One year ago, three home goals for City saw us move into a position that you felt might be safety in League One.
A year on, we’ve seen no live football but another three goals for the Imps once again brought a win. This time, City kept the pressure up on the promotion hunting sides, namely Hull, Doncaster, Sunderland and Peterborough. Three won, but our fate is in our hands and after a tough spell, confidence should have been restored ahead of a crucial week. Three goals, a clean sheet and a fully composed and accomplished, professional performance kept the Imps in the hunt for Championship football.
This was the first time since 2016/17 we have played a team three times in a single season and won all three matches. In the Football League, (this might be wrong) but it looks like the first time since we beat Port Vale three times in the 1983/84 season. Whatever the stats, it is a big achievement in my eyes to play a good side three times and win all three matches.
The Imps made two changes from the side beaten by Fleetwood in midweek, with Callum Morton and Cohen Bramall replacing Tom Hopper and Anthony Scully. It meant a major reshuffle with Tayo Edun dropping into midfield and Brennan Johnson moving back out on the right-hand flank.
City’s inability to start a game well has hampered efforts in recent weeks, going behind in the last five league matches. A decent start was needed, and to be fair, I thought we did start brightly Crewe dominated possession, but we looked more composed than in recent weeks and certainly felt a little more direct in our attacking play. It was a frenetic opening, with Crewe clearly not only comfortable in possession, but also with quick counter-attacks.
The first chances of the half fell to the visitors on eight minutes. Chris Porter got a shot away after finding space, which the Imps dealt with, but then poor distribution from Alex Palmer brought the chance around again. This time, as a dangerous ball looked to worry the back four, Lewis Montsma strode in with a challenge and it has to be said Montsma looked much more composed than in recent weeks in the early exchanges. The deep resulting corner found Nathan Wood at the back stick, but his header was poor and City were off the hook.
After that, it was the Imps turn to threaten, with Bramall looking a particular menace on the left flank. Crewe were playing left-footed full-back Rio Adebisi, on the right, and Bramall looked to take advantage with some strong attacking intent. On ten minutes, his wicked cross found James Jones, who drew a save from Dave Richards, only for Morton to stab home from an offside position.
It was the first sign of the Imps as an attacking force though, something that continued through the half. Two minutes later Johnson picked up a loose ball in the centre of the park and broke forward. He had Morton ahead of him, trying to find space, but instead, he drew defenders away from Johnson, who eventually pulled a shot wide of Richards’ left-hand post, but it was another good chance.
I couldn’t make my mind up about Edun in midfield at this point. The chance for Johnson had almost been one at the other end as Edun gave the ball away first, but then he also seemed to have that composure in possession we see from Bridcutt, as well as the tenacity to cover the back four. He’ll split opinion, again, but I thought he looked alright in there for the first half and especially strong in the second.
Just past the 20-minute mark, City grabbed the lead. It was a typical sweeping move up front, with Rogers cutting in from the left and spreading a Crossfield ball to Johnson. He held it for a second, and with Poole overlapping sent it back into the path of Rogers, who struck first time from the edge of the area to beat Richards. It was a typically confident goal from the Man City forward, who already has four in his two months at the club.
It was also probably deserved after the Imps showed more attacking intent early doors. Bramall and Rogers were seemingly getting round Adebisi and on the other flank, Johnson wasn’t just outpacing Harry Pickering, but also tracking him every time he roamed forward. Both Johnson and Rogers have had their critics in recent weeks, rightly or wrongly, but nobody could knock either on their first-half showing.
Crewe got a decent chance just before the half-hour mark, when a free-kick was cleared by City, but came back quickly to centre half Beckles in space. He turned and volleyed at goal in a manner you expect a centre half too, and somebody living on Brant Road will find a football in their garden when it comes down from orbit next month.
Very quickly, City were back at it, Johnson again running at their back four. They weren’t comfortable at all with the on-loan Forest man getting forward, and as space opened up, so did he, rifling a shot at goal. It took a deflection which lessened the ferocity and Richards gathered comfortably.
Johnson certainly looked lively and he had two more chances either side of a Crewe effort from Adebisi on 41 minutes. Firstly, a move started by Edun saw the Imps move the ball through the lines neatly, ending with Johnson coming in the channel and shooting into the side netting. Then, on the stroke of half time, the lively Bramall again found space down the right, and he delivered a wicked ball across the front of the six-yard box which just evaded a despairing Johnson at the back stick.
With that, referee John Busby brought the half to a close, with the Imps leading 1-0. On the balance of play, despite having less possession, I think it was a fair reflection of the first half.