Welcome to what we hope will be a new feature for the site; a retrospective of every game with an opposition fan, Written by Kyle Kennealey, who comes on board in addition to Tom Morton, we hope to add something you don’t often see on this site; an opposition view of the game just gone. I’ll hand you over to Kyle for the first in a series.
Saturday’s game against Shrewsbury may have been forgotten by now (with good reason I may add), but I was given the opportunity to get in touch with Ollie from Salopcast and ask him for his thoughts on the weekend’s game, writes Kyle Kennealey. I am hoping that this will become a regular feature for the rest of the season and hopefully into the next campaign.
What’s the feeling from your perspective of how the game went on Saturday?
I think it is fair to say a neutral would have found the game rather dull. Lincoln shaded the first half, while Shrewsbury were much the better side in the second half. I thought the game was destined to be a forgettable 0-0 draw until Udoh stepped up to fire the ball into the back of the net. In the first half Shrewsbury were poor and struggled against Lincoln who dominated the play and had more shots.
The game changed in Shrewsbury’s favour when Cotterill made a half time substitute and tactical switch, taking off Bloxham for Daniels, moving Bennett from right wing back to midfield, with Daniels filling in the hole vacated by Bennett. This meant Shrewsbury changed from a 3-4-1-2 to a 3-5-2 with two “eights”, Leahy and Bennett, and Fornah sitting as a “six”. This meant Shrewsbury had an additional man in midfield, limiting Lincoln space and forcing Lincoln to play more in their own half further away from goal. I find it interesting that possession from the first half was mirrored in the second half (Shrewsbury 40% and Lincoln 60%), with Lincoln having 267 passes first half and 258 passes second half, but even the most enthusiastic Lincoln fan will concede Lincoln offered very little second half, passing the ball with limited attacking threat. Shrewsbury made efficient use of their possession, offering more going forward and could have scored another in the final ten minutes of the game. The tactical switch at half time was a key turning point.
I was pleased with the result and the performance. It wasn’t a game that will stick in the memory, but it is testament to the progress Cotterill has made this season. We won a game without impressing offensively, with Cotterill again demonstrating his tactical potency. Two standout players: Fornah looked much better playing as a “six”, with freedom to receive the ball from the defenders and dictate play. The on-loan midfielder from Nottingham Forest is a player to keep your eye on. Bowman continued his run of good performances with a strong outing up front, I thought he did well against the Lincoln defenders winning many of his aerial duels.
We’ve faced each other three times this season across league and cup, what thoughts do you have on Lincoln from what you’ve seen?
Over the course of the three games, League Cup win for Shrewsbury (on pens), away draw and home win, Shrewsbury have clearly come out on top. I thought Lincoln were going to build on last season and be in the play-off hunt, but clearly it has been a very tough year for Appleton. I do admire Appleton’s style of play, he coaches his side well, but it appears to me Lincoln have not had the players available to win enough games. I thought Lincoln would suffer losing Jorge Grant, but I expected Appleton to continue his record of smart recruitment, in particular the use of the loan market. Overall, I have been underwhelmed by Lincoln, in the away game I was surprised how our goal impacted Lincoln and they went into their shell. Of course, it is very hard to track all League One clubs, I suspect Lincoln’s main issue has been a lack of talent on the pitch, through injuries and/or recruitment.
A lot of Lincoln fans were very frustrated with our performance, particularly going forward. Would you say that Shrewsbury defended very well?
Fans will always focus on their own team and Lincoln fans are right to be frustrated with their sides attacking performance on Saturday. Lincoln created a couple of decent chances in the first half but created next to nothing in the second half. Lincoln had six shots, with four of them being from outside of the box. I never felt Lincoln were going to score in the second half.
Shrewsbury have the third-best defensive record in the division, this is no fluke. Shrewsbury are very well organised, very hard working and fitter than most League One sides. It was noticeable Lincoln had two players struggling with cramp after 70 minutes. Ethan Ebanks-Landell had a very good game as the heart of defence, he made some key tackles and interceptions, making life difficult for John Marquis. Over both halves Lindon failed to produce a shot on target.
You’re in fairly good form for a team that sit below mid-table, is it a shame that you couldn’t have picked up this sort of form earlier in the season and had a shot at the Play-Offs?
This season has been frustrating. After a positive start to summer recruitment, we didn’t make a permanent signing in August. We started the season with a small squad that lacked attacking talent. We didn’t score a single goal in the first 10% of the season. We have been on the edge of the relegation battle all year and have avoided the relegation zone due to points picked up when our strikers have entered a short period of form. If we had signed a few additional players in the summer, we could have had a much better season. However, while it has been a frustrating season, after three wins on the bounce, the fans are positive about the remainder of the season and next year. Cotterill has built a solid base so hopefully, we can push on next season, my main concern is repeating last summer and not recruiting enough players.
Any remaining aspirations for the end of the season or is it a case of finishing as high as possible with little else to play for?
In our remaining fixtures, we play a number of sides in the promotion hunt: Milton Keynes Dons (A), Ipswich Town (H), Sunderland (A), Doncaster Rovers (H), Charlton Athletic (A), Wigan Athletic (H). We have already beaten Rotherham away and I wouldn’t be surprised if we created another shock or two. We don’t have anything material to play for, but the manager and this group of players will not stop working until the final whistle.