'Another big club': Lincoln striker sends challenge to team-mates ahead of Sunderland clash

Lincoln striker Tom Hopper has challenged his team-mates to replicate their second-half performance against Rotherham when they host Sunderland this weekend.

Michael Appleton’s side were beaten 2-1 by the Millers in midweek but almost salvaged a point after conceding twice inside 13 minutes.

The result saw Lincoln drop to 18th in the League One table, yet Hopper was encouraged by the team’s response after half-time.

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“With how we started the game by giving away the goals that we did, and then to show those performance levels in the second half, it’s frustrating,” he said.

Lincoln City forward Tom Hopper.

"We threw everything at them and there are positives to be taken, but things to be learnt from that first half; although we showed what were capable of doing to teams who are top of the league.

“It has to be the blueprint: we’re only cheating ourselves if we don’t try and match that and better it each week. We know what we’re capable of, we must apply ourselves in the right way to prove that and try and match that level of performance.”

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Hopper, who scored against Sunderland twice in the play-offs last season, has been sidelined through injury for most of this campaign.

The striker’s goal against Rotherham, which came nine minutes from time, was his first of the season, after starting four of his side’s last five matches.

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“Fitness-wise, I’m getting there,” he added. “This was my first Saturday - Tuesday since I’ve been back so I was feeling it a little towards the end, but I need that. Now I have time to recover and it’s a case of building on that.

“I know the lads will be looking forward to Sunderland, it will be a great atmosphere. We’ve had a few good games against them over the years but we’re focussed on ourselves and we know the fans will back us all the way.

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“It’s another big club coming to Lincoln and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Lincoln also beat Sunderland 3-1 at the Stadium of Light in January courtesy of a Chris Maguire hat-trick.

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