Top of the League: Imps 3-1 Notts County

There’s something about football which always leaves me fearing the worst. It’s an inbuilt pessimism that sees a side lose 4-0 to Yeovil and makes me think ‘they’ll come good against us’. 

That’s probably why when I got asked about the match before kick off I predicted a win, perhaps 2-1 but a tight game. I thought it would be a challenge, Dennis, Hemmings and Boldewijn are all class players and with Vaughan pulling the strings I thought we might struggle. When I saw the team sheet, a tentative 4-3-3 again, I was equally as fearful. We’d lacked width against Bury and this line up looked to offer the same problems.

It’s fair to say I was wrong.

I thought we started really confidently, the patterns of play were nice and it was clear their right back Tootle wasn’t quite fit. Andrade scared the life out of him, he probably would have done fully fit but when you’re coming back from injury the last thing you want is him running at you. we had pace, movement and fluidity.

None of that can account for the opening goal though, a sumptuous strike from Freck which showed his utter class. He’s one that has come in for some undue stick in recent weeks, but that ball was struck so sweetly and instinctively that there was only ever one outcome. He likes a game against County, he scored the last team we beat them (before today), he scored last season and he got the pick of the bunch today.

It was, for twenty minutes, much the same as the Swindon game. we controlled the play through clever midfield work, Frecklington and Pett in particular were impressive. Andrade made their players nervous whenever he had the ball and although we got less joy down the right, we were still causing problems. Their goal came against the run of play, but it sparked some belief in them.

It was a sloppy one to concede and I imagine our lads will be sick of seeing it on the video screen on Monday. It was a decent enough strike and I’m not sure there was much Grant Smith.

From there we drifted for ten minutes or so, a few sloppy passes and a bit of loose play had me wondering if it was Bury in reverse; we score and then fall apart. Instead, we snatched the advantage and once we had, the result was never really in doubt.

I thought Akinde played his part well for the second goal. The joy came from the right, but John was a huge presence in the area and caused panic between keeper and defender. Normally, that ball gets collected comfortably, but he did what he had to do for it to break loose. Bruno still had plenty of work to do, but his finish was smart and clever. At 2-1, there was only one winner.

I don’t want to pull County down too much as it may do us a disservice, but they’re clearly low on confidence and luck. Losing their centre half and then the right back to injury meant square pegs in round holes and that was evident in the way they defended. I thought we could have taken a wider lead before we got our third, not because we were rampant but because we were comfortable. There wasn’t a thought we might get five or six, County are bad but they’re not woeful. When the third went in, yet again with Andrade involved, the game was over.

I was surprised at County, they offered little and even Boldewijn was ineffective. You can see why he would be a handful, he’s a pretty big lump but moves quickly and with a certain intent, but he was shackled really well. I thought at the back we were solid, Bozzie and Shackell looked far better than they did on Tuesday night and Grant Smith is essentially sticking one finger up at Sam Slocombe. League One starter were you? whatever, you’re not having my shirt. Fair play to Smith, his distribution is good and he’s a decent shot stopper too.

This is a quick blog, I’m off to the Plough in Nettleham tonight for some Greek food and I am meant to be getting ready right now…

I have to say that although Freck got Man of the Match, and he was excellent, I thought Andrade would have been a worthy winner. He has terrifying pace, but a nice range of tricks and an end product. When we signed him I said he could be the big signing of the summer, I stand by that.

I thought Akinde had a good game, he gets accused of being lazy but he’s one of those lumbering centre forwards who don’t look to be doing much, but are. He worked hard, he won lots of balls and he was involved in the second and third goals. What more do we want from him?

I thought Neal Eardley had to work to make things happen today, he wasn’t at it in the first half and I noticed him and Harry have a couple of exchanges. I don’t mind players having a pop at each other, it shows passion. as long as they don’t end up carrying it on, it is healthy. Neal improved second half, maybe the threat diminished somewhat, but he picked up his levels for sure.

As for a player from the County side I’d like in ours, on today’s performance I wouldn’t take any of them. It sounds ridiculous to say that given their talent, but they were all off the pace. I rave about Boldewijn and on his day he’d be great for us, but they had a bad day at the office. They were unlucky with injuries, they played a Lincoln side with a point to prove after Tuesday (even though we won) and they’re lacking confidence.

If someone had offered us 13 points from five games, we would have left them with a stump for a hand, but here we are in second gear and already top of the pile. No, we don’t get carried away because we will have a wobble, but today was a professional performance, clinical, entertaining and as comfortable as we’ll see against the big teams in the league.

Up next MK Dons and Exeter, albeit with some cup games too, but if we’re on 16 points or more once those games are over, I think every single one of us will be forced to suppress little giggles of joy. For now, we’ll enjoy being top of League Two which, I think, is the first time we’ve led outright since Jamie Forrester put us there in the 2006/07 season. I don’t think we were top at any point last season, happy to be corrected.

I know one thing, Saturday nights are far easier to enjoy under Danny Cowley than they ever have been before. Long may it continue.

Glad to see the problems around the ground were improving today too. I’ll give an update on the Supporters Board stuff tomorrow.

4 Comments

  1. Andrade was my man of the match by a country mile today, took his goal well and a good run and cross to set up our third. I think his contributions throughout the season will play a big part in our second league title in three seasons.

  2. Excellent article Gary. I had an apprehension about the game, and expressed a slight (only slight – how can anyone be unhappy about the big picture)concern about a potential lack of width. In the event I was excited by the strength of the performance (team and individuals) and the play down the wings. Super performance! Incidentally I can remember Danny saying last season that he had chosen to make the pitch minimum width for tactical reasons – I would be interested to know whether this has changed this season.

  3. Only at the final whistle is a 2 1 score line safe, we always needed the third to give us a bit of of a cushion. May be the language used to describe the goalkeeper situation might be considered unnecesary. The tinker man seems to be doing OK and probably planning a fair amount of tinkering for Tuesday! 😃

  4. Not getting carried away but we do seem to have a massive heart with passion and an abundance of leaders all over the pitch something county were sadly lacking in.
    Its frightening that we are picking up points without playing to our full potential Eards for one not at his high standards.

    Nice to hear Danny in his post match interview have a little reference to those doubterswho have questioned certain players such as John Akinde, stop moaning, get behind your team and place your trust in the Cowleys after all you could be watching your football at Meadow Lane.

    Be careful what you wish for!

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