Magnificent Monday: Plymouth Argyle 0-2 Imps

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Those Lincoln City scallywags, disrupting the promotion race from the depths of mid-table. That’s how a lot of neutrals will see it today after our win at Plymouth. The narrative will be around the home team, and how the bit-part players caused an upset. It’s natural at this time of year to focus on the teams with something to play for.

Of course, we’re different. We focus purely on Lincoln City, so what might happen to Plymouth after today matters little. We care about ourselves. We care about our players, about our prospects for next season. Now we’ve moved onto 52 points, we’re comfortable looking ahead to next season and, if we do so with this result in our minds, there could be plenty to look forward to.

Firstly, a word on Plymouth. They were top going into this game, and they’ve got players like Danny Mayor who we’ve seen time and again performing well against us, but generally, they’re not a team I see as a top-of-the-table side. Maybe they just don’t turn up to play us, but at our place, it felt like a basketball game, and we drew 1-1 when it could easily have been more. This afternoon, without exaggeration, we could have won 4-0. We were the better side, albeit with less possession, but we created better chances. When you consider this is against a side likely to be in the Championship next season, it underlines exactly what we have about us. The hosts have good players and created some problems for us, but I never felt like we were under the cosh.

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The Imps lined up without several key players, as we know, meaning Harry Boyes and Lasse Sorensen got extended runs in the wing-back positions. Max Sanders dropped to the bench with Matty Virtue coming in, whilst Mide Shodipo got a deserved start after his impressive second-half outing on Friday. It may sound a little silly, but it was as strong as we could hope to be with the injuries factored in. By that, I mean there wasn’t a host of players on the bench the fans are clamouring to see get a start, but the bench still offered us options.

If we thought the game was going to be all one way, we were wrong. Within 60 seconds City could have taken the lead, with Shodipo firing wide of the post. It was a brief reminder of Argyle’s shakiness at the back – they’ve not convinced me at all in our four meetings over the last two seasons. They looked unpredictable, and it felt like we might be in for an upset. However, if that was the first punch, round one as a whole belonged to them. They began to edge into the game and created half-chances, but seemed to be finding a lot of space on the flanks. That wasn’t due to anyone doing much wrong for us, but the sheer numbers the Pilgrims wanted to commit forward.

Despite that, I didn’t feel like we were rocking. With O’Connor, Poole and Jackson, we have a really solid base, a plinth for the rest of the team to stand on. I don’t buy that we play five at the back, not how we played today, it’s 3-4-3 and in that formation, you have to have three central defenders who are on the same level. Those three are, and I’ll say this again – Adam Jackson is a player we must sign for next season. Him, Paudie, TJ and Sean Roughan are all League One quality, and this afternoon, he showed he has a part to play in our future.

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Assistant referees seem to be in the news this weekend, and with 20 minutes gone, there was a lot of talk about one at Home Park. Ryan Hardie seemed to be a metre offside as he broke free, but the flag stayed down. I’ve watched it back and I suspect Lasse just played him onside, and it was a golden chance to take the lead, but Carl Rushworth saved. The on-loan Brighton stopper didn’t have a huge amount to do all afternoon, but you know if he’s called upon, he’ll usually be found up to the task. He was called upon on 28 minutes, coming to claim a corner, and distributing quickly. Plymouth had done their homework and stopped a couple of quick deliveries, but this one found Sorensen. The Dane did magnificently, striding away down the flank and pinging a 50-yard crossfield pass to Danny Mandroiu, who showed his exquisite technique to cross for Shodipo to score.

It was a classic counter-attacking goal, a swift, sweeping move that would be all over the news if it got scored in the Premier League, just like Good Friday’s goal. Those types of moves have been rare this season, but I don’t think that’s for the want of trying. Could it be the change in personnel, the outgoing Sunderland man freeing up a spot that has been seized, with gusto, by Shodipo? He played a big part in the goal on Friday, and he bagged the goal that gave us hope against the league leaders. What I would add is Lasse Sorensen also had a hand in both goals and whilst I have been critical of him at wing-back, he was excellent today and is a great player to have around the squad. We’ve said it before on the podcast, there’s no player past or present we’ve ever wanted to succeed as much as Lasse, and there’s zero doubt in my mind when the scores are in from the player rater this afternoon, he’ll be your Man of the Match.

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It should have been 2-0 not long after. I won’t go hard on the officials, but they got this one wrong (for balance, there was a really good penalty shout in the second half for them that the same lino missed). A corner was headed goalwards by Regan Poole, the keeper got nowhere near it and everything was seemingly okay. Inexplicably, it was ruled out, seemingly for Shodipo impeding the keeper from an offside position. It’s a ludicrous decision, because Shodipo is not offside, nor does he get anywhere near the keeper. It’s a goal, and they got it wrong. I do wonder if that was in the linos mind when O’Connor had a shirt tug in the second half? Maybe, maybe not.

It wasn’t even the last action of the half, as we had half chances with Mandroiu and House before Tom Neild signalled for halftime. The home fans were not happy, especially with Sheff Weds winning, and doubtless people up and down the country raised an eyebrow at the score. Still, Plymouth had only failed to score at home in the league twice all season, so surely there would be some pressure to soak up in the second half.