The Imps are without their captain as they look to continue they look to bounce back from consecutive disappointments against League Two newbies. Here are some things to watch out for:
1) Who fills the hole?
Freck has started 70% of the games so far but it will be interesting to see who replaces him in the lineup. On the one hand, you could have a direct replacement such as Ellis Chapman. Alternatively, as some have suggested online, Bostwick (pictured top) could move into the midfield. The advantage of the latter is greater physical presence in midfield, perhaps allowing Pett greater creative freedom. Furthermore, Bostwick moving forwards could facilitate a return for Scott Wharton. Partially due to his lack of gametime, Wharton leads the way by a mile in terms of team performance when he’s on the field. In his 3 appearances, we scored a goal every 32 minutes and conceded just once (in 291 minutes).
2) A tactical shakeup
Thus far, the favoured choice of wingers has been pretty clear. Andrade and Anderson have played in every game (although Bruno averages only 69 minutes per appearance compared to Harry’s 84). However, with 4 realistic alternatives, the competition for places is hotting up. Furthermore, in response to two disappointing results, the Cowleys may opt for a tactical shakeup and play two strikers. This would necessitate more defensively-minded wide men, something that could play into the hands of Kellan Gordon whose ability to play full-back demonstrates an understanding of that area of the pitch.
Anderson’s physicality and work rate helps him going backwards but he has been shown on occasion to be slightly naïve and impetuous around his own box. This tactical switch may also see Tom Pett deployed as a sort of wide playmaker, making room for Bostwick in a 2-man midfield and, with his tendency to cut in rather than bomb down the flank, make room for a marauding full-back.
With a trusted general unavailable, it seems likely that Michael O’Connor will start on Saturday. While he’s hardly a stranger having appeared in 80% of matches so far, he’s only managed to 48% of the total minutes with an average appearance time of just 48 minutes. In fact, he’s only completed one full game. This was the Exeter game where very little needed changing. Unless Macclesfield offer similarly little resistance, I doubt O’Connor will finish the game. However, without Frecklington on the bench and Bostwick likely to be already alongside him, a replacement would likely offer a very different skillset. Ellis Chapman is a great prospect and certainly has talent but obviously hasn’t got the experience you look for if you’re trying to close a game out. This may mean the men in the dugout opt to tweak things when they change their personnel. For example, it could be a case of swapping out O’Connor for a defensive option and pushing Bostwick forward if he starts in the back line.
3) The Imps to win with fewer shots
We shoot far less than our opponents. In fact, in our 10 games, we’ve only had more shots twice (Notts County and Crawley). However, we’re far more efficient. 46% of our shots are on target and 22% end up with a goal. By comparison, only 32% of the opposition’s shots test our ‘keeper and just 10% go in. We’re getting to the stage now where you can start drawing some tentative conclusions from this. 8 times in 10 we’ve been outshot but 6 times in 10 we’ve outscored our opponents. With a shots-per-goal efficiency twice as good, we’ve shown ourselves to be economical with our efforts. There is a conscious effort to minimise long-range efforts unlikely to go in, as demonstrated by only 10% of our goals so for coming from outside the box (27% for our opponents).
Watch us score a few screamers now, I’ll be happy to be wrong!