Sunday, 21 August 2011

Lincoln City v Wrexham, 19th August 2011

Venue: Sincil Bank, Lincoln
Attendance: 2,211
Final score: 1-2

It’s been a divided week in Lincoln City Land since Tuesday night’s defeat to Kidderminster, with some fans lamenting the defeat as a continuation of last season’s home form and other fans (myself included) appealing for patience and for last season to be left out of the equation.  In my match report for that game I put out a plea for fans to get behind the team, and I want to reiterate it again here.  Booing a new team will get us nowhere.  The exchanges on twitter that some fans had with Josh Gowling after the Kidderminster game were very disappointing, and I can only hope that the players do not perceive the negativity of some fans as representative of all of us.  It didn’t completely click on Tuesday but the effort and desire to win was plain to see, and for that reason alone it was an improvement on last season.

Wrexham had a good season last year, reaching the playoffs but being beaten in the semi-final by Luton.  This year they have had financial problems, but have started well on the field with 4 points out of a possible 6 from their opening 2 games.

In front of the live cameras of the TV channel Premier Sports (who I confess I have never heard of before), City and Wrexham fought out a lively encounter, but one which ultimately ended in narrow and undeserved defeat for the Imps.

City only made one change to the starting 11, with Taylor starting up front instead of Perry.  Although Taylor had done well after coming on as a substitute against Kidderminster and deserved a start, I thought Perry’s bustling style would cause problems, and that Smith might be the one to lose his place.

The opening exchanges were evenly balanced, with City matching their opponents.  Russell in particular impressed me throughout the match, with his patience on the ball, the accuracy of his passing, his willingness to take on an opponent and the quality of his delivery.  If he can keep developing, I think he might well be an unexpected star for us this season.

Sadly, the one thing with City is that we are a confidence team, and going behind always seems to shake us.  It was Wrexham who took that lead in the 28th minute in familiar circumstances.  A freekick given away needlessly by Ali Fuseini was rolled to Jamie Tolley, who blasted an unstoppable shot into the top corner.  It seems ridiculous that City have now conceded two such goals in three games – not ridiculous in the sense that we have defended badly, but ridiculous that the odds are against such accurate freekick taking at this level.  Surely we have now conceded a season’s worth of these things?

To their credit, City refused to lie down, with Gavin McCallum in particular leading the charge.  The Canadian winger was criticised by Tilson in the week for being too nervous, but showed no signs of them now.  He repeatedly tore at the Wrexham defence, testing the Wrexham (and Welsh U21) keeper Maxwell time and again.  His quality would ultimately deny the Imps a victory, as throughout the match he pulled off numerous saves from shots that would surely have beaten other keepers at this, or even League 2, level.

The deserved equaliser eventually came moments before half time.  If it didn’t have the quality of the Wrexham goal, nobody cared.  After more good work by McCallum, who forced Maxwell into another save, the ball bobbled around near the line for an eternity, even hitting the bar, before Smith managed to squeeze it over the line.

City duly started the second half looking spritely, and it seemed that a victory could be on the cards with the ball constantly in the Wrexham half, and the visitors beginning to look ragged.  McCallum, Smith and Gowling all saw good efforts denied.

Cruelly, some might even say inevitably, City were punished by a single Wrexham move, when Jay Harris controlled the ball on the edge of the box, pushing it inside the box before drilling a superb low shot past a helpless Anyon.

It took City some time to regain their composure and begin to press the attack again.  The introduction of Barraclough and Perry brought some life back into the attack, and City finished strongest against a backdrop of horrific timewasting by the visitors.

Kidderminster had also been allowed to timewaste in the most obvious manner, and it is to be hoped that referees at this level will not tolerate it constantly, as it will quickly become tiresome!

City’s best efforts were ultimately not enough, but for two superb strikes by Wrexham and the wonderful quality of their keeper, City could easily have won the match by 2 or 3 goals, such was their dominance and the number of strikes they placed on target.

The crowd thankfully seemed to recognise this, and the disgraceful booing wasn’t repeated at the final whistle.  The Wrexham manager afterwards even commented that he was grateful to be playing the Imps now before we really find our form (though of course graciousness after an undeserved victory is easy).

City have a seemingly relentless run of opening matches, but it will surely not be long before the first victory is recorded, and the league table climbed if this performance can be repeated.  I remain convinced that this Imps team has what it takes to have a good season, and maybe even challenge for the playoffs.  A clean sheet would be nice sometime soon though…

1 Joe Anyon
13 Tony Sinclair
4 Adam Watts
5 Josh Gowling
3 John Nutter
8 Alan Power
10 Ali Fuseini
15 Simon Russell
30 Gavin McCallum
7 Jamie Taylor
14 Sam Smith
9 Kyle Perry, for Fuseini 74
19 Bradley Barraclough, for Taylor 75
6 Danny Hone
17 Nicky Nicolau
23 Josh O'Keefe

21 Chris Maxwell
2 Curtis Obeng
4 Mark Creighton
20 Nathanial Knight-Percival
3 Neil Ashton
6 Jay Harris
8 Lee Fowler
18 Jamie Tolley
11 Andy Morrell
9 Daniel Wright
10 Jake Speight
7 Adrian Cieslewicz
, for Speight 63
14 Gareth Taylor
15 Steve Tomassen
26 Joe Clarke
25 Joslain Mayebi

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