So November ended on a bit of a low for the Imps, dropping off top spot with a disappointing result against 10-man Oldham. However, there’s a chance to bounce back in the Cup at the start of the festive month. Here are some things to look out for:
1) The Cumbrians
It’s familiar opposition again in the FA Cup in the form of another League Two side. It’s been little over a month since we last played them and not much seems to have changed there. They remain in 11th place, still in touch with the playoffs but with some stern-looking teams standing in their way. Despite being just 4 points off the playoffs, they’ve actually lost more League games than they’ve won and currently have a goal difference of 0 with uninspiring but respectable tallies at both ends.
In the First Round, our visitors dumped out Crewe Alexandra thanks to a Jamie Devitt goal at the death. It’s been a great month for Devitt as he has found the net 5 times in November. He and Ashley Nadesan are the men to watch out for at Sincil Bank with the duo having scored 14 between them in all competitions.
As well as their in-form attackers, Carlisle will be boosted by the knowledge of their strong away form. In the League, they’ve won 50% of the games away from Brunton Park and sit 3rd in the away table, behind ourselves and Forest Green. Their season has been built on their form on their travels with the Cumbrians sitting 19th in the home table.
2) Lee Frecklington
Freck returned to the side off the bench during the week and it’s a very welcome return in my eyes. He’s certainly a player I’ve been guilty of overlooking when he does play but I’ve noticed his absence. As club captain I’m sure he’s keen to play a more influential part in the season than he has done thus far, managing just 40% of the minutes in a competitive midfield. In fact, he’s currently played less than half the amount Tom Pett has.
We’ve been strong when he has played though, conceding a goal every 139 minutes, the 2nd best record in the squad. He’s also useful going forward with a knack for finding the right space evident in his 3 goals and 1 assist so far. His goals per game record actually isn’t far off 1 in 3, very impressive for a midfielder for a club whose fans have often lamented a lack of goals from the middle. He’s also scored 2 winners and set up another, showing a knack for coming up trumps when it matters most. Another on Saturday would be a great lift for everyone.
There’s been a lot of chatter about a perceived decline in set-piece effectiveness. I personally believe much of this is down to the far higher expectations that have built up and that we’re now playing higher quality opposition. It’s easy to forget that in the Cowleys’ first season, many of the teams we put to the sword from dead balls were part-time and unable to commit the hours to meticulous preparation.
However, in terms of overall threat from set-pieces, we aren’t as strong as we were. Anyone who measures these will come up with slightly different figures to phases of play but my numbers show that we’ve scored 16 goals from set pieces compared to our opponents’ 10. However, they have a marginally higher proportion of goals coming from this source than us (36% and 35%).
One element we’re still miles ahead in is corners. Despite some criticism of delivery, we score 5% of our corners and 17% of our goals have come from them. Our opponents score just 2% of their corners and 7% of our goals conceded have come from them. An area to work on, however, is throw-ins. I’ve heard it said that from opposing managers that we’re incredibly good at restarts in terms of not carelessly giving the ball away in a dangerous area but it appears that has come at a cost. Currently, we’ve only scored 1 goal from a throw-in, a long one aimed at Rhead whilst our opposition have netted 3 – including Oldham’s goal. While this 2 goal gap isn’t exactly a major concern I feel it is a far more pertinent issue than corners when looking at the season as a whole.