Football is a cruel, cruel mistress: Accrington Stanley 4-3 Imps

Courtesy Graham Burrell

One issue we’ve had recently is coming out after half time and immediately shooting ourselves in the foot. Rotherham got their winner in that period, MK Dons scored but it was disallowed in the same time frame and Accrington got a penalty around the same time. Those five minutes are like the witching hour for us, they’re almost as dangerous as injury time, Having looked back, it did seem a soft penalty and the Shackell-haters might be a bit harsh in blaming him 100%. Sure, he’s involved, but a softer penalty you will not see. I suspect the taker felt that too, so he matched a soft decision with a weak kick which Josh saved. I guess our keeper must listen to the podcast because after Portsmouth I asked if anyone could remember a side missing a penalty against us. Well, there you go.

After that knock, we looked energised and at times almost fluid under the conditions. John Coleman felt we played ‘some lovely stuff’ in spells and those who can look beyond the result will see that we did. I know it is tough right now, but there are positives that suggest we’re going in the right direction. Scully, Grant, Bridcutt, Edun and Aaron Lewis all impressed. Lewis replaced Harry Anderson who looked off the pace again and he made an instant impression. He came on, got a shot away that forced a save and then nodded home a goal after the sort of defensive error we would make. I felt we showed character to come back from 1-1 and conceding a penalty to go 2-1 up. Again, I felt like we’d win it.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

It was end to end, conditions affecting quality a little, but the glimpses of both side’s passing intentions were evident. Jake Hesketh was putting a decent shift in, he kept swapping with Scully which made both difficult to mark. Don’t get me wrong, Hesketh wasn’t outstanding, but he did almost create a third for Aaron Lewis with a cutback. We had a shot lashed over too, but for every break of ours, they had the same. I did feel Tom Hopper drifted out of the game in the second period but with just over 20 minutes left I still believed.

Their second was a great strike, but it’s not the first long-range goal we’ve conceded this season, is it? Sides know to drive from range and they might get lucky and we see it week in, week out. I like Josh as a shot-stopper and there was little he could do about that effort, but why was their lad not closed down quicker? Not calling anyone out here, only shouting what I see, and I see a defender with ‘5’ on his back, backing off as their boy takes all the time he needs to ready himself for a strike. Maybe one of the midfielders should have been closer to him as well. Maybe.

Still, we showed a desire to win the game and you do have to respect that. We’re a team low on confidence still gelling and we continued to believe we’d get a goal. We actually scored from a corner as well, imagine my surprise. I was delighted for Shackell to get it, I suppose I like to see players bouncing back and if it had proven to be the winner we might all have gone a bit easier on him after the game. Sadly, just two minutes later, we shot ourselves in the foot. Again. Imagine my surprise.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

I think it is a preventable goal but remember, I’m watching it back this morning in a warm office time and again. It’s easy to call players out for what they did in the driving rain, isn’t it? For the record I felt the dink pass through that led to the first shot could have been cut out, Josh made a good save but I suspect got his angles wrong and might have stepped back towards his goal quicker, which would have given the shooter less to aim at when he did get the chance away to make it 3-3. You’d also like to see a block tackle, a desperate lunge to stop the ball (but not take the man) when the ball is rolled back. Collectively, it wasn’t a nice goal to concede and I imagine watching it back, Michael Appleton will be upset with what he has seen.

Ellis Chapman came on and almost bagged his first goal for the club with an effort just wide, Bozzy came on and signalled a return to action that cannot come soon enough. Tom Hopper’s injury meant ten minutes of stoppage time and you know what stoppage time means for us; goals against. I could see us conceding, but I could see us scoring as well. Typically, I was only half right.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

That final goal is horrible to watch back. If we’re apportioning blame, Neal Eardley has got his angles wrong and is showing too much of Josh’s near post to the scorer, but then Josh isn’t across far enough to protect his near post. Let’s give the keeper some credit though, he shouldn’t be facing a shot at his near post from there; you expect the defender to push the lad out wide. That said, Neal was exposed as well, where were the desperate midfielders looking to get back to support? Maybe that is me being harsh, but I’m not one for scapegoating if I can help it and, from a team point of view, it is yet another weak goal.

That was that. Three times we showed character to take the lead, twice bouncing back from the sucker punch of conceding and yet four times we folded like a hotel bedsheet at the other end. Fair play to Accrington, for a side down in the dumps like we are, they have plenty about them, but we just lack confidence right now. I can’t say we lack character, we don’t, but we don’t have it all over the pitch.

