I feel a weariness coming to write these games up at the moment. I feel that there’s an inevitability about what I’m going to write, a predictable lament of our injury situation.
To a degree, I know many will agree that we’re just coasting at the moment, like a broken-down car freewheeling down a hill to get a little closer to home. The shell of the car is there; it looks like it is intact, but it is fundamentally broken. That’s not a slur on our recruitment, our manager or anything at the club. It’s just the situation. We are the only club in League One who are not quite complete. Even Cheltenham, who have yet to score a league goal this season, actually have strikers.
It’s mad that I’ve started off with a ‘poor us’ section again, but nothing that is written after this point can be read without context. We are two-thirds of a team, a back three (or five) and a midfield, but up front, we’re beyond makeshift. For those Portsmouth fans reading this, we don’t have any strikers. Reeco Hackett is as close to a striker as we have right now, but he’s a winger, you know that, as do we. Every striker on our books, bar young Jovon, is injured. Even the one player you’d probably have as a striker over Reeco, Danny Mandroiu, is injured.
Lincoln fans might be wondering why they’re reading it again, but it’s to add context. I’ll talk about yesterday’s game, the incidents, the passages of play and everything, but I’ll try not to make constant reference to the fact we have no strikers. However, everything that happens on the field is relevant to that. Someone on social media asked me if the two goals we conceded were attached to us having no strikers, and the answer is yes, they were. Maybe not directly in that passage of play, but had we got Ben or Tyler fit, there would be more chance a ball out of defence would stick rather than keep coming back. The whole balance of the game changes.
So, we lost to Portsmouth, with no strikers, but that’s the backdrop, not the story. The story? Shoot me down if you want, be we were absolutely worth a point. No doubt in my mind that we didn’t deserve to lose that game, away from home, against the top of the table. That’s what hurts more than anything. People often reference Ipswich and Barnsley from last season, backs-against-the-wall games where we had the kitchen sink throw at us and repelled the threat with every last sinew of energy we had. That didn’t happen yesterday. Watching on from home, I never felt we were going to concede after they equalised, not even when we did concede. I never felt we were playing the team on top of the table, and I don’t know if that’s credit to us or detrimental to Pompey.
Hakeeb Adelakun is the first name I’m going to come to when we’re talking about the game. Haks started his 13th League One game for the Imps yesterday – that draws him level with Liam Cullen and leaves him on fewer than Harry Boyes (15) and Mide Shodipo (15). His last league start for the Imps? Fratton Park, last season, when we drew 0-0. The term forgotten man doesn’t just apply to Haks; it almost defines his Lincoln stay. He was forgotten under Michael Appleton in his first season, forgotten by Mark Kennedy last season and forgotten by fans this season. Five minutes into a game every one of us was fearing, and his neat strike had us 1-0 up. Haks? Forgotten no more.
Huge credit to Lasse for pressing Jack Sparkes high up the field and winning possession. He played in Reeco, who will have been delighted to have at least got an assist on his old stomping ground. Reeco found Haks, and his finish left the keeper stranded. Like a kid at Christmas, a huge smile spread across his face, a smile not seen since his goal for Gillingham in the FA Cup last season. He ushered his teammates away and did a somersault in front of the Imps fans. There was something joyous about the moment that really resonated with me. Haks, as I understand it, was offered terms to leave the club over the summer and didn’t. We know a move away broke down on deadline day, and he was left stranded, and here we are, 23 days later, and he’s being cheered by the very fans who probably forgot what he looked like. Moments like that are truly cherishable.
They’re also only moments, because three minutes later, Pompey were level. All you want is to keep it tight for ten or fifteen, frustrate the home crowd and maybe draw the likes of hot-head Joe Morrell into silly fouls. Instead, we gifted a goal. I know Lasse will get the blame for it, but there are a couple of things that struck me. Firstly, there was a complaint he had headed the ball back into the box, and granted, that’s not ideal. Isn’t he looking for his keeper, though? Isn’t there at least a portion of the blame to attach to Jensen? Also, Lasse’s header is three or four seconds before the ball ends up in the back of the net; there’s time to defend it. The finish isn’t great either; on the second watch, I’m not convinced there wasn’t a deflection or something wrong-footing Jensen. Either way, it wasn’t a good goal to concede, but I heard commentary laid it at the feet of Lasse, and I’m not sure that’s 100% fair.
Apres moi, le deluge. That’s the 617 motto, but in terms of the Pompey goal, it was a case of Après moi, l’ennui (cue a rush of traffic to Google translate). Nothing much really happened between minutes eight and 48. Pompey had a lot of the ball but didn’t create anything. Only Marlon Pack’s weak free-kick registered as a shot on goal for the hosts between their opening goal and the winner. We actually had two, Jack Sparkes (again) giving the ball away to Lasse, and he tried a spectacular effort from the halfway line, and on 39 minutes, Paudie headed over. By the way – Haks’ long throw? Wow. It was the winger who made O’Connor’s effort, launching his throw into the area and then neatly returning the ball when it was cleared for the header.
Sadly, as we edged towards halftime, they got another goal. We dealt with a set piece coming into the box, but not well enough – it looked like Ted couldn’t get it away far enough, and his clearance fell to Kamara. The delivery was good, but Jack Burroughs will be upset at the ease with which he was beaten in the air by Regan Poole. Poole scored three times in 111 Lincoln outings; he’s now got two in nine for Pompey. He didn’t celebrate, but if I were him, I would have done. Why? Booing.
Yep, some of our supporters booed Regan Poole, a player who never downed tools despite an intention to leave the club, who always gave 100%, and who was a firm favourite for two seasons at Sincil Bank. I commend our travelling support. To take nearly 500 to Portsmouth in a week where we have two home games coming up as well is excellent, and yet I have to question the mentality of a supporter who goes all that way to boo a former Imp. If you want to boo anyone, Joe Morrell would have been a good choice. I liked Morrell when he was here, but he seems to have taken the role of agitator to a whole new level, and now he spends his days wandering around midfielder looking for a fight. Maybe that’s all he did for us, and I missed it.