The Imps could be without four first-team defenders tomorrow night for the crucial trip to Burton Albion.
The games keep coming thick and fast, and it seems this one may come a little too soon for up to four of our players. Both Adam Jackson and Joe Walsh missed the tie against Bristol Rovers, the latter having only completed 90 minutes once since February 14th. That was a blow in itself, necessitating TJ Eyoma and Lewis Montsma to pair in the middle. Both did well, but tomorrow they may be partnered by two different full-backs.
Right back Regan Poole clattered into the post during the second half of the weekend’s win and clearly struggled through the game, but he is a big doubt. Cohen Bramall, who has settled nicely in at left-back recently, is also a doubt. He was hurt in the win against MK Dons, and despite playing through the pain barrier at the Memorial Ground, fell awkwardly late on and could also miss out.
“I know we’ve had a few challenging games and a few challenging moments this season but I think tomorrow night may top it off,” Michael Appleton said this morning. “He (Regan Poole), as you can imagine, was very sore yesterday and (today) we’ll know the full extent. Regan’s a tough lad to be fair. His pain threshold is pretty good but we’ll have a better indication later on today and even more so tomorrow.”
Whilst City do just about have cover to patch up the back four in the absence of one full back, losing another might pose more serious problems.
“Cohen rocked his ankle on Tuesday against MK Dons, it’s one of the reasons we brought him off in that game,” added Michael, who has seen his side collect seven points from nine to gain the upper hand in the hunt for a play-off place. “He played through it on Saturday got through most of the game, then fell awkwardly towards the end. He’s going to be 50/50 and already having the likes of Adam Jackson and Joe Walsh out leaves us a little bit sparse. Let’s see what the next 24 hours brings.”
It does leave us sparse, very much so, and that means a change to the lineup, or at least the possibility of changes should all four miss out. If they do, how might the Imps line up? We’ve got a suggestion here that doesn’t look all that bad on paper.
Obviously, we’d go with Alex Palmer in goal, but that goes without saying. In front of him, it seems the most likely outcome is to keep TJ Eyoma and Lewis Montsma together. They kept a clean sheet this weekend, albeit against the league’s weakest attack and one blighted by injury, but a clean sheet is a clean sheet. I thought Montsma was in line for Man of the Match personally, and TJ is never one to let us down. However, playing TJ in the middle does pose a problem if Poole misses out, as we need a right back. The obvious shout there is Harry Anderson. He has played at right-back this season, notably in the EFL trophy against Mansfield Town. He had half an hour there against Portsmouth when we lost 3-1, but we didn’t concede during that time. He had a similar spell there towards the end of our 2-1 defeat at home to Bristol Rovers too, against without the Imps conceding.
That leaves the left-back slot to fill, if Cohen is injured, and there are two options. Sean Roughan is the obvious shout, although he hasn’t been seen in League One action since we were beaten 3-1 by Portsmouth in early November. He did get the full game at left-back as we destroyed Shrewsbury 4-1 in the EFL Trophy, which were his last minutes. My gut feeling is Michael would put Tayo in at left-back though. I think with Lewis and TJ in the middle, Tayo would add some stability as we have become accustomed to, having played 2587 of his 3666 minutes in that role. Also, Sean can play centre back too, which offers more options from the bench or cover in the event of another injury.
Midfield / Attack
If we do choose to go with Anderson, Montsma, Eyoma and Edun across the back, that does mean a shuffle in midfield. I can see the change here being Max Sanders coming in, maybe even playing in a double CDM role alongside Conor McGrandles. I like Sanders, he’s been growing in confidence over the last couple of matches and he’s smart in possession. By doubling up on the CDMs we would protect the young back four better, but place emphasis on Brennan Johnson up ahead of them, or even James Jones who could come into the attacking role. Personally, I’d go with Jones from the off, and have Rogers, Johnson and Morton in attack, but I don’t think Michael will. I think Anthony Scully has to keep his place after his goal, or maybe I should after his 15 goals from 28 starts, which means Johnson in midfield and Rogers, Morton and Scully across the front.