First of all, to save you the hassle of really reading the blog, there is little weight you can put behind the results or indeed the performances in a friendly. It is nice to do well, it is nice to see the new faces and how they fit in, but the purpose of a friendly is to get match fitness and for new players to integrate with the old hands. Therefore losing 3-2 is irrelevant. However, I write about football and it was definitely football so I’m going to go ahead and talk about it anyway.
I thought it was a decent work out for the lads. We were perhaps a bit naïve in the first fifteen minutes or so, we treated it like a proper pre-season friendly whilst Posh were really fast and vibrant. That isn’t to say we started badly, far from it, but when they had the ball they attacked quickly and with purpose.
For most of the first half our stand-out man was Jordan Maguire Drew. He looks a real prospect, his delivery was exemplary and he’ll grab a bucket load of assists with the right people on the end of the crosses. He has an air of cockiness when he is on the ball, a confidence that he is about to humiliate a full back, and I like to see that in a winger. His quality was clear for Dagenham last season and I’m sure he’ll just pick up where he left off, scoring and creating goals.
Contrary to popular opinion I thought our midfield looked okay in the first half to. I saw some criticism of Billy Knott, and criticism of anyone at this stage is ludicrous. I thought Billy and Alex did the right things the right way, but with Knott in particular, it is harder to turn on that flair in a pre-season game. He’ll be a big player this coming campaign, and anyone who feels otherwise is set to be disappointed.
By the time we registered a goal we were two goals down, I think a combination of naivety and lapses in concentration were perhaps at fault. Posh had some really good players, fast creative players that moved the ball forward very quickly whenever they got it. Jack Marriott and Marcus Maddison really impressed me, their movement was so rapid they were out of defence and bearing down on goal in seconds. We controlled possession for long periods without getting any joy, whereas they grabbed the ball and just swept down field to score. Twice.
When we did get a goal I thought we were a little fortunate. Rheady did well to keep a deep cross in play, too well in fact. I was in the boxes (posh I know) and from our angle the ball looked to go out, and if it hadn’t Rheady looked to pull their defender down with him. Before a defender could appeal though, Matt Green did what we hoped he’ll do all season and scraped the ball home. The Peterborough players were angry, and I’m not surprised. That is Rheady’s game though, he’s not about mobility and timed runs, he’s all about aerial threats and brute strength.
Danny switched things around at halftime, and it was no surprise at all to see the man of the moment make his first Imps appearance. Michael Bostwick even looks like he’s a Championship player, from the hipster beard and flowing hair to the almost arrogant way he moves across the park. We looked to drop into a different formation, and it made an immediate difference, which brings me to my first contentious point of the day.
I’ve mentioned it before, but in the past Danny has gone 4-2-3-1 with two holding midfielders and an attacking ’10’ backing up a lone striker. It didn’t really work last season because often Rheady was our lone striker, and he is suited to a front two. With Rheady you put the ball anywhere near him and he sucks it in, brings it under control and moves it on. That is great if he has a partner up top, and this coming season Matt Green will fill that role, if we go with two up top. I’m not sure we will.
Michael Bostwick will play this season, I’d wager forty odd games if he stays fit and free of suspension. You don’t sign a Championship quality footballer in League Two and sit him on the bench. Alex Woodyard will also play, he’s the jewel in our crown, the young player with a big price tag on his head. Again, Lincoln City do not bring talent like him to the table and then not serve him up. Ditto Sean Raggett, if he stays, he plays. I also think Luke Waterfall will play whenever he is fit as well, which immediately prompts a problem with our favoured 4-4-2 from last season. Bostwick and Woodyard both play a more holding role, the pass before the assist as Danny once called it. Bostwick can play centre half, but we won’t go three at the back either as it doesn’t fit with our intense pressing game. In order to accommodate those four players, we’ll have to start with a variation of 4-3-3, and with our vast array of wingers,the only option I can see is 4-2-3-1.
The crucial thing for Imps fans to ponder here is the last digit of that formation, ‘1’. One up top, and that one has to be mobile and quick as well as strong and bullish. I’m afraid to say that means Matt Green, and our talisman cenre forward Mr Rhead may miss out.
