Two more points dropped: Imps 2-2 Stevenage

Courtesy Graham Burrell

After a half time without a drink because the machines serving Coke was broken under the Coop Stand, we were back underway and soon in the lead. I had to chuckle a little as Bruno Andrade scored with his head, it seemed to be fate. The last time Paul Farman played against Lincoln, Ali Fuseini bagged with a header at the Stacey West end and Andrade seemed less likely to score a header. It was a great cross from Rowe and it made me wonder even more if we might have started with him out wide and McCartan central.

The goal really set the tone for most of the second half, because I felt it stopped Stevenage in their tracks. Bozzy had a long-range drive that went over, but we began to control the tempo a little easier. We kept Chair off the ball as much as possible and despite the odd errant pass and stray touch, we were largely in control. it’s easy to forget that now of course, knowing what we know, but until they hit the bar on 66 minutes we looked like the team at the top.

When Andrade bagged the second the game seemed done and dusted. I thought bringing Michael O’Connor on gave us some mobility in front of the defence and the tempo changed even further in our favour. Having said that, it was a Bozzy tackle that saw the ball end up with Bruno, who waved that wand of a left foot at it to conjure up another magical moment for City. The worry of letting the lead slip .lifted and dreams of a four point gap with a game in hand seemed close enough to touch.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

Behind me I heard a comment that it was going to be a big win and I said, half jokingly, we hadn’t won it yet. Unlike the Grimsby game I could see Stevenage scoring, but two? Hardly. Three? Not a chance. We’d have to be really unlucky or really sloppy to let a two goal lead slip, wouldn’t we?

I thought Akinde was brilliant all after and had it not been for Bruno’s brace he would have been a contender for Man of the Match. He was back making clearances in the 75th minute. Ilias Chair hit the woodwork just to let us know we were still in a game, but twice Akinde made chances for those around him. Bruno slipped when it seemed easier to score thanks to a Big John pass, then a swift break again from Akinde fed McCartan whose effort was blocked. Say what you want about Stevenage, they’ve got a real spirit. They defended doggedly and put their bodies on the line.

Just moments after McCartan’s effort, it all started to come crumbling down. You could see them getting a goal and when Chair whipped in a superb strike we’d had enough warnings. I think Danny hinted that the midfield hadn’t reacted quick enough to Eardley pushing him inside, but there’s little accounting for that sort of strike. It should have been a case of once bitten. twice shy.

Six minutes of injury time brought a gasp, if fans had known we’d play closer to nine there might have been a riot. We retreated and that refuse to lose attitude didn’t kick in. Jason Shackell had to head a Chair effort off the line before Grant Smith was deliberately clattered for a third time in the game. I didn’t like the early challenge where he was battered into the post, it was ‘robust’ to say the least and a blatant foul at worst. The third knocked the wind out of him, but the longer he stayed down, the more the pressure increased on us. That six minutes suddenly became an unknown quantity.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

Still, their goal was perfectly fair and came within the initial six minutes. The fact it was a carbon copy of the first was utterly criminal from our defensive point of view. Danny didn’t condemn anyone of the radio, he’s not Mark Cooper, but the message will doubtless be received by whoever should have been doubling up on Chair. The worst thing was the fact we could have nodded the danger away earlier in the move, but once again we found a bank of blue shirts 25-yards from goal with no red amongst it. Inviting pressure.

Should their gaffer have been sent off? I don’t think so. he got lost in the moment, he shared that joy with his fans. He asked for a hard referee and the only evidence of that came when he got sent off. I’d prefer to let stuff like that slide and stuff like our keeper being barged into a post on purpose go punished. Maybe I’m just old school.

If being caught out twice wasn’t bad enough, we gave the kid a third strike which Grant Smith was equal to. It could have been a whole lot worse although I doubt very much anyone feels like it could have got worse than it did. When the whistle finally blew it felt like we’d been beaten.

We hadn’t been beaten. we haven’t lost at home since Crawley and we still haven’t lost a game we’ve led. We’re still top, we still have a cushion and we’ve got a game in hand. They’re the positives.

