Michael Appleton should be beaming tonight after the high-flying Imps picked up three points on the road in a hard-fought encounter.
In our first-ever visit to the DW Stadium, we were left to fight back from 1-0 down with a depleted side, having won just one of six in all competitions. With injuries piling up, there was no Liam Bridcutt, Harry Anderson, Joe Walsh or Theo Archibald, whilst Callum Morton is also not quite match fit.
With those injuries in mind, the Imps made two changes to the side that lost on penalties to Sunderland in midweek. Max Sanders and TJ Eyoma dropped to the bench, with Regan Poole coming in at right back and Morgan Rogers also back in the side. Rogers played as part of a front three with Anthony Scully and Tom Hopper, whilst Brennan Johnson dropped into attacking midfield alongside McGrandles, leaving Grant to fill in for Liam Bridcutt.
As we have seen in recent weeks, the Imps started slowly with a patient, passing out from the back approach. The home side, having been humiliated in midweek, were high tempo, high press and ultimately, looking much livelier than City.
The first half did have chances, but it was also punctuated by missed fouls and silly free kicks. As early as the first minute, Viv Solomon-Otabor seemingly took out McGrandles, with nothing given, but thirty seconds later McGrandles got revenge and Trevor Kettle blew for a free kick. Kettle kept his cards in his pocket, but certainly missed fouls committed by both sides throughout the first period.
The Latics got their first chance of the afternoon on ten minutes, a corner from the attacking right was nodded clear to Funso Ojo. He let a shot go, high and over the goal of Alex Palmer.
City’s first chance came just after the 15-minute mark, with Regan Poole rampaging forward. The former MK Dons man found himself in the attacking right channel looking for options, and finding few. Instead, he threaded a shot through the defender’s legs and wide of Jamie Jones’ right-hand post.
City were misplacing passes with regularity, and one from Jorge Grant led to a chance on 21 minutes for the home side. After the Imps lost possession, Solomon-Otabor moved into the area and looked to curl one to Palmer’s left, but got the shot wrong and hit it into the keeper’s chest.
Whilst the next chance fell to Lincoln, the game was by no means end-to-end. Regan Poole had a penalty shout turned down after coming together with Tilt, rightly turned down, and the resulting corner almost brought a goal. The delivery swirled in the wind and a touch by Hopper sent it goalward, with Jones having to punch it off the line.
The home side were in control of the game though and had a great chance to go ahead on 28 minutes. A ball from the right was flicked on to Robinson, who had a clear sight of goal eight yards out. On his left foot he made decent contact, but it fell into the grateful arms of Palmer.
Within four minutes, Wigan were finally, and justifiably ahead. Again, Imps possession was wasted, Poole’s throw in finding Grant, who was dispossessed. Callum Lang burst from the halfway line, through the middle to around 20-yards out, before launching what could only be described as a thunderbolt into the roof of the net. Palmer could face that shot 100 times and still get nowhere near it.
The home side’s joy was luckily short-lived. They say you’re most vulnerable after scoring and so it came to pass. Finally, City put a decent run of play together, with McGrandles delivering a high ball in from the left. It again caught the wind, with Jones and Robinson getting into a mess on the goal line. The ball dropped to Scully, three yards out, and he made no mistake.
It was the last of the former West Ham man’s involvement though, he went down shortly after, having taken a knock earlier in the game. For three or four minutes he was a passenger, until finally we got Bramall on. City shuffled the pack, Edun moving into midfield and Johnson pushing out on the right. It had been a tough afternoon for Johnson through the centre, he had barely had a kick and when he did, he hadn’t been effective.
The injury to Scully is likely to be a big worry for Michael, who is seeing many key players having to spend time on the sidelines. He’s bagged six goals in his last 12 matches, and has 12 from 33 all season long – that’s already better than Adrian Patulea, a firm fan favourite back in 2008/09, who bagged 11 in 33. It speaks volumes that a player many mention as one of the most exciting at the Bank over the last 15 years has been surpassed by a young lad from West Ham who has been in and out of the side all season. He’s had a big influence on games though, and we certainly need his poacher-like instincts in the final 18 matches of the season.
Back in the current season, the final chance of the half fell to Chris Merrie, who picked up a ball in a similar position to Lang’s goal, but he blasted over from range. City did end the half brightly, getting a succession of corners which caused panic, but didn’t result in a chance.
There is little doubt that Leam Richardson was the happier of the two bosses at half time, not just because of the result, but because his team had been the better of the two.