We won’t play the same formation every week, but on yesterday’s second half performance I think it will be our preferred starting tactic. I know it won’t be popular, I know that some will argue we will just play Bostwick and Woodyard and Knott will miss out, but we won’t. Billy Knott will play forty odd games too, barring injuries and suspension. He’s more adept at pushing on towards the lone striker, as is Elliott Whitehouse. We haven’t stumbled on this either, I’m told Danny has wanted to play this way ever since he arrived, and only now has he been able to build a squad to accommodate it.
Anyway, back to the game. I didn’t think it became disjointed as we made numerous changes, and that will please the manager as well. Harry Anderson and Josh Ginnelly came off the bench, and both turned in good performances as Nathan Arnold had when he was on. Elliott Whitehouse did okay when he came on, but again I think Elliott will be fighting hard to have a regular start, especially given the arrival of Bostwick. These are nice problems to have, I just hope Danny can keep everyone happy.
I was pleased to see Josh Ginnelly get a goal as well. He made a real impact when we played Woking at home, his deflected shot giving us the unassailable lead last season, but after that he was all promise and no fulfilment. He’s a special talent, just like our other three wingers, but he is the one that has to bring an end product to the table. Nathan led the way with goals from out wide last season, so Josh, JMD and Harry will be eager to replicate that this coming campaign.
Ollie Palmer looked decent when he came on too. He didn’t impress me at Lincoln United, but he isn’t just a big unit. He was very quick considering he was hauling around far more muscle mass than most of the lads, and he has quick feet too. All the talk of Matt Green and Matt Rhead may be disrespecting Ollie, although I still hold him as our third-choice striker. It is nice to know we have options across the front line though, and before the week is out I wouldn’t be surprised at us adding one more.
I thought their winner came against the run of play, but it showed their class as it was once again swift and decisive. It was a little disheartening not to win the game, but it was only a friendly and therefore the result wasn’t of massive importance. As long as you don’t lose six or seven nil, then maybe it would matter!
The other point to mention was the impact of trialist Matthew Briggs. Sam Habergham hasn’t had any pre-season minutes yet, and with just 180 of them left before we go to Wycombe he might be struggling for match fitness. Briggs is the third left back we’ve seen in recent weeks and I thought he impressed without excelling. He didn’t look fit at all, but he did show composure and a touch of the class that once saw him emerge at Fulham as their youngest ever first team player. His career has taken a dive as he tumbled from Fulham, through Millwall and eventually cast off by Colchester, but Danny might be thinking it is a case of necessity. Briggs suffered with injuries last season, something that has blighted his promising career, but he has pedigree which can’t be ignored.
It’s now July 23rd, and for cover purposes alone I wouldn’t be surprised to see a left back brought in on a six-month deal. I’m told Noah Chesmain looked good in Portugal, and although he’s long gone I liked Brandon Ormund-Ottiwell too. There is quality out there, quality that still doesn’t have a club and before long we’re going to have to address the full-back cover question.
I won’t delve into the right-back cover question right now, but in the fan’s forum I think Danny might have sparked conversations about a very familiar face. I’m not going to write too much more about that out of respect to all parties, especially as I thought Sean Long looked solid against Peterborough.
An early afternoon finish as followed for many by a fan’s forum, although I was already on my toes to Ashby Avenue by the time Danny was revealing he was chasing a new centre back. I think we came away having not truly learned anything from the game. We knew Bostwick is a good player, we knew Danny had a selection headache, we knew Peterborough are a decent side and most of all we knew nothing was truly at stake. The amateur pundits such as myself will still write about it, fans will still discuss it but in essence we gleaned nothing but the satisfaction of having seen our team play. Come August 5th we’ll start to truly see players credential and be able to assess them accordingly.
I look forward to chewing over the bones of another meaningless but entertaining friendly on Tuesday night. Until then, how about a Nathan Arnold article to keep you going? Keep those browsers pointed at the Stacey West tomorrow morning!
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF GRAHAM BURRELL