Negatives? I’d by lying if I said I didn’t see any. I don’t think we have the same verve and vivacity to our play we did in the early part of the season. I think one or two of our first team regulars were cruising a little today, one or two looked as though maybe, just maybe they need a spell on the bench. I can’t see how Michael O’Connor doesn’t start and if I’m honest I think maybe a rest might be in order for Freck and Tom Pett. I like both players, but Pett is nowhere near as effective on the wing and today I thought Freck looked lethargic.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

I’m not going to start claiming there are fundamental issues. Those who are saying we haven’t looked like Champions for a few weeks are right, but aside from Bury nobody else has either. Our wobble included too many draws, not defeat at Notts County, not slipping to sixth or seventh in the table. Although I thought there were too many moaning fans around me, in the main the support was very good today, the 617 never stopped and the atmosphere remained ramped up. No, today the fans didn’t contribute to the defeat (oops, sorry we drew didn’t we. Hard to tell on social media) but one or two players did.

Danny admitted it, not everyone brought their ‘A’ game this afternoon. Bruno did. John Akinde did. Who else did, genuinely? Which other players put in the sort of performance they could be happy with? Maybe Jason Shackell. When you consider that maybe six or more of our players were below par today, it’s an achievement we were even 2-0 up in the first place.

I don’t see a crisis. I see a blip. I do fear for our title credentials and unless we get a win or two, I fear for our top three spot. Maybe that’s what we all need, a dose of realism. we’re still in a fight, we’re still leading the pack but the next 14 games are going to be hard to watch at times. 

Enjoy it? Did someone ask why we can’t enjoy it? Come ask me again at the beginning of Mat because until then. I’m a bloody bag of nerves. We could have this division wrapped up by now, if we’d won just three of the six we’ve drawn recently we’d be eight points clear with a game in hand. Instead our opponents are breathing down our necks and I feel like crying whenever I go on social media.

Promotion hunts shouldn’t be like this, should they?


  1. I’ve been raising these issues for quite some time now. All I want is for MY team to win the majority of matches in convincing style. All I’m going to say now is “I told you so”

  2. Don’t know for what reason we sat back, deeper and deeper and deeper every minute, inviting them to have a go. Especially with them playing big target man up front… There was no need on earth to do that…
    Agreed with Freck. He starts games no matter what ,even if underperforming which he does almost every single game since port vale away… Shadow of a player at the moment…
    Pett maybe is not as good on the wing but today he should stay on the pitch till the end. Helped Toffolo countless amount of times in defence… He can control the ball and buy you some time in the dying minutes… By the way, there is no one better in this than Rheady and he was left on the bench… I know big John played ok, but for the last few minutes we were crying for Rhead on the pitch…
    Bruno was different class today. Too good for league two… Better go up with him or he will go up without us….
    In overall Stevenage was a better side apart from 20 -25 minutes in the second half. Played some really good and clever football and at times they just battered us… That’s worrying…
    First game since a while I could go to and got smack in the face like that… Sometimes I really hate football….
    I think I won’t sleep tonight…. ?

  3. For me after Andrade, Eardley was MOM why don’t we use him for corners ? The best crosser of a ball at the bank. Chair was a class above today,he is the only reason we lost !

  4. And they didn’t have Newton, Nugent etc,etc.
    It’s not a surprise we are being caught by better footballing sides by relying on the way we play.
    No team has a right to run away with this league and Luton got caught by Accrington last season.
    There are at least three sides in this league better than us that’s reality.
    Rose tinted spectacles best put away!

  5. Agreed. Good article. Noticed when heading away in defence a number of balls are back across the middle, a few passes to. School boy errors when few Imps in mid field. Some players in the second half walking around with little purpose. Pett was pushed off the ball very easily a number of times. If we keep running away from attackers your just inviting a shot or good delivery. Defence did not win so many headers in the game as normal. If boro had taken there chances could of had 5 but didn’t. And that’s this league all over. the Imps fighting spirit that has been shown in the last ten minutes of games was partially in evidence but not to the same degree, need to find a way of winning even if it is ugly.

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