Solid City Secure a Point: Wigan Athletic 0-0 Imps

Credit Graham Burrell

Some 0-0s don’t tell the full story. There are 0-0s which you think couldn’t have been better, full of chances and excitement. There are 0-0s like Cambridge at home where you’re bad, they’re bad, and everyone leaves feeling bad.

This was a 0-0 somewhere in between. Nobody who saw the game can say that it was anything other than a fair result, and I suspect we could have played for another 90 minutes and it would still have been 0-0. However, it doesn’t mean we were bad, not at all. We were functional, first and foremost, but I always felt we could create something. We didn’t, but I never thought we stopped trying. It was just a game between two sides who were organised, committed, and knew the threats the other offered.

There were a couple of surprises when the team was announced – Paudie O’Connor returned after missing out on the Cambridge win despite being clear of suspension. Lasse Sorensen returned from injury at right back, with Ali Smith and Danny Mandroiu playing behind Makama, who got his third start in the league. The bench looked strong – Roughan, Vale and Bishop all featuring, but no place for Hakeeb Adelakun.

Credit Graham Burrell

City certainly started brightly – after just two minutes, a sumptuous pass from Mandroiu almost released Sorensen, with the ball bundled behind for a corner. From that corner, nothing materialised, and that went on to sum up much of the first half. Aside from a corner of Wigan’s that almost went straight in, we saw some nice football from both teams, each looking composed in possession and organised out of it, but neither looked like scoring a goal. The game ebbed and flowed; they had a spell of possession, and then we had the ball for a bit, but it was like a game of pass the parcel, only you hung on to the ball until the music stopped, then gave it to the opposition.

This isn’t a criticism by the way – Wigan had lost one in 13 coming into this game, and without their points deduction, they’d be serious promotion contenders, so to have such a comfortable half away from home was a credit to us. Also, the awful conditions weren’t helping, and watching at home next to a radiator; it was much easier to be critical than in the driving Wigan rain.

What chances did we have? A couple of free kicks from halfway inside their half, both inaccurate, perhaps as much to do with the wind than the taker. A half chance for Hamilton was an easy save for their keeper, but also the only shot on target in the first half. We did work a corner routine to Lasse Sorensen; his drive was blocked, and the subsequent break gave them a half chance, which never came to anything.

Credit Graham Burrell

However, we did get a glimpse of what might happen on 42 minutes. I don’t think we misplaced a pass in the whole half, then one went astray, and off went Wigan like a bonfire night rocket. Pass, pass, pass and then chance, Johnny Smith saw the ball bobble right in front of him as he skied his effort. It was a let-off, a little taste of what this Wigan team can do when you make an error. Smith always worries me – I remember him tearing us a new bottom when he played for Burton, and he’s a tricky customer on the ball. Jordan Jones, once of the Rangers, is the same on the other flank, and I felt Burroughs and Sorensen dealt well with those threats when asked.

Therein lies the proof that this was a good Lincoln City first-half performance – the proof that if we hadn’t been on it, we were up against a team that will score goals. They hadn’t threatened for 42 minutes, and yet a single slip almost went punished. Mandroiu was punished, booked for a cheeky little pullback, whereas Smith (Scott, one of three on the field) may have been lucky to escape one moments earlier for a challenge on Paudie. I thought Charlie Hughes was lucky as well; a pretty hefty challenge on Hamilton didn’t draw a yellow when other referees might have flashed a card.

Credit Graham Burrell

There was also a moment in the first half where it seemed their keeper picked up a backpass. I had the benefit of a replay, and it definitely took a deflection off our player, meaning the keeper could pick it up. It looked odd, because the nick was ever-so-slight, but it did take a nick. It meant the ref got a few pelters by the sounds of it, but he got the decision spot on.

We did create a chance just before half time, but like the others, it was a half-chance, nothing more. It was created by Mandroiu: a lovely little shuffle of the feet took two players out of the game, and he ran deep into the opposition half, only to hit a shot straight at the keeper with the outside of his boot. The iFollow stats didn’t count it as a shot, instead seeing a loose pass. I think he was looking for a cheeky effort to catch the keeper out, but it didn’t.

Oddly, my half time was the opposite to the players – they got in the warm for fifteen minutes, whereas I had to brave the wind and rain to walk the dog. The pitfalls of owning a pooch: I’m still wet writing this now.

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