96th minute goals don’t happen by luck: Imps 1-1 Exeter City

I think I’ve made my feelings on this run in very clear indeed. Enjoyment is not entirely a part of the experience for me, not until I know where we’re going to finish.

Maybe I care too much, maybe I’m missing the point, but I struggle to enjoy games we’re not winning. I’m not fickle, I just have a sick feeling in my stomach at the thought of failure.

I know where it comes from, it’s the years of dirge we were served up between 2008 and 2016. It’s the stench of struggle, the insane fear of watching the club that I love so dearly ever fall into decline. I once said something along the lines of hope being integral to everything. every season you start out in August with hope, but ultimately it is that hope that kills you.

I’ve only watched us a third-tier side once and I so desperately want that experience again. In the dying embers of last night’s encounter I looked to the skies, searching for one of the Imps long since departed to give us a helping hand from above. I used to do it when we were in the National League, asking a higher entity for help. Never God, he wouldn’t give a toss about us and if he did, why favour us over anyone else? No, I’ve asked my Grandads (both of them) as well as my Uncle Jeff who I think came once to the Bank.

Last night in the 90th minute of a tough match to watch, I asked Pete Newton. Like those before him, he came up with the goods.

These equalisers, these moments that make a draw feel like a win, or a loss, they don’t happen by accident. The probably don’t happen because of long since departed fans either, but I like to think otherwise. They happen because a side fights, even when things are going badly. They come about through belief, something Stevenage had ten days ago and something our side had last night.

Launching long balls into a box filled with six-foot players helps too of course.


He should have said you’re welcome, but predictive text doesn’t pick up on grammatical errors.

Let’s not beat around the bush, nor dress it up as anything other than what it was. Lincoln City were poor last night. We started well, in the first ten minutes I thought we were by far the better side, looking threatening and alive. How many times has that happened in recent weeks though? The players come out all fired up then one misplaced pass, the crowd groans and like a house of cards, it all comes tumbling down.

Is it confidence? I’m not sure it is. The 617 boys were loud and proud and I thought the stadium reacted well when we went 1-0 down and intermittently throughout the second half too. For some reason though, the players lost their composure and once it had gone, they couldn’t get it back.

Here’s something I’ve not said in a long while: few players can bring any credit out of the game from a technical point of view. Passes went astray, decisions were made that invited pressure and players looked on completely different wavelengths. I can recall too many to mention, but how about Matt Gilks playing the ball to Harry Toffolo, who failed to trap it and let it go out for a throw?

How many saves did this man have to make last night? Courtesy of Graham Burrell

How about Neal Eardley slicing so many balls out of play he’d look more at home in a butchers slicing ham? Mark O’Hara got caught in possession more times than Snoop Dogg and Tom Pett looked as comfortable on the wing as a centre half. It was disjointed, uncomfortable to watch and it made Exeter look much better than they were.

I heard someone say they were one of the better teams to come to play us this season, I can’t let that go unchallenged. They had a couple of decent lads, sure. They played the ball around nicely too, but the space was there for them to do so. Our shape allowed them to look better than they were. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not a bad side, but were they worthy of a win? No. Newport were a better side, Stevenage were a better side and Forest Green certainly were.

How many times did Gilks have a save to make? Aside from the free kick, how many big moments featured the Scot? Very few. When they did get decent chances it usually came through our own lapses in concentration, much like the goal. It was a great free kick by the way, nobody was stopping it, not even an eight foot keeper with hands like chopping boards parries that.

Bruno felt he might have had a penalty in the first half, but I imagine looking back he will feel the warm Cowley breath on his neck as he’s politely advised not to go to ground so easily again. We’re not getting penalties when a 13st, 6ft forward is hauled to the ground so we’re certainly not going to get one when a light weight winger blows over in the breeze, or at least thinks he has.

Were they worthy of their lead at half time? Yes, they had found neat patterns of play and some penetration, but in the main it was because we were worthy of very little that they deserved the lead, not because they were the best of two good teams.



