COVENTRY City go into a rare Christmas without a Boxing Day game in the top six, after a deserved 1-0 home win against Lincoln.
It was an important three points to move them up into fifth place – with rivals able to gain points on December 26 and City facing table-topping Wycombe on the 29th
On a day when most of those fellow promotion contenders dropped points, the Sky Blues had to be patient in possession in long periods of dominance.
Struggling Lincoln defended in numbers – often with 11 men behind the ball – in a first half which the Sky Blues completely controlled. The visitors were hardly in City’s half.
It was perhaps the best example this season of City keeping the ball at a slower pace with patient and methodical build-up – the exciting, faster passing game being the team’s hallmark this season.
Lincoln’s defensive organisation often restricted City to long shots outside the box, a tactic which almost paid off, with the dominant Kelly firing just wide and Shipley and Walsh just over the bar.
Another shot from Kelly was parried by the keeper Vickers upwards on 32 minutes, when Westbrooke hit the resulting volley first-time on the edge of the area past the keeper, who appeared to struggle with the bounce in front of him.
That had been the case on 19 minutes when another Kelly shot had bounced just in front of him and on this occasion he got a glove on it.
The same result came on 43 minutes from another shot from captain Kelly, who was the man of the half. He was a constant threat around the edge of the area where he almost set others up too on several occasions.
With that patient approach play, all that was lacking was sharpness in the final third. Perhaps understandably in Godden’s case, as he made his first start from a long injury layoff, playing alone upfront and stretching the defensive line.
Wide defenders Dabo and the exceptionally gifted young McCallum supported the midfield well, and Westbrooke was again influential in returning to the side with O’Hare and Allen rather unfortunately returning to the bench after the defeat at Shrewsbury.
Walsh alongside Kelly was relatively quiet and several moves broke down in the final third with the otherwise industrious Shipley not quite taking the right option or touch.
Both were to come into the game even more in the second half, but not before City had to endure a role reversal for 15 minutes.
They could not get the ball off Lincoln, who attacked in numbers. City had keeper Marosi to thank for important one-handed saves. One saw a rebound cleared off the line by Shipley, with what the Imps furiously contested was a handball.
After the hour, City gradually began to take control again with excellent possession.
Former Peterborough striker Godden – in for the in-form Max Biamou – showed what he is capable of on 62 minutes with a brilliant turn and shot on the edge of the area, that was well charged down and saved.
Shipley’s heavy touch in the box on 71 minutes prevented a goal from another flowing move with one-touch passes involving man-of-the-match Westbrooke.
Then Walsh and Westbrooke combined with a great one-two but Walsh fired wide.
On 76 minutes, a Godden shot inside the box was tipped round the post after the best move of the game involving Westbrooke and Shipley with slick one-touch passing.
By now it was an open game with both teams going for it, the Imps also having some attacks and having a shot charged down on 78 minutes.
Biamou came on for Shipley on 86 minutes and did well in stoppage time to get clear in the box with just the keeper to beat, but his heavy touch prevented a shot.
But City ably saw out the game in which the defensive three of the improving McFadzean, Rose and returning Hyam had been solid.
The three points was a Christmas gift for the fans and a birthday present for team boss Mark Robins, on the weekend of his 50th birthday.