Oh, what a carry on.
The last 24 hours have felt like the final days of the season, with us adrift at the bottom of the table. I know, some of you think that’s going to happen, you think we’re sleepwalking into a relegation battle, but the same people said the same thing last season, and we were still safe by the final game. Honestly, I didn’t know if it was early 2022 or 2023 yesterday, just with the names of the manager changed. Same complainers wanting the manager or Jez sacked, the same people as ever being overly positive and this little demographic in the middle whose views seem to change with actual events and are based on considered fact. Those are the people I like. Those are the people whose posts I still see on Twitter. Believe me, Twitter is very quiet for me these days.
I think this evolving squad has a long way to go. I think we’re further back on the journey than some results have suggested. I do not think the whole thing is coming down around our ears (just yet) because of a result we got that was better than the same fixture last season. I was happy to put out my article last night looking at the issues that we’re facing, and it got some positive reactions, especially from those who do think things are crashing down. I got some people saying it was balanced, but it wasn’t entirely – balance would stress the positives and the negatives. I’m effectively rising to a challenge here; I saw several posts on social media saying ‘defend that’ after yesterday’s game. If it were Boxing Day, my answer would be ‘impossible’, but yesterday? It’s certainly a lot easier to defend than Steve Tilson.
Rather than try to get anything out of the game, which was as entertaining as Charlton at home, I thought I’d look to defend to performance and try to add a little perspective to the negativity After all, no one situation is black and white. Like I said a minute ago, last season, many fans were accusing us of sleepwalking into a relegation battle, which didn’t happen. Much of the forecasting and terror-inducing prophecy you read on social media today is exactly as it was a year ago, and in the Covid season, and yet here were are, still in League One, not in the bottom four and with some positive things, believe it or not.
We Didn’t Lose
This might seem obvious, but we didn’t lose the game yesterday. This, despite coming up against a forward line featuring former £1m Mo Eisa, former £4m Will Grigg, and former Barcelona man Louie Barry. I don’t want to disparage MK Dons, as we were no better, but they’re failing to score goals with an embarrassment of riches in their forward line. We failed to create much with a depleted squad, one recognised striker who hasn’t been at his best for 18 months or more and with (you hope) attacking options yet to join the squad. Last season, we lost twice against MK Dons, both games we should have won, because we couldn’t defend. Yesterday, we drew 0-0 because we couldn’t attack. Which would you rather do? Get a point, solid and unafraid throughout, or no points but with a goal or two?
I know fans want to be entertained, but I don’t buy my season ticket on the strength of being entertained. I might get to more away matches if we were winning, but where does the away money go? To the away club. I’ll not miss home matches, and when it comes to renewals, I’ll renew. Why? Not because I want to be entertained, but because I’m a Lincoln fan – hell most of you will know we only started getting entertained at Sincil Bank around 2016, it hadn’t been that way for a long while. Purely by going to watch matches, I am, to a degree, entertained. I take my hat off to people who go to 95% of away games, I do, but if it feels like penance, why do it? If your away day is always a ‘good day out ruined by football’, why not just have a day out? I don’t buy this ‘loyal fans won’t buy a season ticket if we’re not winning’ bollocks. If you’re a loyal fan and you don’t buy a season ticket because the team doesn’t win games, then you’re not actually a loyal fan; you’re a glory hunter, If you don’t buy because of cost etc, that’s fine, but if your only reason is that you’re not entertained, then you’re a football fan, not a Lincoln City fan. (I imagine my inbox will get a little busier now…).
Anyway, back to the positives. We didn’t lose, we kept a clean sheet against an attack which should have done better, and strictly we got the result you’d expect. All successful teams draw away and win at home, or at least that’s the structure that I always get told. So, we went away to a team that is far weaker than the sum of its parts, and we never really looked under threat. That, despite changing formation, despite ditching the back five (or three, if you understand football) and going to a flat back four to try to pep things up.
Right now, we’ve played 25 matches and have 30 points. If we drew every game between now and the end of the season, a result which has signalled the end of days for some supporters, we’d have 51 points. Do you know how many teams have been relegated on 51 points in the last 20 years? Have a guess. I’ll wait.
One. Torquay, in 2005, and even then, MK Dons stayed up with the same points and a better goal difference. It might not be entertaining, it might not be what you want to travel the length and breadth of the country for, and crucially, it won’t happen, but averaging a single point a game between now and May would, in all probability, see us stay up. Matching our points average from the first 25 matches (1.2) would see us finish on 55 points. No team has been relegated from this division on 55 points.