It’s been three league games without a win, but this evening at Sincil Bank, three of the best ensured that City put three more points on the season’s tally. Newport were swept aside in a comprehensive Imps display which, aside from twenty first half minutes, was organised and dominant.
I had the pleasure of accompanying Stigs, Karen and a selection of competition winners in the big box, number 9, for the evening. Beef rolls, roast potatoes and the best seats in the house which I am incredibly grateful for. I got to meet our number nine too, the big man came down for a pre-match chat with us. I snuck a photo in too, he’s one I haven’t managed to get my ginger face in a picture with yet, so that was pleasing.
It was Rheady who wrote the story of the night, but not before we’d come out of the blocks like a greyhound on speed. We attacked with a verve and tenacity not seen since the early stages of last season, looking to put the tired legs of Newport to the sword early. Half of them looked as though they were still hungover from their draw with Spurs as the first exchanges firmly belonged to us. Harry could have put us 1-0 up in the first two minutes, by the time we got to fifteen, Rheady had. The goal was pure class from front to back, Eardley sold Nouble a dummy that resulted in their big man having more egg on his face than I have on a full English. The ball was then played down the channel to Green, some might call it a long punt, but it was with precision and accuracy that would have made Mr Beckham proud. Green, a centre forward, winger and striker all rolled into one, worked a superb cross into the Rhead and he did what he does best. 1-0 City , in all seriousness I wondered if we might go on and grab six.
For some reason an early goal often throws us off our stride and it did just that. The booking for Neal Eardley didn’t help, a yellow card that was incredibly fortunate in some respects. Depending on your angle it was either a booking or a straight red and from my angle, there was no doubt. He stretched for the ball, studs up and straight into their lad. He must have bullets in his boots though because I thought their player had been shot through the heart. The referee didn’t buy it, probably his only really bad decision of the night. Neal Eardley was lucky he wasn’t sent off, we were perhaps more so as he went on to give another masterclass in football.
I thought we retreated a little until half time, Newport are a good side and they began to play a bit of football. Nouble might have been sent to school by Eardley, but he’s a good player and held the ball up well. They played some nice football too, across the final third. They’re a bit long ball to get there, but we’re living in a glass house so I won’t throw any stones. In Amond they have a player who will always get a goal if given a chance and so it came to pass. Could Paul Farman have done better with the initial shot? His doubters will say yes, I say he saved it so that is job done.
After the quick-fire start I felt a bit flat at the break, but only is as much as I thought we were the better side. We played some nice football tonight, we go to the channels quickly but not incessantly. Matt Green manages to work both, as well as the eighteen-yard area and nobody should under-estimate his contribution this evening. The two wide players were a constant threat too, Freck almost bagged a header from a corner but it hit Green on the line. That would draw some comments from Green’s doubters too, but it was just one of those things. Green can do no wrong in my eyes, he’s a complete centre forward, not a natural goal scorer but as close as you’ll ever get. I would be very, very surprised in any moves in tomorrow are for a big name who wants regular first team football, because Matt Green is a top player and should start every game he is fit.
After the break, he proved it pretty quickly. After he supplied Rhead in the first half, the favour was returned with a typical Rhead ball through. Green went one on one and did what any confident striker enjoying his football will do. I do remember saying something like ‘if he gets one, he’ll bag a hatful’ in October. Since then, he’s got eight in twelve. Not a bad return that.
The second period belonged entirely to us, whether it was solid defending or asking questions at the other end. Many were surprised when James Wilson came on, but it showed the sort of fluidity to our formation you should expect to see more of. Danny once said people get too hung up on formations and this evening proved that. Rhead came off and we went to a five man midfield, two wide players and a diamond of sorts in the centre of the park. The one area we’d been a little overrun was in front of the back four, but by switching it around it gave us a more solid feel, but took a little away from our attack. I suspect Danny hoped to keep it at 2-1 and take the points.
One thing I’ll say about James Wilson is this: he’ll be a big part of Lincoln City history. I’ve seen him play for around seventy minutes so far, in the depressing draw at Barnet and again tonight, and I see something very able in that lad. Danny said it would be hard to replace Sean Raggett, but I suspect it might have been easier than he thought. Wilson is incredibly mobile, he reads the game superbly and with Bozzie either aside him or in front of him we’re going to be incredibly tough to break down. Luke keeps his place for now, he’s done nothing wrong to warrant being dropped, but James Wilson will make the starting eleven and, when he does, he won’t lose his spot again.
I’m going to confess, when we made our next change I winced a little. Ollie Palmer came on for Matt Green and I stated, quite loudly, that was the end of our goal scoring threat. I was still talking about his ungainly manner, likening him to a long-necked zoo animal, when he fired a delicious ball through the crowd and into the net to put the game to bed. It’s a good job the lights were dimmed, because I had more egg on my face than Franck Nouble after Eardley mugged him off for the first goal. In fact, I’m not sure who’ll be washing it off longer, me or him. I’m ecstatic to be proven wrong, nothing pleases me more than Lincoln scoring and if it’s a player I’m not sold on, more fool me. Palmer brings something to the party whenever he turns up, but you never know what it is. He’s the guy who knocks on your door with a crate of lager, but when you let him in he opens it up and he’s actually concealing eight bags of quavers and a bottle of mad dog 20/20 instead. You can’t predict him, he doesn’t always have what you want, but in the end it is worth having him along.
As a person, I really quite like Ollie. His post match interview, the one where he dedicates his goal to his cousin Frankie, eleven years old and suffering from cancer, was very heart felt. I follow his Instagram and he comes across as a devoted family man and even his post match interview the other week where he said “I’m staying whether you like me or not,” showed the no-nonsense spirit and attitude I really like in a player. When he comes on, I’m not confident, but he proves me wrong so many times. He’s a great squad player and I’ll happily eat my words when he plays well.
After that we showed some superb game management. Paul Farman pulled off another class save to ensure we didn’t have twitchy bums in the last ten minutes and, thanks to the Sky TV in the boxes, we were able to laugh at Grimsby for a bit. For the record, losing 3-0 at Yeovil and having two men sent off is surely the straw that breaks Russell Slade’s tenure as manager. One player, Osbourne, was booked for fighting with his teammate and later dismissed for two yellows. We think it is bad drawing at Barnet, spare a thought for that lot up the road.
So, there you have it. Back to winning ways, two points from third with a huge clash coming up against Swindon on Saturday. They won at Stevenage tonight and have a cracking away record, but how many have we lost at the Bank in the last year? Two? Besides, do not under estimate the magnitude of tonight’s result either, Newport are a very good side and we not only contained them, we dominated them for long periods.
It was also a nice night for reunions so I hear. Jack Muldoon, Terry Hawkridge and Billy Knott were all spotted in the stands watching on, as was an unnamed midfielder from another League Two club. He was only spotted if you know what he looks like though and thankfully, I do.
Finally we’ve got the bloody football over and done with so we can concentrate on the stuff we all love, transfer gossip. Tomorrow is crazy season, moves in and out expected on a day which could define the next four months for Lincoln City. Three in, maybe two out? Possible, who knows? One thing is for sure, I’m gutted as I won’t be near a computer until 1pm at the earliest. Rest assured though, once I am I will be striving to bring you the usual speculation, coverage and pretending I didn’t know what was happening that I save for every deadline day.