It’ll be another 3rd Round FA Cup game for the Cowleys’ Imps, a goal for each of the big men and a clean sheet – great stuff. Now from one of the most respected competitions in world football to one of the most derided as we travel to Accrington in Checkatrade Trophy. Here are some things to look out for:
Remember them from last season? Since they heroically won League Two last season, they’ve acquitted themselves well in the 3rd tier, currently sitting 11th. In fact, all 4 of the teams that won promotion from League Two last season are in the top half of League One. However, as we know, it’s difficult to draw too much from League form when it comes to this competition, there is usually plenty of rotation and the action is often far less cagey.
Accrington topped their group, showing the ability of their second string despite concerns that the shallow but tight-knit squad that characterised their title win may hinder them this season. The focus on a core group is clear when looking at the stats by Experimental 361. Last season in the League, Stanley used 17 unchanged lineups, the next closest was 12. Furthermore, they used just 23 starters (joint lowest) and their most-used side played almost double the amount of the next highest club.
There clearly is depth this time around, though. When you compare the side used in the Checkatrade to defeat West Brom U21s with the side started in the last League game, only 4 players feature in both XIs. One of those is the familiar Sean McConville who is Accy’s joint top scorer with the ever-dangerous Billy Kee (both on 7). One last stat is that this will be gaffer John Coleman’s 1001st game in charge with him hitting 4 figures on Saturday. 817 of those have in charge of Accrington where’s managed a 41% win record; impressive stuff. By comparison, Danny and Nicky’s record at Lincoln currently stands at 145 games played with a 56% win record.
2) Clinical nature
It was great to see both Rheady and Akinde get on the scoresheet and show that they can do in the Cup on the weekend. We’ve got two real threats there and, hopefully, everyone can now see what they both can offer us.
Something that is really characterising us this season, believe it or not, is being clinical with shooting opportunities. It can be frustrating for fans but it’s clear that the players are instructed to rarely shoot from range. That’s reflected in the stats, despite being the better side in most games (we’ve won 54% of our games), we’ve only had 1 more shot than our opponents (279 compared to 278). When we really pull ahead those is making those shots count.
Our shots on target ratio is 40%, 5% better than our opponents. I would argue that even that gap doesn’t accurately reflect the gap though as simply being on target doesn’t necessarily make a shot a realistic threat as our opponents are more inclined to take speculative efforts. The real gap comes when you look at converting shots to goals. 11% of our opponents’ shots result in a goal, our score is nearly double that at 20%. If you’re still not convinced that we’re clinical, Manchester City’s shots on target score is 39% and their goals from shots score is 16% (Premier League only).
3) Checkatrade rotation
As is customary with this competition, I expect to see a few changes from the full-strength side for this tie. It’s a busy time of year and several key players are just returning from injury. Furthermore, there are players who will be pushing for more game time. Kellan Gordon, for example, seems to be improving all the time and I’m sure we’d all like to see more of Ellis Chapman.
Our 3 previous Checkatrade outings this season have all seen wholesale changes to the lineup with the Mansfield and Wolves U21s games seeing 8 changes and the derby with Scunthorpe saw 10. Whether we’ll see this curbed slightly as we progress to the knockout stages is yet to be seen but there will surely be some peripheral players features. Mind you, we’re fond of rotation anyway – we’ve only fielded 2 unchanged lineups all season.