City returned to Sincil Bank for the first time in 2024 with a positive performance in front of a bumper crowd.
Michael Skubala named a few changes to the side that battled to a point with Wycombe last weekend. Lukas Jensen started in goal, with a back three of Alex Mitchell, Adam Jackson and Sean Roughan. Lasse Sorensen started as the right wing-back, with Reeco Hackett making his first start since October at left wing-back. A midfield three consisted of a slightly deeper Ethan Erhahon and two advanced midfielders of Ted Bishop and Ethan Hamilton. Freddie Draper and Joe Taylor started as the front two.
As we saw against Wycombe, Skubala opted to play with two different formations. 4-4-2 in possession, with Sorensen going into right-back, Roughan into left-back, Hackett onto the left and one of Bishop or Hamilton on the right. We played the defensive game in the 3-1 defeat at Pride Park less than a month ago, but on Saturday we took the game to Derby and wanted to win. Our tactical fluidity made that possible, but even more so, we had players that could play in their preferred positions. Bishop in midfield, Hackett on the wing and even two strikers up front – it’s what we’ve been missing for weeks and we’ve finally got it.
The early parts of the game were back and forth but it was Derby looking the more dangerous side, as you’d expect from a team that could’ve gone top of the league with three points. Curtis Nelson had a header saved early by Jensen and the Derby defender would’ve been disappointed not to do better with the chance. If it goes either side of the Dane, it’s a goal. Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was causing us issues, linking up with James Collins before firing over the bar.
The visitors had a few corners in the early stages, but unlike recent months we dealt with all the set piece deliveries with ease. Mitchell made a big block after a small error from Jackson, but for the most part we looked comfortable. We finally had some attacking intent, Draper and Taylor were both causing some problems for Derby at the back, particularly for Cashin.
Hamilton brought the first big save out of former Imps stopper Josh Vickers. The Rams’ keeper needed his full frame to push away Hamilton’s powerful left-footed free-kick. That kick-started a period of chances for the Imps, Hackett had a good effort saved, as did Bishop but the big chances fell to City’s new number nine, Joe Taylor.
Taylor picked up the ball in his own half and powered through the Derby defence with an explosion of pace to get past Cashin. After doing all the hard work, the striker couldn’t keep his effort down but the signs were positive. The Luton-loanee had another golden chance to open his account for the Imps just a few moments after his first chance. He stole the ball away from a Derby defender before racing past Cashin to get himself in on goal. Just like the first chance though, it went flying over the bar. I have no complaints about the chances missed. It’s nice to see players getting in those positions, and if he carries on like that he’ll score goals.
As the game edged towards half-time, Ollie Yates had a big decision to make. Erhahon was caught in the middle by Kane Wilson and Sincil Bank errupted with calls for the former Forest Green full-back to be given his marching orders. This is a difficult one to call, I’ve seen them given but I’ve also seen them not given. It’s one of them that just depends on the referee you get. One thing is certain though, the 1800 travelling Derby fans would’ve felt happy at half-time to go in level considering they could’ve easily been at least a goal and a man down.
I think everyone in the Imps camp was happy enough at half-time. We looked like a completely team to the one that last played at home against Northampton. Not everyone saw the Wycombe game, so for some it was the first evidence that the attacking football Skubala promised was coming and we got it yesterday for the first time at Sincil Bank.
The second half started with lots of Derby pressure. They were going to have a dominant period in the game, but we didn’t struggle to contain them. Jackson and Mitchell were excellent at the back, as was Roughan too. The Irishman has come under some criticism at times this season, but I thought in the left-side of the back-three moving into left-back in possession position, he was phenomenal. He kept Mendez-Laing quiet for the most-part and complimented his other defensive partners with his ability on the ball. Roughan is a quality player, and I think fans sometime forget that he’s still young as the for the past 18 months, for the most-part, he’s played like an experienced defender.
Taylor had our first chance of the second-half. Draper played the ball in behind, Taylor chased and found himself in on goal. The loanee chipped the ball over Vickers, who got a vital touch, before Cashin hooked the ball off the line.
Taylor had our next two chances as well. The first was a header, it was more of a half chance as it was one he was stretching to even make a connection with. The second was nicely worked with Draper and substitute Dylan Duffy involved. The ball ended up with Taylor, who tested Vickers once again in the Derby net.
After a controversial moment in the first-half, with the potential red card, there was another decision from the referee that angered the home fans. After some neat play from Roughan and Duffy on the left, Draper went down in the area after being clipped from behind. It’s another one that was 50/50, but it went Derby’s way with Draper booked for simulation and Taylor booked for dissent.
Jack Moylan made his home debut from the bench, and once again impressed in his brief cameo. Sorensen found him on the edge of the area, but the Irishman sliced his effort. He’s edging closer to a start, but after the performance we saw on Saturday, I don’t see Skubala changing the side against Peterborough, it’s a selection headache but that’s a good thing for a manager to have.
One final player I want to mention is Bishop. It’s his second 90 minutes in four games, which is great to see and he was excellent throughout. Regular readers will now how much I like the way Bishop plays, he’s a really talented footballer and, in my opinion, one of the best in the league when played in his best position. It’s reported that he’s out of contract in the summer, so the next four months is crucial for him but at the moment, he’s one of the first names on the team sheet for me.
Everyone on the pitch was excellent on Saturday, we matched Derby and could’ve even won it on another day. There were positives all over the pitch and I’m looking forward to us having a proper go at Peterborough next weekend!