There was late, late heartbreak for Colchester United on Saturday, as they came within three minutes of sealing a play-off spot, only for equaliser in the dying moments of their match to snatch it away from the U’s.
In an outstanding first forty-five minutes, the U’s swept Lincoln away with a display of high tempo, livewire attacking matched with some resilient defending when required.
For 80-odd minutes, it looked like the dream was on, with Newport trailing to Morecambe and Exeter unable to get the goal they needed against Forest Green Rovers.
But Jamille Matt found the back of the net with three minutes to go at the Globe Arena, and the U’s were left to rue what might have been on Saturday.
The home side had started the game the stronger, but the U’s held them at bay and went on to put on one of their best forty-five minutes of the season as they raced into the lead.
First, Brennan Dickenson whipped home a corner to give the U’s the advantage, before Sammie Szmodics stooped to conquer as his low header beat Josh Vickers.
Szmodics then hit the post, before ten minutes later his hard running saw him block Vickers’ clearance and react to slide the ball home into the empty net.
The Imps left the pitch to boos at half time, with the U’s fans knowing that their side were well on their way to a play-off spot.
They started the second half on the front foot, too, as a driving Nouble run saw him crash another shot off the post with Vickers beaten.
Lincoln prompted and probed, without truly worrying the U’s back four, and the visiting side’s spirit was exemplified when they charged out to close down a close range free kick after Ross picked up a back pass.
The game started to slow down, with the U’s fans happy to sit in a protect their advantage, and Lincoln already settled as champions.
All eyes were on results elsewhere, with the scorelines still as they were at half time and, as the clock ticked down, the U’s were beginning to believe.
But, late on, the dream was snatched away from John McGreal’s men, as Newport got the equaliser that they craved.
The U’s had been in the play-offs for much of the season, in the top seven for much of this game, but Matt’s effort for Newport ensured it would be they that took the spot on Thursday night against Mansfield Town.