Honours Even in Tyke Encounter: Imps 0-0 Barnsley

Credit Graham Burrell

For the eighth time this season, Lincoln City drew 0-0. It’s the fourth 0-0 draw we’ve had at home, but anyone trying to tell you this was insipid, uninspiring, or lacking direction is spinning you a yarn. As far as 0-0 draws go, they don’t get that much better.

If you were there, it might surprise you to know there were only two shots on target all night. That’s the same as when we drew 0-0 with Charlton, and fewer than the 0-0 draw with Cambridge. When it comes to entertainment, application, and atmosphere, those previous matches aren’t even in the same league. Hell, they’re barely even the same sport.

It could be because our opponents last night like to play quite direct, meaning the ball wasn’t often fizzed between their centre-backs. It could be because the last five games have seen us find an attacking pattern that works, stumbling upon a couple of fixes that, had we found them in January and not April, might even have seen us knocking on the door of the top eight. Sure, there were clear indications of where we’re lacking as well, but last night was about more than the bigger picture. Not for the first time this week, paying fans got entertainment, as well as a positive sporting outcome. Too often, the latter (which we’ve been good at achieving, with one home defeat all season) has been evident, but the former has been harder to spot.

Credit Graham Burrell

That’s not been the case over the last few weeks. The madcap fun of Saturday afternoon, with goals, cards, and a general unpredictability about the officials, was replaced by a different excitement, the sort of excitement that suggested more was coming, that something was afoot. If our matches were horror films, Saturday was the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, all blood, gore, and bold villains (without the chainsaws). Last night was more Blair Witch Project, with the excitement coming in what might happen, and what could occur. Even though it ultimately didn’t, it still made for a great spectacle.

The team news was surprising – both Danny Mandroiu and Ben House missed out injured, meaning Plange and Duffy came in for starts, the latter making his full debut. Jordan Wright deputized for the suspended Carl Rushworth, but otherwise, we were unchanged. That meant another game at right wing-back for Lasse Sorensen, who has risen like Lazarus in recent weeks. Lasse has been a really important part of the side recently, and it may feel odd to some that weeks ago, we were calling for two new wing-backs in the summer, whereas the actual solution appears to be staring us in the face.

Let’s make no bones about it – Barnsley are a decent side. They’re direct, there’s no doubt about that, and they’ve got some monsters at the back. They have their own Great Dane, Mads Andersen, who you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of. I liked Adam Phillips and Herbie Kane as well, and obviously, we know exactly what James Norwood is all about. I don’t think there were 20 seconds on the clock before he and Harry Boyes had a tussle for the ball, and the striker started giving it to the assistant referee. Some things never change, and like Matty Taylor on Saturday, he’s the type of striker you love to hate.

Credit Graham Burrell

Within ten minutes, we’d given them their first scare – a move involving Erhahon and Sorensen saw Duffy released down the flank. He delivered a really tasty cross, but Plange was a foot behind the play, and despite a late run, he couldn’t get on the end of it. It was a bit ‘Gazza 96’, but it was more dangerous than anything we saw in the Cambridge or Charlton game.

I thought the game had a really nice flow to it, considering we had a patched-up forward line, and they are quite direct. Don’t get me wrong, they get the ball down and play as well, but the opening exchanges first favoured them, then we had a spell, and then they got back into it. There was nothing clear-cut, but it was edge-of-your-seat stuff at times. We’ve found a way of playing some lovely football, little give and gos that set us off, big switches looking for the lively wing backs – it’s the early signs of a style far more attractive than we showed around Christmas. Matty Virtue and Ethan Erhahon often provide the impetus, covering the wing backs for them to push forward, or switch to each other. The forwards tuck in a bit more, and when they get on the ball, the first instinct is to find a teammate, not run down a blind alley.

I felt a bit for Shodipo last night. He started well, but there was a spell of two or three minutes where he gave the ball away and played a terrible pass, and he never recovered. He definitely strikes me as a confidence player, and once his confidence was knocked last night, he drifted in and out of the game. One bad game doesn’t make a player; remember that. Just because he wasn’t on it last night, doesn’t mean he’s not someone we should monitor closely over the summer.

Credit Graham Burrell

It’s odd how different people see different things. My mate Gav said he thought Shodipoo was awful at Derby, but me and Chris thought he did well. Last night, I thought Plange had a decent game, but Chris thought he was poor. I think poor is harsh on Plange. He’s not Ben House, that certainly goes against him, but he was a willing runner, and he was involved in some of our nice attacking play. The counter-argument, made by Chris (I’m not going to claim it as my own opinion), is that Plange never quite decided what he wanted to do – was he coming short, or going in behind? All too often, it was felt he did neither. I guess if you’re looking for different things in the same player, you might find a difference of opinion. I genuinely believe it’s the first time Chris and I had actually disagreed about a player’s performance! One thing is for certain – Plange hasn’t had the impact we hoped a first-choice loan player from the Premier League might have had. He’s more Dan N’Lundulu and Tyreece John-Jules than he is Morgan Rogers or Tyler Walker, that’s for sure.

I did note one interesting element in the first half – the presence of red towels in the areas where a long throw might take place. They weren’t ours; we never have towels, so I can only assume they were there for the visitors. They used them to dry a ball for one long throw, which caused a problem, but they had gone in the second half. John Beck would never have allowed it!

Credit Graham Burrell

Both teams had chances in an energetic first half. One of ours, the only one we had on target all game, came from a looping Luke Plange header that was easily plucked out from under the crossbar. The pick of the Barnsley chances fell to Herbie Kane, who fired high over the bar after a rare Paudie O’Connor slice in the area. The lack of chances didn’t detract from the enjoyment though, and in the warm light of this April afternoon, I can’t really put my finger on why. One shot on target in the first half, from both teams and yet the general consensus was ‘that was a good game’.

It could have been much better, but for the crossbar. Another good corner from Harry Boyes saw a Paudie O’Connor header beat their keeper, only to come back off the bar. Plange recycled the chance, but Lasse fired a first-time shot over. In truth, it was the closest either side would come to breaking the deadlock all game. It’s a good job I didn’t go for my usual half time pitstop before the whistle sounded, otherwise, I’d have missed it. sadly, it meant crossing my legs before I could visit the little boy’s room, as a lot of other little boys form a half-time queue that take far too long to get through.

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