As I sit down to pen a match report on a friendly, I can see myself in a rather famous image.
When The Simpsons starts, there’s a clip of Bart writing lines on the blackboard. In my head, that’s me, smiling away as I write ‘must not get carried away with pre-season wins’ numerous times. I’ve gone on (and on) about how pre-season matches mean nothing, not least when this lot put five past us two years ago. Back then, it was all about minutes in the tank. This morning, I’m verging on being a hypocrite. My belief is the same, pre-season means nothing, but there’s another emotion kicking in – the joy at seeing Lincoln City win a game of football comfortably.
As far as games went, it had a bit of everything, and that’s why I’ve chosen to pen a few words rather than do a feature on the last time we won 7-0 in a game (which I think was away at Boston Town in a friendly in 2005). I’m not getting carried away, but I am beginning to wonder if, perhaps, we might just be on to something this season. That runs deeper than yesterday’s win as well – we took nearly 600 supporters to Boston for a pre-season friendly, a warm-up match three weeks before the season starts. I believe that shows a certain depth of hope within our support, that even for something as non-descript as a trip to a National League North outfit, we’re travelling well.
One year ago, we took 344 to Grimsby for a 0-0 draw. On that day, nobody knew what to expect when the season kicked off. Our midfield was still Sorensen and Sanders, and our forward line included Tom Hopper and Hakeeb Adelakun. We were, for want of a better word, a work in progress. That’s still the case now – I suppose a team is almost always a work in progress, but this year we’re ready for the first game. Our strongest XI, bar perhaps Thursday’s marquee signing, started yesterday. Jensen will be our number one, and Roughan and O’Connor are likely to form two of the three at the back, with Eyoma getting the nod over Jackson yesterday. Lasse and Jaden Brown are sure to start at full-back; the same goes for Smith and Erhahon in midfield. House and Mandroiu are definite starters for me up top, with Reeco Hackett preferred yesterday, but Duffy likely to be challenging him. Imagine that team starting the season tomorrow. Would you be as uncertain as you were a year ago against Exeter? I wouldn’t.
There’s no doubt the quality of yesterday’s opposition played into the result. Boston tried to play a neat passing game, which I think we were always going to be able to deal with. Last season, and for many before, we’ve been four at the back, and local teams have been able to go long to a big man, rough us up and scrap, but that wasn’t the case yesterday. They had their own hitman in the back line, Michael Bostwick, and he got a rousing rendition of his chant before the game. It was nice to see him still playing and that we didn’t get too overloaded with sentiment. I still have nightmares about Lincoln fans applauding Terry Hawkridge for scoring against us for Notts County, luckily, we didn’t endure that yesterday.
The game was a no-contest from the off. City looked like a team much closer to full fitness than Boston, and we had some nice passing lanes and progressive plans. There was lots of switching full backs, stretching the opposition, and a willingness to put one over the top for a runner. Ben House, still our starting centre forward in my eyes, is always looking to get in behind, and he was brought down for the opening goal. In a ‘proper’ game, the keeper gets a yellow, but it seemed there wouldn’t be a need for that. Mandroiu slammed it home, and City led.
The clouds looked ominous over the top of the stands, and the game had the same level of threat for Boston as City took complete control. Lasse was outstanding, and anything I’ve said about us signing a right back is redundant based on yesterday. He looks like he’s played wing back all his life, and his running helped create some nice pockets of space for Reeco Hackett. Dad was impressed with Hackett, and if Dad is impressed with a player, it really says something. It was Hackett’s trickery that created the second for Jaden Brown, wearing a head bandage after an early injury, although Lasse provided the assist. It had Chris purring next to me like a cat having its belly stroked. ‘Wing back to wing back’, he kept repeating, on a loop, for the next five minutes. ‘Lovely’.
The third came from Hackett as the heavens opened. It should have seen one of their lads sent off – he hacked down House, who was one-on-one with the keeper after a mistake by Bozzy. Usually, the red card would come out, but we got a play-on and seconds later, Hackett scored with a confident finish. There was no time for the restart – it looked like the floods of Noah had set in, but we went rushing back into the concourse in much larger numbers than two by two. Lightning, thunder and enough rain to worry any homeowner within five miles of the Lincolnshire coast set in. I’ve been in Boston when it’s flooded before, and for a moment, I did wonder if we might not see the restart. It delighted Dad and Dave – time for a sneaky drink during the game.
The restart brought 15 minutes of nothing, other than a yellow card for Ali Smith and an injury for their left-back Ethan Sephton, who I thought had looked decent. Other than that, we were soon experiencing our second break of the game at half time. After that, it was just more of the same – as expected, the League One side (dare I say ‘top half league one side’) looking just that, whilst Boston began to chase shadows. They weren’t abysmal; the scoreline suggests they were, but they tried to play some decent football, but it was naive football at times. However (and here’s a reminder for me as well), it was a friendly. There was nothing on the line.