Friday, 25 March 2011

Lincoln City v Rotherham United, 25 March 2011

Venue: Sincil Bank, Lincoln
Attendance: 3,766
Final score: 0-6
Sadly the scoreline above isn’t a typo.  I’m still searching for a word to describe City’s performance this evening.  Abject? Turgid? Wretched? Humiliating?  Thank goodness the English language is replete with so many fine words to sum up such a near non-existent footballing display.

A number of surprise departures had brought additional interest to the visit of the Millers to Sincil Bank this evening.  Despite being heavily involved in the playoff mix, and tipped by many to finish well this season, Rotherham parted company with manager Ronnie Moore on Monday ‘by mutual consent’.  It seems that Saturday’s 5-0 hammering at the hands of Chesterfield did little to help the situation, with Moore commenting afterward that he was so angry with his players, if he had a gun he’d shoot them.  Sadly for City though, it seems the upheaval did little to upset the Rotherham team.

On City’s part, the last minute drama came in the form of on-loan goalkeeper Trevor Carson departing back to parent club Sunderland, ostensibly to help with their goalkeeping injury crisis – with Craig Gordon out the Black Cats seemed short of cover.  Most Imps fans were disappointed, but understanding of the situation, I think.  However, news soon came out that Carson has immediately gone out on loan again, this time to Brentford.  Almost as quickly, Imps fans’ understanding turned to offended confusion.  Carson has recently repeatedly stated his happiness at Lincoln and his desire to stay until the end of the season.  It seems unlikely, then, that the player himself requested such a change in circumstances.  Until more information is offered by the club, or leaks out through the gossip channels, the situation just has to be accepted and City just have to get on with it.

With Joe Anyon out on loan at Morecambe, Steve Tilson must have had a rather busy Thursday afternoon, but he managed to secure the services of Elliott Parish on loan from Aston Villa.  Another new arrival is Tom Kilbey, a midfielder from Portsmouth.  Regular readers of this blog will know that I have felt for a while that City’s midfield lacks bite and is the cause of many of our woes - tonight being far from an exception.   Hopefully, once he settled in, Tom will add some bite to the team.

City are struggling with injuries at present, and the unexpected absence of top scorer Ashley Grimes did nothing to help the situation.  However, Steve Tilson’s team selection this evening can be described as nothing short of suicidal, and many Imps fans feared a mauling before the game even began.

New loanee Parish started in goal, but in front of him the absence of Danny Hone was notable.  The young defender has done nothing particularly wrong in recent weeks, so it was a surprise to see him dropped in favour of Patrick Kanyuka, who has barely seen first team action, and even then to less than spectacular effect.

In the midfield, another surprise was the omission of O’Keefe, leaving the untried youngster Kilbey to start alongside my current least favourite player Ali Fuseini – surely a disaster waiting to happen.

Up front saw Ben Hutchinson return from suspension to be partnered by Scott Spencer.

Despite a scrappy opening, it was City who created the first opening.  Carayol fed Spencer, who looked to have space to burst into the box, but the City striker was slow to react and allowed the tackle to come in.

On the 9th minute, the tone for the remainder of the game was set as Rotherham took a lead they would never look like relinquishing.  A scramble in the box was half cleared, but only as far as Thomas-Moore, who hooked a half volley back into the box.  The ball deflected off a body (whether Rotherham or Lincoln I couldn’t tell), and trickled over the line at the far post.  Ironically, just at that moment, former Lincoln goalkeeper Rob Burch walked up the steps of the stand past me – maybe we can have him back next season if Notts County don’t want him anymore?

As it was, the scoreline got worse for City soon afterwards, as in the 14th minute Rotherham struck again.  As the Rotherham bench were appealing for a foul in the centre circle, the referee waved play-on, allowing Harrison to stroll seemingly unmolested towards the City box and strike the ball low into the corner of the goal.  Unsurprisingly, the appeals for the freekick subsided very quickly…

City had a half chance to get back into the match a few minutes later when Carayol managed to put in a deep cross.  The ball was headed down at the back post to Spencer, but once again the striker showed a lack of instinct for goal, and failed to get his shot away before the chance was lost.

