Once again I’m going to stress that you can’t read too much into a friendly. If someone has had a bad game, or made an error then it is relatively meaningless. That is what friendlies are meant to be isn’t it? Meaningless work outs to build fitness and get used to new team mates. Someone should have told Michael Bostwick that.
He thundered into a second half challenge with such ferocity that he could easily have broken his opponent in two. It sparked a short melee, something none of the 1200 crowd expected to see when they paid their entry fee. I was told he was committed when he first joined, and he showed that in abundance. I suspect Mr Bostwick is one of these players that has two settings, ‘off’ and ‘full throttle’.
Whilst that challenge was lively it wasn’t the only moment in the game that had fans double-checking they were at a pre-season warm up. Over the course of the 90 minutes both sides put in a few tasty challenges, showing that maybe we can’t read too much into the games, but a footballer’s desire to win is not diminished just because there is nothing at stake.
The game started much the same as Saturday’s clash with Peterborough. City had some possession, a half chance or two before conceding two quick fire goals to incredibly good opponents. This Forest side might have been a late substitute for Oxford, but they showed no signs of just going through the motions. Tyler Walker really caught my eye with his speed and movement, and I’ve already seen calls on social media for us to sign him on loan. The rumour is he is heading to Blunder Park, and if he does Grimsby will have quite striker on their hands. I’m not sure his Dad Des was amongst the 36 travelling Forest fans, but he would have been pleased with what he saw if he was.
From a City perspective we conceded two weak goals, the second was especially poor. I’m not going to judge as this is pre-season and the time for throwing criticism about is not after ten minutes of a mid-July friendly. Thus far we have conceded six goals at home in two matches, and I’ll leave it to Danny to discuss that with his players. Given how we performed last season that isn’t normal, you know it and so do I. If that had been a Checkatrade Trophy cup match I doubt very much we would have been 2-0 down so quickly.
A fish could count the number of times Luke Waterfall delivered a short back-pass last season on its tail, and so he was probably due an uncharacteristic error. It might not have been punished in a full match either, but there aren’t many former Portugal internationals waiting to pounce in League Two.
I thought the similarities with Saturday were striking though, City had more of the ball but impressive breaks from quick and talented opposition gave them a strong lead. In competitive games it is us that starts with intensity and vibrance, and I’m not concerned with what I saw despite the goals. I thought we stuck to the plan admirably considering we went 2-0 down, and as the minute ticked by we looked a composed side applying ourselves in the right manner.
There is going to be a lot of emphasis on delivery into the box, and if Bostwick’s first half header is anything to go by we’ll have success. He headed it harder than I’ve ever kicked a ball, and he was desperately unlucky not to make it 2-1. Our delivery was incessant, time and again we broke out wide and put the ball into the danger area. The Forest keeper had a nightmare, he just couldn’t deal with what was essentially our reserve wingers constant barrage of crosses.
Eventually it wasn’t one of the new faces that got us a goal back, but Elliott Whitehouse. He picked the ball up on the right, cut towards goal and fired a decent shot into the Forest net. Being objective, the keeper should never have been beaten at his near post, but Elliott did well to angle his left footed shot past young Bossin.
The more the game went on the better City looked. I thought Bostwick showed his class, and the runs by either wide player were often picked out with smart cross field balls. When the proper competition starts I can see us being able to move from left to right very quickly, and that will stretch opposition defenders. It will be an effective ploy that will tire opponents out quickly and we look to do it effectively.
Ollie Palmer showed flashes of what he might be capable of, but at times he was a lone striker, although occasionally Elliott was up with him. It did occasionally look a disjointed pairing, but Palmer covered a lot of ground and showed some nice close control.
Minutes after the restart it was more poor defending that allowed Forest a third they barely warranted. It was Lica and Tyler Walker again, this time the former found the latter in acres of space on the left side of the area. If I’m being incredibly picky I’d ask where the trialist Bob Harris was, he’d had a quiet first half and I wondered if he’d even come out for the second. Walker had time to control the ball, light a cigarette and smoke it before slotting past Josh Vickers. At 3-1 the game looked gone, but in our executive box (yeah I know, lifestyles of the rich and infamous) a bet was offered up immediately. Lincoln to win 4-3, a trust me there wasn’t many takers.
After that City turned the heat up a notch, and to be fair to former Bristol Rovers full-back Harris, he redeemed himself very well. Of all the left backs we’ve seen this pre-season he perhaps had the most eye-catching 42 minutes, we shall have to wait and see if the quiet 48 count against him.
