Bittersweet Point: Imps 1-1 Macclesfield

Courtesy of Graham Burrell

I know why you usually pop along to read my articles, the thrilling insight and balanced opinion, right?

Those who go to the game like to see if their view matches mine and debate the salient points, those who do not go like to understand from a fan’s perspective what the Imps looked like. I’m pretty sure that’s the case, apart from the odd one or two who like to pull me up on spelling or hope for some perceived injustice they can message me about.

Today, I fear some of you will be disappointed (not the spelling guys, they’ll find something).

The last time I missed an Imps’ home game was courtesy of having spinal surgery. This weekend, as my beloved Imps’ were hunting points in the league, I was walking around the island of Lindisfarne with my partner and dog. I can’t even pretend it was booked out of season or without prior knowledge of the fixtures. It was a decision I made consciously as it was the only fitting weekend in our schedules, despite the football.

It didn’t mean I spent the afternoon oblivious to proceedings, of course I didn’t. However, being out of BBC Radio Lincolnshire’s range meant I wasn’t privy to the dulcet tones of Messrs Hortin and Thompson. Instead, I relied on the club’s Twitter feed and the different posts from people during the game.

Courtesy of Graham Burrell

It was an interesting way to follow the Imps and it wasn’t one I’d be keen to repeat. Seeing pictures from the ground, the warm sunshine bathing my place of worship in light, made for a difficult morning. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the beach with the dog, but a little part of me knows I belong at the Bank on a home fixture. Seeing people there, life going on without my attendance, stung.

I perhaps bored Fe a little too much ahead of the fixture, posting about not being there, telling her about the strengths of Macclesfield and how they’d look to sit deep and soak up pressure, Using my trait of linking previous holidays to football, I told her the last time we visited the beach we were on was the day Elliott Whitehouse signed for Grimsby. I’m not sure she was impressed.

What did I make of the time between 3pm and 5pm? Not much if I’m honest. Refreshing a Twitter feed is all well and good, but there is a certain bias towards the home side. It’s natural, but the suggestion was we were utterly battering them and should have been out of sight. Their goal knocked the stuffing out of me a little bit, but I never truly felt we’d get beat.

I found myself spending an insubordinate amount of time looking at the other fixtures too. Mansfield springing a completely surprisingly result away at Exeter, MK Dons clearly indulged in a tough fixture at Forest Green and Bury’s home tie with Swindon. Their results became almost as important as our own.

We’re at the stage of the season now where it’s impossible not to look at other results. In September and October, it doesn’t matter. You get your points on the board and let everyone else do what they need to do. Now, we’re at the sharp end of the season and anyone other than Danny who says other results don’t interest them are surely fibbing.

Instead of being nervy at our performance, I found a certain calm as the afternoon wore on. Neal Eardley bagged a sumptuous free kick which, courtesy of several fans on Facebook, I watched within seconds of him scoring. I found it easy not to fret about our result, because the Twitter feed made it look like we were doing well. It’s amazing how a half chance that fails to convince a fan at Sincil Bank looks like a glorious opportunity when condensed into a single tweet.

The worrying times are when you go five or ten minutes without seeing a message, I likened the experience to playing Championship Manager as a kid, watching the updates easing through on my phone. The Imps had a corner, so you wait. Hit refresh…. nothing. Hit it again… nothing. The excitement is palpable, before finally the update arrives and you find it’s been gathered safely.

Courtesy of Graham Burrell

There’s none of the fear that they might break and score because there’s no tweets highlighting their possession in the middle of the park. The official twitter feed never says ‘Harry Anderson is struggling’ or ‘Macc look good on the ball’. It was football like I’ve not known it for years, without fear.

It wasn’t without expectation though and as the clock wound round towards 4.45pm, I began to panic. It was still 1-1, as you know. Macclesfield Town, exactly the sort of team we struggle to beat, were holding us to a draw. The teams who were meant to struggle, MK Dons and Mansfield, were flying. Tranmere, another promotion contender, were doing the same. Only Bury were fluffing their lines, meaning a win would take us a big step closer not only to promotion, but to the title.

