Monday, 25 April 2011

Lincoln City v Cheltenham Town, 25 April 2011

Venue: Sincil Bank, Lincoln
Attendance: 3,007
Final score: 0-2

Gentle reader, I'm afraid that I have to report a death.  Today, my last vestige of hope for Lincoln City avoiding relegation has breathed it's last. Following today's debarkle I can now see no other outcome than City spending next season, and the foreseeable future beyond, outside of the Football League.

Actually, I’m not quite that suicidal yet, but I’m afraid that, barring miracles, City’s defeat to Cheltenham this afternoon has left the fat lady gargling in the wings.

Cheltenham came to Sincil Bank themselves not entirely clear of relegation worries, but certainly further away from them than the Imps. 

Many of the Imps faithful, myself included, allowed themselves a little spark of optimism before the match.  Despite only picking up a point from the previous two away games it was desperately close to being 4, and there were signs that the Imps were not a spent force.  There was a tangible feeling that, with a little luck and a big roar from the home crowd, three points could be gained that would propel Lincoln towards safety.  That feeling was enhanced by the return of Ashley Grimes from suspension, the diminutive hitman proclaiming his intention in midweek to finish the season with 20 goals to his name.

Rather than give a blow by blow account of the match as I normally would, I have decided to report this match more simply in terms of the blocks of play as I perceived them.

0 - 25 minutes.  City played with confidence, if a little nervously at times.  Grimes and Hutchinson looked full of movement and Grimes put a good chance over the bar.  Cheltenham did nothing.

25 - 45 minutes.  City panicked slightly and started hoofing the ball long to nobody, constantly gave possession away cheaply and never looked like scoring.  Cheltenham did nothing.

45 - 65 minutes.  City played well again after the halftime team talk, knocking the ball around and almost creating a few chances.  Cheltenham did nothing.

65 minutes.  City allowed Cheltenham a rare foray into their half, the ball being spread wide and crossed in for an unmarked Josh Low who headed home from all of 18 yards past a floundering Parish.  1-0

65 - 88 minutes.  City were completely clueless, headless, leaderless and talentless.  They were unable to find a single pass or look at all like they had the first idea how to get back into the game.  Cheltenham didn’t need to do anything.

88 minutes.  Cheltenham won a freekick roughly 25 yards out on the right.  Andrew curled the kick past the virtually non-existent City wall and past Parish, who only seemed to start moving after the ball had hit the back of the net.  2-0

88 – 94 minutes.  City fans began to leave.  Cheltenham didn’t to do anything but wait to celebrate their own safety from relegation and the gift City had just given them.

OK, that summary may be a little harsh on Cheltenham, but they seemed to come to simply defend and come away with a point, and aside from taking advantage of two poor pieces of play from City, that’s what they would have done.  They were there for the taking, and on this afternoon’s performance I think that any half decent League 2 side would have beaten them comfortably.

Elsewhere at the bottom, Barnet, Northampton and Stockport all drew, leaving City 2 points clear of Barnet in 23rd.  Stockport now require mathematical miracles to survive, so the reality is that it’s one from three for the final wooden spoon.  The danger for City is that both Northampton and Barnet are capable of scoring goals.  The only light at the end of the tunnel for City, if one can indeed be seen, is that their survival is still in their own hands.  If Steve Tilson can somehow manage to make something click in his players then maybe, just maybe, another few points can be gained from the remaining two games and they can keep their noses in front.  Sadly, I won’t be down at the bookies tomorrow laying any money on that being the case.

24 Elliott Parish
25 Cian Hughton
2 Paul Green
6 Danny Hone
3 Joe Anderson
31 Ali Fuseini
26 Tom Kilbey
9 Gavin McCallum
15 Luke Howell
27 Ben Hutchinson
29 Ashley Grimes
10 Drewe Broughton for Hutchinson (71)
8 Clark Keltie for Kilbey (71)
4 Adam Watts
14 Josh O'Keefe
19 Jamie Clapham
39 Scott Spencer
1 Joe Anyon

1 Scott Brown
7 Michael Pook
6 Martin Riley
22 Steve Elliott
3 Danny Andrew
4 Dave Bird
24 Marlon Pack
11 Junior Smikle
8 Josh Low
9 Wes Thomas
17 Theo Lewis
23 Matt Green for Lewis (82)
20 Frankie Artus for Thomas (90+2)
5 Andy Gallinagh
14 JJ Melligan
16 Kyle Haynes
18 Jake Lee
12 Daniel Lloyd-Weston

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