I’m moving on, I’ve said enough about the weekend now. Injustice is one thing but I’ll only make it worse by continually raking over the burning embers of our anger. We’ve got a chance to bounce back quickly this evening, and thanks to suspensions our team selection will be very interesting.
There are a couple of key decisions Danny has to make tonight, one of them in between the sticks which isn’t something we’ve had to be concerned about before. I say ‘concerned’, I don’t think that is the right word. Paul Farman is a good keeper and he has come in for some wildly unfair criticism in recent weeks, not least in the light of their first goal on Saturday which he wasn’t at fault for at all. I’d say Lincoln fans love a scapegoat but I think it is football fans in general. Those who want their scapegoats to be one of their own seem to have settled on Farms recently.
It does make me wonder if Danny might play Josh Vickers tonight to take Farms out of the firing line. It would be harsh, perhaps he was at fault for Mansfield’s goal but before the ball gets anywhere near him there are opportunities to stop it. Blaming a keeper for a mistake is easy, if he makes an error of judgement it is invariably punished. Nobody cried for Sean Raggett to be dropped when he almost gifted Luton a goal did they? Let’s not forget had Farms not shepherded Danny Hylton out wide immediately after that slip we may well have lost that game also.
Still, something tells me tonight will be the first league game Paul Farman hasn’t started for Lincoln this season, but not due to so-called poor form. Danny is a good man-manager and when Farms remonstrated with a fan at the end of the County game it perhaps signalled he was a little low on confidence. If Danny thinks it will help, Farms will get a break. If he thinks it will destroy his confidence then he won’t.
The other key decision comes in the ten role just behind Matt Green. Danny had finally decided to take the plunge and drop Billy in there, and I thought it was working well until the decision on Saturday. We’d created a few chances and we weren’t going long, but that progression has been halted for now. Will Matt Rhead be brought back into the fold? Or will it be Ollie Palmer dropping behind Matt Green? I’m going to suggest that neither might be the choice, it could be a third man. Matt Rhead has been dropped recently because of mobility issues I think, he’s a great footballer that struggles to keep up with the pace of the game at times. Ollie Palmer is a big lad but he can’t win a header as effectively as Rheady, and so playing him in the ten is a brave call. For me it needs to be someone a bit more creative, if it isn’t Rheady with a flick on it needs to be a playmaker, a player with something unpredictable up his sleeve, but with a robust element to his approach.
Elliott Whitehouse has been nothing more than a walk-on character in the story of this season, but it could be his chance to shine. He’s at home in that ten role, he played up top for England C and given our shift in focus he might just be the man to fill in for Billy in his absence. Elliott has a nice touch but more importantly he has a knack of finding the right space at the right time. If we’re coming in to feet around the 18-yard area he could be the man to lay the ball off and then peel away into an effective position. Against Mansfield and Luton Danny wanted Rheady for the long ‘out ball’, our focus was on not conceding over and above our attacking. Tonight, Barnet are a team we need to be attacking on the front foot, and if they come set up to defend a long ball we might just surprise them by playing Elliott. He’d get my shout. Having said all of that I suspect Danny will go with Matt Rhead.
Another player that has been reduced to cameo appearances recently is Jordan Maguire-Drew. A few weeks ago I called him being ‘rested’ for a short spell to take the pressure off, but I’m sensing he might be forcing himself back into the picture. With Nathan out injured we need the option from the bench at the very least and Imps fans have yet to see what the fuss is about with JMD. I fully expect Ginnelly and Harry Anderson to start on the flanks, but as one tires JMD is going to be the go-to guy on the bench. I have a feeling some fans have already written him off as another Tom Champion, a player that simply won’t cut it in a City shit, but JMD isn’t on a short-term loan and I promise you we’ll see much more of him in a City shirt. Last season Harry Anderson had a spell on the bench and he came back in devastating form, I think we’ll see the same from JMD very soon.
I can’t see much else changing, Sam will continue at left back and I suspect Neal Eardley will stay at right back. I said it before, Sean Long’s injury took away a dilemma for Danny and I suspect that is still the case. Sean is working his way back to full fitness but in the meantime I think we’ll see a settled back four. That means no place for Luke Waterfall again, something that might be of concern to him. He’s a proper professional and a dedicated player who’ll be working hard, but the emergence of Rob Dickie (pictured top) does leave Luke somewhat marginalised. My only gripe with Rob is his distribution is often off the mark, but I can see real signs of promise in his all-round game. He’s quick and reads the game well.
Of course the calls for a settled defence might seem a bit premature given that the four players I’m championing conceded four goals on Saturday, but consistency is king and the sooner we can find a stable back four for a run of games the better.
I think anyone clamouring for wholesale changes is missing the point, the start to the season has been very good, especially when you consider where we were at the end of August. We’ve had an incredibly tough run of games which now looks to ease, and the players that have gotten us where we are now have not done anything wrong. We’ve competed very well against some of the best sides in this league, some very expensively assembled sides and in Notts County a very slick and organised side. We’re 12th, not 19th, not bottom but 12th. Many are claiming that a 12th place finish would constitute a good season, so why on earth when we’re on track as we are would people start shouting for changes? It defies logic and reason, truly it does.
Our team will shift and organically change over the season, but the managers that make wholesale changes after a decent start such as ours are the managers that don’t understand players personalities and man-management. We won’t see players dropped for making a mistake, whether it is an actual mistake or a mistake only in the eyes of the pundit sat in the safety of the stands. At present we’re on course and a good result tonight will see us tucked in the chasing pack nicely as we approach the sharper evenings and darker nights. Of the two sides that came up I certainly know which one I’d rather be, Danny Cowley won’t be losing a dressing room through calling out players in the media or dropping them as he sees fit. I think those calling for wholesale changes need to just take a step backwards and have a good long look at the league table and the fixtures we’ve already completed. We have played 9 games, six of those were against teams in the top ten. The three games that were not against the better sides brought us seven points. Perspective.