Michael Appleton has been praising the returning Liam Bridcutt, who looks set to drop back into the side for tomorrow’s visit of Gillingham.
Bridcutt has been out of action since we drew 0-0 with Hull City in early February, and his role has not been an easy one to fill. In his absence, City have lost three league matches. With him in the side, we have lost just two all season, and the manager confirmed he hopes to have the former Leeds United man back for Steve Evans’ side dropping by.
“Hopefully, he’ll get another session under his belt today and as long as he’s firing and come through it, it won’t be a case of trying to integrate him back into it. He knows his body, if he has to play, he’ll manage the game to suit what he needs.”
It hasn’t just been the skills of the captain the Imps have missed, but as Michael explained it his voice and his presence as much as anything his does on the ball.
“There’s no doubt about it, he’s a good footballer, the level he played at and the teams he’s played for suggest that. It’s what he can bring with his voice and with his experience. He gets himself in positions where our attacks break down, it’s not always easy on the eye for the average fan to see but as a coach, he makes the job much easier.”
City have struggled to start games well of late, going 1-0 down in four of our last five home matches, something that Michael feels could be attributed to the lack of experience through recent injuries.
“We’ve been slow starters over the last two months or so, for some reason. We have won games and played well in those games, but it might have something to do with having Joe Walsh, Liam Bridcutt and Jorge Grant out of the team recently. It’s about making sure that 20 minutes into the game, whatever the scoreline, that we’re on the front foot.”
As for Liam, he too faced the press this morning and he seems to be raring to go, telling how he felt ‘good’ after his period on the sidelines.
“I’ve had a good four or five weeks recovering and trying to build to be stronger. Everything’s looking well and ready to go really. For me, the season has been a bit difficult, it’s the first where I’ve had muscle injuries, but you get to a stage in your career, and your life, where you start to understand your body and how far to push yourself.
“I feel really good, the medical team have been brilliant in terms of the work they give me.”
Sadly, he knew very quickly during our 0-0 draw with Hull City that something was wrong, and minimised the impact on the rest of the team by coming off.
“I knew straight away, within two minutes of the start of the game I pulled my calf. Me being me, I didn’t want to come off, I tried to run it off and probably made it a bit worse. A few years ago, I probably would have played through it, I didn’t want to let the team down though and I knew by being on the pitch, I probably would have.”
Whatever the imp[act of him coming off in that encounter may or may not have been, the loss of our leader over the last few weeks has been problematic. The Imps have lacked the midfield anchor, and too often teams have been allowed to use the space in front of the 18-yard area to devastating effect, not least Rochdale, Plymouth and Fleetwood. Hopefully, with our captain and marquee summer signing back in the side, we can arrest the recent poor run of form and ensure we stay tucked in behind the top two as we enter the business end of the season.