There’s all manner of plots and sub-plots to out history with Exeter, or at least our recent history. Up until twelve months ago neither side cared about each other at all.
That all changed last season, but I’m not entirely sure why. I get that we met in the play-offs, but I didn’t think anything other than the final few minutes of the second leg were particularly bad. Sure, there was one fan captured making gestures and another should have been arrested for knocking our kit man about, but on the whole they weren’t bad-tempered games were they?
That’s why I was surprised to hear them signing ‘3-1 to Exeter’ before the game. Not only did it seem a little out of context, but it was breaking one of the most sacred rules of football: never crow about a previous win if you’re not assured the current one.
I’ve been away again this weekend, so instead of a hooky iFollow feed I’ve had some match highlights to enjoy today. I spent my evening in a pub just outside High Wycombe, explaining to three blue-shirted Chairboys how we look forward to joining them, or passing them (after too much vodka) next season. I was buoyed by the result of course, but then again who wouldn’t be? Which Imps truly kept their feet on the round last night? Even the cold-hearted fishermen on Banter must have afforded a little leap of delight.
In January this year, as John Akinde scored to put Barnet ahead, I remember saying to my Dad ‘Imagine if he was in a decent team’. Well, imagine no more.
From what I can gather the first half was a tight affair until the goals, there certainly wasn’t too many highlights going our way before the quick-fire brace. However, the 42-odd minutes before a double goal salvo really counts for very little indeed, especially when you consider the wider implications of the goals that put us in front.
In the summer, we signed a player who frightens League Two, genuinely frightens them. He’s been with Barnet so the fear was limited, he might score goals but they were never going to be a threat. In January this year, as he scored to put them ahead, I remember saying to my Dad ‘Imagine if he was in a decent team’. Well, imagine no more.
John Akinde is class, we didn’t break the club record to bring him here because of his record, we brought him here because he has all the attributes we needed from our centre forward. On his day, he’s Matt Green and Matt Rhead rolled into one. That’s no disrespect to either, they have strengths they play to and both are good players, but Akinde can offer a bit of both. He’s got the pace and ability to carry the ball the Rheady perhaps lacks, but he’s also the target man which Matt Green is not.
The problem was that some of the ne’er sayers seemed keen on writing him off after just four goals (three from the spot). I’ve read that he is lazy, that he doesn’t make an effort and other rubbish along those lines. Yesterday, he looked much like the John Akinde I drooled over in January.
I’ll skip straight to his goal because it might not win ‘Goal of the Month’, but if you study it closely, it’s a peach. It’s all him, determined and powerful in the middle of the park, tenacious in carrying it forward patient in the opening developing and then clinical, deadly clinical with his finish. That’s not just a good finish, it is technically very good too. Pym immediately lambasted his defenders, but he was left for dead with the precision of the shot. I wonder how many of their fans thought the keeper might do better, just as our did with Paul Farman last season. You could say Pym was well and truly Akinde’d.
The opening goal was where he turned provider, taking up an unfamiliar role from out wide to tee up a midfielder who constantly talks about arriving in the box late. I’m not sure Freck arrived late, he arrived bang on time to score his third of the season. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t that make him our leading scorer with goals from open play? Again, he’s a player who had been called off the pace and lost, yet as every game passes he grows into the new system.
Ah, the new system. Before we broach the second half, let’s talk about our system shall we? It is apparently one of two systems. According to one of the BBC Devon guys, the one probably on crack, we’re just like Wycombe Wanderers (the side that pipped Exeter to automatic promotion last season). He said (and I quote) “Time wasting, physical, going down for fake injuries at every opportunity. Akinde scored a good goal for them but if this is Lincoln’s strategy for promotion then it’s very sad.” Hmmmm. There may have been some game management, nothing different to any other side seeing out time with a 2-0 lead away from home, or even 3-0 later on. By ‘physical’ I assume he means going in for tackles, winning tackles and the like. You know, playing football. Honestly.
He did mutter something about them not dealing with long balls, but having seen Big John pick it up in the middle of the park and strut through like a hot knife through cheese, he can’t be talking about us.
There’s the other side of the coin though, the one that isn’t as bitter. For instance there’s my Uncle Keith, an Exeter fan since the mid-eighties when he was moved down there aged 15, but an Imp before that and an Imp at heart. He simply said that they were playing terribly, lacking a decent striker and a defence. Manager Matt Taylor was a little more honest, saying: “All credit to Lincoln, they are a good team. They pressed us high up the pitch, they messed us around and dominated us physically, which is a disappointing factor. We just had no real control, certainly in our backline, and it just fed through the rest of the team.” He did mutter something about them not dealing with long balls, but having seen Big John pick it up in the middle of the park and strut through like a hot knife through cheese, he can’t be talking about us.
That left-sided combination paid dividends again too, with attacking defenders like Harry Toffolo, you hardly need wingers. However, if Carlsberg did wingers, in my opinion they been called Andrade. Between the two of them they brewed up and own goal, but the build up play was exquisite. I’m not sure if the pass was better or the run. Both were worthy of the goal that followed.
So there we have it. Exeter City, one of the better sides we faced last season and early pace-setters this time round, are beaten. We’re not just top of the league, we’re clear top by three points, with a goal difference nine better than Newport in second and seven better than MK Dons, expected to be around us too. It’s early day, very early indeed, but there’s already a nagging feeling in my mind that those who sniggered at my pre-season prediction might be eating their words in a few months time.
I wonder when the last time was we went top of League Two and stayed there?