After a week of self-induced panicking and uncertainty, the League One promotion hunt got back underway with a vital three points against lowly Morecambe yesterday.
It’s easy to say ‘lowly Morecambe’, but they’d won two on the spin in their hunt for a finish outside the bottom two, so it was never going to be ‘easy’ as such. No game is, there’s no match left between now and the end of the season that you could say will be one we’re expected to win.
However, with one defeat in 18 matches in the league, there’s few teams going to be upbeat when we pay a visit either. I heard a Bury fan yesterday claiming to be the only side in the title race unbeaten in all competitions since the start of the year. Yup, great stats, but remember our only defeat in 2019 was against Everton, at Goodison.
What’s in the past is largely irrelevant, apart from the 33 matches that have put us on top of the table, but what happened yesterday and what is to come is not. We’re entering yet another of those periods I mentioned in my article on Friday, the ones that are impossible to enjoy afterwards. I’m going to amend that slightly, they’re easy to enjoy a little at 5pm on a Saturday when we’ve won.
There’s a certain relief once another game is done. Okay, everyone won yesterday but when we win it doesn’t matter does it? we’re just one game closer to Portman Road, one game closer (maybe) to the Stadium of Light. If we match everyone else’s result between now and then, it’ll all be fine. In the hours after a win I feel much more relaxed. Maybe, instead of a medication cabinet with bottles labelled ‘tramadol’ I should have a bottle labelled ‘Andrade’, because he seems to do the trick just as well.
More on that little beauty later.
I think all eyes were on the team selection yesterday. There wasn’t anyone doing anything particularly ‘wrong’ in the last couple of games, but something needed shaking up. Sometimes when a fine wine is fermenting you’re meant to shake it up, get the sediment mixed in with the liquid in order to get a finer flavour. Danny did that yesterday, the sediment being Matt Gilkes and Mark O’Hara. They’ve been brought in to do a job and in the shake up, they found themselves in the action.
I know calling up Gilks caused a few to feel sorry for Grant Smith. Grant’s a nice lad and a decent goalkeeper, but he’s not a League One stopper. That’s my opinion, as is the fact that had Josh Vickers been in goal against Bury, we win 3-2. I’m not saying Smith has been bad, far from it he’s made some good saves, but I’m convinced that a League One keeper is needed for a League One promotion push. Gilks, a former international, is definitely that.
As for O’Hara, I’d toyed with putting him in to my final XI on Football League World this weekend, but instead plumped for Jordan Roberts. I guess that was the only bit I got different to Danny though. In my eyes O’Connor has to play, he brings a zest and energy to the middle of the park. I feel hugely for Bolger, but he has to understand Jason Shackell likely won’t be with us next season and his time will come. It’s not a sprint being a Lincoln City player, it’s a marathon. Tom Pett knows that better than anyone.
I’m never one to be arrogant or complacent, certainly not when Lincoln are concerned recently, but you felt that when we bagged after just ten minutes there was going to be little to worry about. I mentioned about needing a bottle of Andrade to settle nerves and relax me and he came up trumps with yet another wonderful strike. It was heartening to see Mark O’Hara involved too, the big Scot had been lively in the opening exchanges.
It wasn’t a simple goal though, just like our strike at Notts County, it involved some lovely intricate play as we swept forward. I know the accusation has been levied that we’re not playing like champions, but if you watch a highlight reel of our goals recently, you might be inclined to disagree.
I thought we might run riot after that, Andrade having another effort going just wide after Akinde’s work too. Big John doesn’t score enough goals, that’s not really something anyone can argue, but his contribution can’t be faulted either. He’s such a handful and while defenders are occupying him, they’re having to leave players elsewhere. Like Andrade. Like Rowe.
Aside from a brief moment on the half hour mark, and the Jordan Cranston free-kick just before half time, it looked like top against bottom four. City played possession football, comfortably moving the ball around and creating chances on a relatively regular basis, six in total with four on target and two off target. Danny Rowe had a super half, as did O’Hara, Andrade and Akinde and we might feel a little anxious we weren’t further ahead at the break.
Being a ‘score watcher’, half time brought much more joy. If we win, it doesn’t matter what the others do, but Bury were losing and Mansfield were drawing. Those sorts of results could make three points feel like more, if they came off.
Next Page – The Second Half