Michael Appleton came in for some stick after the game, but he can’t kick the ball himself. The boss is an easy target but in terms of how we approached the game, attacked the opposition and in terms of goals scored, we did enough to win the game. Sadly, mad moments at the back and a lack of quality from players you expect more from end up costing us the game. The criticism is the young players don’t have what it takes, but like MA I see that not being the case. One or two senior players (not just the one) have not been good of late, whilst the young players (Scully, Edun, Lewis) either proved their worth yesterday or have done so over a couple of matches.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

I went on Love Sport radio later on in the evening; we were meant to be at the cinema but sadly my back has been giving me problems again. Anyway, in the midst of six episodes of ‘The Stranger’ on Netflix (recommended), I had to speak to them about our form. Their assumption was the season was set to peter out now, we weren’t going down and we weren’t going up. I pulled the presenter up on that; we’re still in danger of going down. It’s not an imminent danger, it’s not the sort of danger that is looming large over the club, but it’s the sort of danger that creeps up on you slowly and stealthily, without warning. 2010/11 served as a warning to me to never be complacent and that’s the rhetoric I think we have to be pulling out now.

The way we can combat it though is not to boo at games, not to abuse players so they have to ignore it on the pitch as Tayo explained, but to support the club and believe we can get the points we need. To be posting about being worried for next season is nonsense, we have no idea what will happen in the summer or who will be at the club. We’ve had some poor outings, granted, but yesterday was not poor in the strictest sense. We weren’t great at the back but we showed we have got exciting young players, we can score goals and I still believe, without complacency, that we will still up.

We just need a win. Now, without a win in six, we face Gillingham without a defeat in 13 and boasting John Akinde up top. What a game it would be to finally get those points we need on the board and press forward to ensure the season does peter out into nothing, which is exactly what we all want to see.

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  1. “One point from 18, that isn’t a good run.” You can say that again Gary! I listened to the match on Radio Lincs. We were 2-1 up after 58 minutes of play. It couldn’t last. Hardly anytime later we were 3-3. I knew then what was coming. As we have so often done, we’d give away a very late soft goal and lose. And we did. MA’s tried various player permutations yet our defence is still prone to daft, incompetent misakes and our forwards’ wayward shooting continues to give kids outside the ground the chance of a free matchball.Thank God we had a great start to the season! Nonetheless, I shall still be there on the 24th to renew my season ticket.In MA We Trust! We ain’t got an option.

  2. One point from six games. No single cleansheet. Different team fielded every game. Accrington,MK and even relegated Southend who put team together five minutes before the kick off are all to strong for us. Season tickets renewal period coming at a great time… Win against unbeaten this year Gillingham would be a massive lift for everyone but….
    But as it stands in Tranmere we trust….

      • Were I Mickey Mellon I would be setting my team a target of 18 points from 42, which is probably unachievable with their run-in, but they can almost guarantee 20% of that target from our visit alone.
        However, I do agree they remain our best, and perhaps only hope.

  3. Michael Appleton – with the solitary exclusion of Oxford United, way, way back in an undistinguished managerial career – may actually be at the height of his powers with a win rate as follows:
    Managerial Career
    Team W D L WIN%
    Lincoln City 8 5 14 29.6
    Oxford Utd 77 47 49 44.5
    Blackburn 4 6 6 25
    Blackpool 2 8 2 16.7
    Portsmouth 13 11 27 25.5
    West Brom* 0 1 0 0
    TOTAL 104 78 98 37.1

    Were the team’s form better then perhaps I could understand your optimism. Only Tranmere have worse current form than City’s, which surely IS cause for concern.
    When one considers the comments MA made yesterday – can anyone recall the Cowleys publically criticising the squad, or directing their frustration at a specific group? – his treatment of Frecks, Payne, Pett and McCombe, is there any wonder that he seems to have lost the dressing room?
    How long are you prepared to continue to write platitudes to a manager with such an undistinguished record who seems not to know his best team and who is playing Russian roulette with the future of our club?
    I’m disappointed with what he has achieved in his time here and see yesterday’s defeat as an even bigger blow to morale than the 0-6 thrashing by Oxford.
    It’s not just a question of form, it’s a matter of a demoralised squad which has happened entirely on his watch. He needs to go, now!

    • I wouldn’t go that far. He needs to get more time to sort things out. Not a fan of changing managers after few bad games….
      Agreed with two things though. His arrogant comments, moves and treatment of certain players means it can’t be a happy camp at the moment. 15 points gap is big but If he carries on like that he will lose dressing room and if tranmere will find a good run then…
      Two. He did good job at Oxford by getting them promoted and developing few young players. But that was league two not league one… and apart from that he never achieved anything. Not sure if he is the man to take us forward but I still hope he could be…
      God we need a win ….

