After last night’s draw with Swindon, I felt a little negative upon going up to bed.
I had tried to be as positive as I could, but the result and performance felt quite raw. It might be because we came off the top of the table, but in reality, we actually strengthened our position over Hull City, and still left ourselves in a great place for automatic promotion into the Championship. Also, we drew 2-2, we didn’t lose, so it is important to take some perspective from that.
I didn’t get a chance to listen to Michael Appleton’s comments post-game, but having just been on the Hope and Glory podcast, I wasn’t surprised to hear that his assessment tallied with my own. I didn’t use the word arrogance, but Michael happily dropped it after a horror-show first half extended our winless run at home to three matches.
“I’m delighted with a point in the end,” he told Rob Makepeace. “We got a little bit better in the second half, we got a bit more aggressive and tried the force the issue at times. The conditions didn’t help but it was the same for both sides.
“The first half, especially, annoyed me. I thought it was an arrogant performance if I’m being honest. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance and we were definitely the wrong side of that tonight. I’ve got to be careful what I say because it’s a bit raw at the minute.”
Without calling out individual players, Michael suggested that the team’s attitude was wrong from back to front, and at odds with the standards we have set ourselves over the course of the season.
“We set our standards pretty high. Even if we’re no good with the ball, our touch is letting is down, you’ve still got to show a bit of humility, perseverance, aggression and determination to try and put it right. We lacked that in the first half. In the second half, we continued to make errors, but at least we had all those other things which allowed us to take a point we probably didn’t deserve.”
When asked if Alex Palmer‘s error just before half time was a consequence of playing out from the back, Michael was quick to point out it was not.
“I’d be naïve and stupid to take responsibility for that. That isn’t looking to play out from the back, that isn’t about trying to play out from the back, that’s just ridiculous and he knows that. Part of the arrogance in the first half, that just summed it up.”
It wasn’t all doom and gloom last night. Morgan Rogers ball for Brennan Johnson saw the striker draw a foul for the penalty, and the same player scored a superb second for City to earn a point. Michael confessed even in the first half, we did get in decent areas, but how we reacted in those areas further demonstrated the player’s attitude not being quite right.
“There was bits and pieces in the first half where we got into incredible opportunities in great positions. Concentration levels and technique let us down and that doesn’t happen that often, which makes me think from an attitude point of view things weren’t quite right.”
The manager kept the players in the dressing room far longer than usual, suggesting this was one result he was not happy with. When asked if he expected a reaction, he made it clear that the players knew where he stood on the matter.
“If they didn’t expect me to react the way I did, then they’re in the wrong place doing the wrong thing. We’ve got ourselves, as a group of players and a club, into a position which has surprised everybody. The reality is if you take your eye off the ball and your attitude goes in a different direction, you can throw it all away.”
The comment feel fair and balanced in my opinion. There has to be room to be critical even when your side is doing well, but in my eyes, there is a time to do that and a time not to. After dominating Peterborough and Doncaster and not winning games, I don’t feel criticism was justified, similarly after the 2-2 draw with Accrington there deserved to be praised for the way we applied ourselves in the second half. However, last night we did look complacent at times and that isn’t Lincoln City, it isn’t how we expect to turn up for games.
What I would say is last season, we turned in a similar performance against Southend and Gillingham, both away from home, and were beaten. I like the fact that despite being poor in a key game this season, we still got a point. Yes, it might be two dropped and that might cost us at the end of the season, but it also might be the one point that sets us in second place above Hull City, who lost at home to Ipswich after playing badly. I’d rather play badly and draw, than play badly and lose.
I also think had we won the game, the lads might not have had such a point to prove at the weekend, but having been read the riot act by Michael, I almost fancy us to go to Home Park and get something now.