It’s a start and in truth, it’s a bloody good one. By that I mean it is a good result and I’m a big believer in the result being the only thing that truly matters.
That’s probably for the best because on another day we could have lost 4-1.
I’m not being critical, football being the game it is dictates that at the end of 90 minutes the only thing that truly matters is the result. We weren’t terrible and on the opening day against a squad comprising of League One quality players in extreme heat, we were never going to give the best account of ourselves, especially when half of our team were new and playing a system they looked ill at ease with.
I know some might think I’m going to be too critical, all I’m going to do is tell you how I saw the game, a game we won 1-0 and a game that left me thoroughly delighted on the way home. One thing I know you want from me is honesty, is that not right?
For the first 15 minutes we may as well not have been on the pitch, Northampton looked full of ideas, we looked uncomfortable and edgy. Across the back we made rudimentary mistakes, two of which left Josh Vickers with big saves to make. I remember glancing up at the clock with 18 minutes gone wondering what we were going to have to do to force their keeper to make a save.
As the first half wore on it was clear both sides were struggling with the conditions, Northampton ran out of ideas whilst we didn’t seem to have any from the get go. My presumption is we’d come to contain, not to settle for a point but to let them have all the possession they wanted in front of our final third, but limit them to just that. It worked, to a degree, they passed it sideways and got little joy, in fact their only real route to goal, other than our errors, was a big boot over the top.
The 3-5-2 that we set out with did seem to leave Neal Eardley and Toffolo exposed at times, maybe in cooler conditions Wilson and Wharton would be out quicker to cover, but Northampton got joy on the flanks. Sam Hoskins impressed me, he looked lively and quick and had the beating of Toffolo time and again.
In patches you could see what we’re going to be about though. The Matt Green and John Akinde partnership wasn’t evident today, but for me Green was only beaten to man of the match by one rather obvious candidate. Last season’s leading scorer looked full of running and was often found in the channels where he spent most of last season. Once or twice we knocked a nice 20-yard ball from inside our own half and in-between the full back and centre half. Both Green and Akinde latched on to a couple and although little came of it, it deviated from the usual diagonal we’ve enjoyed so much joy with before.
From a neutral point of view, there wasn’t much to cheer in those first 45 minutes. Toffolo showed his attacking prowess with a vicious strike that fizzed just over the bar, but that was the closest we came to testing their keeper. At the other end, we’ve got a new orange superhero who was alive and alert when his defence sold him short. Dean Austin had done his homework and the Northampton forwards knew all about balls back to the keeper. Still, Josh Vickers is the best keeper in this division and he proved it today.
Immediately after half time everything burst into life. I’d just bought my third tepid bottle of Coke (don’t they have fridges in Northampton) for £2.40 each and taken my seat when Neal Eardley picked up where he left off last season, creating goals. Matt Green did the same, finishing the cross in from the right with a stooping header to steal the thunder on John Akinde’s competitive debut. In truth, his all-round game had outshone our record signing anyway.
That sparked rather crazy scenes as a Lincoln fan in the home end suddenly cheered, sparking a bit of a brawl. At first it seemed as though they were fighting amongst themselves, before the truth became apparent. The police chucked our boy out, then went in for the Cobblers fans too, one of them a 50-something woman with more aggression than any of the 22 players had shown.