Sometimes I wait until midday on a Sunday to give a measured and balanced response to the afternoon before, whether it is the referee who has riled me or whether I’m in danger of offering a reactive statement to a late incident.
Stevenage is the perfect point. Those late goals knocked the stuffing out of me and everyone in the ground, but it paid to be measured in our responses. Exeter was the same, with lots of reaction to the performance seemingly missing the bigger picture.
It’s too easy to offer immediate reaction these days, grabbing your phone before the referee has stopped blowing on his whistle to write words such as ‘woeful’ on Twitter. In a game based heavily on emotion, it is understandable. As the ground disappears into the distance and you settle down at home, it seems less severe when you do badly.
When you get a big win, the importance doesn’t fade. I let my emotions run away with me last night with a post straight after the game, because rarely does it feel so good. I have to admit, of all the wins we’ve had this season, that one will stick with me. That one will be remembered beyond May, just like the 3-2 at their place in November 2016.
Not because of some perceived rivalry between the clubs either. I’ve made it clear why I don’t like them, but I don’t see them as rivals. The media build it up, Mark Cooper has his little digs but they’re no more of a rival to us than Colchester, Cheltenham or Yeovil.
Anyway, lets rewind back to 2.30pm yesterday, a time when things seemed a little less certain. Our recent run (unbeaten in 11) had seen us reeled in by some of the clubs below us. They all had winnable home games and we had a real banana skin. A result, an acceptable result, would have been to draw and still be one point clear at the end of the match.
Walking out of the ground on Tuesday I told my Dad I felt we should go with Rheady and Akinde up top and hit Forest Green where it hurt. They can’t deal with the big men and although some consider it to be anti-football, I think we play it in the right way when we do. We’re not a long ball side, not usually, but against Forest Green it makes sense.
In the week I even discussed it, pointing out the positives and the pitfalls before arguing I wasn’t convinced Danny would roll with it. This is Danny Cowley though and second guessing him is very, very hard. When push came to shove, the big man got his run out.
It was a bold move and it’s easy in hindsight to say it worked and we should do it more often, but it was a roll of the dice. Danny gets paid to do these things, to make these decisions and he will feel vindicated this morning.
It didn’t feel that positive after the first ten minutes did it? Some looking through miserable eyes would say we didn’t get a grip of proceedings early doors, but in fairness Forest Green just did what they’re good at. They got on the ball, played some neat football then managed to get a goal, albeit a horrible fluke from a nasty deflection.
It could have been the goal to make it 2-0 as well, had Matt Gilks not been in fine form to stop Shawn McCoulsky early doors. The signs were ominous and McCoulsky is a player I like, his switch from Bristol City raising some eyebrows in January.
The last place you want to be is 1-0 there early, especially with the weight of recent results on our back. Those results by the way, the ones that we seem to think constitute a bad run, include zero defeats in two-and-a-half months. That’s not a bad blip to have.
Still, the reality was that the Imps had eighty minutes, give or take, to underlines our title credentials. It was a season-defining eighty minutes, the sort of afternoon that not only makes a difference, but is critical to the entire season.
The response was pretty instant, as we now know. A Harry Toffolo long throw was flicked on by Rheady to big John, who had to try to get pace and direction on his header. He got direction, but just not enough pace to beat their keeper. The partnership had begun though and within six minutes of going 1-0 down, we were level.
Watching the goal back, it’s classic Lincoln. The returning Harry Anderson looks to surge down the right, checks and feeds in back to Neal Eardley. Putting his Exeter performance behind him, he whips in a wonderful cross and there’s John Akinde the poacher to nod his 14th goal of the season. The cross allowed him to simply use direction as leverage, because the pace was in the inch-perfect delivery.
That just spurred us on even further and for the remain half and hour of the first half, we were rampant. They couldn’t cope with the aerial threat posed by Rheady and John, with the former almost putting us 2-1 up not long after we levelled. They wanted to stick by their principles of playing out from the back, but our high press and their limited capacity meant it looked shambolic at times.
I can’t enthuse enough about those front two, who worked the game like a classic partnership of old. They have everything between them, brute strength, brawn, aerial ability, excellent technique and an eye for goals. I know they can’t play together every week, unless we alter the style to suit, but on this performance there has to be a call for it to be considered.
Every ball into the area caused havoc. Who did the defenders drop on to? Akinde, the deadly League Two marksmen they all know and fear, or Rhead, the very best header of the ball in this division? They panicked and we looked likely to run wild for a spell. The switch in emphasis caught them on the hop and they looked terrified.
I’m not going to dissect every shot or save from the game, it wouldn’t be in keeping with what I usually do, but here’s a stat for you. We had ten efforts at goal in the first half, five on target and five off. The home side had four, all on target, with Matt Gilks excellent when called upon. It was a great advert for the game at our level though and a million miles away from Tuesday night’s game of attrition.