I’ve sat down to write something about yesterday several times now and I’m not really sure what I can write that sounds positive. It’s unfortunate of course because I think we were the best team, but the match and result really mean nothing at all in the grand scheme of things. Simply wanting to finish on a certain number of points is a way of trying to motivate some players once the real prize has gone, but in reality some of the player do look like they have nothing to play for.
So I think it’s only fair to start with a player who looks as if he is playing for his life every single game. Bradley Wood has become a bit of a darling to the Imps fans for many reasons. He has a strong presence on social media and is accessible and friendly to all who want to chat with him. This down to earth persona is something fans like, he’s just like us and with that he instantly becomes a fans favourite. Despite being a former Grimsby player he isn’t quiet about his distaste for them now, something else that immediately endears him to Imps fans. The overriding reason for his popularity though is his never-say-die, run-through-walls, hard-as-nails playing style which is both committed and uncompromising. He isn’t a dirty player but he is a tough player who never looks as if he’s going through the motions. If I didn’t know better I’d say he’s acutely aware that everyday blokes like him are paying up to £20 to come and watch the team and he’s trying to pay each and every one of us back.
Yesterday typified Bradley Wood for me. He was all over the pitch throwing in tackles and playing sensible balls into the feet of a team mate. He doesn’t try the extravagant or impossible, he plays a nice simple game when he has the ball. He’s cultured in that he knows where his teammates are, and he’s dogged in winning the ball in order to give it to one of those teammates. In the first half yesterday he was clattered by Matt Robinson (who received a booking for his troubles), and within ten minutes had exacted his revenge. It wasn’t Roy Keane style thuggery, much more a reminder that if you go in hard on him he isn’t going to forget. Early in the second half he had a coming together with Daniel Carr who appeared to push his head towards Bradley. A hot headed player might have lashed out but he kept his calm to a degree and photos of the incident show Matt Rhead involved more than Bradley. He won’t put up with being bullied, but he won’t react in such a way that jeopardises the teams position.
Quite rightly for me he cleaned up the end of season awards taking home an unprecedented triple crown of Echo Player of The Year, Fans Player of the Year and Away Player of the Year. I can’t think of a player who has deserved it more in my thirty years as an Imps fan.
There are those who might say Matt Rhead was unlucky not to take at least one home with him, and I can see where they’re coming from. Matt is one of those players who suffers because of his physicality and sluggish pace. He gets pulled from pillar to post at times but often gets penalised himself for trying to use his massive frame to his advantage. What some people fail to see in Rhead is his inherent skill. His overhead kick from outside the area and his delicate chip against Eastleigh show that he can play a bit of football, and there’s no doubt that he’s a handful too. Rumours are strong that he’s going to Barrow next season but I feel it would be a massive loss to City if he did. Anyone who thinks losing a 20 goal a season striker is okay needs their head testing. Defenders hate him, goalkeepers hate him and opposition fans hate him, and there’s three reasons why we should love him.
I can’t help but feel there could be so much more to come from Liam Hearn as well, and had he been on the pitch yesterday I think we’d have scored four or five. The ball was loose in and around their area so much that a proper ‘fox in the box’ would have had a field day. That isn’t a criticism of Jack Muldoon by the way, I like Jack a lot. However there are players who can play up front like Jack, and then there are natural born goal scorers like Liam Hearn. We haven’t had a true natural born goal scorer for an awful long time. Rhead may have hit 20 goals but he isn’t even a natural goal grabber. Think Jermaine Defoe, Andre Gray and Charlie Austin: players that score wherever and whenever they play. That’s Liam Hearn. Sadly for us I think his attitude and fitness will always be questioned and therefore I doubt very much whether we’ll ever see him in a Lincoln shirt again.
I’m not convinced three at the back is the way forward either, especially not the three we had there yesterday. I read someone praising Lee Beevers for his contribution this season, but frankly I think he’s been incredibly disappointing. He looks a couple of yards off the pace and was done almost every time someone ran at him yesterday. Similarly Howe and Waterfall never looked overly competent when players ran at them, and there’s no doubt we’ve missed Jamie McCombe organising at the back. I’d imagine one of Howe, Waterfall or Bush will sit alongside him next season probably with Wood at full back and A N Other on the other flank. Of course it’s easy to speculate as we really don’t know who will be in charge.
Lot’s of names are being mentioned aren’t they? The non league paper needed to shift a few copies so they linked us with Robbie Fowler. Former Imp and prolific own goal scorer Frank Sinclair was seen at the game yesterday and the whispers of Billy Heath wouldn’t go away either. Maybe if Simon Weaver is in the frame he might fancy Liam Hearn having had him at Harrogate? If it’s Billy Heath there’s the potential of further investment, and if it’s Frank Sinclair we could be going through the recruitment process again in a few months once he bottles it. It’s a crucial appointment at a crucial time, and despite the progress made under Chris yesterdays game did lay bare a few things that need to be addressed. Without Power Stanley or Tempest we looked lightweight in midfield, even with Bradley Wood covering every blade of grass. We create chances but don’t score enough, and we still don’t have that water tight defence that we crave.
It’s also a shame that some of the loan players we’ve had probably won’t get the chance they’d hoped for under Chris Moyses. George Maris was clearly on the radar, but a new manager won’t have seen him and is unlikely to give him a deal. I probably wouldn’t anyway and I know 99% of you disagree with that, however he did put himself about relatively well yesterday. James Caton is another that it looks unlikely will be back next season, and despite some indifferent form I saw enough of him to convince me he’s worth a punt at this level. However a new manager will have his own players he’d like to add and is unlikely to use the notes and observations of his predecessor.
It’s the same with the out of contract players as well. Young Player of the Year Elliot Hodge is waiting on a deal as is the impressive Greg Tempest but both now have their future hanging in the balance while the managers role is filled. It’d be a bad thing to lose either of them as they’ve both shown enough to convince me they’d be assets next year, but in reality both have been left in no mans land. It isn’t anyone’s fault particularly, just one of those situations thrown up at a professional football club.
So ends another season of football at Sincil Bank, and bar the end of season showcase for Cheltenham we now have a long summer of Euro 2016 action to look forward too. However there’s no doubt each and every one of us will be glued to Lincoln City Banter, BBC News, Vitals and wherever else we get our information from as the potential for next season takes shape. 2,500 Imps fans turned out yesterday and left bitterly disappointed that an end of season fixture with little or no meaning went the way it did. I think that shows the level of expectation around the club at the minute and a new manager will have to handle that as well as fill in some of those cracks appearing in the squad. However if he gets both of those things right there’s no reason why in 12 months time I won’t be blogging about our up coming play off matches.