Monday 18 October 2021

Frailties Highlighted, Not Positives

Well that was horrible, wasn’t it? My only consolation was watching the game on a stream from Burgundy and being able to switch off and drown a glass to forget as opposed to the poor souls who were there and had the long trek back. It was another game devoid of positives, one which instead focused attention on areas we are falling short. We ended up being outplayed by a team which passed and moved better than we did and which in the final stages of the game wanted it more. On another day we might have got away with a fortunate draw, might even have had a smash-and-grab if Stockley really was blocked off/pulled back in the box. Equally nobody was in any doubt that we didn’t deserve anything from the game.

As was the case in the immediate aftermath of the closing of the transfer window and the influx of players, it was the optimism that did for us. ‘Adkins names unchanged team’ is not a headline used much of late (must admit I did have a vision of him working through the night on different combinations but ending up unable to decide and just thinking ‘sod it, send out the same again’). The hope that the better performance and victory at Fleetwood might mean the turning of a corner and us putting together a run and move up the table. Instead we staring at one win in five, just two in 12, and debating whether or not Adkins has to be replaced.

Did we learn much? We already knew that Lee has made himself central to the set-up of the team, linking play, bringing others into the game, and getting on the end himself. We all saw the bright start we’d made fade away once he was forced off after 20 minutes. We don’t have an absolute like-for-like (I’d say the closest is Morgan, but he wasn’t on the bench) but could have asked either Washington or Gilbey to play the part. Instead Kirk was moved inside and Blackett-Taylor came on to keep the formation. That lasted until half-time, when Leko moved inside and Kirk back wide; he had a little more influence.

Whether out wide or inside Kirk had an awful game, never threatening, always peripheral, rounded things off with a dreadful pass inside which nearly cost us a goal. He has to have more in his locker than that. Blackett-Taylor gave us only a couple of glimpses of what he is capable of going forward, while was a liability when we were out of possession. Add in that Davison was well and truly in the pocket of their centre-halves and our forward threat was, after the start, virtually non-existent, until Stockley provided more of a presence.

At the same time, there are games when things don’t click going forward and then, especially away from home, you look to keeping things tight. Instead we conceded twice, yet again. Sure, their first was one of those freak goals, on the face of it not about defensive frailty. Yet as was pointed out in the post-match analysis, it came from a set piece half-cleared when we failed to push up out of our own box. In a crowded area things can happen. And we repeated the error in stoppage time, allowing Lincoln to play the ball back into a packed penalty area. And we’d only just got away with one headed in but given offside. Looks like a lack of defensive organisation, the back line and others failing to work as a unit. Where the blame for that might lie is for Adkins and others to determine – and rectify. Problem is we’ve seen it before enough times this season. In open play Famewo and Lavelle are the obvious choices, but neither seems to be the leader on the pitch; in a crowded area defending a point away from home Pearce’s qualities come to the fore.

There was ample evidence and time available on Saturday to acknowledge that our gameplan wasn’t working and to make changes. We would have lost nothing by taking off Kirk and bringing on either Washington - to play wide, or as a second forward with Leko moving wider – or even bringing on Matthews or Pearce and switching to a back five. Also an argument for bringing on Stockley and leaving Davison on as a front pair. We equalised with effectively 30 minutes left to play. Could rightly argue that we had changed with Stockley on the pitch and that having drawn level we might have had the wind in our sails. Instead, and for that perhaps you give Lincoln credit, they grabbed the initiative and progressively got on top, to the point where with perhaps 15 minutes left you have to take a fresh look and conclude that further change was needed.

Next up it’s Accrington at The Valley tomorrow night then the trip to Sunderland on Saturday. No game at this stage of the season can be considered ‘must win’. But ‘must improve’ is another matter.


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