Ah, the final instalment of a series that in truth has taken far too long to write. It’s not like I don’t have other stuff on though, hence this coming a good three weeks after my look at the keepers.
You’ll never win the league without a 20-goal striker. That’s a ‘fact’ I heard before the season started. It’s a maligned role in my opinion, one in which the only way to silence critics is to score goals and even then, make sure they’re not all from 12-yards.
We’ve not had a player that bagged 20 in a season since Ben Tomlinson (a season we didn’t win the league) and we’ve only had three since the early nineties who reached that magical mark (the other two being Simon Yeo and Gareth Ainsworth).
This season was no different either and the four players who I class as ‘strikers’ finished the season with a league total of 25 (33 in all competitions). If you were to take penalties away, our four strikers barely broke 15 goals from open play.
Still, we won the league, so I guess we did something right!
Here’s my look at our strikers and why in some instances, they shouldn’t be judged on goals alone.
May as well wade straight into the argument hadn’t we? Even sat around the table on Sunday night, celebrating the Imps’ first Football League title in my lifetime, we were having the John Akinde debate.
It surprises me that we still have to defend big John, ‘we’ being those who see exactly what he brings to the side. I think he got better as the season went on, which for anyone who saw him against Exeter might seem hard to believe. The fact is we’ve played him in a very different role to the one he played at Barnet.
He was part of a two man strike force for the Bees, which meant he was often the runner off a big man. We have seen that used to effect in some matches this season, but in the main he’s been the target man and the runner in one.
How often did he look isolated? You know why that is? He was. Not his fault, but it reflected in his goal tally
We won the league this season because our away from eclipsed our home form. Last season we won four fewer away from home and lost three more. My firmly held belief is John Akinde is the difference.
Away from home we need to play a more counter-attacking game. Last year, if we wanted to break at speed, we went long to Matt Rhead and got Matt Green around him. That took up two players and left us less compact at the back. This season, John performed both tasks. We could have ten behind the ball where needed, and get out to John who would be able to carry it away.
How often did he look isolated? Often? You know why that is? He was. Not his fault, but it reflected in his goal tally. However, that isolation was often part of the plan, with his ‘partner’, often McCartan, looking to occupy the last midfielder as well as get forward.
We conceded five fewer goals way from home than last season and scored 12 more. That’s where the league was won and lost.