Progression or regression? – Imps 1-1 MK Dons

Courtesy Graham Burrell

Another game, more division and debate. After the strong showing against Rotherham, I hoped for the same again, although I did warn this wasn’t to be an easy fixture against a side experiencing a resurgence.

Michael Appleton made minimal changes to the team, dropping Max Melbourne and playing Tayo Edun at left-back. Tayo, who feels his best role is a midfielder, has played left-back for England so it wasn’t a completely random change. Max hasn’t been playing well and I’m sure MA felt it best to take him out of the firing line for a game or two, especially as the vitriol is beginning to build at Sincil Bank.

It’s amusing, Helgy posted something on social media about an early goal being the key to us going on and getting the win and I feel that is the case. This team is all about confidence; when the players believe in themselves they reach their levels and when they take a knock, they don’t. If we get our noses ahead you usually fancy us to get a result, whereas when we go behind we inevitably do not.

There is a famous saying about football being a game of two halves and I think confidence played a big part in last night bringing us a ‘half of two halves’. Straight from the kick-off we attacked, then they attacked and referee John Busby gave them a free-kick on the edge of the area. I could write a whole article starting each sentence with ‘referee John Busby gave them a free-kick’, because it was what he seemed to do. He was erratic, confused as to the rules and completely inadequate for league football. Maybe rose-tinted glasses had me seeing no infringement, or maybe the referee wasn’t up to the job.

Either way, they got a free-kick from a long way out and Rhys Healey showed all his quality to curl a wonderful effort over the wall and past Josh Vickers. My first thought was that Vickers might have been at fault, but now I’ve watched again it was just a superb strike. Credit where it is due. I didn’t think there was a big need for him to come and celebrate in front of our fans though, not with a couple of hundred of their lot over in one corner and not when he hadn’t received any abuse either, but some footballers are just like that I suppose.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

That early goal knocked our confidence and I felt the next 20 minutes were poor from both sides. Aside from their goal, they created very little and played some decent football at the same time. I feel we’re not that different, us and MK. They play out from the back, they like to keep possession and yet they created very little. It certainly looked a lot like October / November Lincoln City to me. Our gameplan was less possession-based, trying to move forward quickly but on the floor and often with little success.

They got a succession of corners and for some reason, I feel nervous whenever that happens. We don’t seem happy defending balls into the box, Josh Vickers doesn’t like claiming them and the whole stadium draws breath whenever anyone delivers something in. They didn’t get any joy though and we went up the other end, played some nice football and Liam Bridcutt lashed home a superb strike from 20-yards. 1-1.

At that point, everything turned for me. Suddenly, our players looked to have confidence. Maybe it was the roar of the crowd, maybe it was Morrell and Bridcutt springing into life. For a few minutes we played with real zest and creativity and I felt there was only one outcome to the game. John-Jules, a player getting quite a bit of stick around me, had two chances, one of which should have brought a goal. Decent work by Jake Hesketh fed in Harry Anderson, his shot was blocked and dropped to John-Jules who had a gaping goal to shoot at. Two defenders were back but anything with power beats them and we’re 2-1 up. Too much power though and the ball goes too high. I have no need to tell you what happened.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

That clearly knocked his confidence and when Joe Morrell picked up a booking a couple of minutes later he was essentially taken out of the game. Michael Appleton aid the referee told him ‘one more and you’re off’, poor officiating considering he’d committed few fouls on the night. I didn’t think his challenge warranted a yellow if I’m honest and a few around me didn’t either. I might be wrong here, but I think it came from a foul to which the referee waved play on, but MK put it out for a throw. Now, if he waves play on and they chose to put the ball out, is it not a throw? I don’t know, but later in the game, he stopped play for an injury that wasn’t a head injury (and as it turned out, wasn’t an injury) stopping us breaking. John Busby is not a good referee.

Anyway, Morrell is booked and loses his edge, John-Jules misses a sitter and loses his confidence, so we needed a big display from Hesketh. He had seen an effort go over not long after Morrell’s booking, but he didn’t know much about it as the ball cannoned off him and over the bar. He’s been a bit of a scapegoat for me and I tried desperately to see the good in his performance last night, but he made that very hard when, after stopping them playing out from the back, he went one on one with their keeper. His strike was so wild and unprecise that if he’d swung a fridge-freezer at the ball, attached to a giant crane, he would have achieved a more accurate finish.

