Fan’s View 2020/21 – No.42 – Lincoln at home

Article by Paul Beasley Sunday, March 28th, 2021  

SEASON 2020/21 No.42 LINCOLN AT HOME

Pre-match

After a load of Cobblers and some on Tuesday night I was not looking forward to my Friday night sat in front of Sky TV. That was until about 5 o’clock when proper pre-match anticipation kicked in. It always does at some stage however utter shite we have been and let’s be honest we’ve been a lot shittier and in a lot worse places over the years than we now find ourselves. 5 o’clock though was leaving it very late by my standards. That was probably because of Karl Robinson’s Tuesday post-match comments. The only time I ever used to listen to our managers speaking after games was travelling back to Bicester (a place many in England will now know is the same size as San Marino) but I soon got wind of the target of getting to the hour mark at 0-0. I’ve never been anti-KR – mostly positive – but this was bloody diabolical. If we’d got to 60 minutes at 0-0 then gone on to win it would have been a different assessment obviously but we didn’t. Our performance was diabolical as was this attitude.

As it was a weekend evening it was only right and proper to crack the bar open instead of the usual wait until half time to have a “numbing” pint to block out what we’d had to witness or full time to pour one in celebration. More in keeping with away days of old but without the travel, the pubs and mates. So a home game, at home with my family. Again. It could be a lot worse.

Oxford United 2 Lincoln City 1

No need for anything to dull the senses after that although very early on it didn’t seem that this would be the case. In only the fourth minute we were wide open down our right with Jamie Hanson, the full-back responsible for that area, nowhere to be seen. Lincoln had two against nobody. When the ball was pulled back from the bye-line into the six yard box, three yellow shirts and keeper Jack Stevens couldn’t get the better of Anthony Scully whose effort may have been easier to keep out if it had consisted of a proper connection on the ball.

That did not bode well at all. Nor did our passing. I was beginning to think this would be the third game in a row which would leave me mightily pissed off.

But as the game moved towards the 20 minute mark it became increasingly evident that we were improving and not allowing Lincoln to dictate anything.

I wasn’t expecting a huge amount from James Henry as he was returning from injury and this season so far has not reached the standards of previous campaigns. He was however very much in the game and getting shots away. We were seeing the player once more of which we used to say when he plays well the team play well.

It was us doing the pressing and we were denied a penalty that if VAR had been present would have proved should have been given. Referee Scott Oldham cannot be blamed for this given the number of bodies on the scene particularly when given certain angles an illusion was created of the incident being yellow on yellow.

So no spot kick and to make matters much worse in the build up to that incident when Josh Ruffels whipped a shot in as part of a rehearsed short corner routine, his knee went and clearly stricken he collapsed to the floor. Off he went with Anthony Forde coming on in his stead.

So that was us without both of our regular full-backs. We heard a lot from the Sky commentator about how badly Lincoln were suffering from injuries and were down to the bare bones. Fair comments but no mention that we were without Sam Long, player of the season so far and Marcus McGuane who had looked a cut above L1 before his season was cruelly ended. Elliott Lee too. How about a bit of balance? As for two of theirs being unavailable due to positive Covid tests I have a lot of sympathy but only if rules had been followed. Also that we’d played on Tuesday whilst they’d been able to rest and prepare for this fixture was only mentioned in passing.

On the face of it the gods were conspiring against us but as it turned out, not so. Hanson moved to left back where he looked more comfortable than he had done on the other side where Forde fitted in there.

Before this became apparent Forde had left his mark on the game with his first Oxford League goal since August 2019 just two minutes after coming on.

Henry clipped a corner in with the instep of his right foot and Elliott Moore’s head sent it into the six yard box which was occupied as one would expect by Matty Taylor. When the ball came to our top scorer “hand ball” yelled the Lincoln contingent. The visitors had all bar one of their players in their penalty area and we had six there too. With so many footballers so close together it was hardly surprising that the ball pinged about a bit although I would have been disappointed if my team had been defending and had not got the ball away in these circumstances. When it came to Forde he gave the final ping and we were level and deservedly so. Calling it a ping is a bit unfair as he actually hit it with really good technique.

The hand ball laws have me confused but it looked if anything ball to hand but more so nothing at all – and if it was well tough shit for any complainers, you got away with a penalty and a probable booking. So call it a draw. Which it was at the time.

We were now very much in the ascendancy but the Imps came back into it a bit with them twice playing balls through our backline that undid us in a trice. Without VAR it is hard to tell what’s what on the offside front. With the naked eye watching a TV screen it’s just guess work without replays but I’ll give it a go. I thought we got lucky when the flag went up with a striped shirt through on goal but the incident when Stevens got booked looked to me offside.

They may have been warning signs but Lincoln weren’t as good after the break and the game which hadn’t been a bad one at all became a scrappier affair. With a home win being written in the record books this didn’t bother me and it was thoroughly merited.

