It’s Getting Better (Man): Imps 0-0 Peterborough United

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No wins in ten. No goals in 180 minutes at home. No goals in normal time of a game in over a month. No home win in three months.

Sounds dire, doesn’t it? It sounds like relegation form; it sounds like a team tumbling towards oblivion, struggling against the tide. Yet, when the final whistle went, there was an air of celebration around the ground. Perhaps it was at finally stopping a run of three defeats to nil against our ‘rivals’. Perhaps it was the stoic way in which we restricted them to very little, despite them being the league’s leading scorers with 54 goals and having the highest xG with 55. That’s right – yesterday’s opponents were the cream of League One’s attacks, the best the division has to offer. Against us, they managed 0.68 xG – their lowest in a League One game since October, their third lowest on the season, and a figure even lower than their 5-1 capitulation against Sheff Weds and lower than their FA Cup tie with Leeds United.

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Maybe, Darren Ferguson, that’s why our players clapped the fans at the end of the game. By the way, if the ‘scenes’ at the end, where our players showed appreciation to our supporters, was what it looked like a cup-winning side does, then you clearly haven’t won enough cups (one as a manager, in case you’re wondering). While we’re on the subject of Ferguson, I also see he’s moaned about the referee, Thomas Parsons. It’s odd – I think we could moan about him as well, failing to spot blatant holding on Freddie Draper every time the ball went to him. Parsons was inconsistent, but if ‘Sir Alex From Wish’ really wants to moan, then it should be at the ref. Or us, who he accused of sitting in and hitting them on the break like it was some sort of dark art.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? We haven’t talked about the team, unchanged from Derby. A place on the bench for Mandroiu, nothing more. That’s it, conversation over.

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I felt the first half was even, but the bulk of the chances fell to us. Make no mistake, Posh have some cracking players – Ajiboye on one flank and Mason-Clark on the other, always likely to cause problems. I really liked Joel Randall in the middle as well, he looked tidy, able to get on the ball and create. They had a lot of possession, but I never felt uneasy during the first 40 minutes or so. Derby hit us early, hit us hard, and had two efforts on target in the first eight minutes, but Posh had one shot in the first 45 (not including injury time). That was our doing. Ferguson said they needed to be better, but we were excellent. I thought first half, Sean Roughan was outstanding, dealing with Ajiboye. Their lad barely got a kick and that’s down to our young Irish defender.

We didn’t sit in and just wait, we attacked, and we did it well at times. Ted Bishop, another who really caught the eye in the first half, was running the show, in what looked a lot like a 3-5-2 at times, something I liked the look of. Bishop was aggressive, eager to get on the ball, and could have given us the lead. A LAsse long throw did what Haks’ never seemed to – found a Lincoln head. The flick-on fell to Reeco Hackett, fast becoming one of my favourite players, who neatly touched it to Ted. His vicious drive went just over, but it had fans on their feet.

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That’s key, isn’t it? I always think about a Tweet Andy Pearson put out a few months ago (unusually, with more words than pictures). He said all fans wanted was to get on their feet and be entertained. Let me tell you this – I’ve been more entertained by the last two 0-0 draws than a whole host of other matches throughout this season, and last.

Mind you, those efforts don’t get you points if they don’t go in. Lasse’s powerful drive down the right saw a shot hit the side netting when maybe a pass was a better option, and Erhahon curled one into the keepers’ untroubled arms after harassing a defender into giving the ball away, two of the six efforts we had in the first half. As 45 minutes came around, I felt a good Imps display was worth of a point, and the xG said the same. Outside of the one minute injury time, our xG was 0.25, there’s a paltry 0.04.

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Then came the warning, the glimpse of what they’re capable of. Ricky Jade-Jones, anonymous for much of the first half, smashed the bar, after a simple ball in the channel from Katango found Ajiboye, who finally beat Roughan with a cross. From the resulting corner, Josh Knight seemed to beat Jensen, only for the big keeper to retrieve the ball as it went past him. Nothing in 45 minutes, but two chances inside 30 seconds that pushed their xG to 0.54.

I don’t think many people were unhappy at the first half. Joe Taylor hadn’t managed to find his feet, but it wasn’t through a lack of trying, and the barracking he got from the travelling support seemed a bit over the top. To be fair, I was impressed by the Posh fans – they were as loud as any that we’ve had here this season, and it wasn’t just a little pocket of supporters either – it was most of the stand. I do feel that if it were Lincoln away somewhere, and supporters encroached on the walkway and were leaning over on to the field, there might be a little more over-zealous stewarding, but that left hand corner (as you look at it) of the Stacey West can be a flashpoint, so I guess common sense stewarding prevailed.

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It’s hard to say anyone wasn’t playing well for the Imps. I’ve mentioned Reeco and I’ll do so again – when he arrived, Pompey fans claimed that he was alright as long as he wasn’t playing as a wing-back. In possession, he’s encouraged to get forward, but there’s no doubt yesterday, he played wing-back, up against Mason-Clark, and I thought he was excellent. Mitchell and Jackson were strong as well – captain Paudie O’Connor is back next week, but for my money, he’s going to be a bench warmer for a few matches because right now, the young Millwall loanee is undroppable, and Captain Jacko is leading the troops superbly.

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