I asked prior to kick off if a draw would be a satisfactory result from tonight’s clash. After 85 minutes of the game, despite turning in a solid performance, it looked as though City were going to be disappointed.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man and we had plenty of former Stags looking to step forward and make their mark. Matt Green, for all his hard work, wasn’t able to find the goal. Matt Rhead, unplayable throughout in a text-book ‘big man’ performance, couldn’t find the goal. Enter Ollie Palmer, booed and chastised as he took to the field by the natives, still angry at some perceived injustice committed since he’s left them.
To be fair, Ollie hasn’t had an easy ride from some of our fans, me included, yet he just keeps popping up with crucial goals. Could tonight’s have been the most crucial of all? 1-0 down to promotion hopefuls, four points outside the play offs and about to throw a game in hand up against the wall, but with one touch he kept our league season alive. Talk of Wembley is all well and good, but the league is something everyone can enjoy and breaking into the top seven could have been a huge ask.
What’s more, it stemmed a run of back to back defeats, meaning Danny and Nicky still haven’t lost three on the bounce as City managers. It might not be a win, but I would have taken it at kick off and I’ll damn sure take it now.
Before I move on, I have to mention the man of the moment, Ollie Palmer. I’ve been highly critical of him and I’m still not sure he’s the answer to our striker issue, but by god he’s giving it a damn good go. His attitude seems excellent and most of all, he comes across as such a down to earth guy. I think he’ll be something of a cult hero at the Bank in time, another Phil ‘derby’ Daley character who has impact, however fleeting, but never gets a proper first team run.
What I like about Ollie is his honesty in interviews. He had no qualms about calling Grimsby a huge club in his interview, but in a complimentary way to Lincoln. the passion with which he said his goal had shut up the Mansfield fans wasn’t just likeable, it was endearing and made me splutter Pepsi down my hoodie. He’s raw is Ollie, unorthodox on the pitch and down to earth off it. I think his openness and personal pain which he shared recently also showed him as far more than just the gangly striker who can’t head a ball. Fans like to identify with players and I really identify with Ollie Palmer. I can’t head a ball either.
Overall it was a good team performance and the change to 4-3-3 certainly helped. I have a theory on tactics changes, I think they’re necessary to stay one step ahead. These days with the video analysis and constant internet chatter, a team can easily be dissected by opponents. To have something new in the locker is important and we showed that tonight. It doesn’t always work, I’ve not seen us switch formations as effectively, but if your opponent puts a lot of work into stopping you playing a certain way, a sure-fire method to beat that is play another way.
I was pleased to see Jordan Williams get a start, Danny must read the blog. He looked a decent prospect playing off the big man and a viable option for the weeks ahead. He’s clearly a winger, he wanted to get on the ball and beat his players, but he seemed to adapt to the change quite quickly. His signing is an odd one, we’ve got a lot of wide players currently and he’s not really had a chance. If he was permanent and we were breaking him in gently I could understand it, but I wonder if he might be a prospect for the summer. He’s got a way to go yet, but he showed perhaps why he was brought in this evening.
I can’t comment too much on Luke’s sending off, it sounds foolish, even if the bottle was thrown at him you just can’t throw it back into the crowd. I hope that it isn’t the case, but I suspect he’s dropped a bollock in the heat of the moment and his anger afterwards was as much at himself as it was anywhere else. I know Luke, having chatted to him on a few occasions I don’t believe he would have thrown it back in anger. Rheady? Sure, I can see the big man doing it, but not Luke. If evidence shows he has, it isn’t something I could defend. We’re now going to either hope James Wilson is close to fitness, or drop 4-3-3 before we’ve truly settled into it.
To be honest, considering they’re one of the top teams in this division, I thought we were excellent tonight. We matched them, if not bettered them on their own lawn and on another day should have taken all three points. I concede that we’re a striker short and maybe, just maybe a more clinical striker would have gotten us all three points. However, I trust implicitly in the bigger picture and if Danny says the right man wasn’t available then I bow to his better judgement. This isn’t the time to go over old ground though, merely a time to dig over some fresh turf. Tonight, we looked as if we wanted it. Tonight, we almost put Crewe to bed once and for all and tonight, we actually looked top seven material.
A quick message for Caroline Radford too: you say your fans are the best in the league, we brought well over 1600 tonight (pictured top) and they were the only ones I could hear singing until your goal. You might have good fans, granted but you don’t have the best. Could you sell out the away end on a Tuesday night? Could you sell over 20,000 tickets for Wembley in five days? Would your fans join in with respectful applause at an away ground after fifty minutes of football to honour a lifelong fan of the club? Our fans travel in numbers, they’re respectful, they sing until the end and, if we don’t play, they’ll just represent anywhere they can. It’s not a competition, but if it was, we’d win.
The hard work has just finished, but it starts again really quickly. We must beat Chesterfield and Grimsby if we’re serious about the play offs, there is no question whatsoever about that. We’ve stumbled and faltered but we haven’t fallen yet. 72 points will probably be the bench mark for promotion so we need six wins, arguably, to ensure our play off place. The world would be a much better place if we only needed four wins from our last nine games, in theory. These numbers aren’t set in stone, the key is winning football matches, something we’ve not been good at recently. On the form we’ve shown tonight, we might be about to rediscover that ‘refuse to lose’ mentality.
I go to bed a happy man, not a delighted one but with a fresh outlook on the previously stagnated play off assault. Not for the first time this season, Ollie Palmer has proven me wrong and every time he does, I get a little kick out of it. He unorthodox, he’s hard to defend against because, in the words of many people, even he doesn’t know what’s going to happen when he gets the ball, so defenders have no clue. He runs hot and cold, he’s single-minded to the point of outright selfishness and he belies his big man billing by not being an aerial threat. Despite all of that, he scores goals, he’s committed and honest and I like him.
There. I said it. I like Ollie Palmer. Not just for his goal, but because he’s proven me wrong and at the same time, he’s doing well for the football club I love. Good on you Ollie, now prove me wrong again, get to double figures and bring home that silverware you spoke about in the interview.
Thanks to Graham Burrell and Lincoln City for the continued use of the photos