All the way home from the game I’ve been pushing the positives. I’ve written a positive headline, we’re 10th just three points outside the play-offs and we’re unbeaten in four games also. As far as form, position and defending goes I think we’re in a good place.
So, allow me to start with a couple of negatives would you? It won’t be all the way through the blog, nor am I one who is just going to write something innately inaccurate and general like ‘Green is crap’, because Green is not crap. Green is low on confidence in front of goal, but he’s a very good, hard-working footballer.
Gripe One: Billy Knott is, for want of a better pun, Knott a winger. He’s a talented boy but he isn’t a wide player. I believe that we have some fine wide players at the club, we’ve got four from a squad of twenty players which is 20%. However, one of those fine wingers is not Billy. It is frustrating to watch us play our game with wingers that are not offering width. You know when we did offer width today? When Nathan came on. He didn’t have time to make an impact, but as soon as he came on Sam advanced and the link up play started. Maybe Nathan has been carrying a knock which may be why he didn’t get the nod from the off, but we must utilise the width more effectively. Obviously having Harry injured isn’t ideal, with a small squad we need our best players fit.
Gripe Two: Ollie Palmer and Matt Green can’t play as a front pairing. I believe, judging by the work rate, that Matt was playing the number nine, up front working the channels and looking for openings, whereas Palmer was meant to be playing behind him looking for flick-ons? Or was Palmer meant to be playing alongside Green? I may see a different game to many but in Matt Green I see a hard-working player low on confidence in front of goal but not letting it affect him too much. In Ollie Palmer I see a player looking to cement his run in the first team with a goal whatever the cost. If that means getting his head down and running at goal without a moment’s thought for who is around him, so be it. I’ve seen social media comments tonight suggesting Woodyard and Bostwick, two of the best players on the park today, can’t play together. Rubbish, look further up the field for a perfect example of two similar players unable to form a partnership.
When did we look best today? When Matt Rhead came on and Nathan Arnold also. It might be mean us being more direct than we’d like, but Rheady wins headers in the ten role for players to feed off. I could feel Matt Green’s smile as the big man took up a position just in front of him. Rheady has been written off by many, maybe I’ve even had him down as no more than an impact sub, but after today maybe that is premature. He came on, he won headers up front and at the back and he lifted the crowd. If Palmer and Green can’t play together then maybe Rheady and Green can. If you think dropping Matt Green is the answer then you’ve been watching very different games to me and you understand how football works in a very different way to me also.
I don’t like to pull my team down but I do want to call it as I see it. I alluded to Woodyard and Bozzie being two of the best players on the park and I stick by that. There’s this guy that sits in front of me, face as red as a beetroot from all of the hating he does, vein pumped out across his forehead and over his skull. He’s about 60 and I swear he’ll drop dead one day with all the hate he saves for Alex. I wonder if he’s blind as well as angry and red, because he started with the anti-Woodyard bile this afternoon. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again next week; Alex Woodyard was the best player on the pitch today. He dictates our play, he controls the ball and the pace of play superbly. He always looks to switch from side to side where possible, something that midfielders from 1986 until 2016 were berated for not doing in Imps colours. I love the little drop of the shoulder he gives when receiving the ball, opponents don’t know which way to go and his brain is quick enough to ensure he’s one step ahead of their thinking.
Along with Bozzie we have a really solid heart to our team, the grizzly bugger doesn’t do anything fancy but he mops up any mess. If there is a tackle to be made and Alex can’t do it by buzzing around like an angry blue-bottle, Big Daddy Hair steps forward and makes that challenge for him. Bozzie didn’t lose a header today, he barely missed a tackle and if he gets the ball, he lays it off to someone in space. It might be simple but it does contribute heavily to clean sheets. Can we play with two so-called defensive midfielders in the side? Obviously, we’re tenth in the table and three points from the play-offs. We’ve got creativity in the team, we’ve got players ahead of them to score goals we just need to find the method of doing so.
In truth, if we had a number ten that could head the ball like Michael Bostwick can I suspect we’d score more goals.
Luke had a superb game, especially given his time out ‘resting’. I actually thought we looked more of a threat from diagonal set-pieces than we do when Raggs is in the side, that isn’t a criticism of anyone either. Luke showed great application and attitude today and Danny has a big headache on Tuesday. For my money, Luke did enough to stay in the team, but how could you drop Dickie? Aside from the odd stray pass he’s been as good as any of our centre backs last season. If DC leaves Raggs on the bench it might encourage Norwich to take him back in January, what would you do? I think Luke will have to bide his time until Christmas and see what happens, but he spent time in the stands under Chris Moyses and he returned to captain an FA Cup Quarter-Final side. He’s not done, not by a long way.
Neal Eardley was outstanding once again, a cool head and a player whom is incredibly important to the side. Someone questioned how I called a full-back as one of our five most important players, it’s his versatility as well as his individual performance. He’s like two players, providing cover but also turning in great performances. Across the back we were solid today, Neal Eardley is a vital component of that. Cambridge had big lumps up top, if balls came in regularly they’d score eventually. The full backs had to cut off at source, Neal did that extremely well. Sam wasn’t terrible, Danny didn’t mention him when talking about our good performers today which I thought was a tiny bit harsh on him. Both full-backs struggled from their wingers not being on their game, Neal just reacted better to it than Sam. When Nathan came on it brought something out in Sam that Josh had been unable to do.
