Saturday, 26 November 2011

Lincoln City v Ebbsfleet United, 26 November 2011

Venue: Sincil Bank, Lincoln
Attendance: 2,111
Final score: 3-0

Lincoln City Land is currently witnessing the blossoming of something rare and wonderful.  A glimmer of optimism has been seen hiding in the bushes after this afternoon’s win against Ebbsfleet.

In extremely windy conditions (or should that be WIN-dy conditions?  Sorry…), City continued their improved home form with a second win on the bounce – something that hasn’t happened since early 2009.

On a personal note, it feels like an age since I was last at Sincil Bank, and it was incredibly good to be back.  Because City have a new manager and a number of changes in playing staff, I confess that I felt a little like a newbie again, having to work out who was who, and who would be playing where.

Ebbsfleet are (no offence to them), one of those sides that really make it sink in that the Imps have dropped into the non-league.  This was the first ever meeting between the sides, and this is Ebbsfleet’s return to the Conference after bouncing back from the Conference South at the first attempt at the playoffs.  Oh, and they have a rather attractive purple away kit

City started with Paul Farmen in goal, despite the return of Joe Anyon from suspension, and with Perry and Sheridan up front.  New signing Tyrone Thompson started in the centre of midfield.

The match started in frantic fashion, with City almost opening the scoring in the first minute when the ball fell to Conal Platt just inside the box.  The midfielder managed to get the ball out of his feet to stab a shot goalwards, but he couldn’t get much power on it and Edwards managed to save with his feet.

The first half continued to be an even affair, with both sides showing equal desire to attack, and defences that looked far from unbreachable.

City were showing a strange unwillingness to shoot, with Perry and Russell in particular preferring to turn their backs to goal and lay off the ball to others when in positions that a shot looked to be an option.

Perry was looking poor throughout the first half – slow, lumbering, with a distinct lack of movement and very easy to knock off the ball.

Ebbsfleet were looking more than capable of cutting the Imps’ defence open, and were proving to be a hardworking and well organised team.  Although Farman didn’t have much to do in the first half, it was only because of some good last ditch tackling by the City defence, Josh Gowling in particular.

The breakthrough came in the 38th minute, when Platt cut inside from the right on the edge of the box.  His first shot was blocked, but when the ball rebounded to him, he wasted no time in pinging a delicious curling shot into the top corner.

Ebbsfleet almost levelled before the break, but Farman pulled off a superb close range block to deny Pinney (who looked distinctly offside) and the Imps led at the break.

I expected an Ebbsfleet barrage at the start of the second half, but it was the Imps who caused the early pressure, with Perry and Nutter both denied by Edwards.  It seemed as if City had been told to be more decisive at the break, and the instruction had been listened to.

In an attempt to get back into the game, Ebbsfleet made a double substitution on the hour mark, bringing on two rather large players in Enver-Marum and Phipp.  The two combined almost immediately, and Farman was forced to tip Enver-Marum’s long range effort behind.

Minutes later, another long range shot from the lively Enver-Marum was brilliantly fingertipped onto the crossbar by Farman, and it seemed that with 20 minutes to go, the Imps would be lucky to hang on to their lead.

The fates of football can turn in an instant, however, and Lincoln doubled their lead soon after.  A Power freekick found its way to Russell at the back post, and the winger unleashed an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net to score his first goal in City colours.

The cushion gave the Imps a visible confidence boost, and they began to put more pressure on the Ebbsfleet goal.  On the 80th minute, Platt put Power through behind the defence, and as he reached the edge of the box, he was bundled over by Mambo.  The big central defender was duly shown his marching orders, and although it was an easy decision for the referee, it was poor luck for the Ebbsfleet player, who had player superbly well all game, and this was the only time he’d put a foot wrong.

Football is a cruel game, and Ebbsfleet’s misery was compounded when Nutter’s freekick deflected off the wall and the ball found its way inside the far post to make it 3-0.

The introduction of Laurent and Medley at the end saw both players making energetic attempts to increase the scoreline, but the full time whistle signalled a vital home win for the Imps.

Despite some reports I have read saying how easy and deserved the victory was, the scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story.  Ebbsfleet are a good side, and up until the very end, were right in the match.  In fact, with 20 minutes to go, the conversation around me was along the lines of ‘I don’t think we’re going to hang onto this lead.’  The scoreline flattered City somewhat, and in the end it was two superbly taken individual goals that made the difference in a very evenly balanced match, the third goal simply the icing on the cake.

I’m afraid I have to single Kyle Perry out for attention. I thought that, in a good overall team performance, he stood out as a weak link.  Interestingly, some Ebbsfleet players were sat behind us in the stand, and we got chatting to them.  They were quite astounded by the poor quality of Perry, and were surprised that we had such a player in the team.  His lack of strength on the ball, and constant going down under challenges particularly bemused them.

On a brighter note, I thought that new signing Tyrone Thompson had a very assured debut in midfield, and both his passing and willingness to tackle back instantly put him ahead of recent departee Ali Fuseini in my book.  Hopefully he will become an important cog in the city machine.  Equally, Luke Medley seemed almost manic in his desire to chase down the ball when he came on, and if Perry’s passing had been more assured he might have been put through on goal on two occasions.

Another thing I noticed was that we consistently left 3 players up when defending corners.  Although the intention to counter attack was obvious, at times when Ebbsfleet were applying pressure, it seemed almost suicidal, as their large strikers were finding plenty of space in the box.  I fear that against higher placed opposition, such a tactic will cost us more goals than we score on the break.

I don’t want to end on a sour note, though, as it felt so good to celebrate a win, a clean sheet, and some much needed optimism amongst players and fans.

28 Paul Farman
13 Tony Sinclair
2 Richard Hinds
5 Josh Gowling
3 John Nutter
8 Alan Power
34 Tyrone Thompson
12 Conal Platt
15 Simon Russell
36 Jake Sheridan
9 Kyle Perry
32 Luke Medley, for Sheridan 81
11 Francis Laurent, for Russell 89
16 Mitchell Nelson
17 Nicky Nicolau
1 Joe Anyon

1 Preston Edwards
2 Craig Stone
6 Paul Lorraine
22 Yado Mambo
14 Joe Howe
8 Ram Marwa
10 Ricky Shakes
24 Neil Barrett
7 Michael West
9 Calum Willock
26 Nathaniel Pinney
15 Liam Enver-Marum, for Shakes 61
11 Tom Phipp, for Barrett 61
16 Ian Simpemba, for Willock 81
3 John Herd
17 Joe Welch

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