A Shot in the Arm: Fleetwood Town 0-1 Imps

Credit Graham Burrell

The last week has been a bit manic, with the change of manager and everything. In fact, since the Sheffield United game, it’s felt like the club needed something to get it back on track. 

Yesterday in the north west, we got the shot in the arm we needed. Three points, a decent display and perhaps a restoration of belief in this talented bunch of players. Putting aside the fact it is our first-ever win at Highbury against a decent Fleetwood outfit (that I concede are probably not going up now), Lincoln City needed something yesterday.

Remember when Danny Cowley left? We needed a reaction and lost to Bristol Rovers. Caretaker managers are sometimes a stopgap, there just to stem the flow of blood from a gaping wound. I got the feeling Tom Shaw is a bit different, he’s someone the players already have huge respect for. The smiles and handshakes at full-time certainly didn’t scream fractured dressing room. The togetherness I saw at the sponsor’s event was back with a bang.

Credit Graham Burrell

Never has a 1-0 win felt so good. Honestly, it might not have been samba soccer Sincil style, and it might have been a game of two distinct halves, but in both, we saw what Lincoln City are good at, and that’s not been evident much since we left Bramall Lane that warm late August evening.

The team selection threw up some interesting changes. Across the back looks very solid, and the two Ethans are always going to plug the midfield, but having Ali Smith and Ted Bishop supporting Reeco up top looked interesting. I haven’t liked Smith out wide, and Ted seems to drift in and out of games that he starts, so I feared we’d struggle to create chances. It was also the first reminded of us not having any first-team strikers (five paragraphs in, not bad), although we did see the first of Jack Vale, albeit as an unused sub, and young Jovon was back in the fold after being omitted last weekend.

Credit Graham Burrell

Whilst it was suggested Ted and Smith played out wide, it was more of a square in midfield, with them playing as two tens behind Reeco. It meant Burroughs and Sorensen were given license to get forward a bit more, the width coming from deep rather than up top. That’s why the likes of Duffy and Adelakun sat on the bench – we weren’t playing a 3-4-3, more of a 5-4-1. The idea looked like it might be to keep them at bay and counter when we could.

The opening five minutes or so suggested a long afternoon. From the off, one man impressed me in their lineup: Junior Quitirna, the number 15. He was tricky, great on the ball, able to beat a player and packed bags of pace. I’ve always liked Jack Marriott, and whilst his wages are out of our reach, you can’t help but wonder what could be if we’d got a striker like him fit right now. Maybe, when Tyler Walker is fit, we’ll find out.

Credit Graham Burrell

Fleetwood buzzed around our box for the first five minutes, threatening without really creating. I never felt like we were carved open, and whilst I never say it out loud during a game, I never felt we were likely to concede. The back three were superb, and Burroughs and Sorensen were so busy up and down the flank. I’m doing a 200km challenge this month, running or walking 200km in October, and I’m pretty sure they managed that in a single game; such was their energy.

On six minutes, we got the lift we’ve needed since Wednesday’s announcement. With no Haks on the bench, it was down to Lasse to put the long throw-in, and unlike recent weeks, we challenged the first contact. O’Connor didn’t win the ball, but it caused an issue enough for a weak contact from them. Reeco hooked it back in the danger area, and there was Alex Mitchell, onside, to put the ball beyond Jay Lynch. There was a momentary pause as everyone checked for the lino’s flag, and when it stayed down, the pink shirts celebrated. 1-0 City.

Credit Graham Burrell

That certainly dampened Fleetwood’s spirits, and for the rest of the first half, their only real threat came from Quitirna. They huffed and puffed, and whilst we didn’t get anything really clear-cut, I felt we were the most likely to score. The xG agrees with me, but only marginally – 0.45 to us, 0.12 for them. It was a good away performance, getting a goal, staying resolute and looking more likely to nick something. The possession stats were also promising – if Tom Shaw is responsible for the work we’ve done without the ball this season, it was nice to see him at the helm that we also got a chance to show what we can do with the ball.

Okay, there wasn’t anything clear cut, but this is where you can point to a lack of striker and claim to be hindered. There was a moment on 38 minutes where we could have scored – Reeco jinxed into the box, Ted and Lasse had a couple of half chances before Ethan Hamilton let one fly. Lynch saved but parried it a good four feet in front of him – of course, there was no striker running in. Had Ben House been on the pitch, that was bang in his territory. Had it been up the other end, it would have had Jack Marriott written all over it. I’m happy to fall back on the lack of fit first-team striker when the rest of the team is functioning, and yesterday, I felt the rest of the team functioned. I couldn’t say that last weekend.

Credit Graham Burrell

I was also impressed with some of the commitment, one moment standing out in terms of defending. Quitirma left Jack Burroughs on his arse as he broke forward, striding into the area. He looked like he was ready to pull the trigger on a cross or shot, but Burroughs launched into a proper old-school tackle, smashing the ball out of play. It was timed perfectly, and it was the sort of challenge you love to see and hear.

Streaky Johnson said before the game he wanted the Fleetwood fans to celebrate tackles like they’d scored goals to get the fans going, but I felt that was a little bit of a ‘Bostwick Peterborough’ moment. It wasn’t the only one, either. One 50/50 between Ali Smith and Nsiala was so full-blooded you could hear the impact back in Lincoln. I like that – commitment and aggression from a player who, it is fair to say, has been on the fringes this season. I thought Smith had a good game, and I’m delighted for him as there’s a lot more to come from the former Sutton man.

Credit Graham Burrell

There were a few moments that were a bit naughty as well – Ethan Erhahon seemed to indicate he’d been caught off the ball, possibly by a headbutt. A few challenges were a bit questionable, but the referee kept a fairly decent grip on the game. I didn’t preview Tom Reeves, but he certainly wasn’t troubled too much. We picked up three bookings in the first half, two for chatting back to the referee. I do wish we’d learn. When the whistle has gone and a decision has been made, he’s not going to change his mind.

In a first half low on real chances, we went in 1-0 up and comfortable. That said, we were comfortable against Burton and arguably better value against Posh, but the second halves were very different.

This game was no different.

1 Comment

  1. We’ll know better about the “shot in the arm” on Tuesday against Charlton. Best thing is that Mark’s departure did not appear to have a psychologically depressing effect on the players. They rose to the occasion. Well done lads! More of that please

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