That’s That Then: Imps 0-0 Stevenage

Credit Graham Burrell

The dream is over. We’re not going up. We’re not going down. Yesterday we didn’t win. It was a game we needed to win. We didn’t. That’s that. We can move on. It’s time to prepare. For next season.

Did you find that opening a bit hard to read? It was meant to be; I punctuated it with full stops every few words, breaking it into an awkward read, something you certainly couldn’t put up with from me every week. It was short, bitty and barely warranted being labelled as a proper paragraph. It was the literary equivalent of watching Steve Evans’ Stevenage in action.

Credit Graham Burrell

Yeah, I know. If you’re a Stevenage fan reading this now, you’ll be saying things like cry more, want some chips with that salt and all of the other new football insults that are neither insightful nor original. The truth is I am bitter because I have paid a portion of my season ticket money to watch a game of football, and sadly, I didn’t get much of one. I had enough of that all last season watching my own team; I didn’t need a lesson in how to do it properly from my favourite pantomime villain and his widow Twankey sidekick, thank you very much, especially not in a game that we needed to win if we were going to make a late play-off charge. So, yes, I am salty, and the last thing I need is Lincoln supporters joining in, going ‘You have to admire him for what he does’, etc etc. No, I don’t. ‘It was just like watching Danny Cowley’s side’. No, it wasn’t. ‘It’s the ethos all successful Lincoln teams have had over the year’. No, it isn’t.

I’ll talk about the game (maybe) a little further down this piece, but let me tell you why this Stevenage side is like watching Danny’s Lincoln at first glance and then why it is not. There are things Evans and his team do well, and whilst I don’t respect it, I do accept it. They’re good at the off-ball blocks, which Danny’s side was. They go from back to front quickly and use the midfield more as a barrier to stop the ball from returning to their own goal rather than as a conduit to move it closer to ours. Their centre forward is a lump who intimidates and harasses, which makes opposition players and fans hate him, but who, therefore, must be doing something right. They’ve got a centre-back in Carl Piergianni who wins everything in the air and who I’m pretty sure most clubs at this level would like in their side. There are similarities; I’ll grant you that. It’s led a lot of people to say to me, ‘You have to respect Evans for what he’s done, and he was complimentary about us’. Well, that’s great. Next time a burglar comes into my house, steals my stuff, shats on my duvet but leaves a note saying I’ve got nice curtains, I’ll give him respect, shall I?

Credit Graham Burrell

What I do not have time for are the antics that we got drawn into and that referee Bobby Madley didn’t get a grip of. The elbows, a good four or five throughout the game. The assault on our keeper (yes, I know, Rhead did it at Wembley) and the number of aerial duels their players went into without looking at the ball. The constant fouls every time we got on the ball in the first half, Evans openly getting his players to move the ball forward when the ref wasn’t looking; most of all, it’s slowing the game down, not just a little bit, but an age. At one stage, they had a lad down. I went from my seat down to the toilet, checked the other scores on my phone after availing myself of the facilities, came back up and sat down and play still hadn’t resumed. It was Wycombe 2018 all over again but without a likeable character in the opposition dugout. That incident must have been four minutes into the second half, and the referee only added five on in total. Shambles, not that we’d have scored if he added 25 on. It had 0-0 written all over it a month before it kicked off.

Yeah, I’m rattled and bitter. Whatever. Stevenage fans who think this is about them, it really isn’t. You’re just the latest conduit for a dying approach to the game, and he tarnishes you as a club, as he did Gillingham and Crawley. I don’t care about Stevenage; the approach is a short-term gain with no longevity, an unsustainable ride that will end as abruptly as it begins when the pantomime leaves town and attaches itself to another host, slowly draining the self-respect from them. I even celebrated it when we had John Beck doing the same thirty years ago, making me a rattled, bitter hypocrite. Like Ethan Erhahon, I’ve fallen into the trap set by Evans. I’m not even ashamed, either. 785 words in, and I’ve not mentioned Lincoln. That’s what he wants. Damn.

Credit Graham Burrell

I will – we were depleted once again, the curse of injuries striking right at the heart of our side. In the first half of the season, it was strikers; in the second half, it’s going to be midfielders. Jack Burroughs could cover Ethan Hamilton’s long-term absence but can’t, as he’s injured. It’s obvious McGrandlkes would have played, but he’s injured. Danny Mandroiu would probably have got the nod….. he wasn’t in the first team squad either. That meant a first start for Jack Moylan, something I thought would be a hindrance. I was wrong – Moylan was excellent throughout. He’s looking to be a livewire, and his introduction is not unlike Ben House two years ago and Dylan Duffy 12 months back.

The truth is our play-off dream is over in reality. That Stevenage side won’t drop the eight points we need them to, and we won’t get the necessary wins to pull them in. It was still a big ask if we won yesterday, but a draw makes it far too much. I know some will look and say it can still be done, but the Stevenage approach is geared towards protecting the points, not losing matches, and they’ll not be below us in the table after 46 games; I’m afraid that is a fact. It is now time to start focusing on next season, just like it is now time for me to start focusing on the game rather than an embittered tirade of anger aimed at a man who has vexed me for more than 20 years.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. SW Podcast 280 - The End of the Play-Offs | The Stacey West

Comments are closed.