Sunday, 4 September 2011

Braintree Town v Lincoln City, 3rd September 2011

Venue: Cressing Road Stadium, Braintree
Attendance: 1,182
Final score: 1-0

To paraphrase Shakespeare, ‘something is rotten in the state of Lincoln City’.  Another sub-par performance saw the Imps slip to another defeat, against a part-time team no less, as the wheels still firmly refuse to stick to the side of the wagon.

It was difficult to predict how the game might go beforehand.  Braintree are indeed a newly promoted, part-time team, but one that humiliated City’s rivals Grimsby Town 5-0 earlier in the season, and therefore not to be taken too lightly.  Braintree were a few places and 5 points ahead of City before the game, demonstrating that they were adapting to life in the Blue Square Premier better than their supposedly more illustrious opponents.

Tilson made a few changes to the starting lineup, with Christophe becoming a makeshift right back, new loanee Nelson replacing Danny Hone in the centre of the defence, and Barraclough starting up front.

The match started in near disastrous fashion, as Braintree went straight on the attack and nearly scored in the first minute (as Darlington had done earlier in the week).

As the first half settled down, City created the odd half chance, such as McCallum shooting just wide on the quarter hour mark, but Braintree were playing to their strengths – a physical, direct style of play, and City couldn’t enforce their will on the game.

The inevitable goal came on 31 minutes.  A defensive mixup between Gowling and Nelson when trying to spring the offside trap put Yiadom through, and his shot from the edge of the box bobbled past Anyon.

It was almost 2-0 a few minutes afterwards, but a timely challenge from Nutter meant the Imps could scramble it away.  The goal gave Braintree confidence, and they held their heads high at halftime.

Braintree started where they left off after the break, creating a flurry of early chances, one which struck the post.

City eventually began to mount something of a fightback late in the game, but despite substitute Jamie Taylor hitting the underside of the bar, Braintree will no doubt be wondering how they were allowed to win so easily.

For a professional, ex-league club with a number of players and a manager that claim to have credentials higher than League 2, to lose so meekly to a part-time team is, frankly, embarrassing and unacceptable.

The end of the game saw some Imps’ fans expressing their displeasure at both the performance and the result, and despite my desire to remain optimistic this season, it’s hard not to share their frustration.

After picking up a meagre 5 points from 7 games, and after this match slipping into the relegation places, my early season optimism is proving incredibly hard to maintain.  The good performance against Stockport hasn’t been repeated – on the contrary, the two performances following it have been the worst ones of the season.  After looking like we had turned a corner, we now seem to regressing badly, and are not even creating the chances that we once were.  Combined with our leaky defence, the omens are not good.

I still maintain that this team is genuinely trying – a world away from the fecklessness of last season, but results are what count.  As we continue to fail to pick up points, the pressure on the players will rise, the frustration of the fans will grow, and sadly we’ve seen where that cycle of despair leads.

We have some good players in this squad.  Taylor, Russell, Power and McCallum in particular are technically very good at this level.  Taylor and Perry have both proved that they can score bagfuls of goals.  What seems to be lacking is a passionate and tactically astute manager to get them to play together.  Sadly, the vague and muted responses from Steve Tilson after each match are not doing anything to make the supporters love him, or even feel that he has a personality at all, let alone a desire to be at Lincoln.

We find ourselves facing a very familiar dilemma – the players probably are good enough, the manager probably isn’t, but if we sack him, what then?  We’ve had a succession of managers over the last 10 years, and with the exception of the highlights of Keith’s early reign, and the superb football we played under Schofield for 6 months, nobody has done anything even approaching passable.  If Tilson were to go now, who would step in? We are an even more unattractive prospect for a manager now then we were when we hired Tilson.

It gets harder and harder to say that we should stay positive and not get on the players’ backs, but I still make one simple point – Lincoln fans have been whinging at the team almost constantly for the past 5 years and it’s got us absolutely nowhere.  No footballer has ever played better because his own fans jeered him, and I fear that the fans will reap what they sow as the pressure on the players mounts and the attractive football seen against Stockport becomes a distant memory.

1 Nathan McDonald
2 Ryan Peters
4 Adam Bailey-Dennis
5 Matt Paine
3 Aswad Thomas
7 Nick Symons
8 Kenny Davis
6 Jai Reason
17 Andy Yiadom
9 Sean Marks
10 Ben Wright
19 Chib Chilaka, for Wright 83
15 Bradley Quinton
, for Reason 90+2
16 Patrick O'
22 Ashlee Jones
23 Merrick James-Lewis

1 Joe Anyon
27 Jean-Francois Christophe
5 Josh Gowling
16 Mitchell Nelson
3 John Nutter
8 Alan Power
10 Ali Fuseini
15 Simon Russell
30 Gavin McCallum
9 Kyle Perry
19 Bradley Barraclough
7 Jamie Taylor, for Perry 56
14 Sam Smith, for McCallum 56
4 Adam Watts
6 Danny Hone
17 Nicky Nicolau

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