The Imps registered a superb home win this evening against an in-form Boreham Wood, with the serious injury to Lee Beevers taking the shine off a seriously good fifty odd minutes of football.
I thought the first half was at times sloppy, with possession being given up too easily against an opposition who seemed content to lump balls into the channels. Our defence were more than adequate at stopping their threat, but further up the pitch we weren’t at the races. It was clear why Boreham Wood don’t lose many away, they played compact and got numbers back. Harry Anderson got no luck against their left-back Ilesamni who really impressed me although I noted he swapped with Arnold to see if he could get anymore joy, and for a while he didn’t.
The defining moment of the first half came as an innocuous free kick across the box caused Lee Beevers to rise up and then crumple to the ground. Immediately Paul Farman launched the ball out of play and ushered the physio on, and it was clear to everyone in the stadium that we were dealing with a severe injury.
We’ve been informed it looks like a ruptured patella tendon, and I’m afraid to say that isn’t good news at all. The patella tendon connects the knee to the shin and in most cases it will require surgery. if indeed it is a ruptured patella it probably means Beevers won’t be able to move that leg at all, and without being distasteful to Lee I would imagine it will be the end of his season. There was a palpable shock amongst the players as he was stretched off, and a short while later blue flashing lights outside the stadium indicated he was heading up to the hospital.
Lee has been playing the best football of his second spell at City, possibly the best of his whole Imps career and it will be a massive blow for him and for the club. Bradley Wood slotted into his usual right back position in his absence, and it meant a rare outing for club captain Alan Power. I thought Whitehouse was the obvious choice, nut Power coming on made me wonder if our new signing is being groomed as a potential partner for Matt Rhead rather than a central midfield option.
Obviously the delay meant a long stretch of injury time, and six minute in the Imps got the breakthrough they barely deserved. A smart ball from the always impressive Alex Woodyard was nodded down by Rheady, and Nathan Arnold was on hand to smash the ball home low and hard. Theo wants it, I suspect Arnold will get it.
The goal immediately changed the complexion of the game. Boreham Wood had to come out and have a go after the break, and that was their undoing.
Second half I thought City dominated from start to finish. I’m going to cause some debate here, but I thought the difference was Power sitting alongside Woodyard. Between them they controlled the tempo of the final forty five minutes, spreading play neatly from side to side and stretching a tiring Boreham Wood side time and time again. I’m delighted for Power, it’s been a difficult season for him but he has kept working hard for his chance, and in my humble opinion he really grabbed hold of it tonight. I saw perhaps two misplaced passes which was no more than anyone else on the pitch, but he looked lean and entirely comfortable back in the side.
Bradley Wood settled in nicely at right back and was his usual self with some really crunching challenges and a lot of hard work. The whole team responded superbly to their opponents trying to get out more, and every space was exploited excellently. Harry Anderson hadn’t had a good first half, but he looked far more comfortable in the second. The Imps poured forward time and time again, and we were unlucky not to score two or three immediately after the restart. DC always talks about intensity, and the first goal really gave us the confidence to lift our display to another level.
The second goal obviously killed the game and settled a few nerves. Once again it was the big man Rheady in the thick of it, firstly starting the move with some smart play thirty yards out, and then ending it with a lovely take down and deflected finish over Grant Smith. I know people will talk about the control but what really impressed me was his work ethic to not only start the move, cleverly spreading the play out to the left, but also to get back into position to finish it all off. He takes a lot of stick at times for his lethargic looking performances, but the lack of goals recently is no indication of a lack of work rate. How many times have we heard ‘Rhead knock down’ ahead of an Imps goal? It’s not like we’re just lumping it forward either, those diagonal balls across the box are always dangerous, but they’re always created by smart build up and patient probing.
City looked organised and composed, cleverly dictating play and slowing it down in the second half. I had to chuckle as one of the ball girls rushed to get Paul Farman the ball back, he seemed to indicate to her to calm down a bit, just take the pace out of the game. In seasons gone by a 2-0 Imps lead meant very little, but this season you feel it will be enough to win most of our games.
We’ve now kept as many clean sheets this season as we did throughout the last campaign, and that is an indication that the work DC and NC are putting in on the training round is paying dividends. Raggett and Waterfall were both immense, snubbing out the predictable aerial threat with relative ease. Raggett in particular looks ever bit a Football League player, confident in travelling with the ball just as much as winning and distributing it. I will be incredibly surprised if we don’t have to fend off approaches for him in the January window, so it’s comforting to know Callum Howe is getting regular football at Southport in preparation for the worst.
I don’t think the importance of this win can be under-estimated, and whilst the injury to Lee Beevers sours it somewhat the management have a right to be happy overall. I can see why Boreham Wood are difficult to beat away from home, but I was disappointed they didn’t offer more of a threat even when they tried to get out more. Was it their lack of performance, or was it that we have found that next gear? For these rose-tinted eyes of mine I think it’s the latter. Had we been more composed in the first half I thought we had the beating of them anyway, but in the second we looked every bit a team on course to at least feature in the play-offs come the end of the season.
So to summarise (which I never really do) there were two negative points, the injury to Lee and the sloppy first forty minutes or so. However the plusses were numerous. A clean sheet is always good but against a team well known for getting results away from home it was incredibly satisfying. Correct me if I’m wrong but that’s seven clean sheets at home from eight games, the sort of record the very best teams have at this level.
However the re-emergence of Alan Power is one of the biggest plusses other than the three points. If he starts to get in and around the first team again it will be like another new signing for us, and with Elliott Whitehouse having an impressive cameo and Taylor Miles nearing full fitness I can’t imagine Brad will get much more game time in the centre of the park, and that won’t diminish our options in front of the back four.
I want to wish Lee Beevers all the best and I sincerely hope that his injury isn’t as serious as social media is suggesting tonight. He can however rest assured that in his absence we have the resources to continue to push on towards the play-offs.
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