Inevitability: Imps 1-2 Northampton Town

Credit Graham Burrell

There’s an air of inevitability about games at the moment, an unstoppable outcome almost pre-determined. 

It’s like watching a car crash unfold in slow motion and not being able to do anything about it. In fact, it’s probably best described as watching Danny Mandroiu’s tackle against Bolton. You know what is going to happen; you can see it unfolding and part of you so desperately wants to change the outcome.

You can’t. Michael Skubala can’t. We have to limp through the Blackpool game, robbed of even more first-team players, and hope that 2024 brings us more luck with injuries than 2023, 2022 and 2021. Let’s face it: unless a meteorite strikes the training ground and wipes out the entire squad, things can’t get much worse in that respect.

Credit Graham Burrell

I had such a good day yesterday. Charlie and I got to interview Harvey at the ground before the game, I bought a pair of super-comfy Skechers slippers (I don’t care, judge me all you want) and I had pre-drinks and post-match drinks with good people. Even accidentally booking my Travelodge for the 28th and thus having to pay out again (and not get breakfast) didn’t hurt me too much. It was a cracking day that helped ease the pain of being poorly over the festive period, apart from the hour-and-a-half I spent looking at the Sincil Bank pitch.

Fans across the ages have watched much worse than we saw last night. We’ve had worse squads for most of my 37 years as a supporter, albeit perhaps not quite ravaged as much by injury. However, just getting the team news is once again a dismal experience. It’s never a case of ‘what exciting tweaks are we making this week’, but more ‘what can Michael cobble together from the few bodies we have left’ an hour before kick-off. Yesterday, it was a winger up top, a midfielder playing in the front line on the left, with a defender up top on the right.

I don’t think this team is bad at all. I believe that the defence is a top-ten League One prospect, and the midfielders we have, when they’re played in midfield, are the same. Sadly, there’s nothing up top, no presence or cohesion, and that’s not Michael Skubala’s fault, nor the players. Lasse and Ethan Hamilton are good players at this level, in their correct positions, but as part of a front three? It brings a whole new meaning to the word ‘makeshift’.

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I might get shot down for this, but I thought we were the better team last night. We had more shots (12, seven on target compared to their eight, four on target). We had better xG (1.05 v 0.66) and possession was almost a 50/50 split. What we didn’t have, which Northampton did, was a forward line. I know there are rumblings of ‘can’t keep blaming the injuries’, but you absolutely have to. Hackett, House and Walker, all would have played a part last night. Mandroiu, were he not suspended, would. The situation is crippling, and we desperately need to get past New Year’s Day, where I suspect the inevitable defeat at Bloomfield Road, so we can get some strikers back.

It almost feels crass dissecting the game, because we’re half a team, limping through the final stages of an injury crisis that, up until recently, we’d dealt with well. Haks never was the answer, Jovon wasn’t, and Jack Vale hasn’t proven to be either; none can provide the focal point to an attack like Ben House. None of the players we’ve tried around the front three has the ability of Hackett to beat a player and create something. I just can’t state how much of a hindrance it is, and we’re only seeing the final manifestations of that now, in my opinion.

Credit Graham Burrell

Admittedly, there are some things that we need to do better, such as starting well. Our first-half performance in the last few games has been blunt (no strikers), and whilst I can see we want to keep it tight (as we did against Bolton, well), there’s a balance. It doesn’t quite wash when it’s Northampton Town at home, even though there’s no doubt in my mind they’re a good side. I said it when we drew there earlier in the season, and I will double down on that.

Mind you, if you’re keeping it tight, you do need to actually do the basics, and for once, we can point at a keeper’s error for the first goal. I nipped to the loo in the first half and missed two of Northampton’s three shots, one of them being the goal. When I got back to my seat, I was informed Jensen had flapped at a cross for no reason, and having watched the replay, I concur. He’s been strong this season, I’ve no reason to be disillusioned with Jensen, but if he stays on his line and lets TJ deal with the header, it stays 0-0 up to half time.

Other than that, I felt the first half was just a bit flat, with little in attack for us. Again, that’s inevitable, though, isn’t it? Once they scored, I said to Ash, my colleague over from Manila for the festive season, that we’d not get a goal, and it reminded me of something similar I said to Matt a year or so ago. When we go behind and have wingers as strikers, I have zero confidence in our ability to get anything out of the game.



  1. There’s a lack of discipline – two red cards in two games- and it needs sorting, especially when we are left with 10 ‘men’ in the latter stages of a game. To say “our first-half performance in the last few games has been blunt” is a classic understatement. It’s depressing to watch. Jevon needs to go out on loan. Vale is disappointing – and expensive. And there’s nowt else. The team needs some experienced, mature players. Surely we can find two or three ex-Championship?
    It’s not far a drop to join the league’s Dead Men.

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