It’s not all about Champion

There’s no denying we’re in a bad run of form. Games against Solihull, Barrow and Dover should have brought us at least four points if not six, but instead we’ve taken one from nine and scored just once in that time.

Yesterday’s game was always going to be tough but it was a game we had the capability to win. Dover are a good side but they’re not a great side and they could have been there for the taking.

The early goal knocked us but a game is 90 minutes and as we’ve proven this season you need to play from the very first to the very last. Their boy got a free header from a set piece and that is indefensible at this level. For longer than Danny Cowley has been here we’ve been awful at defending set pieces and once again it was our early undoing.

I hear that Tom Champion was brought in to help with set pieces at either end of the field. That doesn’t mean he is to blame whenever we concede a set piece or whenever we fail to score one. There are nine other outfield players involved too.

Had we not conceded that goal I think the complexion of the game would have been very different. Dover like to hit you on the counter attack and get balls in behind, but their urgency to do that was diminished by taking such an early lead. It lead to a scrappy game of few chances which eclipsed our experiences against Solihull and Barrow.

Their second goal was a classic counter attack that fit perfectly into the profile in which they play. We had no option but to get men forward and they hit us on the break, just as Sutton did back in August. We’ve seen better sides than Dover this season and I’m still confident that when May comes we will be above them in the table.

Scapegoat – and an easy target


Firstly though this slide needs to be arrested and most fans see it as a simple case of dropping Tom Champion and bringing Brad back into midfield allowing Lee Beevers to drop in at full back. Is it that simple though? Is Tom Champion to blame for the run of form?

I’ve been quite vocal in my support of Champion because he is proven at this level and I don’t think he’s played too badly since he’s arrived. He came in as we started a run of poor form and many say him and Woodyard is a ‘Lampard and Gerrard’ situation where both cannot be accommodated in midfield. Oddly those same people are saying drop Brad back into midfield which surely gives us two defensive minded midfielders all over again?

People forget we were lucky to come away from Torquay with a win after a patchy display there and that was before Tom Champion came into the fold. I really believe Bradley Wood is a full back, and a really good one at that. Lee Beevers may have had a good run of form but those with short memories will forget many expected him not to feature this season after less than convincing displays last season.

There is no denying that performances have dropped though since Champion came into the side. I was very surprised that he started the Solihull game especially as it was a game we needed to attack and he is a holding midfield player. I felt that evening he would have been better coming off the bench after maybe giving Alan Power a run out. That said I’m not paid to make the decisions.

Whether he has upset the balance of the team or not is one thing, but what effect his arrival has had on team morale could be another. Alan Power simply can’t force himself into contention and Craig Stanley must be kicking himself to see a player in the same mould as him arrive and get an immediate start. These two guys are senior professionals, could it be that his arrival has caused some discontent in the squad?

Power – can’t catch a break


Whether it has or not this certainly isn’t the only reason we have been on a bad run of form. We seem to be a little light up front and whilst nobody blames the management for taking the money for Margetts I firmly believe that we need to look at bringing in a striker sooner rather than later. Yesterday for long periods Matt Rhead looked isolated and when chances did fall to Macauley Bonne he fluffed his lines.

There is no doubt Bonne offers a threat going forward but when I see him in an Imps shirt I can’t help but think of Robbie McDaid and George Maris – players playing to progress with their own club and not to push ours forward. I’m not saying Macauley Bonne is a selfish player nor am I saying he isn’t putting everything into his game, but I think at Lincoln over the past six seasons we’ve learned the hard way that loan players have their own reasons for being at a club. Tom Champion has his reasons for being here as well and I’m not entirely convinced it is to earn a contract with us.

I’m not being negative here but as an independent blogger I do have to take off the rose tinted glasses every so often and look at the way things are. I have no doubt that match preparation and training is well planned and that performances like yesterday will not be tolerated for too long. In truth we were unlucky against Barrow to concede late and we worked hard to break Solihull down. We’re still 5th which I would have taken after 25% of the season, and if we’re there come May I think we’ll all be happy.

The managers and players are the ones paid to get us the results on the pitch and we have to trust them to do the best for the club. I don’t think that DC and NC will persist with Champion if it really is apparent to them he has upset the balance in any way. I don’t think our management team are belligerent or stubborn and if they believe that Champion is the problem then I think he’ll drop to the bench.

Braintree next week is a great chance to get back on the winning habit but to do so I think we need to be more attacking from all areas. Not having that classic ‘attacking’ midfielder leaves us a little one dimensional with long balls to Matt Rhead. That approach surprises me as we have some really good footballers in our squad, Rhead included. With a more attacking midfield we could start to build up gently through the centre with an option to utilise the neat passing exchanges we saw against the likes of Gateshead to break teams down, or to spread out wide to our array of really good flair players like Arnold and Hawkridge.

Then again what do I know, I thought we’d beat Dover.