Manager Michael Appleton praised his young side’s game management following Lincoln’s 2-0 win over Oxford.
Goals in each half from Anthony Scully and Adam Jackson saw the new-look Imps beat last season’s play-off finalists.
Scully nodded in Harry Anderson’s cross in the seventh minute, while defender Jackson headed home James Jones’ free-kick 16 minutes from time.
Oxford ended the match with 10 men as Rob Atkinson was shown a straight red card in stoppage time for hacking down the marauding Anderson.
Appleton was naturally thrilled with the performance, and said: “We knew how tough it would be against a side on the up who were one game away from the Championship (last season).
“The players performed manfully, especially in that first half. We made their keeper (Simon Eastwood) work harder than Alex (Palmer) in the first half. We asked questions of their back four, certainly on the counter-attack.”
Palmer made some fine saves as Oxford tried to get back into the game in the second half, and Appleton added: “As always when you’ve got something to hold onto in the second half, it builds a bit of pressure and we needed Alex to come to our rescue a couple of times with some good saves.
“Don’t underestimate how difficult it is to hold on against a good side. It’s all very well people saying ‘get up, get up’, but as someone who has been there as a player, I know how difficult it is. You’ve got to pick your moments.
“I thought we managed the game really well, that’s probably the biggest thing that pleased me because, with young sides, that’s something you can struggle with.”
Oxford boss Karl Robinson felt his side dominated the game for long periods, but was left ruing their defending for the goals.
“I think as a whole, we outplayed them,” he said. “We dominated the ball. We asked more questions in the second half than we did in the first half.
“We switched off for the first goal, it wasn’t a free-kick, but then we switched off defending a set-piece.
“We got beat 2-0 and there’s the crux of what happened in the game.”
Robinson was left dismayed by Atkinson’s red card and said he intends to appeal.
“How is that a straight red?” he said. “If it’s another yellow I half understand it, but it wasn’t. We will be appealing that.
“The referee’s performance was miles off it, he looked way off where you need to be at this time of year.
“It’s a disappointing result but I can’t criticise my players’ efforts or their determination to do the right things.”
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