In a Rut: Imps 0-1 Accrington Stanley

This morning, my electricity has been off at home. It’s been bliss because it’s meant I haven’t had to sit down and write this article.

Yesterday was one of those afternoons where, from start to finish, I wanted to be anywhere other than Sincil Bank, but my love of the club dictates otherwise. There was so much of the old Lincoln City about yesterday; an initiative to bring in new fans who see us play badly; apathy in the stands, and me feeling genuinely let down by one or two of the players. Michael didn’t want to call them out after the game and rightly, so. I wanted to though.

I think the first disappointment, other than having 15 minutes added on to the day when it was already too bloody long, was the team announcement. Even that felt a bit like old times for me; we’d got into the TP Suite (is it still called that?) rather than risk the elements, somewhere I haven’t been on a matchday since the fanzone opened. Even then, I don;t buy drinks now, the likes of me (a non-matchday drinker) seem to have been completely forgotten. I can only buy that awful sugar-free Coke at the ground now, so the club don’t get a penny of my matchday spend. That’s a constant disappointment for me on a game day, having to think about buying a bottle of pop in town before I get to the ground, Usually, on a warm day standing with a few friends, it doesn’t bother me, but on a cold, miserable day where I was already wet, it just added to my frustration. When the team dropped, I felt even more let down. We’d been promised changes, and we got one: Adam Jackson in for TJ Eyoma. That’s not harsh on TJ, he was poor against Pompey, but so were a lot of others.

More respect for these fans than most of the other teams we’ve faced this season

We did get a slight change in system; one central midfielder (Ted Bishop) was brought into central midfield and another (Lewis Fiorini) was moved out of position instead. A winger, Hakeeb Adelakun, who hasn’t looked bad in two cameos now, remained on the bench. Poor old Max Sanders didn’t get a game either, despite watching arguably the least effective midfield three in the last five years crumble against Portsmouth. I don’t see the players every week, we don’t know who is fit or who is not, but after the debacle from Tuesday night, I hoped for change. I get Michael’s hands are tied to a degree, I understand that, but it felt like a bit of a blow. I’ll be honest, I’m not a defeatist, but I saw that team and just immediately thought ‘0-0’.

It should have been 0-0 too, such was the quality from both sides, but we’ll get to that shortly. The fundamental problem with the current team is this; we never look like scoring. I never feel, when we break forward, we’re going to put the ball in the net. If we’d been more clinical against Doncaster, we could have got something from the game, but yesterday we never looked like getting into a position to be clinical. The first half was a turgid affair, a performance from a team lacking so badly in confidence, but more severely in leaders.

Dare I say, at times we felt aimless. I won’t criticise playing out from the back, I have no issue with that. I can handle backwards and sideways when there’s purpose, but the issue we have is we’re two-thirds of a team, nothing more. We can keep possession, we can advance into the opposition half, and then there’s nothing. We’re all syringe and no vaccination, we’re all bread and ketchup, but no bacon. I can’t see what the front three are doing, if I’m being brutally honest. Last season (and I’m not falling into the trap of naming players), we did exactly what we’re doing on the ball now, but when we reached the final third, we had width, options and ideas. Yesterday, we got right to the point where we were ready to go, and it all just disappeared. There’s no width, no desire to find the pockets of space, of which there were few, and no spark of creativity.

Credit Graham Burrell

I felt perhaps the best Imps player from the first 45 minutes was Ted Bishop, because two or three times he ran thirty or forty yards with the ball and showed some intent. Other than that, what did we have? I’m not scapegoating, but Fiorini is not a winger, and it showed. McGrandles is such a different player from last season I’m beginning to wonder if he’s got a twin and we’ve been given the DeVito version this season, not the Arnie one we had last season. Chris Maguire is clearly a player with talent, but he’s dropping in and out of the play and not a wide option. We’ve narrowed our play and it’s to our serious detriment. When we did get balls into the box late on, we caused a very (very) average Accrington side problems. Sadly, for the quality of the opposition, we didn’t ask anywhere near enough.

What chances can I remember from the first half? Lasse Sorensen had a shot blocked, and I think Maguire drew a ‘save’ from their keeper. That was about it. What is upsetting is when you look at the Sorensen chance, it had all the hallmarks of last season’ Imps – slick passing, runners and options. I keep hearing a lot of anti-Lasse stuff, but I don’t think he’s that bad. He actually puts himself about much more than the others, and he doesn’t shirk a tackle. I’m afraid one or two still do. One or two don’t chase when they lose the ball, and a couple even have the body language of players not wanting to be on the pitch. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I don’t think quality is the problem here; in some instances, I’d have concern over attitude.

Credit Graham Burrell

If a team ever missed a leader on the field, it is the team I’ve seen over the last two weeks. I looked to the senior players yesterday for the arm around those who needed it, and I saw nothing. Adam Jackson, Chris Maguire and Conor McGrandles should be vocal, geeing up the players, maybe even the crowd, but we got nothing. I noticed on Tuesday night a Pompey player did it to their fans, where’s our cheerleader on the field? Where’s our leader? He’s in the stands, in fact the only two worthy of the armband at the moment are both there, looking on doubtless shattered at the lack of character the 11 that started yesterday showed. I know we’re a young side, but are we also a quiet one?

I think this is exemplified almost perfectly by their corner routine. On no fewer than three occasions, in both halves they played a corner to the edge of the area as everyone readied themselves for a delivery. Where was the captain pointing that out? Why did we not spot it on, I dunno, the third occasion? Each time, it was so obvious, and yet there seemed no real drive to stop it.

By half time, I was almost welcoming the suggestion of longer breaks for shows and the like, anything to save me from having to watch a very poor Lincoln side go through the motions. That’s what it feels like right now; we’re treading water until January. I think that’s obvious, I say it every week. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying ‘everything will be great after the winter window’, but it will be better. For a start, we’ll have two leaders back (Hopper and Bridcutt), and we’ll have a couple of fresh attacking players, hopefully who don’t mind getting a bit of white pant on their boots from hugging the touchlines.