Due to the social media blackout, there was nothing from the Stacey West online yesterday.
That was probably for the best to be honest, because for a couple of hours my judgement and clarity were clouded by a refereeing decision so bad, it can be mention in the same breath as George Cain’s interpretation of the offside rule in 2005. There is so much to talk about from yesterday’s game, but the main talking point happen five minutes into five minutes of injury time at the end of a game Lincoln City should have won.
I’m not unhappy at missing out on automatic promotion; we didn’t finish outside the top two because of John Busby‘s woefully bad split-second choice in the final minute of the game. We finished outside the top two because we suffered horrible injuries through the season and lost with half a squad at Oxford, plus those home matches against Rochdale and Fleetwood. John Busby might have cost you and I a little excitement going into Tuesday’s clash at Charlton, but he didn’t cost us a Championship place and, being brutal (and this pains me) Peterborough didn’t go up because of it either. They went up because they have been consistent in winning matches, three more than us over the course of this season so far.
That’s not to say he didn’t cost us three points against Posh yesterday, he did. 100%. Without his awful choice, we win the game 3-2. Do we go on and beat Charlton and Wimbledon? Maybe, maybe not. Do Doncaster subsequently beat Posh next weekend? Maybe, maybe not. If those results happen now, we still cannot say John Busby cost us, because things may have been different. That said, it doesn’t mean I wasn’t raging with injustice and anger throughout the early part of yesterday evening. On my personal Twitter account I kept seeing the replay and every time I did, I got angrier. To relax, Fe and I chose a comedy on Netflix, Thunder Force, which turned out to be as funny as finding a dead baby owl in your garden, twice, which only worsened my mood. It’s only now, in the rather brisk Sunday morning sun, I can be truly objective.
Ok, from the top: City played some brilliant football, from starts to 65 minutes. We came out of the traps hungry for it, and this on what I considered to be a weaker side. No McGrandles or Edun, which given their form of late was a big, big call. With Walsh, Jackson and Johnson all out, Lincoln City went to a future Championship side with (arguably) five first-team players out of the squad. In came Harry Anderson against his old club (as I suggested on the radio last night) and Cohen Bramall at left-back. Of course, the two most vital players in our functioning side, Liam Bridcutt and Jorge Grant, both started.
I’ve got to say it and I don’t care if you think I’m blowing smoke up his arse, but Liam Bridcutt is a class above. He’s just so calm, when he plays well, we play well. He exudes confidence on the ball and he organises so well. He’s a Championship-quality midfielder, even into his thirties, and with him in the side I genuinely believe we can beat anybody. With Grant looking back on top form too, it was prime Appleton-Lincoln, playing neat passing, holding on to the ball and probing away. Peterborough looked a little shell-shocked in the opening exchanges, struggling to create anything really meaningful, and it was the Imps who took the deserved lead.
I was delighted Harry Anderson was involved. It’s been tough for him, post-Covid, and whilst we all talk about Jones and Montsma losing a little form, Harry has seemingly lost what was a nailed-on starting place in the side as a result of his injury and spell out. On a truly rotten pitch, his tenacity and skill saw Scully sneak in unmarked and head home from six yards out. There will be serious questions asked by Peterborough’s defender, or there would if it mattered, as to how Scully found the space. If they want the answer, I have it – he’s a clever player. He makes the right runs in the box, the right decisions when on form. How many times has he snuck in like that? He did it for the season’s opening goal and he did it again yesterday.
Instead of spurring Posh on, we kept the pressure up. I cannot enthuse enough about our performance yesterday, for me it was the best of the season. Peterborough had very little to cheer and never really looked like scoring against us. We put bodies on the lines whenever it was asked, with TJ Eyoma in particular on super form. In fact, the highlights do not show it, but it was his solid, certain tackle that led to Anderson’s cross and Scully’s goal. With Bridcutt in front of the back four, the potent attacking force of Clarke-Harris, Szmodics, Brown and Dembele looked unnervingly quiet to me.
Before half time we were in dreamland, studying those permutations carefully. Brennan Johnson usually wins our penalties, but as he say out it was up to Morgan Rogers. I imagine Nathan Thompson will have had enough of the Imps this season, he’s given two penalties away in as many games, and been sent off. He went down a little easily under Rogers’ challenge and Busby waved play-on, correctly, leaving Rogers to streak free. The defender clumsily got back to his feet, fouled Johnson, and Grant stepped up to add another to his tally. 2-0 City, and the chanting outside London Road stopped.
At this stage, I’m going to praise John Busby, because so far I’ve done everything but. I thought he let the game flow well for 90 minutes, yes he let a few fouls go but there was a real pace to proceedings that would have had a neutral purring. He could have given a foul against Rogers in the run up to the penalty, some would, be he just let it go. I genuinely wonder if, after giving that, someone got in his ear about it being soft, because his eagerness to level things up and hour later was appalling. The issue is, Rogers was fouled, it was a penalty and, as you may have gleaned, Szmodics was not.
It was a tense half time for me because, for the first time since March, I actually did believe we might be back in with a shout of automatic promotion. I made my peace with the play-offs, acknowledged what a huge achievement it was, only to have two goals make me wonder once again. As my mate Chris said to me after Tuesday’s result, it is the hope that kills you. That, and John Busby’s eager whistle.