The Imps face a two-week lay off thanks to the international break, with opponents Yeovil (rather loosely) having three internationals and obtaining a cancellation of the weekend’s fixture.
Whether the break is a good thing or not is all down to opinion, as it would be easy to argue a case for both. I suspect most footballers would tell you that after a morale boosting win like the one we just had, another game would be a positive. We’re on a roll remember, two wins in two matches both against decent opposition.
Make no mistake, our win against Northampton was excellent. We conceded two sloppy goals, but at times in the first half we looked excellent and when you’ve got the wind in your sails you want those games coming thick and fast. Whilst I’m sure the lads are delighted there’s no EFL trophy action to come up and a cup replay wouldn’t be welcomed, a League two encounter next Saturday wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Then you consider that we’re patched up at the moment, with injuries to Neal Eardley and Lee Frecklington ruling them out at the weekend. The injury to Neal is significant, because we don’t have a right back in the squad to cover. That is fact, I know some will say it isn’t, but Kellan Gordon is a winger who can play right back, James Wilson a centre half who can do the same. It is the only position we don’t have adequate cover, although right now with Sam’s injury I’d say the same on the left.
Therefore a break to get Neal fit might not be a bad thing, but you have to consider the level of opposition. Yeovil are on their arse at the moment, beaten by National League North side Stockport in the FA Cup and falling down the division like a mafia boss in concrete wellies. With our without Neal Eardley and Lee Frecklington, I suspect we could have bagged three points.
In not playing we are likely to be knocked off the top spot this weekend, with that little blip finally coming home to roost. MK Dons might have been hammered by Grimsby in the FA Cup, but they’ve got Macclesfield this weekend, as home. They will win that game and take a one-point lead over us at the top of the table. In reality, little will change as we’ll have a game in hand and an advantage which comes against Yeovil, but psychologically there will be a big step backwards. We’ll be playing catch up, we won’t be the team to beat. Whatever you believe went wrong against Carlisle, Cambridge and Colchester, the impact is going to be felt.
The week after we host Mansfield Town and MK Dons travel to Stevenage for a local derby of sorts. Again, the possible implications of our break could be felt. Mansfield have to play three matches in the period we have none, namely the Checkatrade game against Scunthorpe which, lets face it, they won’t be too bothered about. I heard some people saying we’re not out yet, trust me, we will be. Mansfield might not throw the game but with all the games they have coming up, they’ll be fielding a reserve side.
They then host Port Vale on Saturday before a possible replay against Charlton Athletic in the FA Cup before their trip to Sincil Bank. it’s very ironic that it has panned out like this, they benefitted from cancellations after both of the Checkatrade games earlier in the season allowing them to play full-strength sides, but now it is their fixture congestion causing them issues.
They could feasibly come into the game against us having played 210 minutes of football in the previous seven days, with us as fresh as a daisy. It is possible they’ll pick up knocks, players might be getting tired and that could give us an advantage, but is it really such a big leg up? We faced Forest Green with players patched up and knocked about and won 2-1, so although we will get a slight edge, it isn’t the sort of head start that gives us a clear path to victory.
What will be interesting is the clash of styles. Mansfield don’t play wingers which interests me, our wide boys will be fresh and rested and that is one area of the field where we’ll be hoping to press home the extra fitness levels gained by a fortnight on the training ground. The break also gives Danny and Nicky an extra week to focus on the Stags, to analyse their videos, give players specific roles and find those small margins which win games. It might even give them time to put their finger on exactly why we’re conceding so many silly goals at the moment.
There is no definitive answer to whether the two-week break is a good thing or a bad thing but you can guarantee the Mansfield Town camp will spin it one way, possibly MK Dons the other. In the meantime our boys can get on the training ground and look to build on two thrilling, nervy home wins that have put us back on track.