“This is a battle between two styles, the direct approach of Lincoln City against League Two’s slickest side, Exeter City.”
That’s not verbatim, I couldn’t remember the exact wording, but little over thirty seconds after turning on my TV I wanted to throw something through it. Nobody had done their home work, not one person involved in bringing you this game live. It felt like a badly produced student project, from the ‘studio’ to the knowledge. I went on the Lincoln Uni programme earlier in the season and the production was ten times better on that than on Sky’s appalling programme.
As you know, I’m forced to endure the play-offs through my TV screen and it isn’t an experience I ever want to repeat. I haven’t watched a live game on Sky TV for well over a decade I’d say, if not more. £12.99 a week pass to Now TV cost me, which is around the same I’d pay almost everyone involved with the programme. Combined.
You can’t polish a turd and the first half was, in the main, a turd. Jayden Stockley had the best chance but as Exeter fans warned me, if it isn’t near his head he’s useless. So, the slickest passing side in the division teed up a cross for the striker and he completely missed the ball. The commentator, whose name I deliberately didn’t catch, was gutted.
Up the other end City had two penalty shouts and a free kick waved away by Ben Toner, a referee praised for keeping his cards in his pockets. He was only doing so to prevent his arse getting splinters, he sat on the fence for so long. “It’s his first play-off game and he’s handling it well,” the commentor gushed, moments before he bottled a blatant shove on Elliott in the area.
What he had bottled was a kick to James Wilson’s face by Ryan Harley, and I’m keen to know what the rules on high boots are. Seb Stockbridge sent Billy Knott off for one which I didn’t think he should have done, but Harley didn’t even get a yellow as he booted Wilson in the face. Which is it? Is it a foul, a red card or nothing at all?
Then there was the shove on Elliott, a penalty all day long. I’ve seen them given, I’ve seen them waved away, but this afternoon every single comparable ‘shove’ outside the area was penalised. So, at what point does a shove stop being a foul? In the area, apparently. Toner is being fast-tracked up the divisions, one of the perks of not going up this season.
Seconds later Rhead was wrestled to the floor, no penalty. Toner got that right, Rhead played for it and went down far too easily. Mind you, a stopped clock is right twice a day so let’s not blow too much smoke up the referee’s bottom.
Anderson was then blatantly checked on the edge of the area by Dean Moxey, again nothing given. Lee Hendrie, the only pundit with an ounce of sense, claimed it was the wrong decision. Moxey watched the run and, at last minute, stepped across our player without looking at the ball. In this modern game you cannot do that. Or, apparently, you can.
We went in at 0-0, Matt Green’s twist and shot our only half chance from open play and a rare free-kick on target our best from set pieces. I’ve griped about the referee, but it wasn’t his fault we were 0-0, he was just crap. If he’d been a good ref we might have had a penalty, but we hadn’t done enough to open up an organised Exeter side.
At half time Matt Taylor was asked if he felt either side did anything different to expectation. “No, not really.” he replied, as insightful as I expected. He followed that up with; “Lincoln are trying to play it around in the final third though, they need to keep going long to Matt Rhead.” Of course we do, we’re not living up to our billing are we? No mention of the so-called passing side of Exeter going long to the sole striker Stockley, no mention of it being two sides cancelling each other out at all.
I would tell you what Stuart McCall said, but I’ve listened to his detritus about City before so I went to the loo. With my back and our stairs, the took ten minutes, a true blessing.
In the second half we saw fifteen minutes of the proper Lincoln City. Christy Pym was having a great game, claiming crosses which have troubled most other keepers we’ve seen this season, including our own. He made two great saves from Matt Green too, one resulting in Elliott tapping over with a gaping goal. Yes, the pressure was on and the Sky fools spoke about how great the saves were, but few plaudits went on the moves, slick passing that could have made it 1-0. It was all about Pym, not Matt Green.
They made much more of Rhead’s crashing header a few minutes afterwards because it fitted their narrative. The big lump is great in the air, etc etc. I was so angry I considered putting it on mute and having Radio Lincolnshire on, but when I tried it my Now TV feed was four or five seconds behind the commentary. It was almost better than going back to Hendrie and his dribbling accomplice, but eventually I popped away a Tramadol and two Diazepam and sat back hoping they would sort the pain in my ears more than that in my back.