Sometimes I find it very hard to be objective. I’m a writer, yes. I write objectively about 71 other clubs without an issue, but Lincoln City is in my blood. I see the world through the eyes not of a football writer, but a Lincoln City fan who writes about football.
It makes things difficult at times. This week I’m going to Cheapside, amusingly the name of Grimsby’s training ground, to interview Elliot Embleton about his PFA Player of the Month win for December. I’ll be objective and won’t be visiting a bitter rival, but simply on a job. Will a part of me want to scratch ‘We are Imps’ in the toilets? No. Of course not.
Still, it’s hard and after watching last night’s game I felt I needed time to digest the action in order to be fair. I was disappointed, once again a late goal has cost us a big win. Think Mansfield and Swindon, two points gained under the circumstances but almost certainly also four additional points we could have on the board. Now, thanks to Will Aimson’s all-too easy header, there’s six points we don’t have that we could have.
That was how I felt immediately after the final whistle, having felt genuinely worried we would collapse in those dying stages. We didn’t, as you know and when I woke up this morning I realised 100% that we’d got a good result. If we’d been 3-0 down and drawn 3-3 I’d have still be out celebrating now, the manner in which the result occurs shouldn’t matter.
As you’ll know from my erratic pre-match predictions (win on the pod, draw on the Bury Me in Exile piece and lose as I got to Dad’s) I wasn’t sure how it would go. I’d heard a lot about Bury, but not seen enough to say for definite what would happen. In those early exchanges, I felt we were perhaps overstating the threat.
As always, we started with the ‘intent and purpose’ that Danny loves. In horrendous conditions and backed by a great travelling support, we certainly looked to be the better side. When we had the ball we looked to move forward quickly and having Danny Rowe helped that. I’ve seen enough in the last three games to convince me that he’s the best signing of the transfer window, maybe harsh on Bolger, but that’s what I think. He’s become the player that Shay McCartan should have been.
That’s no slur on Shay, he offers a threat that’s real enough, but Danny’s raw pace is impressive. He’s like a focused Harry Anderson, an adaptable figure able to add versatility and most crucially, goals.
His goal was the sort of stuff our critics dream off. A long put up field towards the Bury left, Rowe comes away free when maybe their defender should be dealing with it and it’s 1-0. It wasn’t an easy finish, angled across goal not dissimilar to Terry Hawkridge’s goal against Macclesfield on that final game of the 2016/17 season. It certainly set my mind at ease a little because of the stats; we’ve not lost a game this season in which we’ve taken the lead. Surely then, at least a point in the bag?
Not the case, because as poor as I thought Bury looked in the opening ten, they made up for it in the next section of the game. It’s easy to single out Mayor as a player who carried a real threat because for me, he stood right out. He was allowed to carry the ball far too far for their leveller, but even then a tremendous long-range effort from Jay O’Shea should have been stopped. It took a nick off Shackell to beat Grant Smith, but in slow motion it looked a weak one from the keeper’s point of view.
I wouldn’t want to dwell too long on the so-called stamp by Lee Frecklington. Again, slow motion does nobody any favours and in real-time there’s no malice in it at all. The Bury fans without an objective view seem to think we’re a team of thugs intent on causing injury and harm, but you’ll not catch Lee Frecklington charging at women and children outside of a football ground and you’ll never find him deliberately stamping on a player’s head. It looked nasty and it serves to underline the negative rhetoric against us, which I suppose is a cross we’ll have to bear.
At 1-1 I thought we responded well, never giving in to their wonderful attacking play. Danny said afterwards they’re the best team on the ball in the division and he’s not wrong. They attack at will, using the wide players to cause real problems. When they found space on the flank and entered the box you always felt they might score. Similarly, whenever we delivered into the area, you thought we might do the same.
Our second took me by surprise, but it shouldn’t have. When have we not been a threat from set pieces, and I don’t mean shots from free kicks? The answer to that is probably since Port Vale away, but with Danny Rowe delivering and Cian Bolger on the end of them, we’re certainly a threat once more. Both Stacey West sponsored players were involved, but Big John was in the middle of it too. Was it a foul? No. Was he offside? Possibly, yes. It’s evened out those horrendous decisions in the Cambridge and Carlisle matches hasn’t it?
I know Danny will be gutted to take the lead again and concede again, but when they’re in full flow this Bury side are irresistible. There are things you can do to make sure they don’t score though, like track a runner into the box. From a defensive point of view, their second equaliser is a horror show. Harry Toffolo got drawn towards the man in the middle and Tom Pett arrived far too late to deal with the danger. You perhaps have to ask if Toff should have dealt better with the situation and you have to ask if Grant Smith should have done. Still, it’s easy to criticise and Mayor once again proved to be the architect of our downfall.
When the curtain was finally brought down on a scintillating first half, a draw was perhaps the fair result. It had made me much more comfortable with City though, I think Port Vale, Crewe and Cambridge over Christmas knocked my belief we’re the best team in the league. Seeing how we coped with Bury made me wonder if my belief should have been a little stronger.