Josh Ginnelly ran until his legs would let him run anymore, but so does Mo Farah and it isn’t enough in itself to be effective. Josh is learning all the time though, but today wasn’t his day. As I mentioned Billy isn’t a winger, his inclination is to come inside and until he’s in the ten role we won’t see the best of him. He wasn’t today but he was a bit sloppy, he played at least two balls blind and gave possession away.
Josh Vickers did what he needed to do when asked. Jordan Maguire-Drew came on too. We’ve yet to see what he can do. I promise you I haven’t copied and pasted that from every other blog I’ve done this season. I’m not convinced the blond kid Brighton have sent us is the same one that turned our for Dagenham last season. Maybe if he had a chance on the left flank, being left footed, we’d see the best of him.
Look, this might not have been an inspiring home victory but you must remember scenes like last season, the sort that actually warrant Sweet Caroline, do not happen every week. We’ve lost once at home in a year, I remember when we used to lose once at home whenever we played at home. In a 46-game season there is grind, there are matches which test the patience of the fans and there are performances that do not do justice to the players on the field. Sometimes I’ve watched players that barely seem to recognise each other play for Lincoln, players whom I wouldn’t fear if I came up against them in a pub five-a-side. That isn’t our squad of today, that isn’t what we have now. The reason it is easy to be critical is because the bar was set so high last season and because the quality in our squad makes the fans believe we are capable of so much more. Yes, we need a striker, you think Danny doesn’t know that? He tried to sign Simeon Akinola (scored today for Barnet) and if rumour is to be believed Ollie Hawkins (scored twice for Portsmouth today). Those players would not just fill the bench, they wouldn’t just provide cover, they’d add value to the side. Anyone Danny brings in must add value and make us better, those exacting standards are what has us just outside the play-offs in League Two, and even if they’ve meant we have a squad of 20 and not 23, they’ve clearly done us well so far.
Yes, I’ve been negative about some aspects of today, that is the nature of post-match analysis. However, you will not find me criticising anything as a whole, certainly nothing that Danny Cowley has done or will do. I want a manager that gets value for money, I want a club that is both frugal and progressive. I want a team that is competing at the right end of the table, looking to catch teams above in order to progress not to save our skins. I understand there will be matches that I walk away from thinking ‘that was turgid’, and if those matches form part of a four-match unbeaten run then that’s not a bad place to be in, is it? The nature of the football fan is to be critical when matches are not won, the nature of Lincoln City in 2017 is to get better, one game at a time. I hate these ‘last season’ comparisons, but this weekend last season we drew 0-0 with Guiseley in the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round, and the weekend after we drew 0-0 with Eastleigh in front of just over 3,000 people, believing that was a great result. How is that for 12 months progress?
The small changes off the pitch are beginning to pile up too, aren’t they? Music in the Fan Zone for instance, such tiny little thing but something the adds to the atmosphere. Also, behind the Stacey West the cars were using a different gate meaning foot traffic and motor traffic was separated. It seems so simple, ‘open another gate’, but it has taken best part of six years to figure out. It just proves that a different pair of eyes looking at a situation will spot things that are blindingly obvious to anyone that hasn’t spent the last six years looking at them.
Cambridge? Big lumps, decent side but if I’m honest mid-table fodder nothing more. I was worried about Ibehre but he seemed to only be effective if we let the ball bounce three times so he could hold our players off. He was lucky too, by the letter of the law he could have been sent off for his little movement towards a fan at the end, however justified it was. I did like Piero Mingola, he had a stinging effort saved and looked quite lively, and I thought Medy Elito was quite effective too. The forwards were kept quiet all game by our defenders, but Ikpeazu would be a really good addition to our side with his physicality and a bit of mobility too. Outside of that nobody stood out as brilliant, they played alright, no better than say, Carlisle or even Morecambe.
Finally, and this isn’t an attack on Casey, but Sweet Caroline after a 0-0 draw with Cambridge? Really? Singing in the stands to celebrate a mid-season draw against a mid-table team? I might just be a bit grouchy but the shine is being taken off the song by playing it all the time. I used to associate it with those magical days of April this year, topping the table and heading for success. I don’t remember it being played after the 0-0 draw with Eastleigh though, I’m beginning to wonder if maybe we’ve had all the other CD’s pinched? Pre-match, post-match I’m surprised it isn’t piped into the toilets and the bar areas, I’m surprised we’re not required to change our ringtones to it and then ring each other at half time so we can all sing along in a never-ending state of Neil Diamond inspired insanity. I feel forever doomed to have someone I don’t know sing the words ‘so good, so good’ (words Neil doesn’t even sing in the song) at me even when we’ve lost 1-0 to Mansfield, forever finding my Facebook feed clogged up by someone who has heard one of the most played songs ever somewhere, anywhere and then felt the bloody need to tell the world all about it, 24 hours a day 7 days a week……. Guess what I just heard in the supermarket, on holiday, in a bar, on the radio of a house I walked past, in the background on a TV show, on my dog’s vet’s receptionist’s radio, anywhere, everywhere, Neil Diamond everywhere…… everywhere….. ‘so good, so good’……
JUST STOP IT NOW