Bury blogger ‘Bury Me in Exile’, an informed League Two blogger, commented on Twitter this week that the rest of League Two would be watching the Imps result this evening, hoping for Yeovil to do everyone a favour in the quest for the title.
A Macclesfield fan on twitter also asked if Danny Rowe would be so kind as to help out the struggling Silkmen by keeping the Glovers within reach at the foot of the table. One of those requests was fulfilled in emphatic style but sadly for the other teams hunting the title, there were no favours.
If we’re honest, there wasn’t even as much as a whimper from Yeovil was there? They didn’t trouble a comfortable Imps side one bit, with us in control of the game from the minute we kicked off until the last blast of the whistle. Mark Whiley commented on the radio it was a champion’s performance and he’s not far wide of the mark.
If you want to win trophies, you win games like these. Whenever a team has games in hand their fans imagine the gap: two games in hand means you could be six points better off, but you have to win those games. Not picking up the points from games you have over other sides feels like a let down, psychologically there’s something damaging about seeing extra games gobbled up by weak results.
No fear of that, not with this Lincoln City.
The big surprise was the team selection, Danny Rowe dropping into the ten role and Bozzy moving into midfield at the expense of Lee Frecklington. Freck had an injection in his groin this weekend and that’s kept him out, but the depth of our squad means we’re flush with top quality players…. sorry, wait a minute. The depth of our squad?
That’s right. We’ve got the smallest squad of players in the division and yet we’ve got the strongest squad according to Steve Thompson. After the game Rob Makepeace and Mark were talking about the squad depth and even Danny Cowley spoke of how intense the competition for places were. How can that be? How can we have the best squad and the smallest? I’ll tell you how; excellent recruitment.
None of our incoming players have been panic buys and in my opinion, we do not have gaps in the squad as such. Yes, we need cover but I firmly stand by my article yesterday about a striker. We do not need a direct Matt Green replacement, not when Danny Rowe has equalled his goals tally of last season on his first start.
The depth in such low numbers is frightening. The bulk of our squad consists of experienced players, footballers who have won divisions, played in higher divisions or at the very least, been here before. Where we have youth it is not experimental like some clubs, it is Harry Anderson or Harry Toffolo, young players of a certain calibre. The blend is superb and although we’re only one or two injuries away from trouble, I can’t think of us ever having such a strong match day squad.
That showed from the first minute to the last. Bolger and Shackell were brilliant this evening, both winning everything they could. At full back both Harry Toffolo and Neal Eardley were excellent. Eardley has been all season but because of the standard he set last time out, he’s almost having to be a nine or ten just to get noticed. As for Toffolo, his development has been incredible in the last few months. I have to say though, he was very lucky indeed not to be sent off for his high boot. If it had been against us I would have screamed bleu murder.
Shall we be harsh? Yeovil are a bad side. Their defence looked ill at ease with us, Akinde was able to bully them and they needed fresh underpants whenever we ran at them. If Andrade wasn’t suspended they’d have had even more reason to be terrified, but they offered nothing. They had no clue going forward and no answer at the back.
Our midfield controlled the play, whether it was the behemoth Bozzy kicking anything that moved, or the cultured boot of Michael O’Connor looking to spread the play. We were men and the boys couldn’t handle us.
We still had to be committed and apply ourselves and both goals were examples of us playing good football, not the so-called moon ball we get labelled with. I’m quite happy to be called direct if teams think they can double up on Big John and nullify our threat, because that’s not going to stop us. The delivery for both goals was superb, Neal Eardley doing what he does for the first and a truly sumptuous ball from O’Connor for the second.
On the end of both was Danny Rowe, a man who looks to be fitter and sharper than the player we had last season. He’s slotted into the ten role superbly and maybe, just maybe Shay McCartan was watching on fearing for his immediate Imps’ future. After all, Rowe got closer to Akinde than Shay has managed to and provided a little more energy pushing on. Mind you, McCartan coming off the bench is another fine example of that quality in the squad.
Rowe was unlucky not to get Man of the Match, but on the radio Steve Thompson gave it to O’Connor and it would be hard to disagree. He didn’t ‘bottle it’, there’s nothing to bottle. Thommo calls it as he sees it and in O’Connor we have the player who does the unseen work, just like Alex did last season. The difference, maybe, is O’Connor is experienced enough to know when there’s a good forward pass on, which he provided with aplomb. We talk about Adam Marriott’s ball to Nathan two years ago, O’Connor’s to Danny Rowe was almost in that league. Almost.
Into the second half and both teams settled for the result. We asked questions and controlled the tempo of the game, but we never needed to hit the higher levels. We’ve got a huge game this weekend, one in my eyes that will either rubber stamp our automatic promotion credentials or keep us hanging on a little more. There was no need to bust a gut for four or five goals, Danny will tell you it was a shame we didn’t get them but rather win 2-0 and come through unscathed than 4-0 and pick up an injury. I’m not saying we took our feet off the gas, nor did we sit back, but we managed the final 45 minutes with consummate ease.
The win leaves us six points clear of Bury with a game in hand. If they want to be considered as title challengers, they have to beat us this weekend. If they fail to take all three points, it leaves us in an incredible position going into February. If we were to win, opening up a nine-point gap with a game in hand, it would begin to look very ominous for everyone else.
It promises to be a cracker. They’ve won more games at home than any side this season, but only one team have scored more away from home than us (Forest Green) and we’ve conceded fewer on our travels than any other side. Bury have scored more at home than anyone in the division by a big margin though. We’ve lost one in 12 in the league, they’ve lost two in twelve, but they’ve won six straight matches in all competitions, including big wins against MK Dons and Forest Green. They even beat a virtually full strength Oxford side this evening 5-2. It’s fair to say that right now, we’re the best two teams in the division, although the form table has Carlisle between us.
Tonight’s win was important, massively so, but let me tell you this: if we win on Saturday I predict we go on to win the league. If we get anything there it will be a fine result, but a win would be a big statement. It’s and exciting time to be an Imp and all with a squad of 19. For now.
All the talk of Saturday’s game is fine, but the reason we go there confident, the reason we will be top no matter what the outcome on Sunday morning, is because each and every game we approach in exactly the same meticulous manner. Yeovil will testify to that as they lick their wounds and look nervously below them in the coming days.