If the first half was good, then the second half was also good. You couldn’t say ‘better’, despite the goal count, because we deserved three in the first half, and we got three in the second. Nobody made any changes at half time, with Accrington players likely to have been given a good going over. As for us, we just started doing what we do best – passing, probing and creating. Tayo Edun, a player I vociferously defend at all corners, almost got a shot away on 52 minutes, shifting feet neatly and displaying the ball control you expect from a central midfielder at left-back, but his shot was blocked. It mattered not, a minute later we doubled the advantage.
It started with the captain (and my Man of the Match) Liam Bridcutt, who put in what might be his best Imps’ performance yet. He played a ball into the channel for Scully, then made a run to the byeline to get it back. He looked to have run out of pitch, but instead swivelled and lifted a ball over the area and towards the penalty spot, where Robbie Gotts had made the perfect run. He had enough time to quickly check the other scores on his mobile phone, position himself under the ball and then write next year’s Christmas shopping list, before launching a diving header into a gaping net. It was a decent header too, away from Savin who had been caught at his near post, and the delight on the youngster’s face was evident. He hasn’t played as much as he might like, but he certainly turned in a competent and collected display in midfield.
We continued to push forward, Gotts teeing up Johnson for an effort, and Grant driving one wide, which prompted major changes from Accrington. Off came four of the supporting cast, on came the ‘big guns’, four first-team players. Remember, this is a first-team with enough games in hand to reel us in at the top of the table, They always say 2-0 is a dangerous score (any score is a dangerous score if you concede more by the way), and as Charles, Pritchard and Bishop joined Butcher as the changes, you wondered if it might be a nervy half-hour for City.
Nope, the first thing we did after they came on was to make it 3-0. Johnson picked up the ball in the middle of the park and fed Elbouzedi, who made a gut-busting run past his marker and into the area. He cut it back to Johnson, who had continued his run, and the Forest striker shifted to move the ball away to the keeper’s left with a curling effort. Instead, his body suggested the left, but he quickly drilled it low and hard to the right, fooling everyone with what was a finish of top quality. It is easy to miss the technique in the excitement, but Johnson’s body shape fooled the defence and bought him the split second it needed to kill the tie.
It was his last action of the game, he hobbled off afterwards, having struggled after an early knock, and Howarth came on in his place.
The chances kept on coming and to list them all would make this too long. Grant had one, Bridcutt had another, Scully had a decent free-kick and even TJ Eyoma got in on the act of testing the glass on the executive boxes. There was the odd scare here and there, the sort of scare you get from a PG-rated Scooby-Doo cartoon, a little jump when you weren’t expecting it, but nothing that would ever have you reaching for the cushions or turning over the channel. For Accrington, the opposite was true, every time we came forward it must have been like a trap from a Saw movie, them wondering what elaborate passing routine or pattern would see them fall into the VAT of boiling acid next. Slick stuff.
The last goal was all about Howarth and he didn’t touch the ball. Accrington looked to play out from the back, with a ball going back to Savin. Howarth chased him down and the keeper moved to his left to evade the forward. Howarth did the same and Savin was forced to play a quick ball to his centre half. Instead, he played it to Jorge Grant, who needed no second invitation to round off the scoring with a neat finish from the edge of the box.
Here is the truth about lst night’s game – it means nothing in terms of our promotion push. The result is resounding but just as when we played Shrewsbury, it will be a different Stanley we face later in the season. What it does mean though is £40,000 into the bank for a win. It does mean Zack Elbouzedi raises his reputation a little more and has perhaps ousted Theo Archibald as our reserve left-winger. It demonstrated that our patterns, method and approach rely on coaching and application, not individuals. Remember, this was a changed side with players such as Gotts, Elbouzedi and Melbourne coming in after not playing much football, yet they barely put a foot wrong. For me, it was also a great sign that Liam Bridcutt looked as good as he did. He won tackles, played passes and pulled the strings, in much the same way Grant did in his absence. That left Grant to sit further forward, making passes, creating chances and pulling strings. Those two players are the architects of our success on the field, they provide the bullets to fire, they put in the work to break up play and with them in the team, we have two beating hearts driving the beast.
That’s not to say the others do not do that when we’re good we’re very, very good and last night showed that. Sure, it was a weakened Accrington side, but we’re talking about the weakened squad of a side genuinely challenging for promotion to the second-tier, not Mark Cooper’s cast offs dressed in ridiculous zebra print pyjamas, fearful of being sent to another dressing room if they lose. Accrington wanted the Wembley hoodoo off their back, they came to Sincil Bank and met a squad of just 12 fit outfield players and still went home with their ass roasted, toasted and served up with a four-goal garnish.
It seems, even waiting a few hours, I am still getting carried away, and I make zero apologies for that. Right now, I love being a Lincoln City fan and I’m proud of my club from top to bottom.