Monday, 12 September 2011

Lincoln City v Kettering Town, 10th September 2011

Venue: Sincil Bank, Lincoln 
Attendance: 2,269
Final score: 0-2

It seems like a long time ago now since Lincoln met Kettering in a bad tempered (off the pitch at least) FA Cup encounter.  Both teams have had varied luck since then, but it was Kettering who somehow left Sincil Bank with all three points in this Blue Square Premier encounter.

In front of a home crowd that is getting worse every match (2,200 people used to be a poor turnout for a Johnson’s Paint Trophy game, let alone a Saturday afternoon league match), City were desperate to get some rare points on the board. 

City began with Taylor and Smith up front, and with Barraclough starting on the left in place of McCallum (see later on in this post for some thoughts on these starting partnerships).

City began brightly, and controlled the first half almost entirely against an enormous and physical Kettering team.  The Imps pushed for an opening goal repeatedly, but were denied by solid defending and good work by Kettering keeper Walker, who made a number of important saves, including a one on one.

I think the first half was the best I have seen Ali Fuseini play, as he was not only feeding the attack, but on a number of occasions tracked back well to nick the ball from a sleeping Kettering midfielder.

Kettering themselves offered little in the way of attack, and although the fear of being hit by a long ball counter attack was present, in reality Joe Anyon could have had a picnic in his goalmouth without being disturbed by anything other than ants.

Despite not getting the breakthrough goal, City’s play had been bright and promising, and the fans deservedly cheered them off at the break.

The second half sadly brought unhappier tidings.  City began where they left off, with high tempo attacking play, but there began to be a sense that they were running out of ideas against a Kettering side that had come to get nothing more than a clean sheet, and fielded a team of 20-stone octopuses instead of footballers.

When Kettering took the lead on 63 minutes, it was almost laughable.  With the ball entering the City box for what must have been the first time, and certainly with Kettering’s first attempt on goal, when a loose ball was fired home into the bottom corner by Jean-Paul Marna.

The sense of disbelief and panic in the Lincoln team was obvious, and from that moment on they never looked like getting back into the match, as their earlier composed play deserted them.  When lanky substitute Cunnington managed to get the ball at the edge of the box on 82 minutes, he had three City players in front of him.  Despite tackling him once, the ball was pathetically scrambled back to him by the hapless City defenders.  As he advanced into the box, Christophe carelessly bundled him over to present Kettering with a penalty, and to put the match beyond doubt when Ashikodi stroked the ball home.

Christophe would duly receive his marching orders deep into injury time, after picking up a second yellow for a scything tackle on the touchline.  Although neither the penalty nor Christophe’s yellow cards were the wrong decisions, it did seem slightly ironic that a game in which City had been manhandled to the extent of assault by an extremely physical team had resulted in the Imps being the ones to concede the penalty and be reduced to 10 men.

The final whistle saw the strongest angry outbursts I have yet seen from fans towards Steve Tilson and Chairman Bob Dorrian.

I understand the anger, but I think there needs to be a distinction made between bad performances and bad results. The first half was a GOOD performance. We should have scored, and a top team most certainly would have done, but everybody applauded the team off. The second half was worse, but we were still the better team up until the point they scored. Don't get me wrong, something is most definitely in need of fixing, but it's not that the team is playing terribly. Any fan that thinks that our play deserves to be called 'terrible' must have been watching a different match to me or have a very short memory indeed.

So what is it that is wrong?  Are the players not good enough?  Is the team selection wrong?  Is our style of play wrong?

To tackle these in order, firstly, I don’t think that our players aren’t good enough for this level.  I really believe that we have some talent in the team, alongside a genuine desire to win.  The one thing I might venture to suggest is that the players seem somewhat delicate in terms of confidence, but that is true of all footballers, especially at this level.

So is Tilson sending the wrong players out?  With a squad as small as ours, its difficult to see how many changes could be made, but looking at certain partnerships, even this early in the season, is interesting.  So far, the following key pairings have started games:

Central defence: Gowling and Nelson – 2 games
                        Gowling and Hone – 2 games
                        Gowling and Watts – 4 games

Central midfield: Power and Fuseini – 8 games

Up front:            Perry and Barraclough – 2 games
                        Perry and Smith – 3 games
                        Taylor and Smith – 3 games

It seems clear that through all this chopping and changing, Tilson can’t decide on his best defensive and attacking pairings, but these are the positions that benefit most from stability.  As I’ve said before, Perry and Taylor would, on previous goalscoring records, seem our best attacking pair, yet they have never started a match together.  Smith, on the other hand, seems to me to always look a little lost and unable to make much of an impact on matches, yet has started 6 out of 8 matches.

So is it our style of play that is at fault?  I think that this is perhaps the key question.  We have played some good, attractive football at times this season - passing and movement that last year’s team could only dream of, yet we still cannot put teams away.  I think that this is partly down to us not being physical enough.  Playing pretty football is not enough – we also need to be able to rough other teams up, as they have been doing to us.  The refereeing performances in the opening 8 matches have made it perfectly clear that some of the physical tactics used against us are legitimate at this level, so we should learn from the experience and try and get hold of some good old fashioned bruisers to accompany the more sophisticated attacking players.  It’s also a case of the manager getting the players fired up before matches and at half time.  Too often we let matches we should be winning drift away from us, then seem unable to raise the tempo and fight back – this Kettering game being an excellent example.

At the very least, players should not be allowed to moonlight in other jobs, as Josh Gowling seems to be doing.  Surely a professional footballer shouldn’t also be modelling children’s clothes in BHS?

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
19 Bradley Barraclough
7 Jamie Taylor
14 Sam Smith
30 Gavin McCallum for
Taylor 69
9 Kyle Perry for Smith 69
4 Adam Watts
6 Danny Hone
17 Nicky Nicolau

12 Laurie Walker
2 Phil Ifil
6 Jerel Ifil
18 George Taft
3 Sol Davis
19 Jamie Clapham
23 Patrick Noubissie
20 David Bridges
21 Nathan Koo-Boothe
7 Moses Ashikodi
10 Jean-Paul Marna
24 Adam Cunnington for Bridges 56
16 Steven Meecham for Clapham 56
27 Ibra Sekajja for Ashikodi 88
22 Jaime Navarro
31 Aldi Haxhia

No comments:

Post a Comment