Four and a half things I learned against Braintree

The Imps continued their fine run of form in matches against Braintree by registering a comfortable 3-0 win in the National League clash yesterday. In the absence of John Pakey’s ‘five things’ reports I thought it prudent to bring you some things I learned from the Braintree game, although I stopped at four and a half.

The first thing I learned is that Jack is back. Jack Muldoon has been absent for most of the season after picking up an injury just five minutes into the new season, but yesterday the pacey forward scored a fine goal after coming on for Matt Rhead. Most Imps fans class Muldoon as a wide man but he can be incredibly effective dropping off a big centre forward. The ever turning rumour mill suggests that Matt Rhead enjoys having Muldoon play off him as they began to form a decent partnership at the end of last season.

Muldoon is a hard worker on the pitch and trains just as hard off it. His style and energy suit the high tempo game we try and implement and now he’s managed to grab himself a goal I wouldn’t be surprised to see him feature more and more, which is great news for the management and the fans. He offers another option to Bonne up top and that’s crucial with Adam Marriott picking up a potential broken elbow.

The second thing we learned yesterday is that Danny Cowley is not always a critical man. The general consensus was that we played below average  and still came away with the win, and Michael Hortin was sure in his post match interview they were going to get a pessimistic response from the boss. Instead he was full of praise for a workman-like performance that yielded not only three goals but also a clean sheet.

I can see why he chose that tact as a man manager. We had just halted a run of three games without a win, to come out and be critical of the players could cause damage to moral. When we won five on the bounce he cleverly criticised performances to help keep players and fans grounded, but yesterday’s result helped get a monkey off our backs and it wouldn’t serve any purpose to be overly critical. Football is a results game and whether we played well or not yesterday is irrelevant. The history books will forever show a 3-0 win and that is an acceptable result at all levels of the game. It was a clever response from the manager especially as his comments will be widely reported in social media and after our recent form the players need a bit of building back up.

It was a nice touch for him to approach the Braintree fans at the end and they responded well and gave both him and Nicky a round of applause. I’d like to think if they achieve success with us and move onwards and upwards that we could be just as gracious.

race-for-life-and-braintree-082

Storm clouds over Sincil Bank, but they cleared with a 3-0 win.

 

Thirdly I’m going to have to address a point that I’ve argued for a while now. Tom Champion comes in and we lose two and draw one. Tom Champion sits on the bench and we win 3-0. To those who don’t look at things quite as deeply as they should it would appear very clear what the problem has been.

I don’t think we played any better yesterday than we did against Solihull and Barrow. In both of those game we had a similar game plan, and yesterday Braintree (like Barrow) brought the game to us. Despite their lowly league position they came and actually had a go but on the day the balls fell nicely for us. We probably had more clear cut chances against Barrow than we did yesterday, but on the day luck was with us. The Braintree keeper should have saved Nathan Arnold’s effort, and he flapped to give us a corner for the second goal.

My point is that I don’t think we played any better without Tom Champion than with him. There’s no doubt Bradley Wood works a lot harder for the team though, he never ever stops in the middle of the park and I thought yesterday was one of his best games of the season. However the pairing with Woodyard still didn’t seem to give us the penetration through the middle that has been lacking for four or five games now, and it is that penetration that Tom Champion was blamed for taking away.

The main advantage that dropping Champion brought is a return to the side for Lee Beevers. Last season I thought Beevers was off the pace and at times isolated at left back, but when covering the right back spot he looks comfortable and more like the player we signed from Boston all those years ago. His pace may be failing a little but he put in another solid performance yesterday after being reinstated. I know it delights fans to see him and Wood play instead of Champion and Wood, but I’d stress that Tom Champion could still have a crucial role to play over the next couple of months. He’s experienced and he’s a big lump as well and occasionally he’s going to be useful in midfield for his height and size. He needs to be given a chance and I think his omission yesterday was as much to take him out of the firing line as anything.

beevers

Another strong outing yesterday

 

