The Imps came away from the Crown Ground with a decent draw this afternoon, but it could have been all three points with two key decisions changing the game.
Both decisions have split the fanbase and it is likely that both decisions, had we been unfortunate enough to be in the Premier League, would have been overturned immediately. That would have led to a 1-0 Imps win we wouldn’t have deserved, and Sean McConville’s comeback after ten months out not being ruined. We don’t have VAR, thankfully, and hand on heart I can say I’m happier with 0-0 and something to debate than I would have been with a 1-0 win and constant breaks in play. I know the VAR debate doesn’t touch League One anyway, but this encounter was the perfect example of ‘what if’.
Michael Appleton made six changes to the team that faced Manchester City U21s, with Lewis Montsma, Adam Jackson, Jorge Grant and James Jones amongst those returning to the starting line-up. Accrington came into the game on the back of a three-game winning run, without conceding a goal in the process. They started the game four points behind the Imps, but with two games in hand have lost matches through the Covid-19 pandemic. A win could have put the Imps top of the table, if Ipswich, Hull and Charlton all drew, and Peterborough not only lost, but conceded a four-goal swing. Unlikely, but it is nice to be halfway through November and still in touching distance of the top two.
It was also the debut of the third kit, which looked really smart. I do wonder, how many times have the Imps had three kits all emblazoned with the same main sponsor? I suspect never, which really should result in fans giving Peregrine Holdings a nod of apprecation, no only for their support, but for have a subtle and succinct logo which complements all three of our kits this season.
The game started at a frenetic pace, and it could have been 1-1 before five minutes were up. Matt Butcher and Joe Pritchard testing Alex Palmer at one end. Up the other, Jorge grant seized on a poor back pass from the hosts, with Connor McGrandles seeing his effort smartly saved.
After that, things slowed down a little and despite the early hint of an end-to-end encounter, it never materialised. In those early exchanges, McGrandles was right in the middle of the action, involved in a couple of tussles with Chelsea loanee Joe Russell. It was McGrandles on the receiving end of a rather cheeky elbow from Matt Butcher too, which led to a bulk of the three minutes added on time at the end of the half.
The Imps looked disjointed at times, with Lewis Montsma sporting a new tattoo, but guilty of giving the ball away on numerous occasions. Still, despite not being at our best, it could have been 1-0 on the 20-minute mark. Harry Anderson set TJ Eyoma away on the right, and the Spurs’ man whipped a great cross over everyone, only for McGrandles to struggle with adding power to the ball, heading straight at the keeper.
The last fifteen minutes of the half belonged to the home side, who were giving the Imps no time on the ball. Bridcutt was harassed into losing possession on 28 minutes, but the resulting shot was fired over. Within seconds of the goal kick, McGrandles fouled Jon Russell, but the free-kick was fired over from 30-yards out.
When the Imps did get a corner, it seemed to be a platform for the home side to launch a counter-attack, with one such instance on the half-hour mark seeing them break quickly up the field. Accrington certainly seemed quicker in the tackle, and willing to break at pace. For all our possession, 62% at one stage, we had struggled to create anything too meaningful on goal.
As the minutes ran down, Accrington threatened more. Dion Charles got the better of Melbourne on the flank, but his cross was stabbed wide by Colby Bishop with Montsma shadowing tightly. Jon Pritchard, scorer of a stunner in the 4-3 reverse last season, lashed a powerful effort wide from 25-yards out, whilst just before the whistle a comedy of errors almost let the hosts in, but they again fired over.
The Imps did have one more half chance, Eyoma’s cross was flicked extravagantly, but harmlessly wide by Grant. Despite the hosts looking more likely to break the deadlock, Michael Appleton would doubtless be the happier of the two managers.