The Imps have a markedly different pre-season schedule to most of their League Two rivals, having played four Championship sides over the last fortnight.
That testing part of pre-season came to an end today against a strong Blackburn side, City losing 1-0 in a game that once again, means nothing. Before I go on I really do want to stress that, in a year’s time people will almost certainly remember we played Blackburn, but perhaps not remember the score itself.
With a run of three defeats (four I believe if we count the four 30 minute quarters against Hull City), City are showing relegation form. At least that is what I joked on the way out of the ground having seen a game akin to the Norwich match. It was slow and laboured, a victim of the heat and humidity as much as anything. Let’s face it, today was warm. I came home and have mild sunstroke, I didn’t have to run around out there. Sat in the stands with our cool drinks and occasional shade, it is easy to comment. Running around in the searing heat is certainly much harder than it looks.
I have a few fairly obvious observations. We seemed to lose the battle in the centre of the park today, allowing Blackburn time on the ball in that area. That said, we didn’t have Michael Bostwick or Michael O’Connor in the side, two players you would expect to feature prominently. One of them sitting in the hole in front of the defence would have changed things significantly, but they didn’t play.
Bearing in mind Blackburn had their full side out at various points in the game, is there any real wonder they had the better of the play? Bradley Dack has been valued around the £10m mark and Rovers should find themselves in the top half of the Championship this season, so why would they not dictate play? The fact we came away with such a narrow result is something to be pleased with, not to cause alarm.
I thought we looked good across most of the back four, nothing the introduction of Scott Wharton won’t help. He played well for Blackburn whilst on the field, but cause arguably the biggest cheer of the afternoon from my mouth just before 5pm when he signed a season-long loan deal. Personally, I think James Wilson is a strong centre half, but he’s come in for some stick. You know Imps’ fans, a minority are never happy unless there’s someone to blame it all on. Wilson is one, Matt Green is another.
I’ve already seen a post calling for Matt Green to be dropped, after three friendlies before we’ve entered August. This afternoon he put in a real shift, bombing all over the place and looking to run the channels. It’s a fledgling partnership he has with John Akinde and one I’m sure that will improve, but this afternoon only one of them seemed to be making the runs. Akinde is a game behind his team-mate though, his strength and awareness was sharp but their understanding has not yet formed. It will, they’re both good footballers, but if anyone thinks Matt Rhead and John Akinde should start together upfront they’re failing to understand what components make up a dynamic strike partnership.
If I had a gripe, which given it was a friendly and nothing really mattered other than accruing fitness, I thought Blackburn got too much joy down their right flank. Elliott Bennett, a wide man with 41 League One appearances to his name last year, was offering an out ball all the time and once or twice he dumped Harry Toffolo on his arse as he twisted and turned on the ball. If it had been a league match I imagine it would have been different, the threat would have been identified earlier and we would have maybe even countered it in pre-match preparation, but it was an observation.
It’s worth remembering that in Lancashire local press, this game was billed as a chance for Blackburn’s forwards to show case their talents, coming off the back of a friendly against Liverpool in which the defence had their run out. As well as the scorer Joe Nuttall, a big lump of a forward who spurned one decent chance before he did find the net, they had Danny Graham too. He scored 14 League One goals last season and once commanded a fee of £5m. Context is required when looking at these games, not just a rudimentary glance at a score line and ill-informed comments about creativity.
Granted, we didn’t create an awful lot going forward, but the visitors had Charlie Mulgrew, Darragh Lenihan, Paul downing and a host of other players featuring at various times who will be Championship regulars. we did find our usual route to goal available, one free kick resulted in Luke Waterfall almost giving us the lead, but in the main we were thwarted going forward. In the first half I thought Andrade looked lively, every time I see him in an Imps shirt I get excited, but with Akinde and Green still feeling each other out we did look less effective than we have.
Next Page: More exclusive shots from Graham Burrell and more of me saying stuff about football you know to be true.