Strong Start Continues: Imps 3-0 Blackpool

Credit Graham Burrell

City’s strong start to the season continued with a fine 3-0 victory against Blackpool at Sincil Bank this afternoon.

I’ve started off today’s report in a typical journalistic style rather than with some clever quip or insight. I might have pointed to how at the beginning of the season, I named this match as the barometer that would tell us roughly where we were. I could start with something like, ‘whisper it, but the Imps might just be top six contenders’. There are a million and one ways I could start it off, but I don’t want to get drawn into hyperbole over a win, even if it is our second 3-0 win of the season, our third clean sheet in five, the first time Blackpool have conceded all season and leaves us in the top four.

I don’t even want to admit I looked at the table after five games. You don’t win or lose anything after five games, but you do build. You build momentum. You build confidence. You build trust. You build belief.

Credit Graham Burrell

In a 41-game season, there will be lots of twists and turns, just like there was with the weather today. I set off in bright sunshine, arrived in Wragby in the pouring rain, left not needing a jacket and was soaked by the time I left the Treaty. The rain came heavy early doors and I felt it might be a miserable afternoon for us. It’s always important to try to be honest when analysing a game, and I did feel we rode our luck a little at times in the first half. I feel like out of possession, our game is more or less spot on, but in possession, we do still have another gear to find. That’s ominous for the rest of the division.

Anyone thinking we need to make big moves in the transfer market only needs to look at the squad – no TJ again – to realise how strong we are. Of course, a new face is expected, even if it is a late loan deal to add numbers, but for the fourth game in a row, it was all about who was playing rather than who wasn’t. City went with what looks much like the strongest XI, with Jack Burroughs on the left preferred over Jaden Brown and Ethan Hamilton against getting the nod in midfield. We stuck 3-4-3, despite our opponents going 3-5-2. There was no place in their squad for Matty Virtue or Tashan Oakley-Boothe, although new signing Jordan Rhodes started on the bench, with former Imp Callum Connolly (rather oddly) at left wing-back.

Credit Graham Burrell

The opening exchanges saw half-chances for both teams – Hackett megged one of their defenders to set up Sorensen, whose shot was blocked. At the other end, a big diagonal beat Burroughs and Hamilton’s cross found Connolly, but he struck it high over the bar. They were early blows, little jabs to test the water as the two opponents sought to find a weakness.

City found the first serious weakness in former Concord Rangers defender Marvin Ekpiteta. It all started with House pressing, as he does so well, and Mandroiu backing him up. They harassed Ollie Norburn and Oliver Casey into giving the ball away, before Mandroiu’s pass saw House stride into the area. Reeco wanted the square ball, but inexplicably Ekpiteta came flying in with zero control, taking House out. 

No doubt about the penalty, and despite Daniel Grimshaw’s best attempts to put Mandroiu off, no doubt about the outcome from 12 yards. 1-0 City after just seven minutes; instantly, my back was up. We have something of a history of taking an early lead against Blackpool and it all going to pot afterwards.

Credit Graham Burrell

For a while after that, I thought they were the better side. Burroughs was definitely having some issues with Hamilton on the flank, and the former Mansfield man looked most likely to create something for the visitors. They had a lot of possession but didn’t do an awful lot with it. Aside from the diagonal ball, they didn’t threaten much, certainly not until 27 minutes. That was how long it took Neil Critchley to hook striker Shane Lavery and bring on Jordan Rhodes, a one-time goal machine.

He got stuck in right away and should have either scored or been involved in an equaliser. He curled an effort over, and Ekpiteta headed one over from a corner as the visitors threatened. As the sun came out, Hamilton received a big crossfield ball, outmuscling Burroughs before slipping a pass into Rhodes. His strike was blocked by Jackson, but fell kindly to Hamilton, who had carried a run on across the box. With Jensen grounded, Hamilton fired over. It was a let off and, at that stage, a leveller would probably have been justified.

Credit Graham Burrell

After a rough ten-minute spell, City extended the lead. A pass out from the back saw Mandroiu with a lovely little flick to Erhahon, who picked up the ball deep inside his own half. Given that Blackpool’s midfield three had crowded us out most of the afternoon, the former St Mirren man suddenly found some space and started running. Like Forrest Gump, he just kept running, and the black shirts parted as the Red Sea parted for Moses (allegedly). House and Hackett made runs, defenders followed them, apparently assuming our defensive midfielder wasn’t a threat. When he got to the edge of the area, he struck his shot off the back of the hapless Ekpiteta, deflecting over Grimshaw to make it 2-0. What do you know, he was a threat. Doh!

It might have been deflected, but it was a lovely Imps move. A swift counter, breaking upfield with pace and numbers, asking defenders questions both with the ball and without it at the same time. There was a lot to like about the goal, from the flick to the run, but the thing I liked most of all was the scorer – Ethan Erhahon is just a brilliant footballer, calm and collected in possession, and now proving he’s an attacking threat too.

Credit Graham Burrell

What a way to celebrate us becoming his away shirt sponsor!

The Imps managed the rest of the first half well – it was important not to let the visitors get their foot back in the door. 2-0 flattered us a little at the break, and at the time, I felt 1-0 perhaps did. However, on reflection, Blackpool having possession was all well and good, but aside from Rhodes’s effort and the Connolly chance before our opening goal, there wasn’t a lot for their fans to cheer.

I messaged a Blackpool fan I know and said I didn’t know how we were 2-0 up, to which he replied, ‘I do, Neil Critchley doesn’t know what he’s doing’ or words to that effect. They weren’t a happy fanbase and judging by their manager’s halftime actions, he wasn’t happy either.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. SW Podcast #231 – Blackpool win and Sheffield United Preview | The Stacey West

Comments are closed.