I suppose managers have to talk up their teams but from time to time they do talk shite. As with KR I was a Mapp supporter most of the time he was with us. That was after he twigged you can’t attempt to play Barca tiki taka style with no thought of what League Two was truly all about. Yes, Mapp did talk some bollox afterwards saying they deserved a point but everyone is entitled to their opinion.

 

I reckon quite a few managers though persist in thinking that they’ve got better footballers at their disposal than they actually have. Our winner came when we robbed the opposition deep in their territory after they had taken a short free-kick. The alert robber was Henry who took the ball on and then played in another telling and accurate cross. Alex Palmer in the Lincoln goal kept out Mark Sykes’s header but not Taylor’s immediate follow up which was smashed in low and accurately beyond his reach.

I was surprised we didn’t come under more pressure than we did in the remaining half an hour plus but we saw the game out without too many palpitations.

Compared with my normal OUFC match day persona I was quite relaxed throughout. That may have been because I already had us stood in the doorway of the last chance saloon of the Top Six bar looking out at a “Mid-Table” street sign with one foot almost planted firmly outside.  This result pops that foot just back inside, no more.

I’d be fibbing though if I said I didn’t have an outburst or two during the game. When a man in yellow failed to control what I thought was quite a simple pass I let go a “for ****s sake.”  I had not even taken note of who it was but I suppose it demonstrates that I was supressing some latent frustration after all. “Leave him alone. That’s the first mistake Mark Sykes has made”, said Mrs FV putting me in my place.

I was left with very little criticism of individuals but there was some. For me Olamide Shodipo didn’t get involved much and left no mark of note on the game. Also there were a couple of minor incidents near the end of the encounter that irritated me a tad. Things that lacked a bit of professionalism, things that on another day can be the difference between getting points or not. Firstly there was a stupid flick from Brandon Barker that relinquished possession. Then sub Dan Agyei was making one of his powerful runs towards the heart of the opposition’s defence but surrounded by defenders he delayed his pass to fellow sub Sam Winnall too long. Winnall had a right not to be happy and didn’t look very mobile as he chased the ball and did the necessary to concede a throw instead of a goal-kick. That’s intelligent play.

In the greater scheme of the game these are fairly minor quibbles so now onto the positives. I’ve already mentioned Henry but another key player was Brannagan. Playing deeper in Alex Gorrin’s absence he played that role really effectively, being available to receive and move the ball on. Kind of the oil that makes the machine function and he provided the cover required too.

Overall our pressing was much closer to that which we saw against Doncaster and when we’re effective at this part of the game and the opposition can’t trump it in any way by playing round us, our chances of winning are greatly enhanced.

If I was a Lincoln fan I wouldn’t have been overjoyed by what I saw from my team.  It reminded me of watching us when we’ve been second best. Morgan Rodgers is without question a highly talented individual, one who is a delight to watch, but a young midfielder on loan from Manchester City isn’t going to be anything else. One player is unlikely to win a football match on his own and in games like this the final analysis will probably show that others on the pitch contributed more in terms of dictating the outcome.

It is not something I do very often but a couple of times a season I may pop onto an opponent’s fan site to get their take on a game against us. I did this after Friday’s game and have to say that I found this equally as entertaining as the game itself. There were one or two voices of reason but much of the contribution was quite hilarious even taking account of the usual and expected bias that any collective of football fans will show. Perhaps this is a path I should follow more often when we’ve been victorious.

Post-match

So, where are we now having beaten a top four team , albeit one that has now only picked up 11 points from their last 12 games?

At the final whistle we’d got ourselves up to 7th for the second time this season. Given the disparity of matches played from club to club a fairer reflection is probably PPG. That puts us 10th as did the ranking on maximum numbers of points that can still be reached.

The eight L1 games on Saturday provided an excuse to delay the publication of this FV to enable a reassessment. We only dropped to 8th and using PPG and total points now achievable were up to 9th at the expense of Accrington who were splattered 7-0 at Peterborough.

A realistic appraisal of our chances of making the top six shows what a massive task that is. The two teams immediately above us with one more point have both played two games fewer. Then come Portsmouth two points better off and they have a game in hand on us. In fourth place are Lincoln, four points better off than Pompey. They’ve played the same number of games as us and currently look the most vulnerable to be picked off by the chasing pack headed by Doncaster.

Interestingly, of the nine games we have left, only one is against a team currently above us. That’s Sunderland. That’s next game. That’s at their place. They’ve won nine and drawn two of their last eleven. If we were to go to the Stadium of Light and come away with something that would truly demonstrate that we need to be taken seriously. Possibly our biggest challenge of the season but we’ve done okay there since they dropped into L1.

 

This entry was posted on Sunday, March 28th, 2021 at 10:46 am and appears under News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

© Rage Online 1998 - 2018 All rights reserved. If you want to copy stuff, please quote the source

another fine mash from ox4encoding