  1. similar feelings having had a season where the imps looked as though the imps would win division 2 then, the last 8 matches were the most disappointed I have ever been. so the last 8 games this season have brought some of those feelings back at home matches. I could not make last night could not get off work. but, hoped we would not get beaten. probably, not something playing at home I should be feeling. Morecambe on Saturday could have scored a couple however Matt Gilks positioning and skill kept a clean sheet and yes away from home teams have to come out of the massed defence. on Sky bet site Lincoln lost last night. I would imagine they have amended it. what ever we are doing on the training pitch our dead ball situations needs work. corners and free kicks in the opposition final third have been poor. I have thought our home form has been poor for some time, the expectation word, but was pointed out we have players from higher leagues so why should they be effected by expectation to the degree it would appear. teams have possibly worked out how to contain us and still score. some how the imps need to find a way of getting behind opposition defenses and creating more scoring chances without what seems to be always sending the ball with height into the area. I think every team in this league has a number of tall defenders that can head the ball competently. we are still top of the league by 3 points, that does not stop me worrying that that will we be in the top 3 at the end of the season, I sincerely hope so. but does stop me worrying.

  2. I agree that the praise Exeter got last night was OTT. I watched on ifollow for the first time and Rob Makepeace and Thommo were as bad as the players. Exeter were tidy but only because we afforded them so much space. Their right wing-back (Williams?) was a threat all night and but for some crap finishing early in the second half they would have been comfortably in front. I think FGR and Crawley have both come to SB this season and looked better than Exeter. If they had a full strength XI than they may have won, but I think their team last year were better.
    Rheady really does change things, and it’s quite extraordinary how they couldn’t deal with him last night, and i’m delighted for Akinde because I thought Makepeace was harsh on him in commentary. He had no service whatsoever for most part, and Rowe was anonymous behind, whereas in previous matches they’d be quite close together and link up well. Perhaps I should credit Exeter for that, but too many of our players performed poorly.

  3. Exeter and their manager devised a game plan that completely nullified the Imps for at least 80 minutes. The games up, the bubble has burst in that the rest of the league have sussed us out, they know how we play. So we must continue to change tactics and formations to outwit them. Do the Cowleys have the skills to do this? Lincoln were crap last night. Have the Cowleys met their Zenith…. I hope not!!

  4. We made Exeter look good, true, but they were also better footballing side than us. We were just abysmal last night and never looked like a top of the table. Even our set pieces were awful.
    Rhaed changed things. When he came on we started to do what we know best, long balls and only then we looked like we can score…
    Our goal was scored by the worst player on the pitch last night , but that is football for you …
    I think O’Connor was really good . Our best player last night by a mile for me…

    Too many points dropped at home.
    We have got six home games left now and if that means six points that is just not good enough if we about to finish in the top three i’am afraid….

    • That is extremely harsh on John Akinde. Since he joined the Imps we have never played to his strengths. Last night (as always) he gave his all and went the extra mile by dropping deep to help out the floundering midfield who were failing to give him the service he needs. When Rhead came on to work alongside him we started to see a different game and John looked very dangerous then scored the goal he deserved. If he was to regularly have a decent strike partner alongside him you’d see a massive difference. I hope the knockers don’t drive him away first though, there are many clubs who’d be delighted to take him off our hands.

      • Agree, I can think of at least half a dozen players that were far worse than Akinde. He didn’t get the service on the wings or have Rowe in close support as has been getting recently.

  5. Couldn’t agree more Gary. I have not been enjoying watching home games recently for the same reasons. The team look edgy and Danny post match sounded edgy. Passes going astray, balls over hit going out of play, keeper doing the same, not being able to keep possession, giving it away, over complicated football, made to look worse by too many individual errors. Oddly the keepers had little to do. I am similarly cursed with the hope that kills you. Of course there is increased expectation and pressure when you are top in February. I am not sure that they are dealing with that, let alone me and you. Having watched the beloved imps for 53 years I might not see a football league win again, and some of the historic rubbish we have witnessed over the years on that pitch is a nightmare that now haunts us. It didn’t when we expected no more than the occasional home win, but it does now, The team need to deal with that, and so do we. Only in the last ten minutes last night with Rhead and Akinde, when the aerial bombardment began did we start to look like we had a plan, knew what we were doing, and did it, and they collapsed. The goal was always coming, but thank goodness it did, and thank goodness they don’t give up.

