John Coleman admitted a few weeks ago that he believed some people were expecting his promotion-chasing side to blow up.
This was as they chalked up a run of seven wins in eight league games and hovered on the fringes of the play-offs following a superb campaign where they have battled against low finances, a winding up order and small squad to defy the odds.
The Reds boss said he had a similar feeling to the Conference-winning season where his talented side just kept getting stronger and stronger instead of fading away as teams with bigger budgets and squads put them under pressure.
But now several of their rivals may be nodding their heads that the sticky patch they predicted for the Reds has come – and Coleman knows the players now need to find that strength again to get them out of it before it’s too late.
The Reds have picked up one point out of the last nine and, after going to the likes of Notts County and Rochdale as underdogs and pulling off surprise wins, it has become somewhat expected that trips to struggling Macclesfield and Lincoln, should yield three points.
And when it doesn’t happen, it is a shock.
The Reds had been plagued in their previous three league campaigns by never quite getting the balance right of solid defending and goals. This season it had all come together – but now it has gone AWOL again.
Against Lincoln on Tuesday, the Reds just missed so many quality chances that Coleman feared it would come back to haunt them.
And two goals in the last seven minutes showed the defensive frailties haven’t been ironed out.
Michael Symes, who is enjoying his best ever season in front of goal, scoring 14 times so far, must have wondered how he didn’t get past the Imps keeper Rob Burch.
He had a free header at the back post which he could only find the side netting with and, when clean through, keeper Burch denied him with his hand.
That’s not to say he is not playing his part, as the striker fed through Bobby Grant for the Reds’ first goal in three games and the Liverpudlian finished well for his 16th goal of the season to give the Reds the lead.
But Stanley’s current goal-shy spell was summed up with Symes almost finding the corner flag from one free-kick;, Grant skying an effort and slipping on another while John Miles was also guilty of not testing keeper Burch in a good position.
One who perhaps couldn’t be blamed was skipper Andy Procter who jumped highest to get in a header but it hit the underside of the bar and bounced down and out of the goal.
And also Miles went down under a challenge from Joe Anderson with a penalty looking on the cards – but referee Rob Shoebridge amazingly booked Miles for diving.
Both of these would have made the score 2-0 and Lincoln, one of the lowest scorers in the league, would not have come back from that.
But, really, one look at the team-sheet would have made it clear that, despite all the Reds early command, it wasn’t to be their day.
The name Drewe Broughton is familiar to all Stanley fans – as, playing for Boston and Chester, he has upset Coleman many a time and he had signed that day for the Imps from Rotherham to help them with a striker crisis.
And it had to be him that was involved in the two goals as the Reds continued their unwanted record of never taking a point from Sincil Bank.
There was no real sign of what was to come as, although the Imps had tested the Reds’ backline, with on-loan Aston Villa winger Chris Herd a threat, it looked like Grant’s goal would be enough to get the Reds play-off push back on track.
It wasn’t that they were particularly holding on under pressure – keeper Ian Dunbavin hadn’t had much to do and in fact his best saves had come after the ref had blown for off-side or an infringement.
But then Broughton threaded through a neat pass to Rangers loan striker Steven Lennon who, although quick, hadn’t looked like scoring throughout the game. But this time he tucked the ball past Dunbavin seven minutes from time to have Coleman despairing.
As if that wasn’t enough the home crowd got behind their team in a frantic finale. Still the Reds weren’t out of it and a second goal didn’t look out of the question as they pressed around the Imps box.
But, in one final push for the home side in injury-time, 35-year-old sub Ian Pearce fired the ball back into the box. Broughton was hovering, as was Lenell John-Lewis, but the final touch came off Stanley defender Darran Kempson as the ball seemed to take an age to go into the net.
Coleman looked furious as Imps boss Chris Sutton celebrated like they had won the league as they chalked up their first three points following a five-game winless run.
And for the Reds chief it left him thoroughly fed up as his side look in danger of throwing away all the good work they have done earlier this season.
"I feel physically sick," said Coleman after the match. "I just had a feeling that, with the chances we missed, we were going to pay for it.
"You can’t defend like we did in the last seven minutes. They had a couple of chances in the first half but we have played them off the park for 35 minutes in the second half. It was a good ball for their first goal but we should defend better and then we have gone into our shell.
"The last goal was a custard pie. I had thought we had seen the end of those times of conceding late but obviously we have not."