On the face of it, a 2-2 home draw against Accrington might look to be a missed opportunity.
With Hull and Doncaster both losing at the weekend, the real winners are Peterborough and Portsmouth, two sides I think will be our closest rivals for a top-two spot over the coming weeks. However, on the evidence of last night, Accrington are not to be ruled out as genuine contenders for at least a top-six spot. when you consider that, and that Pompey, Hull and Doncaster have to play them twice in the coming weeks, I think we did alright despite the late elation and disappointment. However, on reflection, a draw really was the fairest result.
Thanks to Saturday’s postponement, we saw what must be one of the only ever 6 pm Sunday evening kick-offs the Imps have ever been involved in. The desire to get the match on was confirmed by Liam Scully on Match Day Live, as he admitted we only have three free Tuesday evenings between now and the end of the season, with a possible international cancellation against Oxford and a possible EFL Trophy Final too. Not getting ahead of ourselves, obviously, but that necessitated a swift resolution to yesterday’s events.
Michael made four changes to the side which drew 0-0 at Hull. New signings Regan Poole and Cohen Bramall came in at full-back, with Tayo Edun and TJ Eyoma dropping to the bench. In the middle of the defence, Lewis Montsma got the nod ahead of Adam Jackson, whilst the injured Liam Bridcutt missed out, James Jones stepping into his role. On the bench, we saw Max Sanders for the first time, a player likely to appear in midweek against Sunderland.
The general disruption caused by the fixture being arranged certainly seemed to affect City, who were way off the pace in the first half. Accrington started at a great tempo, pressing high and forcing errors, which in turn seemed to create unforced errors too. The Imps hadn’t had a meaningful touch when the visitors spread the play from right to left, then came back into the box from wide, only for Dion Charles to shoot straight at Palmer.
On six minutes, Charles was again the tormentor, but this time he got his just rewards. A ball back to Palmer put him under a little pressure and he played his clearance straight to Charles, 16-yards out. The striker made no mistake in putting the visitors 1-0 ahead.
In a half of few clear cut chances, gifting an organised side a goal was not what Michael would have wanted, but the best way to respond to such a mistake is by hitting back. Sadly, John Coleman’s side were far too efficient in their pressing, not giving us time to get the ball out from under out feet. Time and again we ended up going long, misplacing crosses and even simple passes. In short, it was an awful start to the game.
On the odd occasion we did get forward, it was managed well by the opposition or we just fell short. Morgan Rogers looked to get clear on 14 minutes, but we crudely checked by ben Barclay to draw the first yellow of the encounter. Shortly after, Jorge Grant teased a wonderful ball into the area, where it evaded two Imps at the far post.
On 21 minutes, a Cohen Bramall mistake almost cost the Imps a second. It’s fair to say he had a tough first start for City, and he let a ball forward drop over his head. Michael Nottingham nipped in behind, but his cross was wasted. By my notes, and this may be harsh, but the Imps first decent bit of play came on 27 minutes, with a series of passes setting Brennan Johnson free, with the attacker unable to prevent the ball from running out of play as he chased it into the area. The fact that is something I have found space for in the report points at how poor the side were in the first half. It was followed by another good Grant delivery, this time a free-kick from the right, which Joe Walsh got under and lifted high over the goal.
That was the only Imps chance of the first half, and our possession was sporadic in the face of a disciplined Accrington side. They chased when they needed too, throttled our supply lines and saw out the half. At that point, I couldn’t see a way that we’d get anything from the game.