FRANKIE Bunn had nothing but good words for his resilient 10 men of Oldham after they dug in to secure a point against high-flying Lincoln.

After Ishmael Miller was controversially dismissed in first-half stoppage time for colliding with Imps stopper Josh Vickers, the home side took the lead through substitute Mohamed Maouche’s fizzing angled strike.

Lincoln hit back moments later through Michael O’Connor’s low effort, but Oldham stood tall against Danny Cowley’s troops as they earned a deserved share of the spoils.

Bunn hailed the result as a major boost as he looks for his side to mount a challenge for the top six.

“The team performance was outstanding, I’m just so disappointed we didn’t win the game,” he said.

“With 10 men against the league leaders, our spirit, our identity, everything we’re about has come about in the second half of the Cambridge game and that carried on.

“I believe, I think they are beginning to believe, which has been a tough one because there are some boys who have been relegated there and they are just beginning to dust themselves down.

“The spirit over the last two to three games has been tremendous, but we need to win that game.

“I was gutted for the lads. They deserved to win that game tonight without a shadow of doubt.”

Oldham nearly fell behind early on as John Akinde broke clear of George Edmundson and his dinked effort beat keeper Daniel Iverson but struck the crossbar and away to safety.

The home side then lost Daniel Gardner to injury, with the midfielder leaving the field on a stretcher after appearing to twist his knee. Maouche replaced him.

The game’s controversial incident came two minutes into first-half stoppage time – of which there were eight, chiefly due to the linesman pulling a muscle and having to be replaced.

Former Manchester City forward Miller was involved in a clumsy tangle with Vickers as he chased the ball but collided with the keeper, despite Vickers already having the ball in his hands.

The pleas of Oldham’s players, staff and the Boundary Park faithful, fell on deaf ears, and he was dismissed by referee Ben Toner.

However, the home side flew out of the blocks after the break and took the lead when Maouche drilled an effort powerfully past Vickers from the angle of the box on 49 minutes.

But Lincoln replied through O’Connor, who found the back of the net from 12 yards after the home defence failed to clear their lines.

And it was the Imps who had the best chances for victory, Daniel Iversen pulling off terrific saves from Matt Rhead and Maouche, who nearly turned the ball into his own net.

Jason Shackell also had a header disallowed, while Callum Lang nearly sealed a dramatic home win late on, but his shot after a weaving run flew over the bar.

Despite Miller’s premature departure, Oldham can take heart from a battling display against an impressive outfit.

And Bunn was fervent in the backing of his powerful frontman as he criticised referee Toner’s decision to brandish the red.

“Years and years ago the keeper dusts himself down and we’re off and we’re playing, Ishmael has no malice, as big as he is and as powerful as he is he wasn’t looking for the keeper,” added Bunn.

“His eyes were on the ball, the ball was waist height, I think he has every reason to challenge for the ball.

“To produce a red card is astounding and when he looks back at the replay hopefully he’ll realise that.”

Oldham Athletic: (4-4-1-1): Iversen 8; Hunt 7, Clarke 8, Edmundson 8, Taylor 7; Branger-Engone 6 (Surridge 45+4, 6), Missilou 7, Gardner 5 (Maouche 35, 7), Nepomuceno 8; Miller 4, Lang 6.

Subs not used: McFarlane (GK), Dummigan, O’Grady, Graham, Hamer.

Lincoln City (4-4-2): Vickers; Eardley, Bostwick, Shackell, Toffolo; O’Connor, Pett; Anderson (Rhead 70), McCarten (Mensah 74), Andrade; Akinde (Green 81).

Subs not used: Slocombe (GK), Gordon, Wharton, Frecklington.

Referee: Ben Toner 5/10

Attendance: 3,597