Rotherham responded by going straight down the other end and putting in a deep cross of their own, this time the header being put goalwards, but tipped over by Parish.

The remainder of the half was a calmer affair, as Rotherham were content to knock the ball around and seemed likely to score every time the ball went near the City box.  For their part, City were showing plenty of willingness to run, in particular Carayol, Hutchinson and McCallum, but no shape or gameplan, and the defence and central midfield had no hold on the game.

The halftime whistle came to a chorus of mild boos from the home crowd.

Surprisingly, despite it being clear to everyone in the ground that the players on the pitch were never going to get back into the game, Tilson decided not to make any changes at halftime.

That decision was soon proved wrong as Rotherham added a third on 50 minutes.  City lost possession in midfield, and Rotherham swarmed forward in numbers.  The ball was played in low to Thomas-Moore who scored his second of the evening with a sweetly hit volley that struck the top corner, just eluding the outstretched glove of Parish.

City had barely recovered from that when Rotherham got their fourth just three minutes later.  The poor Kanyuka was robbed of possession just outside the area by Taylor, who cut inside and curled the ball inside the far post.

On 60 minutes, Kanyuka’s already dire evening got worse, as he made a mess of controlling a pass, handing the ball to Thomas-Moore.  As the striker ran into the box, Kanyuka turned and bundled him over from behind.  The referee had no hesitation in awarding the penalty, and Kanyuka his second yellow card, having picked up his first in first half injury time.  The defender trudged off the pitch to the sarcastic applause of some City fans.  Thomas-Moore took the penalty himself, and made no mistake in scoring his hattrick and Rotherham’s fifth.

The reduction to 10 men spurred Tilson into action, and he brought on Danny Hone for Scott Spencer, leaving Hutchinson as the lone striker.  Hone immediately started to make his presence felt, and there can be no doubt that the scoreline may not have been as bad had the young defender been on from the start.  At the same time, Rotherham introduced Adam LeFondre – a striker who has scored more than his fair share of goals against Lincoln and who signaled the Millers’ intent to add to the Imps’ misery.

The game once again settled into a quieter spell, with Rotherham retaining possession at will, and leaving Lincoln’s ten men chasing shadows.

It seemed that the scoring was over and the game would finish at 5-0 when Jason Taylor produced a shot from nothing that flew past Parish from 25 yards in the 87th minute to make it 6 for the Millers.  That proved to be the last action of note in the match.

It is shocking to note that this was the third time that City have conceded 5 or more goals at home this season.  I can’t think of a season in my time watching City when that many hammerings have been received so close together.

For City, it is a case of back to the drawing board to reflect on tactics and personal performances.  Something needs to be done and quickly if City are to pick up the remaining points required to guarantee safety.

24 Elliott Parish
16 Julian Kelly
4 Adam Watts
40 Patrick Kanyuka
3 Joe Anderson
31 Ali Fuseini
26 Tom Kilbey
7 Mustapha Carayol
9 Gavin McCallum
27 Ben Hutchinson
39 Scott Spencer
6 Danny Hone for Spencer (63)
14 Josh O'
Keefe for Kilbey (77)
2 Paul Green
19 Jamie Clapham
22 Andy Hutchinson
25 Cian Hughton
20 Paul Musselwhite

1 Andy Warrington
2 Dale Tonge
3 Tom Newey
4 Danny Harrison
6 Nick Fenton
7 Nicky Law
17 Johnny Mullins
18 Mark Bradley
20 Ryan Taylor
21 Marcus Marshall
22 Ian Thomas-Moore
5 Ryan Cresswell for Fenton (H/T)
10 Adam Le Fondre
for Thomas-Moore (63)
8 Jason Taylor
for Bradley (73)
12 Jamie Green
26 Omar Daley
27 Liam Henderson
30 Jamie Annerson

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