Lincoln City picked up their first home win since October on Saturday, beating Fleetwood Town.
Michael Skubala named a few changes to the side that faced Burton Albion last weekend, mostly due to suspension and injury. Lukas Jensen started in goal after keeping his 11th clean sheet of the season against Burton. Sean Roughan and Adam Jackson started in defence, while Paudie O’Connor replaced the suspended Alex Mitchell. The almost ever-present Lasse Sorensen retained his place, as did Reeco Hackett. Conor McGrandles came into the side for his first start since rejoining the Imps on Deadline Day, replacing Ethan Hamilton. Ted Bishop and Ethan Erahahon supported the Scotsman in midfield. Joe Taylor came back into the side after being an unused substitute against Burton and Ben House started for the first time since August, in the latest step of his recovery.
Freddie Draper missed out on the squad because of a late precautionary call after an injury in training. Skubala also confirmed that Hamilton also missed out with injury, the midfielder has gone to see a specialist – the severity of the injury is not known yet.
I didn’t think we started the game too badly. Fleetwood had a clear game plan, which was to use Jayden Stockley as an out-ball and utilise that to hurt us with the pace they’ve got in behind. To be honest, I don’t think they’ll stay up this season and that’s no disrespect Charlie Adam as I think he’s done a good job since he’s come in but his predecessors have left him a massive job to do. Even after the last two wins, they’ll still a decent amount of points off survival.
We didn’t start the game badly as I’ve seen some people say but the first real chance of the game went Fleetwood’s way, and it a bit of a mess at the back. A long ball pumped up to Stockley from the back, dragging out Jackson from the backline. His flick-on found Promise Omochere but it shouldn’t have reached the striker. Jensen and Roughan couldn’t decide what to do with the ball, which gave Omochere a chance to go round the goalkeeper and put Fleetwood into the lead.
I’ve heard fans say we were poor in the first half, but I didn’t think it was as bad as people made out. We got some good deliveries into the box, especially from Reeco, and we tried to get forward at every given opportunity. We had a great chance before the end of the half and could’ve gone in level. A ball in behind found Taylor, but the striker put his effort just wide of the post.
The game then changed in just a few seconds. House blocked Stockley’s run on the edge of the area, and both players fell to the floor causing both teams to get involved in a melee. After things had calmed down, the referee gave out a number of yellow cards. I’m not too sure what happened, many people have said mistaken identity, which is what I thought it initially was but I had completely forgot that Lawal was already booked for a foul on Bishop earlier in the half. No one really knows what went on in the melee, but he was a part of it and getting involved in it on a yellow card isn’t a smart decision.
I’m not entirely sure what happened on the pitch but many think Omochere was meant to be booked because of his coming together with Erhahon. I don’t think any of us will ever know what happened, because the only one who will know if it was a mistake will be the referee and unless we get some sort of statement come out we’ll never know.
I thought we did well in the first half, but we came out in the second looking so much better. Of course, the circumstances played into our hands with the sending off, but as we learned at Burton, it’s not easy playing against ten men. It sometimes makes the game harder, especially if the opposition have something to defend, which Fleetwood did.
Despite having a lead to defend, we equalised just under ten minutes after the break and the goal was a lovely move. Roughan plays a ball into Reeco on the left, and the former Pompey man delivered a delicious ball into the area, meeting the head of a leaping House. The striker that we’ve craved for so long since his injury marked his first start upon returning to the fold with an incredible header placed past the keeper.
We were level and we weren’t stopping there, the players ran back to the halfway line as we aimed to secure all three points and make it two wins from two. Four minutes later, we got that goal. Bishop played an exceptional ball through to Hackett. The winger beat his man and delivered a dangerous ball into the box. The cross was headed away initially by a Fleetwood defender but it caused problems in the 18-yard box and fell to Lasse, who smashed the ball home under the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. This time there were celebrations from the players, and after such a tough period over the past few months, it was a moment to savour.
Fleetwood had a chance to level proceedings just a few minutes after our goal through Stockley. Jensen made up for his error earlier in the match, with a big save from close range, but despite us taking the lead, we still wanted more and had the better chances in the final thirty minutes of the game.
Bishop curled an effort over the bar after a nice piece of play on the right. Eyoma and Roughan linked up well in the attacking third, but the latter’s effort was saved by Joel Lynch in goal. McGrandles also nearly scored, but the Scot’s shot was saved magnificently by the keeper, with the effort looking destined for the net. We were having chances, and it was exciting football. It was exactly what Skubala promised when he came in.
One of the only negatives happened in the final 15 minutes, Jackson was the victim of a Stockley elbow, which now looks like the cause of a broken nose for the defender. Somehow the striker got away with it, leaving our man potentially out for a few games. Eyoma came on to replace him, and if Jackson is out now for a few weeks, he once again has a massive chance to get his place back in the team. Jackson will be a loss though, if he does miss a few games, because he’s been our best player this season.
The added time went quite quickly, mostly down to the fact we were rarely threatened by the Fleetwood attack in the second half. We did everything right on Saturday, the first half performance wasn’t good enough in some peoples eyes but the signs were there and in the second half we showed our quality.
Teddy was outstanding in midfield. I’ve waxed lyrical about the midfielder for a few years now and I truly believe he is one of the best in the division. He’s a Championship midfielder, and now he is getting a run of games in his position without injury, he’s showing that. I lost count of the amount of times he was fouled yesterday because Fleetwood couldn’t get him off the ball. It’s reported he’s out of contract at the end of the year. If that is true, we need him signed up to a new deal as soon as possible. I was impressed with McGrandles on his return to Sincil Bank too, he worked exceptionally hard as we expect and could’ve scored too. Erhahon looks back to his best, backing up his recent performances. House and Hackett being back in the side is massive for us, and we’ve really reaped the rewards of that recently. I really hope Taylor scores in the next few games as I like him a lot, but you feel with Draper to come back in and House back to full fitness alongside Jack Moylan as well, there’s lots of competition in them forward areas.
I feel like it’s worth mentioning Lasse as well. He was excellent yesterday and took his goal really well. Again, another player that’s listed as out of contract by many transfer websites. We need him on a new deal. The fans love him, and he loves it here so that’s a no brainer. Roughan was good too – I actually feel like he’s playing the best football of his Imps career to date under Skubala after looking really out of favour when the new head coach came in.
I’m optimistic and I think a playoff charge is still possible. It’s a big ask but if we pick up seven points from the next three games, then who knows what could happen. It happens every season, there is always a team that puts together a run late in the season, why can’t that be us because I have every confidence that we can pick up enough points to do it, if we keep injury free.
Charlton on Tuesday will be an interesting game to say the least. I’m looking forward to it, and hopefully we pick up all three points down in the capital to continue this good run.