Rhys Healey had a decent chance for them as the half drew to a close, but there was little to complain about at half time. We’d been knocked down, come back into the game and should have been 3-1 up, without a doubt. John-Jules and Hesketh both looked short on confidence, but as the sides trudged off at the end of the half I firmly believed we’d be taking home all three points by doing exactly the same in the second period.


  1. After 65 years of sup[porting the Imps I reckon Hopper has to be the worst striker I have seen in an Imps shirt on his current performances.

  2. i think views of last nights performace need to be based on expections….for me an Ok performance inline with our league position and my expectations….which are always set against me watching them in the late 80’s and 90’s

  3. It was one of those games when the whole team couldn’t string a few passes together whereas Friday was a joy to watch.
    Patience is needed as it’s better football overall than lump it up to a big centre forward. Having said that Akinde would have been an alternative option. We haven’t got one at present until Hopper gets up to speed.
    Patience is needed as most of these player MA had brought in are young.

  4. surely Payne deserves a chance in place of Hesketh. I know Michael sees the players on the training ground and I assume he sees something in Hesketh but t performances just aren’t there at the moment. Scully looks good when he comes on, is it time to start him? Would of preferred to see Ellis come on for Morrell, rather than Coventry

  5. The players are under instructions to never deviate from the plan,and individual flair is non existant. Lewis should be given an opportunity to go wide right as his last cameo appearance proved he is capable of doing that. The current lineup isnt working at present.

  6. Not enough fire power and quality up front.
    TJJ , Hopper ,Hesketh.. God, I would swap them all for Walker. Especially that comedian Hesketh .., 🙂 Why he’s still even here ??
    Looks like not all MA’s January acquisitions are rubbish. Bridcutt was good again. Also Edun grew into the game and did really well as a LB.

  7. Lionel Messi would have looked awful playing up front for City last night. I think you’re being tough on Hopper and John-Jules – they’re not essentially creative players but given some kind of service, who knows? I also think you’re hard on the referee. Eardley definitely caught their player which led to the free-kick the Dons scored from – and indeed there were lots of sly, niggling trips that led to decisions which incensed the faithful who’d missed the foul. What really worries me is that there was no discernible game plan. Kick, run and hope seemed to be Mr Appleton’s strategy. Don’t get me started on playing it out from the back. MK Dons were bigger, stronger, faster and uglier and steam-rollered our lightweights. But they backed off and started time-wasting when they realised there was no way we were going to score – and we had that brief period when we had some joy down the right flank and Bridcutt came up with the one bit of magic that lit up an otherwise forgettable evening.

  8. An important game! I just hope the booing, together with the head shake from our manager, isn’t a moment we look back on with much regret at the end of the season. We need 3 wins or 9 points, to stay up don’t we? Michael Appleton has accepted a massive challenge of losing most of our best players to hasten the change in the business model of our club. To the newer supporters were on a bad run, to the older ones we’re where we were 4+ years ago. Neither are appropriate. We must in my view trust the manager and help the team by not getting on their backs. We should accept we will limp through the rest of the season but hope (and expect) improvement as we go. Let’s stick together and not split like it felt last night. Up the Imps!

  9. When were THIS team ever in front? My understanding is that 50 points will see us safe. That means either drawing every remaining game or winning 4! Can anyone tell me where those points are coming from because I can’t, and more importantly, nor can MA. We now have two games without Joe Morrell. Will Jack Payne be his replacement and if he does I wouldn’t blame him for showing the same commitment to MA as he has shown him.
    I don’t expect Akinde will show much regard for our plight when next he revisits the LNER boo-boys or that our inability to keep clean sheets will be solved, as it was last season, by Matt Gilks.
    If this is a plan it isn’t working and the manager needs to quit with the platitudes and get the team fit and working together before Tranmere have the last laugh.

    • I think Payne is not really replacement for Morrell is he?. It would be either Edun ( I hope so) or Coventry (I’m afraid it could be him..). Maybe Grant if Scully will play on the wing (not bad option on the paper). There is also Chapman who played really good in what was a very important game vs tranmere (best game I ever seen him play). But then MA killed the lad by dropping him and start playing people like Coventry (not even our player) …
      Payne should play but for Hesketh. Can’t be any worse than him….

        • No. Not my type anyway. I guess that you fancy him a bit though… 😉
          In all seriousness now, at which point I was wrong ? It’s all facts. Chapman is OUR young player. and when he started to play at good level and he got dropped and replaced by the others. Including loanee Coventry who is not one bit better…

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