The fourth thing we learned from yesterday wasn’t related to the action on the pitch but rather the movement off it. Hakan Hayrettin (the Braintree manager) confirmed after the match that the Imps had put in a bit for Simeon Akinola and that he could be let go at the right price. One would assume the right price is likely to be a fair price, Braintree need to strengthen all over the park and yesterday I thought Akinola looked lost and isolated. They will know this isn’t a case of big ‘ol Lincoln pinching yet another player, but it could be a business move that gives them an edge over the other strugglers this season. The player clearly has class and at present he isn’t able to deliver it for Braintree. I’d imagine a decent bid would give the new manager some room to bring in a couple of players.

It also suggests to me that the move or Ricky Miller is dead in the water due to the excessive demands of Dover. It doesn’t surprise me that Dover priced us out of a move, nor that FGR talked silly money when discussing Miller. Our promotion rivals won’t want to sell to us and our other rivals won’t want us to buy him. I would suggest that a struggling League Two side could come in for Miller in January, if he keeps scoring. Mind you a few more 5-0 defeats like yesterday for Dover and his stock will begin to drop again.

Aside from Akinola we also saw Theo Robinson in the stands watching the game and it was revealed a move for him is still in the offing. I’ve heard Theo has impressed in training, but having been out of the game for a few months there is a question mark over whether he represents value for money. He played top flight football in Scotland last season and at 27 I don’t think he represents a cheap option. We know the manager won’t be rushed into anything too.

Conspiracy theorists will also have noticed certain Mr Margetts kicking around before the game. With Scunthorpe going three points clear with an away win at Bury his career looks to be stalling once again, and betting men might be tempted to put money on a return to Sincil Bank on loan. It may be pure speculation but I’d imagine Margetts wants to stay in the shop window and the only way he can do that is by playing games and scoring goals.

Personally I can’t see a move for the popular front man any time soon, but then again I couldn’t see him moving in the first place so who knows?

Muldoon scores v crewe

Muldoon scores against Crewe pre-season. Cracking to see him secure his first competitive goal this season.

 

There was also a rumour that England C international Elliott Whitehouse was in the crowd, currently a Nuneaton player. Along with Akinola he was rated as ‘one to watch’ by Danny Cowley in a Sky Sports interview. I didn’t see the lad so it could just be internet rumour. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

The half thing I learned yesterday is that fans are still excited by what is happening at the Bank, irrespective of recent form. I didn’t really think that fans would stay away on the back of two defeats, but 3,500 home fans is commendable and up somewhere in the region of 25% year on year. We all knew that there was going to be some blips and bumps along the way but true fans stick by the side, and to see an extra 1,000 or so on the gate from corresponding fixtures last year is still superb.

I know there was an initiative for students to attend yesterday, but those initiatives do pay dividends. I know several Imps fans who became fans through free student tickets and who now still support the Imps long after their education has finished. Therefore any number that starts with a three is exciting, and the closer it gets to starting with a four the better.

Despite us having a fickle and often critical fan base I do think we have a set of loyal supporters who are finally glad to be seeing an Imps side scoring goals and winning games. You can’t win every week and it won’t always be pretty but as long as those bums keep getting plonked down on seats and that ticket money keeps flowing in then we can continue to push on as a club. Don’t under estimate the power of coming to games, our second goal came as the whole of the Co-op stand launched into a 617-led song, almost pushing the ball into the net. Those pound coins help too especially if we want both Akinola and Whitehouse.

On a personal note can I just say thank you to everyone who voted for me in the FBA’s (football blogging awards) over the past few weeks. It is really pleasing to know so many of  you read  the blogs and although I don’t expect everyone to agree with what I say I appreciate that you take the time to read. The finalists are announced on October 5th and although I’d be shocked if little old Lincoln City had a blog amongst the finalists I am humbled and proud that I got any votes at all, so thank you. Curiously October 5th marks the 30th anniversary of my first ever Imps match.

Up the Imps.

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