On a surprisingly mild winter evening, City turned in the sort of performance that has both horrified us and delighted us in equal measure this season.
It’s been 21 years since Lincoln last scored more than a single goal at the Abbey Stadium, Phil Stant, John Robertson and an own goal cancelling out a Michael Kydd strike in 1997. In the interim period we’ve own just once, in 2004 and regularly made the short journey home unhappy.
That didn’t happen yesterday but after 45 minutes of action, it might well have been the case.
Before I continue I am aware of the messages from the tweet I put out at half time and although I will be writing about it later, I do not want to sully this report of the game by focusing on the mindless comments of a handful of individuals.
Thanks to my mate Dave we didn’t get to the ground until twenty minutes before kick off. A planned beer in town was scuppered by him being an hour late (it’s not my fault he protested…) which meant a late arrival at the game. There was some benefit though, the Imps fans were in fine voice as we made our way across Coldham Common towards the away end. I quite like the set up at Cambridge, the away end almost being isolated if you want it to be and funneling away from potential flashpoints.
That’s all I admire by the way; the burger bar situation was no better than last season and I had to pee in the pitch black after half time thanks to there being no light in the toilets. Crewe fans would have been crying their little hearts out on social media this morning, would they not? that’s if they’ve stopped celebrating their Boxing Day cup final win.
Anyway, the football. One I’d not got a burger and not got a pre-match beer, we took our places on a traditional eighties terracing to watch what was promising to be a great game of football. The home side haven’t been having a great season, but Colin Calderwood has got them playing a 4-4-2 with lots of width and pace, something we looked to counter with a virtually identical formation.
The big surprise had to be Rhead and Akinde up front together, two monsters likely to batter a defence into submission if nothing else. the key to that working is pace and width, something offered by a returning Bruno Andrade and a resurgent Harry Anderson. The biggest loser in that formation is Michael O’Connor, the industrious midfielder sitting out in favour of Pett and Frecklington. Perhaps, in the absence of Gary Deegan, Danny thought it wouldn’t be such a battle in the centre of the park.
For twenty minutes, he was right. we weren’t scintillating, we weren’t out of the blocks as quickly as we are at home, but we certainly pressed home our intentions with some positive play in the first period of the game. We didn’t create anything clear-cut enough to suggest a goal might come of it, Freck’s drive from 20-yards the only real test of David Forde.
Slowly, but certainly Cambridge made their way into the game and we faded badly. We got a montage of the sort of errors we’ve seen in recent weeks, misplaced passes from our big players, 50/50 balls being lost on the deck and in the air and the lack of foot on the second ball. Cambridge, clearly happy at playing in front of a bumper Christmas crowd, thrived. They’ve got some good players and like Crewe, they’ve no business in the relegation battle on their day.
At least Cambridge can point to the manager change as a reason for their improvement. David Amoo really impressed me, his movement and control was excellent and he terrified Harry Toffolo on more than one occasion. Javid Brown is a decent player too and Ibhere up front would be custom-made for our forward line, although his contribution to them is only the same as Akinde does for us. Still, they moved forward regularly and began to get a foothold in the game.
They finally made their pressure count with a goal that was wrong on so many levels for City. A lost tackle in the middle of the park set Ibhere off, he shrugged off the challenge of tom Pett and laid the ball out wide to Brown who teased a cross over. Ibhere, marked by two players, simply nodded into the net. Even his connection was poor and should perhaps have been dealt with better by Grant Smith. There were so many chances to stop a simple attack, but we took none of them. Another game, another goal conceded.
After that we folded like a recently washed duvet cover. Cambridge were backed by a vocal 4,000 home fans, rather ironically chanting ‘where were you when you were shit’ when they usually have at least 1,000 fewer at the Abbey. Irony wasn’t winning them the game, but it was something else that stuck in my throat in that first 45 minutes.
I get pulled over for criticising referees as well, but I didn’t think Carl Boyeson had the strongest of matches. He should perhaps have pulled a card out a little earlier than he did, but I suspect he was swayed by the big occasion. He’s an experienced referee, but there were two or three challenges that warranted a card, not only from Cambridge. It was a hotly contested game, but as it wore on he looked likely to give them a decision. One such choice, a free kick dead central of Smith’s goal, could have given them a further lead, but Smith saved well.
The keeper quickly redeemed himself for any perceived notion of him doing better with Ibhere’s header. He got the merest of touches on a drive that ended up rattling the bar, another great chance for the home side to go in 2-0 at the break. They should have done, by the time the whistle went for the break we’d been well and truly taught a lesson. The first ten or fifteen minutes seemed a long way away and I was wishing, more than ever, I’d got that pre-match pint.
After pissing on my shoes in the dark, I checked the latest scores to find MK Dons winning. I begrudgingly went back to the terraces for 45 minutes I feared held little more than broken promises for the Imps, trying to fond solace in the fact we’d still be top as we welcomed in 2019.
Next up – A tale of two halves, thankfully