Friday, 22 April 2011

Bury v Lincoln City, 22 April 2011

Venue: Gigg Lane, Bury
Attendance: 4,248
Final score: 1-0
Lincoln began the Easter Bank Holiday with a difficult trip to high-flying Bury.  City went into the game on the back of their point and improved performance against Crewe.  Bury, with 4 straight victories and the 5-0 mauling of City at Sincil Bank earlier this season behind them, would prove a sterner test altogether.

By the end of the long weekend the relegation battle certainly won’t be decided, but we will be a little bit closer to knowing who will be in the dreaded bottom two places come 5pm on 7th May.

There were some interesting comments made to the media from certain City players this week, particularly Gavin McCallum, to the effect that they prefer to play away from home because of the pressure they feel at Sincil Bank, and the ‘hostile’ attitude from some fans.  Now, I have never booed my own side at a football match.  I absolutely subscribe to the ‘12th man’ principle – that fans do make a difference at matches, and should lift their team rather than berate them, and that is never more necessary then when backs are to the wall.  But, I absolutely cannot stand so-called professional footballers whinging in such a manner.  They are paid to do a job.  They are professionals.  I’m a professional - I get paid to go and do my job, no matter how much pressure there is to achieve the targets set me.  Why is it acceptable for footballers to blame their own inept performances on the paying customers?  Do actors blame on-stage mistakes on the audience?  City’s home performances this season have been genuinely dire - this is not a case of an occasional off-game.  The fans have been frustrated because of consistently poor play by both individuals and the team, but I have to say that I think the fans’ reaction could easily have been far worse, particularly considering the batterings City have taken on a few occasions (batterings that McCallum suggests are because of the fans’ pressure rather than bad marking, missed tackles and comedy goalkeeping).  I have one thing to say to McCallum – man up, let your football do the talking and stop blaming a minority of fans.  To that minority of fans I say turn the boos into shouts of encouragement and let’s see if that leads to some better performances!  If you’re interested, I wrote about booing at football matches before in a post called ‘Taboo to boo?’.

So, to return to today’s match.  City’s lineup saw a few enforced changes.  Cian Hughton, a player I have a lot of time for, returned to the side after being left out entirely at Crewe.  He replaced Julian Kelly who has returned to Reading now his loan spell has ended.  O’Keefe came back into the side for the injured Keltie, who had played so well on Saturday.  Green retained the captain’s armband and his place in the centre of defence with Watts not yet recovered from illness.  City again named only 6 players on the bench, including Patrick Kanyuka, of whom the less said the better.

Bury had a couple of ex-Imps in their lineup in the form of big defender Ben Futcher and midfielder Lenny John-Lewis, who started on the bench.

City began the match in confident mood, even though it was Bury that forced an early chance, Hone blocking Ajose’s shot.  City’s formation of 5 in midfield and Hutchinson as lone striker continues to be a good away formation, and City were looking good when using the wings. 

Ben Hutchinson and Ben Futcher squared up to each other early on, and the City players generally seemed fired up and keen not to repeat the earlier embarrassment handed out by Bury.

After 10 minutes, Bury created another chance when Bennett cut inside from the right, going past Fuseini who he had just dispossessed.  He slid a pass in to Ajose who put his shot wide of the upright.

Despite Bury having the best chances, the game was a fairly even contest, with Bury content to let City have their share of possession, and City were looking confident when on the ball.

After 24 minutes the Imps created their best chance.  Hughton went on a run from inside his own half, cut inside and fed the ball to Kilbey on the edge of the area.  He struck his shot well but saw it saved by Belford.

The hot weather meant that neither side was prepared to run around too much, and no more real chances were created.  City went into the half time break with the score at 0-0.  It had been a more measured match than the blood and thunder that can often be seen in League 2, and City would have been more than happy to see the match finish with the same scoreline.

Bury started the second half in positive mood – attacking straight from the whistle.

On 56 minutes, Bury got the breakthrough they wanted.  Sweeney swung in a corner, finding Tom Lees unmarked, and the defender duly headed home.  It was the only time the City defence had switched off but they had been punished, but it was yet another goal conceded from a set piece this season.

The goal visibly affected City’s confidence , and only a few minutes later Hutchinson went in late on Skarz.  Despite the home crowd’s desire for a red card, the referee only showed the Imps striker a yellow.

On 71 minutes, Imps manager Steve Tilson tried to re-invigorate his demoralized team by bringing on Mustafa Carayol for Josh O’Keefe.

The change did little to increase City’s chances of getting back into the game, and Bury came close to scoring a second when Sweeney sent a shot just over Parish’s bar.

The Imps then used their remaining substitutions, bringing on Broughton and Spencer for Kilbey and Hutchinson.  The unlikely pair almost combined for City immediately, but Spencer couldn’t get his shot away after Broughton won a knockdown.

City’s chances were dealt a blow when Carayol, only introduced 20 minutes earlier, hobbled off, leaving City to finish the match with 10 men.  Only just coming back from injury, hopefully this recurrence is not serious, and City can make use of the winger in the remaining games this season.

As the match entered injury time Bury nearly doubled their lead, but first Parish and then Hone did well to keep them out.

The last kick of the game was a freekick for City but Anderson could only hit the wall.

Ultimately it was an even match on a hot day.  City did well but did not have the quality to take the half chances they created.  Bury stayed patient and took their chance when it came.  City were punished for their only real mistake but that’s a lesson they haven’t learned all season.  There was no disgrace in the performance from City, but when the points tally hasn’t been increased that feels hollow compensation.

With the teams below City playing tonight or tomorrow, they will have to wait until tomorrow to see if the 6 point gap between City and Barnet will be closed.  All of the other bottom sides face tough matches so hopefully City will lose little ground before they face Cheltenham on Bank Holiday Monday.  Hopefully the pressure of playing at home won’t prove too much for the City players.

1 Cameron Belford
7 David Worrall
5 Ben Futcher
4 Tom Lees
3 Joe Skarz
17 Kyle Bennett
8 Steven Schumacher
6 Peter Sweeney
14 Michael Jones
15 Ryan Lowe
25 Nicky Ajose
11 Andy Haworth for Jones (66)
12 Lenell John-Lewis
for Ajose (78)
29 Max Harrop for Lowe (90+2)
21 Andrai Jones
22 Zach Rothwell
26 Luke Mc
20 Richie Branagan

24 Elliott Parish
25 Cian Hughton
2 Paul Green
6 Danny Hone
3 Joe Anderson
31 Ali Fuseini
14 Josh O'Keefe
26 Tom Kilbey
15 Luke Howell
9 Gavin McCallum
27 Ben Hutchinson
7 Mustapha Carayol for O’Keefe (71)
10 Drewe Broughton for Kilbey (85)
39 Scott Spencer for Hutchinson (85)
19 Jamie Clapham
40 Patrick Kanyuka
1 Joe Anyon

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