I don’t care about pre-season results, but I must admit it is nice to see a win.
It’s almost customary now, our pre-season victory against the Iron, and we didn’t disappoint once again. Conor McGrandles made sure his name isn’t forgotten in the raft of new signings with a goal inside two minutes, and Cohen Bramall gave us all a glimpse of the future with a superb free-kick. Bramall was one of a number of talking points to come out of the game.
If the 2-0 win isn’t the headline here, what is? What can we take from yesterday’s friendly, and where does it leave us in terms of the upcoming season?
All the talk is around new signings, who might play where, but Conor’s early goal and all-around performance just reminded everyone that new faces don’t necessarily lead to success. We had a good side last season, the nucleus of which we still have, and McGrandles was a key part of that. When pundits make their ‘1-24’ predictions, they often cite new signings as if the players that were at a club are somehow inferior.
Conor McGrandles is not inferior to anyone and he’ll certainly be a key component of our side this coming season.
Dare I say, there was a certain distrust of the new full-backs who arrived in the winter window. It wasn’t fair, but when you’re on a run and that run ends, fans look for scapegoats, and whilst Poole settled into right back quickly, Bramall was in and out of the side. Sure, we saw his quality going forward, but at times he might have look naive defensively. If last night is anything to go by, we might see him play a more advanced role this season. There’s no doubt he’ll be Tayo’s competition at left-back, but he tore his full-back a new bottom at times and was a constant threat down the flank. His free-kick capped off a good night, and I expect Michael will be very happy with the former Arsenal man’s shift further up the field.
Sorensen really put in a decent shift last night, and he looked calm and composed on the ball. We know the big question isn’t if he can do it, but where he’ll be used, and 45 minutes of football in a friendly is no real indication of the long term plans, but let’s park that for a minute. Instead, focus on his control, his calm possession and his technique. he looked like a real gem, and that’s just a few days into his Imps’ career. He might not have made a huge impression at MK Dons last season, but I think he showed enough last night to prove he’s not here to make up the numbers.
Another new face that out in a good shift is Manchester City man Lewis Fiorini. He’s a player that could play in several positions and like Sorensen, it’s going to be interesting to see where he is deployed. He looked very accomplished last night, his vision and technique is great, as you’d expect from a player who has come up through the ranks at one of the best clubs in Europe. No expense has been spared in this young man’s development and it shows. This season, much of our success hinges on finding the next Morgan Rogers or Brennan Johnson, not in terms of a like-for-like swap, but in terms of impact on our season. Nobody had heard of those two this time last year, not in the wider football world, but now they all know who they are. I think Lewis Fiorini could be next on that list.
It’s not all rainbows and sunshine though, is it? Another game goes by without Anthony Scully and Lewis Montsma getting minutes, and I think they are in a race against time to be ready for Gillingham. That’s going to leave us a little short at the back in Kent and we saw what defensive frailties can do when Evans’ side visited us last season. This will be a tougher division than last year and a good start will be hugely important.
Those two might be close, they’ve been seen in training, but what of Joe Walsh and Theo Archibald? Walsh is critical to our progress and he’s not been seen or mentioned much this pre-season, and Archibald is a player I keep backing to do well, but I’m beginning to fear that I might be wrong. Last pre-season, we saw lots of Zack Elbouzedi and he still moved on, but this time out Archibald hasn’t been involved.
Also, where’s Dan Nlundulu? He’s like Fiorini in that he could be the next loan ranger to impress, but he’s also in a fight for minutes as we head into the season. There’s no surprise the two new boys didn’t start, and I can’t see either having enough in their legs to make the XI against Gillingham.
When we lost 1-0 to Norwich, Daniel Farke was complimentary of us, and that’s been the case yet again with Neil Cox. I suppose it has to be, his side were beaten with ease, but he spoke very highly of us. “I think we played against a really good Lincoln side, who looked fresher and sharper than us, but we were poor on the night. They closed us down and made us play long balls,” he said. “Lincoln are ultra positive in possession and work their socks off out of possession, and that’s how we have to be, but it’s more minutes in the legs against a good side and our stats are right through the roof tonight.”
It’s nice to get a win, and perhaps you can read a little more into friendlies at the end of pre-season as players should be looking to stake a claim for the first team, rather than early in the summer when they’re just getting that sharpness back. Overall, the positives outweigh the negatives, but I still just have reservations over the back four. I can’t see how Montsma and Walsh will be fit for next Saturday, and that means possibly a pairing of Jackson and Melbourne. Remember, Max was told he could leave earlier in the summer, but he could be set for a huge reprieve because we are short.
Still, let’s focus on the positives for now and look forward to Salford on Saturday and hopefully 60 minutes for Scully and Montsma, to ease some of our slight concerns.