Consistently Inconsistent: Imps 0-1 AFC Wimbledon

Usually, when we walk down Sincil Bank after a defeat, Dad and I bicker.

I will be looking for the positives, and he’ll be down about the defeat, which isn’t a good combination. Yesterday was different, because I couldn’t really find any positives at all. Besides, we’d been in a box, which meant Dad walked behind me with Mo, and I got to talk tactics with Chris. We didn’t bicker either, because we were both of the same opinion. Last night was a bad night.

I couldn’t face social media when I got home; the same faces talking about relegation battles and 20th, others still rolling out excuses about lack of signings and injuries. I sit somewhere in the middle of that, I understand why we’re in this situation, but the honest truth is we should still be better than we were last night.

Obviously losing Regan Poole was a blow; only one player has managed all our league games now, Anthony Scully, which is reflective of where we are as a team. It’s easy to say we sign crocks (not true) or our training is too hard, but Poole was injured during the game on Saturday, you cannot legislate for that. Many will have found solace in TJ coming in at right-back, but he didn’t cover himself in glory in a poor first-half showing from the Imps.

How do you possibly get over yet another early goal conceded? It was a stupid moment too, McGrandles dallied on the ball, gave it away and then brought their man down for a penalty. Four minutes in, we’re a team that struggle to score and we’ve handed to opposition a penalty, madness. For me, it just killed any momentum built up by the win on Saturday, and they were almost always going to score it. I think I’ve seen one penalty saved by a Lincoln keeper in five years, during matches. I’m afraid when this Lincoln side give a goal away, then I more or less write the game off, there and then.

I’ll confess, my pain today has been exasperated by being in the box. It’s a great experience for an evening and I thank Rach and Ben for the opportunity, but you don’t get the atmosphere you do in the stands. When Ted Bishop was inches from levelling in the first half, it didn’t lift me, it didn’t make me feel like we were in the ascendency. Maybe some of the players felt they were in a box as well, because with the exception of Chris Maguire, it didn’t seem to lift them either.

Usually, as you know, I write 1,000 words about the first half, and move on to the second, but I’m genuinely floundering as to what to write. Wimbledon felt like they wanted it more; Michael said in his pre-match presser they were a busy side, and that means they’re going to press high, stop us playing out. I’m afraid to say teams do that now, and it keeps us penned in. We don’t have the pace to ping one over the top for a winger to hunt down; Harry has gone, Zack has gone, Theo is on loan and obviously, we know about Brennan and Morgan. Those were players that allowed us to transition from back to front quickly, but not in a long-ball style. We don’t have that now, in fact, we almost lack width of any description and that makes us one-dimensional against a side who come to stop us, not to play their game. I’d love to say Wimbledon were a good side, but the truth is they weren’t; they’re not in the top three or four I’ve seen this season, but they did work hard, stuck to a plan and got what they deserved. They’re a functional side, and that can be just as successful as a good side, but they were beatable. Sadly for us, their plan needed them to score, and we handed that as a welcome gift before they’d even got going.

Injured, here’s hoping for Saturday – Credit Graham Burrell

Michael said after the game that everything in the first two-thirds of the pitch was good, I’d argue from a supporter’s point of view that was tough to see. I thought the back four did ok, TJ looked really uncomfortable first half, but settled in the second. It’s a compliment to Jamie Robson that I didn’t notice him do anything majorly wrong, and for 45 minutes at least, Joe Walsh and Lewis Montsma looked decent. Montsma, along with Maguire, were the only two who put a hand up for Man of the Match in my eyes, especially in the first half.

Part of the problem is Bridcutt missing. He’s the pivot, I’ve said it a million times before. He can take a ball under pressure, turn and feed someone in and make us stretch the opponent. There was nobody doing that last night; often they’d take a ball and lose it, or take a ball and misplace the pass. I think it’s why when we don’t play well it looks worse than it actually is, because it’s breaking down in areas you don’t want it to break down in. With Bridcutt I always feel we might get out and beat a press, without him the key ingredient of our approach is missing. For me, Lincoln City without Liam Bridcutt is like Red Bull without Vodka. It looks the same, the taste is there, but it’s ineffective.

By half time, I didn’t need a kick in the balls to feel bad, but when we noticed Adam Jackson wasn’t warming up, we got one, a big vicious one right in the cahoonas. Joe Walsh is injured again; we got 135 minutes into his rehab this time. It was great while it lasted, and we’ll always have Charlton, right?