Now for the real business: Imps 1-1 Scunthorpe (4-2 on pens)

Courtesy Graham Burrell

I managed to get back from my weekend away in time to catch last night’s game, or so I thought. There’s me, happily drinking tea and wasting time, unaware that the game kicked off at 7pm, not 7.45pm.

Still, unlike the Imps’ defence for Scunthorpe’s opener, I managed to adjust myself and recover enough to catch the game, whereas the goal we conceded proved that if you don’t pay attention at the back, you’ll concede goals. I wanted to start with that because otherwise, this might read like yet another ‘the result doesn’t matter’ piece.

This is a tournament few care about. I had to chuckle when Michael Hortin said he thought there were about 150 people in the ground last night, because for some clubs that would be a big attendance in this competition. I know this is a rather cynical and snidey opening to the article perhaps that reflects how one feels after four wonderful days away, sitting back in their desk wondering how they managed to take the Wednesday off work to get chores done and still find little time to do them!

Let,s try and focus on the game from here on in. The line up was quite experimental I felt, although perhaps the back four had a look of certainty about it. I know many fancy Aaron Lewis to be our first choice right-back, but I suspect Eyoma might be, whilst Melbourne is almost certainly the first choice left-back as one of our longest-serving players. I suspect Adam Jackson and Montsma might be the pairing we go for in the middle, but obvious we do have options there too, but with Alex Palmer in goal I felt we were trialling the one area of the field in which our absolute first choice (Palmer) needed to gel with those in front of him. Elsewhere on the field, the lads have had three or four games together and that led to some experimentation.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

I like Tayo Edun (what, I’ve not mentioned it before?) and of the three in midfield, he is the one I expect to be knocking on the first team door. The fact he got 90 minutes last night suggests that come Saturday, he’ll still be knocking as McGrandles, Jones and Bridcutt line up there. It’s obvious that Ramirez Howarth and Alex Bradley are down the pecking order, but both were given a run-out as expected in what is usually referred to as a ‘Mickey Mouse’ cup. Up top, Callum Morton needed minutes and both Zach Elbouzedi and Harry Anderson are three and four in the pecking order, in my opinion. If they are, they’re the two who really can hold their head up high and admit they gave the manager food for thought last night.

I finally got logged on around the eight-minute mark, but unless we had chances before that, it is fair to say the first half was tepid in terms of attacking. We were facing a three or five at the back, depending on whether Scunthorpe attacked or defended, and that’s always been an issue for this Lincoln City side (think Gillingham and Shrewsbury last season). It restricts our attacking options, not least when we have a three up front, with two drifting out wide. Callum Morton looked isolated, but we did find a bit of space in behind on occasion. In the other two-thirds of the pitch, we controlled possession, as we’re expected to do, but without a killer blow to be had.

If anyone looked likely to score, it was Scunthorpe. They soaked up our possession like a sponge and on the occasion, they did get the ball, they looked to hit us hard on the break. This was, as I’m led to believe, pretty much their first XI so they looked very different to the side we rolled over in the recent friendly.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

Whilst they had clearer chances, little seemed threatening. Alex Palmer is proving to be exactly what we expected, right down to his awareness in picking up a booking for kicking the second ball away on 20 minutes. I liked that, it shows awareness of the threat, even when the ball is not in play. Had Scunthorpe picked up quickly, he could have been out of position and exposed. Yes, it’s a yellow card, but one which tells us more about the player than it does the moment it was conceded in.

When Scunthorpe weren’t making quick forays into our half, we were patiently building up with some smart football. One or two look very comfortable with it and the link-up between Elbouzedi and Melbourne didn’t go unnoticed here. It is little surprise that those two have played together for a little longer, having trained as a pairing last season as well as this. In patches, our play looked good, but in others it looked forced. Long balls drifted out of play, Lewis Montsma one guilty party. He had an assured game and is certainly a passer of the ball; at one stage he was making a surging run deep in the opposition half, but there’s also a degree of naivety to some of his play. Again, it is early days and in his defence, when his passing comes off, it looks wonderful. I have little doubt as he settles into the English game, he’s going to be a big asset. After all, last night was nothing more than a glorified friendly in which we tried new things.

I thought both Howarth and Bradley looked like they were playing to impress and that maybe affected some of their decisions. Again, neither had a bad game, but in fairness, both looked like they were on the fringes. Tayo Edun let a few balls run away from him and on occasion, we just held possession too long. It wasn’t bad football, not at all, but I think we looked more fluid (from what I saw) when the ‘first team’ were on show in the middle at the weekend. Our game is going to be heavily reliant on those three midfield positions and when you make sweeping changes there, it affects the flow of the game.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

However, those changes do not affect the situation at a corner and it was disappointing to see a header go unchallenged to give the Iron a 1-0 lead. It was as simple as it gets, a ball floated in and a header past the keeper. I watched the replay a few times and I’m not sure which defender is at fault: Melbourne and Montsma are both in attendance. However, the goal did give the right team the lead at the break.

I felt we hadn’t created anything serious, perhaps the odd half-chance for Morton or Ramirez, but nothing that really tested their keeper. I was proven right watching the highlights back on the club channel – not one first half effort up to the goal came from us.