Lincoln City 1
Forest Green Rovers 2
THE fifth leg of Forest Green's tour of Blue Square Bet Premier grounds in January could hardly have been more safely negotiated, even allowing for some late penalty shenanigans.
Yan Klukowski's seventh-minute goal – his 11th of the season in all competitions – was added to on the stroke of half-time by Chris Stokes.
Substitute Adam Smith's disputed spot-kick reduced the arrears with five minutes remaining, but the result was never seriously in doubt as Rovers closed to within four points of the top of the table.
Reece Styche was recalled to Dave Hockaday's starting line-up and was quickly at the heart of the action, latching on to a ball over the top but failing to trouble home keeper David Preece with a first-time shot.
Less than a minute later he saw an angled drive come back off the crossbar and land at the feet of Klukowski, who rammed home via an attempted goalline clearance by Chris Bush.
Sam Russell had to be alert at the other end to tip over Bush's header from a long throw, but otherwise the visitors appeared to have an early stranglehold on proceedings.
Indeed the Imps defence looked decidedly shaky, and a scramble in front of Preece's goal was followed by a free Eddie Oshodi header from Klukowski's corner which went straight at the keeper.
Lincoln's ranks included an ex-Rover in midfielder Jake Thomson, and he was unfortunate not to make it 1-1 in the 21st minute when he let fly with a 25-yard shot that struck the post.
But still the visitors looked the more threatening outfit, and Styche saw a low angled effort helped around the post by a plunging Preece.
The resulting corner was cleared, but Klukowski had a second chance to deliver and his inswinger was bundled over the line by Stokes from a yard out.
Jeered off by the red and white faithful, Lincoln threatened early in the second period when Phil Turnbull – signed on loan from Northampton Town a day earlier – forced Russell to palm a deflected effort wide.
A snap-shot by substitute Vadaine Oliver flashed wide of Russell's goal, and a similarly speculative drive by Tom Miller dipped over.
It seemed Rovers were coasting to victory, but with five minutes left Oshodi was harshly adjudged to have deliberately handled from a corner and referee Charles Breakspear pointed to the spot.
Smith stroked home from 12 yards to give hope to the hosts, although it proved only fleeting as the green defences proved impenetrable.
Lincoln City: D Preece; D Gray, S Garner, T Miller, C Bush; J Sheridan (A Smith 77), P Turnbull, J Thomson, C Larkin (J Jones 77); C Robinson, J Taylor (V Oliver 61). Subs not used: A Boyce, P Farman.
Forest Green: S Russell; J Hodgkiss, J Turley, E Oshodi, C Stokes; K Forbes, J Collins, Y Klukowski; M Taylor, R Styche (E Asafu-Adjaye 86), J Norwood (M Vieira 56). Subs not used: P Green, Y Odubade, M Bulman.
Referee: C Breakspear (Surrey)
Star man: Yan Klukowski – Efficiency personified in midfield, and scored the all-important first goal.