In a Rut: Imps 0-1 Accrington Stanley

Credit Graham Burrell

If the first half was bad, the second at least had a bit of something to it. Sadly for us, it was a goal.

Good God, wasn’t it easy as well? I’ve watched it back a few times and there are two problems I can see. Firstly, e don’t stop the speculative, long-range effort that Griffiths parries, and then the only player to react when the ball comes back out is their striker. Montsma is right there with him, but by the time the ball comes back out, is he hacking it away, or even trying to get back? No, he hasn’t anticipated it, and Accrington got their 1-0 lead.

I may as well have walked out there and then, because it was obvious we were never going to score. At that point a side known for their fight, a side happy with a point at kick-off, had a lead to defend and let’s be honest, they didn’t have to defend hard. They wasted time, as we would if it were us, and they should even have been 2-0 up, but for a good Griffiths save not long after.

We didn’t rally. There was nobody getting in the younger player’s ears, geeing them up. It just felt beyond flat, as if their goal ushered in a period of complete acceptance; here we go again. I get that from fans, many are apathetic and pessimistic anyway, but from the players? I can’t accept that I’m afraid. If Liam Bridcutt was on that field, he’d be there, encouraging and getting behind the players, but nobody did it. Who was captain yesterday? I didn’t notice, and that’s the problem.

Credit Graham Burrell

I can find a couple of little positives. I thought Haks did well when he came on, he provided a bit of width and certainly looked to spark something, however little. Max Sanders did the same, he at least looked to get into forward positions. Even dan N’Lundulu looked a bit livelier, although he’s another one I feel let down by. After Wigan, I thought he could go on a run and get a few goals, but the truth is since his strike to down the Latics, he’s either missed good chances, or got nowhere near scoring. Nope, once again, we were relying on a 17-year-old lad fresh out of the academy for our goal threat, and he almost delivered, heading our best chance of the game over.

I’m not prone to overreaction. You won’t get me calling for a manager’s head after a few bad results, that’s utter madness. Michael must feel frustrated about the summer, which we keep mentioning, and the injuries which yesterday robbed him of his leading number nine, his captain, his leading scorer and his best centre half. Right there, in the treatment room, is the spine of our team. Whether that is enough to put this Lincoln team in the top half or not, I don’t know, but I’m damn sure it would be enough to beat what I have no fear in calling the worst team we’ve seen at Sincil Bank this season (aside from us).

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When we’re on a downward spiral, I like to think I can see if it is a fundamental problem with the approach, or there are a collective of reasons. I don’t think we’ve become a bad team overnight, and I know Michael isn’t a bad coach. So he doesn’t run up and down the touchline screaming, whatever. I don’t always buy into needing that passion on the touchline, Michael has his way and nobody was moaning about it last season were they? The problem here is NOT the manager, even if we don’t agree with his selection at times, or the approach. The problem is a collection of factors that have come together in a perfect storm, like the one that blew my bloody bench into my pond.

Factors like a lack of attacking options courtesy of a failed deadline day. Factors like the new faces not living up to their promise, almost to a man. FActors like the crippling injuries, not in terms of numbers, but to the leaders and headline players. When you then throw the form of some of those who we can’t drop in, form which is not just poor, but is really awful, you have the end product we’re seeing right now. Yes, there are decisions an armchair manager like me might question, such as why Max Sanders can’t get a game instead of any one of Fiorini, McGrandles and Sorensen who just don’t work as a three. Another big question is why we don’t start with Haks out wide, instead of a central midfielder in his position. These are legitimate questions, but they’re not the reason we’re looking so utterly ragged.

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It’s been a bad month for the Imps, it really has. I recall Keith Alexander always seemed to have a bad November, and I even recall people booing his teams off and calling for him to go, asking if he’d taken the team as far as he could. I get why people react as they do, I don’t think it’s justified, but it’s anger. Everyone reacts differently to a defeat, or a bad run of form, and kicking out is one way. Ten years ago, you’d kick out in your living room, and nobody would see it. Now, you do it on you phone and people are falling out, name-calling, antagonising and baiting each other. It’s toxic, and that reflects on the overall situation, when actually a lot of the toxicity comes from fans on social media, both happy clappers and doom and gloomers, looking to score points and make the same laboured points over and over and over and over and over and……

I’ve reacted differently. I had enough negativity in my life leaving the ground yesterday, gutted at what I’d just seen. I didn’t then need to sit at home in the evening and see friends of mine with opinions I didn’t agree with looking for a fight. I didn’t want to read the thoughts of those who are prone to hyperbole, looking for a fight to make themselves feel better. For that reason, I might not be posting much on Twitter and Facebook for a few days, because I don’t need to extend the frustration from a Saturday into Sunday and Monday. Yes, we’re poor at the moment, but I don’t believe it’s the beginning of the end and I certainly won’t get into a debate with someone about things we already know to be true (we haven’t replaced such and such, this player is rubbish, I was right in August when I said blah blah blah). Take your one-upmanship elsewhere, I feel miserable enough at the thought of going to the Bank next weekend and watching another 90 minutes of toothless attacking. I don’t need people telling me how bad it’s going to be.

Credit Graham Burrell

On the bright side, I think this is our nadir this season, our low point. I genuinely feel we can get a couple of players back, a leader in the shape of Bridcutt and hopefully an attacking presence in January. Maybe we won’t be table-toppers again, but if you’re expecting that you’re deluded. What I expect is a team of players I feel are putting their bodies on the line for the club, are affected when we don’t win and are able to impact games when things aren’t going our way. From yesterday’s starting XI, aside from Griffiths, Robson, Maguire and Draper, I didn’t feel that.

For that, I’m afraid there’s no excuse.

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