There’s no point in me making out this was a whitewash, because it wasn’t. The attack momentum shows that after the goal we barely had a chance up to half time, but after the break we did what I’m sure we would have wanted to do far more this season; pressed on the one-goal advantage and grabbed a second. I remember a few weeks ago when we’d slyly turn away when the Imps got a corner, full of belief it actually meant a chance for the opposition to counter. That seems funny now, what with yet another goal from a set-piece. What do you say about it? It was a good finish from a player who needed a boost, and as well as he’d played before he made it 2-0, he was better after it. I just hope that both him and Dan use this as the springboard to reach the heights their ability suggests they can, certainly for us this season. At 2-0, you felt we shouldn’t lose the game, but this is Lincoln, the team that were cruising against Shrewsbury and drew 2-2, the team that should have been home and hosed in other games but struggled to find the killer instinct.
For a moment, I thought we were going to get three or four, but as expected the home side began to assert their dominance. They had options on the bench; Gavin Massey and Tom Pearce both played for Wigan in the Championship, whilst Gwion Edwards cost Ipswich £700,000 a couple of years ago. As for us, we don’t have the depth, but sometimes the resolve is just as important. We had that, and character, in abundance, as we put bodies on the line. It wasn’t one-sided, Wigan did threaten but there were only a couple of genuinely frightening moments. Other than that, they were actually disappointing. Max Power is a player who has so much ability, but whenever he plays against Lincoln, he withers and fades. James McClean had a quiet second half too, had Maguire rattled him sufficiently to affect his output? Maybe so.
For once, we had much less possession than our opponents, 35% to 64%. We played far fewer passes, and less accurate as well, but we got the win, because we dug in and played like an away team should. This is where I feel we’re good; when we play teams who have to break us down, rather than ask us to do it to them. Mind you, don’t be fooled into thinking the chances were as one-sided as well; we had 14 efforts, four on target, compared to their 15 with two on target. They might have peppered the goal at times, or so it seemed, but they had fewer efforts on target than we had in that Wimbledon game. Odd, isn’t it? We were perceived to play badly seven days ago, and yet last night, our pass accuracy was 76%, compared to 82% against Wimbledon. I’ve always said it, football is as much about personal perception than anything.
After our goal, we defended so well, and deserved a clean sheet. When we could attack, we did, and I never felt there was a moment when Wigan looked like getting right back into the game. My fear was a goal would give our younger players a gut punch, but it never came. Instead, we should have been 3-0 up, through Freddie Draper. He came on with Remy Longdon in a change that underlines our squad depth, but both did well, and the youngster should have had his first goal. He was fouled, there’s no doubt about it; if he isn’t fouled he scores. If the penalty was given, there’s no doubt who would have taken it either. That’s football though, and he’ll be desperate now to get minutes on the field this weekend against Shrewsbury, and hopefully get that first goal in the EFL.
Wigan did get a goal late on, but there was literally no time for the gut punch to take effect. I really couldn’t care less about not keeping the clean sheet, not when the performance was so full of character and grit. I’ve barely mentioned Lasse Sorensen, Lewis Fiorini and Conor McGrandles, but they worked so well together. The midfield is an area that baffles me a bit; sometimes it looks dysfunctional and ill-suited for the rigours of League One football, then last night it looked excellent. I guess if these players were consistent and all remained injury-free, 12th would be our base starting point, not an achievable high that puts smiles on faces.
I’m not going to get carried away, this has been a good four-match spell. I shouted seven points from the four after we beat Charlton, but I imagined a win against Wimbledon and then maybe a point from either of the away games. We got the aspirational points haul, and once again sit closer to the top six than the bottom four. I seem to recall the last time that happened was Burton, and I went into the Morecambe game dreaming of top ten. With struggling Shrewsbury coming up this weekend, there are visions in my mind of a top ten place for the start of November, but it’ll be a different game. They’ll come to defend and take a point and it could be another frustrating afternoon.
Still, we know where we are, what we can do and what we can’t do, and that’s enough for me. If we don’t beat Shrewsbury, it won’t be a surprise, but on last night’s showing (and Cambridge, and Sheff Weds), we’re more than capable. Michael said the key is getting through to January in decent shape and kicking on with a few new faces, and I’m on board with that. If struggling through means beating a Wigan side I fully expect to be top six this season, then bring it on.
I’m not shouting play-offs or promotion, but I will state I think calls of ‘take 20th now’ were premature. We’ve proven we can beat the big teams, now we just need to work out how to break down the others.