The Imps are in the grip of an injury crisis.
That’s fact, and whilst it didn’t end up affecting the result on Saturday, it is a cross we have to bear. Joe Walsh has still played fewer league games for Lincoln than Luke Howell and Albert Jarrett, whilst Tom Hopper is out for a second time this season. Conor McGrandles is another casualty, we’ve forgotten what Sean Roughan looks like and Chris Maguire has spent more time on the treatment table than the training ground since joining. Hell, we even signed a keeper and immediately he was injured for a month (after writing all of that, I realised Liam Bridcutt is out too… doh). I looked up the word ‘threadbare’ in the dictionary, and there was just a picture of Michael Appleton staring up at the whiteboard in his office with a despairing look.
Whilst it would be easy to wallow in the pity, lament our luck or point the finger of blame in any direction we can, that is not the style of this site. Nope, instead, we’re going to pick out the positives from having such injuries, hopefully making you feel better about them as well.
Settled Back Four
Indulge me; how many times do you think we’ve started with the same back four in consecutive games this season? Have a guess? Once. That’s right, we kept the same back four for the defeats against Wycombe and Bolton, other than that we’ve changed every game. In 12 matches, we’ve had five different centre back pairings (Melbourne/Jackson, Melbourne/Montsma, Montsma/Jackson, Montsma/Eyoma, Jackson/Eyoma) and that’s not ideal for Josh Griffiths. I think it contributed to his slightly slow start, but our options are limited now. We almost have to start with a back four of Poole, Montsma, Eyoma and Robson; Cohen Bramall and Adam Jackson might disagree, but that looks to be the first choice. That’s only going to make us stronger over time, as those relationships build up. Remember, Jamie Robson has played twice with TJ next to him, (Burton and Cambridge), so that’s a new relationship too. With Walsh injured, Bramall utilised as the ‘legs’ late on, and Jackson having been injured early doors, we’ve stumbled upon a back four which might just be able to keep a clean sheet one day. Imagine that!
If he were fit, Liam Bridcutt would be captain. When he’s injured, it’s Tom Hopper or Conor McGrandles. Joe Walsh would be a shout, as would Adam Jackson. Who knows, if he is ever fit, Chris Maguire might be a shout too. That’s six players all who could be captain, all of whom are not playing right now. That saw the armband handed to 23-year-old Regan Poole at the weekend, and it’s easy to forget he’s only started 27 league games for City and he’s still of an age where we’d get a fee if he were out of contract. I thought he thrived at the weekend and having watched back over some of his highlights, I was right. Some players do just improve with responsibility, and I think Poole is one who embraced it and used it to squeeze an extra 0.5% out of himself. This is a player with 155 appearances to his name across his career, who played for Manchester United at the age of 17 in the Europa League and who is still developing. The enforced captaincy might be the best thing that could have happened.
Big Dan N’Lundulu
Tom Hopper was undroppable; nobody is, but he is one of Michael’s senior lieutenants, and he was unlikely to lose his place on a regular basis. Last season, when both were fit, he kept Callum Morton on the bench and Callum suffered because of it. He never got going, and yet at Fleetwood this season he’s earning rave reviews. These young players need a run in the team and I think with Dan N’Lundulu, we’ll see the benefits. He wasn’t afraid of the Burton defence at all; in fact he was referred to as the ‘nasty piece of work’ by the home commentary team. I think a run of starts, not just ten minutes here and there, will benefit the big striker. He should have had two goals already, missing a sitter against Man Utd and hitting the post against Burton. When that first goal does come, I think it will like taking the top off a bottle of lemonade you’ve been shaking daily for a year.
I think this point has already been proven, but Lewis Fiorini’s run of games is looking beneficial already. He wasn’t an immediate starter; he began the season injured and had to wait patiently. Michael preferred Lasse Sorensen, Liam Bridcutt and Conor McGrandles, with Ted Bishop to come in as well; Lewis was possibly the fifth choice. After his recent outings, he’s surely first choice; three good goals in four games underline the threat he has, and when teams shut up shop against us, as Ipswich did, we need someone who can dig at goal from 25-yards and stand a chance of scoring. His all-around game is looking strong, and I think when McGrandles comes back, he might find it tough to get back in straight away.