The dying minutes were painful. Not being there, not seeing pressure being applied, felt agonising. Those five minutes seemed empty, void of the passion and excitement that they usually bring. It’s never occurred to me before how heightened our levels of expectation become in those final few minutes, not until you have it taken away. Whereas watching text updates made 80 odd minutes bearable, it took away the very essence of the game in the final ten.

Finally, like a huge anti-climax, we’d drawn. One minute I was anxiously refreshing, hoping for something to happen, but like a crap end to a subtitled film, the credits just rolled.

Courtesy of Graham Burrell

The opinion started flowing immediately, as if the final whistle was a blow to the head with a rock and it were the claret running down the face of Twitter. The usual doom and gloom merchants were out in force, some of which is opinion just as respected as those claiming it was a good point. My Dad surprised me, asking how we could play so well and not win. The same old names criticised the same old players and I reacted much stronger with the block button than usual.

I did have the pleasure of receiving an update from Lewis Kelly, contributor to the blog and fanzine in the past. I respect his opinion and find it as balanced as my own, so felt he’d offered me decent insight into the game. For those who rely on this article for their own news, I’ve added his assessment on the next page.

At 5pm, once I’d told Fe we could go out again, we took a walk up to Lindisfarne Castle in the warm spring sunshine. The dog (predictably) was an arsehole, barking at anything that moves. As we tried to rein him in I tried to balance the outcome of the afternoon’s football in my head. Never too high, never too low. I was high as anything last weekend and yet I found it hard to hit a low.

Sure, we’d drawn and messed up a thousand accumulators, but anyone betting on top against bottom doesn’t deserve to win anything.

Sure, we’d lost ground on the teams all double-digit points behind us as well, tightening things up a bit.

We’d also taken another step towards the title, not just promotion. Bury getting beaten is huge and they’re beginning to look like they might be freezing on the final straight. Danny Mayor being sent off is massive as well, hindering another of our rivals.

The optimism and belief have perhaps ebbed ever-so slightly, but I still firmly believe we’ll be playing League One football next season. That being the case, despite missing the chance to go further ahead, we did actually strengthen our title credentials. Other teams will have looked at the results and perhaps found a glimmer of hope in our draw, but games are running out and our lead isn’t being significantly reduced.

At least that’s what I told myself to enjoy my lamb tagine at the Ship Inn yesterday evening. It worked, proving that in actual fact, you can kid a kidder.

Normal service to be resumed next weekend.

Next Page – Lewis view and some more of Bub’s ace pictures.

6 Comments

  1. Unfortunately, being permanently marooned on an island, that’s how I “watch” City games week in, week out, though I monitor as many media sources as I can find. Then I wait for the match summaries, first the opposition papers then the Lincoln ones. It’s only when I read the Stacey West that I feel I’ve finally got the full picture … for which, Gary, my sincere thanks.

  2. Gary – other than Johnny Walkers Sounds of the 70’s on a sunday afternoon your blog is always a highlight of the week. Thankyou. One day I’ll catch you at SB and say hello.

  3. Where we’ve got to is that this was deflating…..almost like a defeat. We so much deserved to win it but somehow did not. Well done Gary for a great blog as always. We’ll be fine but legs have gone a bit trembly ahead of my trip to the the Franchise

  4. You ought to have tried iFollow, Gary – I think you can pay for a limited period access rather than the full season and you would have got the Radio Lincs commentary and been able to watch the whole game back this afternoon. I only wish such a thing had been available 20 years ago.

  5. On the day none of the forward line turned up,particularly Anderson,and when Rheady came on for seven minutes he won more headers then John Akinde did all the game.

  6. Not a spelling fault this time Gary, just a vocabulary error! For “insubordinate” read “inordinate”!
    Know how you felt on that beach though. Wife and I were in Benidorm 3rd Jan to 26th March so spent many afternoons with only textual reports to keep us informed of progress! Then first match back, only for a below par performance. On to MKD though.

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