          • MA took Oxford to a Wembley final and 2nd in League Two. The following season they finished 8th in League One and made another Wembley final. For me, that’s success outside L2.

          • Past glories have no bearing on the present, and how long ago was that? And what has he achieved in the interim? Nothing!
            But if you think the teams record since his arrival, particularly since Christmas, is something worth clinging to, then how come Southend have earned more points – even allowing for the 3 we gifted them and spaffing the money we got for last year’s top scorer on a player they knew was finished in this league?
            The stats are there for all, including you, to see. Our current top scorer is out of form and you are advocating a line-up of untried, and returning from injury players to stick their thumbs in the equivalent of the overflowing river Taff!
            Tell us where the next point or goal is coming from? MA doesn’t know, nor does the chairman, who if he has any sense will be on the phone pursuing options other than an Akinde hat trick on Tuesday!

          • Have a look. It shows how the Imps are one place above Tranmere – on goal difference only – at the very bottom of the form table.
            I’m betting Scully and Nates have a spreadsheet on this, and one for candidates for potential manager replacements.

    • Sums it up entirely, my only concern would be, would you risk a new man in for 11 games and still achieve safety?

      • It’s a good point. Has anyone else noticed how the results downturn dates from the club sacking Jamie McCombe? And how much did Matt Gilks want to stay?

  4. Did sir A Ferguson get this kind of comments all those years ago. And if you don’t feel 3 goals in one game is a progression. !! Had some injuries of decent players to deal with. Good to see Lewis, get on and score. Thought before the game a 1-1 draw so disappointed we could not get over the line especially after a penalty save, but, that’s Lincoln. Maybe got 3 goals at Torquay and lost 4-3, probably 30 years ago plus that was hugely disappointing, this does not feel the same.

    • MA is now Sir Alex Ferguson and Lincoln Manchester United? ??
      I’d be happy if he were Darren Ferguson and we were doing half as well as Peterborough Utd.
      If we lose to Evans on Tuesday we are the worst form team in the EFL!
      Can anyone see us getting a point at Tranmere? Or Bolton?
      If Appleton stays our final game at home to Rochdale will be a cup final!

  5. I think he’s asking his centre backs and gk to play in a way they can’t handle, which leads to the full backs constantly receiving the ball under pressure and us giving up far too many easy opportunities. I’m all for change towards his style, but he’s trying to get there to quickly in my view.

    It seems to me that MA is saying that it’s not ‘his’ players that are at fault, but rather the seniors he inherited. That seems like a poor assessment to me, we can’t win the ball up the pitch because we’re too weak and keep giving it away due to wrong players for the tactics. I hope I’m wrong, because if that’s what he really thinks I don’t think it’s a good mentality to have in terms of managing this squad towards improvement through the rest of the season.

  6. All getting a little too toxic for my liking. Lincoln are in league one, and in transition. A calculated gamble, and a new business model for the club at this level was needed, and this is what it takes. The long game, and the manager needs time. Some perspective is needed. Club needs support and fans now more than ever, not vitriol and whinging.

    • Spot on Jimmy , we all need to get behind the team and the manager, we are in transition no doubt about that . Many young players learning and they will get better, had we continued with the early season business model then we may have become another Bury . Danny never did consolidation so I am not quite sure whether our league position would have been any different under him as he would have to work within financial constraints if he could.
      Whilst we need a win or two , we all need to look where we are, compared to where we were , we need to support the club and the team and give them every encouragement.
      The only thing I do not agree with is publicly hanging people out to dry in interviews but we are not party to internal conversations in the dressing room both before, after and during matches.

      MA ‘s hands were tied do we let players go for nothing at the end of the season or cash in on them now only JA had another year left on his contract. Cowleys plus player sales has probably brought in about £1.7 m and we have spent a fraction of this with money in reserve for the summer.

      This season has been like a book of many chapters and I think there are another couple to go yet but I do think we will all get a happy ending – Consolidation and safety.

      Last but not least I echo all of your sentiments and feelings Gary – good report.

      • £1.7million? Where’s that figure from. The Cowleys got 300k of the million and we got nothing like a million for selling the family silver!
        Maybe when MA gets behind the team you can demand the same of supporters who, like me, have almost 60 years supporting this club through thick and thin. The buck stops with the manager and see what Blackpool did, both recently and when they realised they’d made a huge mistake with MA.

  7. Just forgot to mention in my above comment We need to learn on pitch GAME MANAGEMENT which only comes with experience and age.
    Plus I would have kept Micky O’Connor no matter what, that man had game management in abundance.
    It was worth keeping him for what we probably received for him.

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