A CLASSY late goal from Ashley Yeoman was just reward for a vastly improved second-half performance from Torquay United to earn a narrow win over Lincoln City.
A grim first period was bereft of chances but the Gulls raised their tempo after the break and thoroughly deserved the winner that arrived 10 minutes from time.
United manager Chris Hargreaves made just one enforced change from the side that defeated Altrincham 2-0 on the weekend, replacing the injured Ryan Bowman with John Campbell. Club captain Luke Young returned from suspension to earn a place on the bench.
Lincoln boss Chris Moyses made two changes to the side narrowly beaten at Telford on Saturday, with Delano Sam-Yorke and Jordan Cranston coming in for Tony Diagne and Jon Nolan.
The Gulls took just 30 seconds to conjure their first opening on a glorious evening of sunshine at the Launa Windows Stadium. Toby Ajala was the catalyst, surging down the right before squaring a pass to Campbell.
The Geordie striker instantly laid a pass into the path of Briscoe, who quickly adjusted his feet to scoop a clever shot narrowly wide of the far post guarded by Imps’ goalkeeper Paul Farman.
United continued to control the early exchanges with Ajala looking lively on the flank and Aaron Downes dominating the Lincoln forwards when the ball was pumped forward.
The game then descended into a turgid midfield battle severely lacking any real excitement in the final third for either team. Lincoln did finally cause some unrest with a long ball over the top met with a glancing header by Burrow but it was a comfortable save for Daniel Lavercombe.
The golden opportunity of the opening half fell to Campbell and it was a horrible miss in the end. Aaron Dawson released Ajala down the right for a whipped cross that was half-cleared to Campbell eight yards from goal but, after taking a touch to compose himself, the final shot was blazed over.
There was very little to say about the remainder of a first half devoid of genuine attacking quality. Both sides were playing with plenty of spirit but excitement levels definitely needed a lift after the break.
Lincoln emerged with the first opening of the second period and Krystian Pearce did very well to execute a well-timed block on the shot from Ben Tomlinson, who took out his frustration with a hefty challenge on Ben Harding.
It was a relief for United that the big midfielder clambered to his feet, as his passing was a definite highlight in an otherwise poor game, although his partner in the engine-room, James McQuilkin, raised the tempo with a sizzling long-range drive that was beaten clear by the fists of Farman.
The rebound fell to Campbell but his difficult evening continued with a disappointing mis-cued finish, and Hargreaves relieved the misery by replacing his on-loan forward with Yeoman on the hour. Lincoln also made a change, replacing Kegan Everington with Nolan.
Gradually, the entertainment was improving. Yeoman created a minor opportunity for Briscoe from range after battling with Hamza Bencherif but the low shot from 20 yards skidded wide of the near post.
Lincoln responded with a decent chance at the other end, as United failed to react to a long throw and Bencherif was only a fraction off target with an acrobatic volley. Kieran Wallace then sliced miles over with the next opening.
United came back with more neat passing in midfield from Harding and another long-ranger by McQuilkin that needed saving as it skipped off the heavily-watered surface. It was a final contribution for McQuilkin, who was withdrawn for Young in the closing 12 minutes.
Moments later, the Gulls were in front and it stemmed from the quick-thinking of Downes to launch a free-kick forward while the Lincoln players were still bemoaning an innocuous decision.
Yeoman controlled the ball beautifully in the left channel to take himself clear of the retreating defence and then slipped a trademark cool finish through the legs of Farman.
The Imps removed Wallace for Alex Simmons in their search for an equaliser but it was the Yellow forwards turning the screw. This time, Ajala dragged a shot inches wide after being picked out on the edge of the area by Briscoe.
Lincoln’s big chance for salvation came two minutes from time when the ball spun wide to Sam-Yorke after an almighty scramble but his shot from a tight angle grazed the bar as it rocketed over.
Three well-earned points were staying at home.
United (4-4-2): 31 Daniel Lavercombe; 29 Aaron Dawson, 5 Krystian Pearce, 4 Aaron Downes (capt), 25 Levi Ives; 10 Toby Ajala, 22 James McQuilkin (8 Luke Young 78), 6 Ben Harding, 20 Kadell Daniel; 7 Louis Briscoe, 32 John Campbell (14 Ashley Yeoman 62). Substitutes (not used): 1 Martin Rice, 16 Courtney Richards, 26 Ollivier Gueguen.
Booked: Pearce 78
Lincoln (4-4-2): 1 Paul Farman; 17 Jake Caprice, 2 Tom Miller, 5 Hamza Bencherif (capt), 7 Jordan Cranston, 20 Jordan Keane, 18 Kegan Everington (14 Jon Nolan 62), 21 Kieran Wallace (19 Alex Simmons 84), 11 Ben Tomlinson; 9 Jordan Burrow, 15 Delano Sam-Yorke. Substitutes (not used): 6 Tony Diagne, 20 Elliot Hodge, 30 Aidan Grant.
Referee: Adam Hopkins
Attendance: 1,249 (43 away).