So after a much-changed Imps side crashed out of the Carabao Cup midweek, it’s back to the bread and butter of the season. It’s familiar opposition for sure in the form of Exeter. Like us, they’ve had a strong start despite being tipped by some to struggle with the departure of hat-loving gaffer Paul Tisdale. Here’s some stuff to watch out for from the travelling Lincoln side, supplemented with my beloved stats:
1) A sign of a first team?
After seven played, Danny and Nicky are getting to grips with their squad. It’s a well-balanced bunch, just take a look at any lineup predictions thread and you’ll see about 100 different combinations despite the amount of players being on the low side. However, I feel we might start to get an idea of what the man who matter see as our best side and system. It’s a tough away game though and we tend to set up to primarily contain opposition in these circumstances.
Regardless of whether this lineup contains 4 or 5 nominal defenders, Harry Toffolo will surely be recalled after his first rest in the week. Despite sitting out on Tuesday, he remains our most featured player with 584 minutes (86% – nearly double that of Michael O’Connor). A few other players seem bound to play a part as Green, Andrade, Akinde and, perhaps surprisingly, Anderson have all featured in every game so far. Club captain Lee Frecklington has also started every League game thus far, so I expect that to continue at least until Scott Wharton’s return raises a question over whether Bostwick should be used in midfield.
2) An Akinde penalty into the bottom …?
A quarter of our goals this campaign have come from the 12 yard spot. I feel like I’ve been watching Akinde’s unhurried runups all my life, despite him only having played 7 competitive fixtures. Even before he came to Sincil Bank, he was a man known for his coolness from the spot. While it’s true that he takes virtually every one in the same way, goalkeepers are drawn into the game of guessing which side he’ll go.
In the 28 penalties I watched him take for this article, he opted for the bottom left 14 times (one with some power) and the bottom right 13 times (his second against Crewe last season went top right). I’d be fascinated to know if he knows where his next one is going, because I have no idea as there doesn’t seem to a pattern to his selection. Most importantly, ‘keepers don’t seem to have cracked it either.
3) The Imps to triumph in the second half
Lincoln City under the Cowley brothers have evolved into a side with the valuable knack for a late goal, we’ve seen it used to great effect in previous games and the stats indicate the trend is not abating despite the squad turnover. In fact, the Imps have scored as many after 75 minutes as they have in the first halves of games (6).
On the defensive side, although 8 isn’t a large enough sample to draw firm conclusions, we have been more vulnerable before the break, especially in the last 15 minutes before half-time (just as we were last season) with 3 goals conceded between 31 minutes and the whistle. These stats, combined with our tendency to set up for defensive solidity in order to grow into away games indicates to me that we might see a late winner to break a deadlock. Watch us come racing out the traps now…