Reality Bites: Imps 1-2 Bristol Rovers

Credit Graham Burrell

I always seem to find it hard to write after a defeat like yesterday, which is in sharp contrast to many on social media for whom criticism comes as a default setting.

Let’s be honest, looking at the fixture list this looked like the most winnable game of the opening five, and with them having won something like three in thirty before the encounter, we had to feel confident. Maybe, on reflection, we should have been concerned about our depleted team; Callum Morton’s injury has been a big blow, Max Melbourne missing disrupted the left-hand side and of course, Brennan Johnson would have allowed us to change to a 4-4-1-1 which might have been more effective in those final minutes.

We can also moan a bit about the penalty decision in the first half, where McGrandles didn’t get a penalty he clearly deserved, but that would be hypocritical, would it not? We are happy to say ‘that’s football’ and move on when we get the rub of the green (MK Dons anyone?), so to then start shouting blue murder when things go against us isn’t fair. It is the second year I’ve mentioned an incorrect penalty decision in the game against the Gas, but that is really where the similarities end.

Credit Graham Burrell

There was little surprise pre-game with the team selection. Sean Roughan, who had a tough time against CJ Hamilton last weekend and who played 90 minutes in midweek, dropped to the bench, whilst Tayo Edun came in. Edun had looked decent at left-back over the previous 135 minutes of football and deserved his place in the side. The rest of the back four looked sound enough, our midfield was as expected as were the front three. It felt like ‘business as usual’ and after the often thrilling display against Mansfield in midweek, I fancied a game in which we created a few chances.

As for the visitors, they got a win last weekend but I didn’t see them as a significant threat as, say, Fleetwood will be next week, or Ipswich the week after. Nope, this was definitely a golden chance to break that 100-year record of five consecutive league wins at the start of the season.

The first half didn’t really give us much to talk about in terms of action. I didn’t think we played badly if I’m honest, no worse than in games against Oxford or Charlton. At times, our approach play was laboured and passes went a little astray, but it was an even game in which neither side deserved a lead. We perhaps had the best clear-cut chance with Harry Anderson’s close-range effort being smartly saved. However, the Gas were strong opponents and perhaps played the better football. They were restricted to a couple of long-range efforts which didn’t really trouble Alex Palmer, with fans not exactly being served up a treat by either side.

Close – Credit Graham Burrell

I do think the Gas had some steady but forced build-up play, whilst we tried to move forward quicker, but again everything felt forced. After being treated to some really slick football in midweek, it was hugely disappointing for us as fans to see the method not working in a big league game. Remember, if we’d won, we would have been clear top of the third tier for the first time in many, many years. This was the type of game where we needed fans in the stadium, not least to maybe sway the ref when a stonewall penalty shout comes up.

I’ve watched the incident back and the foul on McGrandles is 100% a penalty. If we score that, I feel the game would be different from how it went with us scoring just after half time. Plus, there’s every chance if it is a penalty, then it might be a red card too; still, as I’ve said, we can’t complain. The weak penalty against MK Dons changed the game and I’m not sure we entirely deserved it. I think the saying is ‘swings and roundabouts’ and that certainly applies. We didn’t lose the game because we didn’t get the penalty shout, there were 96 minutes and 59 seconds outside that incident we could have crated chances to take all three points.

Credit Graham Burrell

The first half wasn’t really inspirational, but it wasn’t awful either. There were few chances, little to shout about and in all honesty, not a lot to dissect. Yesterday was my Dad’s birthday and he came over to watch the game, insisting we’d lose 2-1. I must confess, I didn’t feel entirely confident before kick-off either, the big occasions always seem to derail us and as the lads trooped off at half time, I felt no better. With Dad still proclaiming a defeat, I made another brew and hoped for better.

Next Page – The second half