Last night was tough all round I think. It wasn’t just the game, the squad we put out or the end result, but also the fervent speculation that I’m loathed to comment on.
I shall have too I suppose, mainly to offer some sort of opinion. All I will say is this: the constant worry is unhealthy. I once had to attend a ‘worry management’ course and was told the best way to manage worry is to sit in a room and try to worry for ten minutes; save all your worrying up for those ten minutes. Don’t waste time troubling yourself with something that either won’t happen, or will happen and you’re powerless to stop it.
Will it happen? I don’t know but given Danny’s response post-match I’d say not. Such is media these days that even a strong denial, as he delivered last night, is considered by some to be positive. I had to laugh when a journalist turned his comments into an article about the conditions he’d need to leave Lincoln (perfect opportunity).
These days, respectable outlets have to be so careful with their words. Everything, all of the speculation, came from one article saying the club were in talks. One article. It’s like dropping a lit match into a bucket full of petrol, that one flame starts something uncontrollable.
It took the focus away from what was a very tough night to be a Lincoln City fan, an ‘unfair’ one if you’re to take Danny’s view. This was our ninth fixture of the season, that’s nine in 30 days. It’s a ridiculous fixture schedule, made even more challenging by the fact Doncaster were able to field a strong first team by virtue of not having played in ten days.
They were fresh and ready, no international call ups and just five matches into their season. This was their sixth game and they were at virtually full strength. We played a winger at right-back, handed a debut to a youngster from West Brom and had to plan our subs in advance to minimise the impact on our squad. We ended up with a left-back in the centre of defence as well.
That’s why, for the first time this season, I’ll only comment briefly on the game. I’ve spoken to people this morning who have called it a bad performance, people who feel we were second best all night and who have commented how good Doncaster looked. My response? What do you expect under the circumstances? Were we not competitive to a point where we took the lead, then had a good chance to do the same again? Outside of that, of course they were the better side. They were fitter and that showed in the final fifteen minutes.
Okay, we didn’t do ourselves any favours at times, letting possession slide in dangerous areas and perhaps not creating anything like as much as we have in the league, but I have nothing negative to say about the players after that. The fixture schedule has weighed against us and that gave Doncaster the upper hand.
I am a little dismayed to see criticism fo John Akinde, again. He scores a good goal from open play after spending much of the night isolated up top on his own, then gets hammered for missing his penalty. Yes, his languid style does mean he’s susceptible to missing the odd one, but he was dangerous from 12-yards last season and he was criticised for not scoring from open play. When he does get a goal, a good one too, he’s pilloried for not bagging his penalty. I’m beginning to think some people are just not willing to give him a break, if Matt Rhead scored a goal then missed a penalty he was generally not lambasted as John is.
As you might be able to tell, I’m struggling to work up any feelings towards the game last night. It wasn’t an easy watch, we didn’t play well but little can be gleaned from it. Ten days ago, against the same side (almost the same XI), we were unlucky not to get a point. In between, we’ve given a Premier League side a run for their money and beaten Fleetwood who were the most potent attacking force until they came to Sincil Bank. In the same period, Doncaster have prepared to face us once again. It was an uneven tie and I won’t be drawn into criticising my team on that basis.
Danny didn’t either. Usually, after a defeat, he’ll pick over the bones of the fixture and refuse to play the victim, but he wouldn’t last night.
“It’s not fair on us compared to our opponents,” he told Rob Makepeace after the game.
“We ended up picking up three injuries, we had to take our best player off at half-time and played the second half with one centre-half. We had to make pre-determined substitutions because we played last Wednesday and we played on Saturday. This is our ninth game in 30 days. Somebody, somewhere, has to look at themselves.
“They keep talking to me about player safety, player welfare and the provision that is put in place for the players. We talk in this age about mental health all the time. We all know how mental health issues come on – it’s through added stresses and pressures.”
Bolton cancelled a game with Doncaster over player welfare concerns, meaning they had a break before meeting us in the league as well as last night. Danny is extremely unhappy with the situation.
“Someone needs to look at it. It’s a crazy start. Imagine the Premier League boys being asked to play nine games in 30 days. I just feel sorry for the supporters. We’ve had to patch up, Harry had to play at right-back, we had to take our best player off at half-time and then we had to make pre-determined subs in the second half and go to a 4-4-2.
“And you have to remember, we’ve got two on international duty as well. They would have played. So it was probably a game too far, probably two or three games too far. Inside football, we keep telling the authorities, who have never played football before, and we’ll see if they listen. Maybe one day they will.”
It’s not even getting easier. We play Wycombe this weekend, a side we’re level on points with in second place and guess what? They didn’t play last night either.