Bostwick’s challenge came with City 3-1 down, and many of his team mates were quickly alongside him diffusing an ugly situation. He simply walked away, the referee didn’t even have a word, so perhaps my poor eyesight misjudged his clattering challenge to be unfair. For a second I thought he would be withdrawn, but even when Danny did make changes, Bostwick remained on the field.
It is easy to say the changes drastically altered the game, perhaps the truth is we simply had players on the pitch who knew how to play with each other. Nathan Arnold, Alex Woodyard, Sean Raggett, and Matt Rhead all came one, the nucleus off our title-winning team. Matt Green also came on, a man who can score on demand. The complexion of the game altered immediately. Anybody writing Matt Rhead off had better have the tippex ready, because in truth his physical presence was one of the key factors in reviving the game.
Forest knocked the ball around quickly when they had possession, but in the second half they rarely troubled the goal directly in front of me in the boxes. I think I counted three attacks, one of which they scored from. It wasn’t that they were bad, far from it, but in the end City wanted it a whole lot more. I also suspect one or two of their lads saw that Bostwick challenge and decided against lingering on the ball too long.
Josh Ginnelly has had an eye-catching pre-season, and of all four wingers he is perhaps furthest down the pecking order. Given his performances I’m sure he knows he has to force himself into the side, time and again he roasted his full-back to get clear, and he even found a couple of good crosses as well. It was one of his mazy runs that led to the second goal, his lovely cut-back caught the defence out and Matt Green doesn’t need a second invitation to put the ball in the back of the net.
Rheady then had an effort cleared off the line as Lincoln took full control of a game in which they’d always been better. Nathan’s fresh legs caused issues and in the middle of the park Bostwick and Woodyard cleaned up any loose balls. I’ve predicted they’ll start together in the opening match, and there won’t be a better midfield pairing in League Two.
The equaliser came as it had threatened to, but it was a far from conventional strike. Michael Bostwick had already announced his arrival with the challenge and an all-round commanding display, but just in case that wasn’t enough he produced a world-class overhead kick that even a decent keeper couldn’t have kept out. Nonchalantly walking back to the centre circle I imagine he was thinking ‘job done’. For him maybe, but for City there was one more twist.
Bob Harris was the provider, not content with fizzing an effort over in the second half he was still full of running as the clock wound down. He slipped a superb pass through to Nathan Arnold, and we all know what Nathan Arnold does when he receives a good pass. He strode confidently towards goal, and right on cue blasted the Imps fourth past the hapless Bossin. It may not have been Ipswich in the FA Cup, but in case you needed reminding Nathan Arnold is still an Imp, and he has a massive part to play this coming season.
So that was that, the game that never-was until Oxford bottled it ended up being a meaningless classic. Seven goals, at times a confident display from City, at times a little fragile too. Forest’s kids were by no means a push over, they played with pace and direction but in the end, the men beat the boys.
You win nothing in pre-season, some players who don’t look the business only come alive when there is something to win. If I was being critical I’d say Luke Waterfall looks much more accomplished when Sean Raggett is on the pitch, but then again they did play nigh on sixty games together last season so it stands to reason. Given the left-back situation I think the defence will always look a little more fragile that the last campaign too, any cover we get needs to get into our pattern of play. Bob Harris certainly has the ability to get up and down the line which DC likes, and with Sam Habergham sat watching in the box next to us we do need to bring someone in soon.
Going forward it is clear to see we are going to be all about getting balls into the box, and both Harry and Josh looked to cause issues all evening. With JMD’s delivery on Saturday catching the eye, and Nathan with his 14 assists last season, we are going to cause many problems for opponents. Matt Green will thrive on that supply, and we know what Rheady can do. Ollie Palmer has a point to prove, but as he gets himself aligned with our patterns of play we’ll see much more from him I’m sure. One thing to mention is that despite his stature he isn’t the stereotypical target man, I think there is more to his game than what he has from the neck up. Fans shouldn’t judge a big striker on his heading ability alone, and certainly not when they’ve seen him for 60 minutes in a friendly.
On to Walsall on Saturday, and having seen 13 goals in 180 minutes I wouldn’t advise missing it! Another piece of advice from me would be aimed at the Walsall players: don’t hang around on the ball too long otherwise Michael Bostwick will snap you in half, and if you’re not sure which one he is, he played ‘The Hound’ in Game of Thrones.
(I know the pictures are from Saturday, but you can’t expect Graham Burrell to sit up until 1am sending me photos can you? Credit him for these as well, except the one from GoT)