  6. Exeter made us look poor by their intricate passing game so credit where credits due. AKinde covered acres of ground and kept going to the end and got his just reward. He is on our side and he showed it with his celebration at the end. Cowley’s know we have to produce something different than the last 8 or 9 games or we will end up in the play offs at this rate. That’s not doom or gloom, it’s fact.

  7. I don’t buy that,, we are not playing to John Akinde’s strengths” talk..
    It’s almost like calling D.C. stupid.. Do people really think that Danny want us to play,,not to Akinde strenghts”? Or that maybe he doesn’t know JA strengths are?
    The truth is that JA can lead the line, make space for others, holding on to the ball, creates and I really admire that. These are his strengths. Unfortunately scoring goals, being cold blooded finisher is not one of them… Is it?
    People were moaning about Green not being a born finisher but still he would have scored more goals from open play by now than JA even if he was playing as a lone striker which surely wouldn’t be ,,to his strenghts” neither.
    We need John to play the we play and his good at it. But as a striker he just isn’t prolific enough and this is last thing you want your striker to be …..

    • Nobody is calling Danny stupid. I’m sure he would have hoped that John would have scored more, but I’m also sure he’ll be very happy with the number of goals the team as a whole have scored, which is to a large extent due to John’s work. To get the best out of John he needs a quality striker alongside him and Danny will have been doing his damndest to bring someone in, but that isn’t easy and costs money. For now Danny can only use the players he has at his disposal, and using Rhead or Angol alongside him is an option that can work well in the right context. We must be careful though that we don’t at the same time over resort to predictable long ball that may sometimes work well in a frantic battle for a late goal but won’t work consistently from the start, as experience has shown. There’s no evidence that either Green or Rhead would have scored more in Akinde’s role this season. On the other hand many, many comments from opposition managers and fans have shown how difficult he is to play against and how highly they rate him.

  8. Watching on iFollow and listening to the Radio Lincs commentary team, I more than occasionally wondered if they were watching a different match to me. Thommo needs to learn the difference between an in-swinging and out-swinging delivery for a start and Makepeace seemed intent on stirring the Akinde debate for no discernable reason too.

    Yes, we weren’t great but surely being that overtly negative is only going to breed further negativity. Not sure it was really called for

    • Agree with this. I’ve been listening to the Radio Lincs commentary for the past few weeks as i’m currently back in Lincolnshire. Tuesday was the first time i’d bothered to purchase iFollow with the Radio Lincs commentary, and by god, I hadn’t realised how terrible they are at describing what’s actually happening on the pitch. The moment that Toffolo let the ball go through his legs out for a throw, which led to a subsequent Exeter attack didn’t get mentioned.
      Found Makepeace’s comments about Akinde very strange, but then weren’t the Echo trying to stir some debate about him a few weeks ago too?

  9. ,,He needs a quality striker alongside him” . Well said…
    We all could do with a quality striker in the team.
    JA is a great athlete and a great team player. Not a great,quality striker though. …..

    • If A was a great quality striker he would be playing in the PL or Championship. He is a good striker for this level and has made a great contribution to our goals & success this season.

    • How did Akinde get 20+ goals two seasons on the bounce for Barnet then?
      He wasn’t playing up front on his own being asked to perform miracles for one thing.
      Akinde is a quality striker, proven at this level, but WE aren’t getting the best out of him.
      That’s not his fault, Diana.

  10. All seems like an overreaction to me. We had twice as many shots as them, twice as many shots on target as them and more possession than them… against a team sat 5th in the table. And unlucky not to get a penalty and 20 mins at the end versus ten men. As Gary points outs, Gilks barely hard a save to make.

    I heard someone say yesterday it was the worst performance under the Cowleys – that is laughable. How about the 4-1 at Crewe last year? Or the 2-0 at Boreham wood the year before? Expectations just seem too high at the minute and I worry that this filters through to the players. Last night was not stellar, but it was a good point and not nearly as bad as is being made out in some quarters.

  11. Of course it is not Akinde’s fault. When he miss a great chance to score, put the ball wide from few yards it is my fault.. Fans fault . Danny’s fault. Everyone’s but Big John….
    JA is not a quality striker.. At least not at the moment if that makes you feel better Daniel.
    He does a good job for us but he is not scoring goals and that what makes striker a quality striker since football was invented…

Comments are closed.