There’s a collection of clichés used to describe football and tonight, I’ve heard plenty. Game of two halves, you make your own luck, the trick to being successful is winning when playing badly.
Only one of those truly describes Lincoln City in the aftermath of the 2-1 victory over Bury, the last one. Successful sides win games in which they have been below par and for at least fifty minutes of this game, I thought we were below par.
this was never going to be an easy game, Bury have good players and their performances ta both MK Dons and Forest showed they’re resolute away from home. Anyone who thought they might come here and shut up shop was sorely mistaken though. Still, there is an air of expectancy around our fan base and the fact is very few people would have expected anything other than a win this evening. That wouldn’t be arrogant or disrespectful, but our early form and recruitment makes us favourites at a packed Sincil Bank for virtually any game we play at the moment.
There’s only so much tinkering one team can take though and in having flexibility, we perhaps have an Achilles heel too. I was incredibly surprised to see Matt Rhead start and for us to set up in a 4-3-3. Last season, when the players were tired and we needed to be strong and direct, 4-3-3 worked. Right now, with McCartan, Akinde, Anderson and Wharton on the bench, I’m not sure it would be my first choice of set up, nor my second. Or third.
4-3-3 is a formation in which width is at a premium, it relies on the players either side of the front man to get into the wide positions
4-3-3 is a formation in which width is at a premium, it relies on the players either side of the front man to get into the wide positions, but surely it also relies on that front man being mobile enough to then make use of himself in the space they vacate? Am I wrong there? Whatever the issue was, after fifteen minutes or so, everything went a bit awry.
The first exchanges were good, I don’t subscribe to this ‘terrible first half, great second half’ analysis I’m seeing everywhere. Bury were clearly up for the game, on the ball they looked very good and they weren’t afraid to carry it forward and probe at our back four. On the other hand both Tom Pett and Ellis Chapman looked good for us, Ellis made the odd slip, nerves perhaps, but on the whole he looked very comfortable. Their keeper made several good saves, one from a header which looked like giving us a nice lead. Not long after we had a passage of pressure broken up by Rhead getting clattered and that seemed to flick a switch.
After that we were, for want of a better word, woeful. Pett and Chapman were getting on the ball, but there were few options for them to aim for. The more we dropped possession, the more we looked uncertain and at the back we were positively awful. Bostwick and Shackell played like two players who have only just met and the full backs were unable to offer width because Bury kept men forward. I thought the Shakers looked good and when they scored it was no less than they deserved. The goal was sloppy, not once or twice but three or four times. We failed to clear a ball that could have gone out easily, we didn’t deal with a corner and then we didn’t deal with another. Take nothing away from the visitors, they sensed we were off it and they pressured the right areas.
When the whistle went for the end of the half it was a relief to not have to watch such disjointed football, passing going astray, runs made in the wrong areas and basic errors littering our play. If you were one of the people who booed around me, and it was only one or two, don’t come again. Cheers.
We lacked industry in front of the back four, we lacked an Alex Woodyard mopping up
Half time was a period of reflection and on the whole the main players who impressed were Pett, Ellis and Matt Green. Green worked tirelessly and I thought if we had got a goal, he would get it. Ellis didn’t look like a 17-year old making his home debut and Tom Pett cut a dejected figure trying to pull the strings, but failing. We lacked industry in front of the back four, we lacked an Alex Woodyard mopping up. It’s ironic last season we had two, Bozzie and Alex, tonight where they should be there was a huge space.
I didn’t like to see their subs land the ball on our groundsman’s head at half time, but the lad stood up for himself well. I thought there might be a dust up at one point and as our lad had a rake and the Bury player didn’t, it was only going one way.
The group I sit with talked about possible substitutes and I suggested perhaps Ellis should come off, purely as a tactical switch, but I confidently remarked; Danny won’t do that because it might affect him adversely. Lo and behold, he did it.
Ellis hadn’t played badly, not at all, but the 4-3-3 didn’t work and he was the fall guy. Of the two, Tom Pett had the better first half, but Ellis was really unlucky to come off. As soon as Harry came on though, we had width. Tom Pett’s commanding display continued.