Sometimes, waiting a few hours before doing my write up is to let my enthusiasm settle, and for a dose of reality to infect my otherwise success-addled brain.
I do get carried away, as much as I try not to. My tweets and social media posts during a game can often be an exaggeration of what I feel, either way. That’s fuelled by watching the events happen, and the emotion of a missed chance or a scored goal making it feel more important at the moment than it really is. For instance, would I come on here this morning and talk about how a thumping win against Accrington is an indication of us being set for the Championship? No, of course not.
Mind you, ten minutes after the game, I might have been tempted. Let’s be honest, the Imps were scintillating last night, and not for the first time in a cup competition. We’ve thumped Forest Green 602, Bradford City 5-0, Shrewsbury 4-1 and even bagged two against Liverpool. We like a cup game, not least when the opposition see fit to make numerous changes. That was Accrington’s right and before the game, John Coleman said their players should be well-drilled enough to know the patterns of play and the approach they should take. They didn’t.
Now, let us not undermine our own struggles going into this encounter. We had 12 fit outfield players, 10 on the field, with Roughan and Ramirez on the bench, necessitating the first appearance of Freddie Draper amongst the subs. Covid has ravaged the squad and as Michael pointed out before the game, we might have moved to have it called off. Then again, you look at the team we put out and it felt strong. even with no Montsma, Jones, Hopper, McGrandles, Anderson or Joe Walsh (not to mention Archibald, Morton or Rogers), it felt strong. That’s nine players (and I’m sure I have omitted someone) who did not feature who might have done. Still, the defence looked competent on paper, the midfield was as good as it gets without everyone fit and upfront, we were certainly hungry and looked so, so quick.
Still, with Covid in mind, should we really have toyed and mauled Stanley as we did?
I did a full watch along and that made it hard at times to keep a note of the chances, but I do know that long before we took our deserved lead, we should have been home and hosed. City were completely different in the first 15 minutes to the weekend with Posh, we played with a purpose and pace which threatened to overawe the Accrington side. It did look like men against boys, as a group stage tie between one of the weaker under 18 sides and the best League One might look.
Two minutes in, Brennan Johnson could have given us the lead as he rounded the keeper but just ran out of pitch, still managing to get a shot away and win a corner. On five minutes it was Zack Elbouzedi, star of the last round, with a golden opportunity to give is the lead. Anthony Scully’s delicious ball saw Zack arriving late into the box, but he blazed over with the goal asking to be hit. By the time the clock hit double-digits, there wasn’t an Imps’ fan watching who felt we’d get beaten. When we hit that sweet spot, you just know, and last night you just knew.
On 17 minutes Scully was the player with a chance to open the scoring, going through one-on-one with Savin in the sticks after a great pass from Johnson. Again, we should have scored, Scully drawing a save from the keeper’s feet when he might have felt he should have done better. That’s no slur on the former West Ham man, he was covering every blade of grass, Tom Hopper style, and when Hopps is back MA might have a tough shout to make.
Zack also missed a sitter after Scully played a delicious ball between the penalty spot and six-yard box, with the Irish winger arriving perfectly and the ball needing just the simplest of touches. He hit the bar from six yards out and the ball flew over. was it not to be our night? Was Zack to rue those chances missed?
The key to missing chances is to get them in the first place and finally, just after the half-hour, Zack got rewards for a lively opening. He started the move, breaking down the left and cutting inside, before shifting the ball out to Scully. He delivered, again, with Brennan Johnson just touching it into the path of Zack, who had remained on the edge of the 18-yard area. He waltzed into the area, shifted left and finished with aplomb. The dam had broken and the Imps threatened to pour through like a torrent of raging water.
Accrington did get a chance, Alex Palmer spilt a deep ball under pressure and the visitors worked it into a shooting chance, but Mohammed couldn’t hit the target from Gary Roberts’ ball. It was a let-off, a half-chance which reminded us the tie was precarious at 1-0, for all our chances. Still, when half time did sound, City led 1-0 on goals and 9-2 on shots. Hugely impressive but perhaps not quite home and hosed.