I watched yesterday from iFollow, without the commentary of social media, which may mean I watched a different game than many. You know how it is, perception and all.
Did Lincoln City play well? Not really. Did we play badly? No, again, not really. Was 2-1 a fair outcome? No, not in my eyes. Did we learn anything we didn’t know last week? No. Sounds like a pretty blank afternoon, doesn’t it?
Here’s some context. Our keeper, an England Under 21, was missing. Our spiritual leader this season, Paudie O’Connor, was missing. TJ Eyoma, Joe Walsh, Sean Roughan, Ethan Erhahon, and Mide Shodipo were all missing. By my maths (and its words I do, not maths), that’s seven players all of whom would definitely have played some part during the encounter. With Lewis dropping during the game as well, I make that eight from a working squad of 24. 33.3%. Assuming that some of those players, the likes of Duffy, Makama, Oakley-Boothe and even Jordon Wright wouldn’t have played, you could say that more than 50% of our best XI missed the game, or withdrew from it.
Consider then that our hosts were able to put two players in up top who, if reports are accurate, will be costing around £12,000 per week and commanded six-figure transfer fees during the winter window, and the result doesn’t look as bad in my mind. Nor does the fact that I firmly believe if either side were ‘better’ in another average game between two average sides, it was probably us. If at full-time, you’d offered me the chance to swap with them, budget, league position, and all, I wouldn’t have taken it. Apparently, my maths isn’t that bad, certainly not as bad as any who tells you Fleetwood are financially sustainable beyond their owner’s benevolence.
Of course, that doesn’t change the fact we’ve lost three on the bounce, it doesn’t alter the reaction that is inevitable after any loss. It doesn’t change the fact we may have created 17 shots, seven on target, but we didn’t exactly swamp the opposition. It doesn’t change the fact we conceded two poor goals, probably both blamed on one player (who has been excellent this season, by the way). It doesn’t change the fact we’re light in attacking options, but we knew that. We knew it last week, we knew it the week before, and here’s a little spoiler – we’ll know it next Sunday as well when there’s a very real chance Sheffield Wednesday will inflict our fourth defeat in a row on us.
I do find it hard to assess these matches as the season winds down. In the back of my mind, with 45 points, I keep thinking ‘2010/11‘ and breaking out into a little sweat. Do I see Accrington, with eight games left, upping their points per game from 0.92 to 1.37? No. How about Morecambe going from 0.87 to 1.57? No again. Cambridge would need to go from 0.81 to 2, and Forest Green would need to get as many points in their last nine matches as they have in their first 37. Mathematically, we could still go down, but in practice, it would be a bigger turnaround than 2010/11 by some distance.
That makes it harder to assess. If relegation was a real threat, a tangible one, not just something based on history, then I’d be talking about our survival chances, but I believe three more points will be enough to keep this team in League One if we need any at all. I see points for us, even draws at home with Burton and Cheltenham, plus a rogue draw away, would be enough. It wouldn’t stop the dissent amongst some supporters, as is their right, but when safety was the aim, and safety is attained, it would do for me. Nothing that happens between now and May will change the way I feel about what’s needed through the summer.
So, the game. Honestly, we were better than we have been in recent weeks. We did show more attacking intent, and we did get into better positions but (here’s a copy and paste from last week) -sadly, it was all threat and no action – we’d get into a crossing position, but every delivery was poor. We got some free kicks in dangerous positions, but the balls were poor. Yesterday we did create more, and we even troubled their keeper on occasion, but it wasn’t scintillating. I’d add the caveat about the players we were missing, but even without them, I felt we could, and perhaps should have won the game.
We were certainly the better side until their goal, which was just weak. We’ve been great at defending set pieces this season, but in recent weeks that’s gone to pot. Now, I have to avoid being a hypocrite here, because I said if we lost the ability to defend and kept struggling up top, that would be a bad sign. Currently, we have struggled to stop silly goals and we’re still toothless. If we had got 40 points, not 45, I’d be concerned about the immediate future. Right now, I’m not.
Normally, we concede and you can pack up and go home, like leaving the beach when the first spots of rain appear, but yesterday we showed some character and got back into the game. For a side with some good players on good money (throw Vela into that as well), they didn’t look the threat I thought they might. When we equalised, I felt it was deserved. We hadn’t been great, but we had chances. -Danny Mandroiu’s lob bounced off the roof of the net, an early Matty Virtue opportunity was tame and a couple of other half-chances could have brought a goal. We did well for the goal, recycling the chances for Poole to poke home. We’ll miss Regan when he goes in the summer, he’s been superb, but the moans about him going for nothing make me chuckle. That, sadly, is football to a degree and we’ve done well in the past to tie Scully and Grant to contracts that earned us money. Poole going will be a loss, but other players will, once again, see us as a progression club, which will help recruitment. It’s a small win, even if it comes at the cost of one of (if not) our best player.