At just gone five last night, I felt numb. I felt sick to my stomach, enduring that gut-punch feeling of agony that perhaps we became immune too at one time.
Between 2008 and 2015 it became commonplace, almost expected. 5 pm on a Saturday? Lincoln had probably lost. That’s not me being harsh, it was just fact. Losing leads wasn’t unusual either; 3-0 up at Forest Green to draw 3-3 sticks in my mind, a game which cost Gary Simpson his job. We’ve done it time and again though, lost big leads. I saw yesterday’s game mentioned in the same breath as the day we lost to Barnet 4-3 having been 3-0 up after 25 minutes.
I don’t see it quite that way. I can’t gloss everything up from defeat at Stanley, but I can see positives in the result. Before you all start laughing, yes it’s one point from 18, that isn’t a good run. Positives are all well and good but football is about winning matches, I know that too, enough people have mentioned it in passing on social media recently. There is a difference though between going 3-0 up and losing over the next 70 minutes and bouncing back three from goals conceded twice away from home.
We’re on a bad run and at times I’ve felt like it was never going to end (Portsmouth and Southend two obvious examples). That’s where yesterday differs for me; I didn’t actually think we’d get beat until their goal went in and, even after they snatched the lead for the first time, I felt we had a goal in us. That is a progression of sorts, is it not?
Far too much happened yesterday to pick through everything, but for me the afternoon always starts at 2 pm, wondering what changes MA might make. Perhaps yesterday he made a couple that were popular, without a doubt I expect him to do the same for the Gillingham game. We saw Anthony Scully come in for Joe Morrell and Tom Hopper come in for Tyreece John-Jules, who was injured. It might sound harsh, but TJJ’s injury came just at the right time for him and the rest of the team; he’s looked low on confidence and needed a bit of time out of the limelight.
I did want to comment on Max Melbourne too, a player who missed yesterday through injury and was at West Brom rather than Accrington. I’m not going to hammer him for that, just like I didn’t go in for James Maddison when he went to a casino despite being injured for England duty. Max is a young lad who perhaps needed a break as well after a poor run of form. I don’t see a problem with him having the day off and doing whatever it is he wants to do, especially not if it means we get Blackpool Melbourne back next week.
The first half was pretty average. Just like the MK Dons game much of the football happened in the middle of the field and rarely troubled the 18-yard area. I did feel we had more rhythm to our play though, probably from Anthony Scully. I’m going to have to stand corrected; I didn’t think it was time to expose him to a start but I think he’s made a good fist of proving me wrong. He’s got ‘class’ stamped all over him and when the deadlock finally got broken in horrible conditions, it’s not surprising it was him.
What I really liked about his goal was how instinctive it was. He’s got his back to goal but, instead of looking for a pass which I feel many of our other strikers would have done, he’s turned and scored. Have we honestly owned that ‘fox in the box’ at all during the last few years? Even during the three years of success, we didn’t have a centre forward who was instinctive; Rheady was different, perhaps Liam Hearn was the last of that ilk we actually owned.
I’d called us to win this game and although we didn’t, I did see the sort of improvement I expected. Tom Hopper, whilst not brilliant again, did more than he has in recent weeks and I felt Jorge Grant just hit those same levels as he always does. We weren’t scintillating going forward, the conditions put paid to that, but I think if the weather had been agreeable we’d be talking about a strong attacking performance all afternoon. Sadly, attack is not the only part of football and the other bit, ‘defending’ is something we’re horrible at.
Six minutes we led. Six minutes of me truly believing we could go on and win the game 3-0. Honestly, I felt that positive about the side, I truly believed this was the game in which we put relegation fears a little further out of our mind. Six minutes later, those fears knocked on the door asking to be let back in. Tayo Edun, another who didn’t do badly, was taken out of the game by a simple pass, Jorge Grant and Harry Anderson couldn’t stop the cross and inexplicably Jason Shackell turned past his own keeper. I thought Josh Vickers was a bit to blame as well, there seemed to be a huge miscommunication and the outcome was the leveller. Lincoln 1-1 Lincoln is how it feels; we’re beating ourselves every week, other teams are not needing to do it for us.
Flip to a positive, I felt we showed good character to come back into the game. The rest of the half was end to end: Josh pulled of a save or two, whilst at the other end Anthony Scully looked close to adding a second. When the whistle went for the half to end I still felt we’d take something from the game. We were offering a decent threat and although we’d gifted a goal we weren’t making the same errors as most weeks. No, I felt I’d be rolling into Saturday evening with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. It’s the hope that kills you.