home a volleyed effort after being found just inside the area.
Imps substitute Ollie Palmer put the gloss on the result with a late third, smashing a 25-yard effort in off the post after barely being on the pitch for 30 seconds prior to his opportunity.
It means County miss the chance to again ascend into the play-off positions by failing to pick up all three points, dropping to tenth as a result after a first defeat in nine matches across all competitions.
Mike Flynn elected to make just the one change to the side that heroically held Tottenham Hotspur to a 1-1 draw at Rodney Parade on Saturday.
That saw David Pipe miss out with the hamstring problem sustained during that Emirates FA Cup encounter, as Matty Dolan returned to the starting side following his own recent injury layoff.
The inclusion of an extra midfielder into the team certainly brought about a tactical switch for the Exiles at Sincil Bank, with the away side seemingly electing a 4-3-3 system from the first whistle.
Lincoln manager Danny Cowley also made the one change to his side that last played a week ago in a CheckaTrade Trophy victory over Peterborough United.
Elliott Whitehouse was the man to make way for the Imps as they stuck to their 4-4-2 formation from the off, as Alex Woodyard made a return into the midfield.
And the home side certainly made the livelier start to the game at Sincil Bank and could have been in-front on two occasions within the opening 60 seconds.
Striker Matt Rhead first saw his shot in the area blocked wide for a corner, before captain Luke Waterfall saw his resulting header somehow scrambled away on the line by Dan Butler after a melee of players had advanced towards the goal line.
The Exiles weren’t far behind the Imps in creating their opening chance of the night as it came after just three minutes of football.
Matty Dolan found some space in the centre 25-yards out and tried his luck, although didn’t quite get the power required to test home goalkeeper Paul Farman.
It was certainly a game full of chances early on, Mickey Demetriou unlucky to see his shot from a clever corner routine blocked by Waterfall when it looked like the goalkeeper would be beaten, while Rhead again saw a shot blocked at the other end.
But Rhead wouldn’t need a third invitation to get his 7th goal of the season as the striker opened the scoring on 14 minutes.
Right-back Neal Eardley turned Nouble on the half-way line with a sublime piece of skill, before playing a clever chipped ball into the path of ex-Exile Matt Green.
The 31-year old burst to the line before cutting a cross back perfectly for Rhead to head home unmarked from all of three yards.
That goal seemed to stall the game somewhat after the frantic opening, neither side getting a real foothold on proceedings after the opener until the half-hour mark, as it was becoming much more of a midfield battle in Lincolnshire.
But when County finally managed to create another chance they duly found their equaliser on 32 minutes.
Corner-kicks were certainly the most effective way for County to cause a nuisance with their aerial presence, this latest one an out-swinging attempt to the edge-of-the-area.
That found Dolan in space to try his luck, with Farman only able to parry the attempt back into the area for Amond to continue his rich vein of goal scoring form by passing home from a difficult angle ten yards out.
And Amond could have had his second five minutes later after breaking the offside line within the area, but you would have to say Farman reacted like lightning to narrow the angle and make a smart save with his leg.
Two minutes of additional time was indicated at the end of the first-half and the home side almost went back to the dressing rooms in-front right at the end of the added extras.
Michael Bostwick was given far too much time to send a header goalwards from a corner, which looked like it may cause some problems for County, only for Green to inadvertently get in the way of it and allow the Exiles to clear.
That saw the sides go in all square at the break and on reflection it was probably the correct result based on a pretty even first-half.
Neither goalkeeper had been forced into anything tricky apart from the two goals, with the majority of the first 45 minutes being spent in the midfield third of the pitch.
But Lincoln restored their advantage just six minutes after the restart.
It was the same combination of Rhead and Green to create the goal, this time the former being the one to play a splitting pass through County’s defence from just outside the area, with Green beating the offside trap and calmly dispatching a volleyed attempt past Day.
Again a goal seemed to nullify the threat of a chance being created in the immediate minutes after the strike, with it taking until the 69th minute for either side to create the next meaningful chance.
It fell the way of County when it did arrive, and Labadie would have been mightily frustrated to see the effort drift a foot wide of the near post after impressive work from Willmott and substitute Shawn McCoulsky.
Lincoln certainly took that opportunity to be a warning sign of just having a narrow advantage at Sincil Bank, so they swiftly went and extended their advantage just three minutes later.
Ollie Palmer was barely on the pitch for 30 seconds before finding the net, sending a composed strike into the far corner off the post from outside the area, after finely carving out the space to get the shot away.
Farman produced an unbelievable stop to prevent County at least getting another consolation back at the start of the five additional minutes at the end of the game, putting his body on the line to save with his face after Dolan had smashed the attempt towards the top corner from four yards.
That was the final chance of a difficult night in Lincolnshire for the Exiles, slipping to a first defeat since Boxing Day in the process at Sincil Bank.
Newport: Day, White, Demetriou (Sheehan 80’), Bennett, Butler, Willmott, Dolan, Tozer, Labadie (C), Amond (Hayes 80’), Nouble (McCoulsky 66’)
Subs not used: Bittner, Collins, Reid, Osadebe,
Lincoln: Farman, Habergham, Waterfall (C), Bostwick, Eardley, Anderson, Woodyard, Frecklington, Rowe (Williams 78’), Green (Palmer 72’), Rhead (Wilson 60’)
Subs not used: Walton, Long, Whitehouse, Stewart
Referee: Scott Oldham
Attendance: 7,567 (76 AWAY)
Next up for County: Colchester United (3rd February) AWAY