Tuesday evening sees our quest for a place at Wembley resume as we entertain Accrington in the knock-out stages of the EFL Trophy.
Putting aside the various controversies surrounding the competition, it will be nice for many to see Lincoln in action again. Elimination from the FA Cup meant a free weekend, something we’re not entirely used to.
I’ll look at our own possible line-up and approach tomorrow, but today I wanted to look at our opponents. They’re flying high in the league at the moment and qualified for the knock out stages after beating Wigan 4-0. They finished second in their group as they lost 2-1 to Blackpool, their other result being a 3-2 win against Middlesbrough U21’s.
Seeing as you love stats (which judging by comments on views on the excellent pieces from Tom and Pajustka, you do) I thought I’d also try to bring some stats into articles, starting off today with a new feature called (as you’ll probably already have guessed): Stat Attack! How exciting, right?
First up: A funky graphic. This is the record of Accrington AWAY FROM HOME. Their home stats are not included.
This graphic shows when Accrington score their goals and the percentage of where their shots end up. If anything they do get slightly more gaols after half time, but they’re not particularly second-half specialists. You expect this from the best teams though, goals all over the pitch and at all times. Similarly their percentages of on target, off target and saved is fairly balanced. To contrast this with City’s HOME stats, we seemingly prefer a first half goal and surprisingly concede a majority of our goals after the break. The moral of the story is concentrate in the final 45 at home.
If the stats are to be believed, we may well score early or late but if we’re going to concede then it is likely they’ll score after the break. The league position chart demonstrates the size of the task in hand. This may be the Checkatrade Trophy and we may be group winners playing group runners-up, but Accrington have performed better in the league from the day it kicked off until present day. The closest we have been was September 12th after our win at Forest Green, although I wouldn’t say they’ve ever really been out of our reach. The fact remains they’re an established side at this level and just because it is the unfashionable Accrington Stanley of small crowds and low budgets means nothing.
Next is the comparison of the two teams corners, foul etc (you can see the graphic below so I’m not just going to repeat what is on it). You might be surprised to see we have a similar amount of corners, shots and shots on target. Remember though this is our home stats against their away stats. There’s very little between the two teams stats and a neutral observer, without access to the league table, might not immediately be able to tell us apart. This is testament to two things, our wastefulness in front of goal compared to their clinical finishing.
Of course this is all League analysis, how do they approach the Checkatrade Trophy? They started by fielding a reserve side, but once they needed a result to qualify it is interesting they brought Billy Kee back into the fold. Kee didn’t play against Middlesbrough or Blackpool, but he did start against Wigan only to be withdrawn after four minutes with an injury.
Their key man in the competition has been former Barnsley youth Erico Sousa. Sousa has scored three in three so far in the competition, a brace against Wigan and the only Accrington goal of the game against Blackpool. Mekhi Leacock-McLeod used the trophy as a springboard for his season, up to playing Wigan he’d only featured in five league games, but a goal and an assist saw him promoted to first team action. He’s come off the bench in every game since that 4-0 win, although he came on and off again recently against Exeter after picking up an injury. Leacock-McLeod, a former Fulham youth, was at Eastleigh last season before joining Billericay where he impressed, something he continued to do after a trial with Stanley.
Leacock-McLeod has had 21 shots in Stanley colours this season in all competitions, only six of which have been on target. 11 of those have come in the EFL Trophy. He’s a fringe player for Accrington looking to make an impression.
Sousa meanwhile was shortlisted for the EFL Trophy ‘Player of the Round’ after his brace against Wigan. The official press release said: “The 22-year-old’s only thought in the 4-0 win over Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium was to run at, and run past, defenders. After providing a perfect cross for Stanley’s first goal, he went on to score two himself, driving forward and unleashing an unstoppable low shot each time.” Whilst it all sounds very impressive, he reaped one goal from five shots against Blackpool, but has netted three from nine in all three games. He hasn’t done the business in the other competitions though, he started the FA Cup game with Guiseley and didn’t get a sniff.
It will be interesting if Stanley now start to take the EFL trophy seriously by bringing in the likes of Billy Kee, Sean McConville and Kayden Jackson. All three have been crucial to their excellent league form, but will they be left out in favour of league action, or will the recent 10-day break enjoyed by John Coleman’s men give him cause to play them? Much could hinge on their inclusion, although I’m sure it won’t alter Danny’s approach one bit. Interestingly Kee, a player with 11 goals from 25 outings, doesn’t even like football. He recently told the BBC: “In the last five weeks I’ve tried watching it more but it just winds me up. I’m not one to like football. I don’t really enjoy it. It’s strange, I love being around it and playing it but I don’t really know why I don’t enjoy it.”
Whether it is Kee and Jackson or Sousa and Leacock-McLeod, the stats say City need to keep it as tight in the second half as the first. If we can recreate the scoring form showed again Crewe and Port Vale then we can give Stanley a good run for their money and hopefully progress to the next stage, earning more prize money and getting one step closer to what would be a highly controversial first-ever Wembley appearance.