Tonight sees the Imps welcome Rotherham United to a game likely to be closing in on 10,000 capacity.
It’s going to be huge, and with the momentum of a 5-1 away win behind us, there has to be a feeling of positivity amongst City supporters. With two home games in a week, we can surely take three points from somewhere, and if we were to get that tomorrow it would make out-of-form Ipswich something of a free hit.
We have beaten Rotherham at home in recent seasons, 3-0 in the EFL Trophy, but a home league win against the Millers is a little rarer. There hasn’t been one this century, the last coming on the opening day of the 1999/2000 season. The last time we kept a clean sheet in the league against Rotherham was 1985 (0-0), and the last time we won and kept a clean sheet in the league was 1979. No pressure lads.
Michael has yet to name the same line-up in consecutive fixtures, but will he do so for this evening’s game? Personally, I think not. Here’s my predicted line-up.
Obviously, Josh Griffiths starts in goal, that’s not up for debate. I’m not sure the rest of the back four is either. For me, the key to letting Josh settle properly is a steady and settle defence, at least in the middle of the pitch. However, perhaps our most settled areas are surely left back and right back. Jamie Robson might be new, but you couldn’t tell that from his outing this weekend, and as far as I’m concerned he is our first-choice left-back. As for Regan Poole, he’s a player I’ve championed from the start, and he’s the only player I’d consider at right back. By the way, he has the most progressive passes per ninety minutes than any other Imps’ player (12.77) and the highest number of defensive duels of all our defenders (6.8). Stalwart.
In the middle of defence, I’ve gone for Montsma and Eyoma, but there’s surely a case for Adam Jackson too. I’m not always convinced about Montsma in a defensive capacity, but he was solid at the weekend and it would be grossly unfair to drop a player who performed well. TJ Eyoma is a 100% starter for me, and whilst he misplaced the odd pass this weekend, his all-around game was still very strong.
The midfield is a tough one to call. In my graphic, I’ve shown us to play a kind of 4-2-3-1, although I think we get hung up on formations a bit (I do). On Saturday it was more a 4-1-2-3 or 4-3-3 in old money. Anyway, however we line up, we’ll have three central midfielders and unless Bridcutt’s knock keeps him out, he plays as he’s brilliant. That’s expert analysis right there! I’ve pondered on whether Conor McGrandles is on form this season and whilst he hasn’t had a sensational start, he was excellent against Cambridge, and I think he’ll play too. I don’t think Michael will risk Ted Bishop tonight though, not with his former club in town at the weekend. He’ll be fired up for that game, so I expect Lewis Fiorini to get the nod. He was excellent when he came on at the weekend, he reminded me a bit of Joe Morrell, apart from Morrell didn’t quite bag top corner goals like Fiorini’s. Personally, I think Lasse Sorensen could find it tough to get regular starts with Fiorini, Bishop, Bridcutt and McGrandles all fighting for it.
Now that Chris Maguire is back in contention, and Dan N’Lundulu is on the bench as well, there are options in attack. Last season, whenever we had a fully-fit side, I usually suggested we’d drop Anthony Scully, but that won’t happen this week. He’s bagged seven in four games and is surely the first name on Michael’s teamsheet. Tom Hopper’s is probably on there too, he turned in another strong display this weekend, and although he wasn’t amongst the goals he had a hand in a couple. The same goes for Hakeeb Adelakun, doesn’t it? He’s got two goals and an assist in his last two matches, and is surely a player coming into form. I’ll be honest, a bit of the abuse he received after the Oxford game was uncalled for, even though he played badly. Hakeeb Adelakun is a good player, not a bad one, not a lazy one and not one who will cost us points. My bold claim is his goals and assists will win us far, far more points than the odd errant pass will cost us.
That leaves Dan and Chris on the bench, itching to get a chance to prove themselves. Given the fact Ipswich are here on Saturday, I wouldn’t be surprised to see both get minutes tomorrow night. Maguire will, 100%, whilst Nlundulu might if we’re either chasing the game, or home and hosed with 20 minutes to go.
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