The Imps continued their unbeaten run on Tuesday night, with a convincing victory at Sincil Bank against Shrewsbury Town.

Michael Skubala named a few changes to the side that won at Port Vale the previous Saturday. Lukas Jensen started in goal, behind Sean Roughan, Paudie O’Connor and Alex Mitchell. Lasse Sorensen and Reeco Hackett started as wing-backs, while Conor McGrandles continued in the midfield alongside Ted Bishop and Ethan Erhahon. Joe Taylor started up front after 2 goals in the last 2 games alongside Ben House, who came back in after missing Saturday with an illness. There was some good news on the bench too. Freddie Draper returned to the matchday squad much sooner than I anticipated. 

The feeling going into the game was one of hope. Talk of the playoffs has increased over the past few days following a great win at Port Vale, and everyone saw Tuesday as the first of two steps (the other being Stevenage) to being in real contention going into the last few weeks of the season. We haven’t had a league game in a long time that felt like this, purely because we’ve been mid table in League One over the past few years. Despite fears of relegation around Christmas during the 21/22 season, any level headed fan knew deep down it wasn’t going to happen and we were more or less safe by March and in 22/23 we were only playing for top half. Tuesday felt like a proper game, something was riding on it. The last time we had a game like it, with fans in the stadium, was probably in the League Two promotion year.

Credit: Graham Burrell

Shrewsbury always seem to be a tough opponent for us. Our last two wins against them have been 1-0 wins in tight games. Our game at their place earlier in the season was a tough battle that could’ve gone either way but that sunny day in August feels like such a long time ago. Without being disrespectful Shrewsbury have probably not kicked on how they would’ve liked and we’ve been on the right path but gone through a lot to get there. Either way though, they held Derby to a draw away from home earlier in the month and came to Sincil Bank fresh off the back of a great win against Reading.

I like to give teams credit in the build up to games as League One is such a tough league to predict. Anyone can beat anyone on their day, but I doubt anyone could’ve beaten us on Tuesday night.

I thought we’d need an early goal to settle us down because with Shrewsbury’s goalscoring record, I didn’t see us dropping points if we were to go into the lead. We did exactly what I wanted us to do. A corner from Hackett was headed back across goal. It was scrappy in the 18 yard box with a few players swinging their boots at the ball but Bishop popped up and kept his composure to slide the ball into the back of the net.

We could’ve scored 3 or 4 in the first half. Bishop nearly got his second of the game just a few minutes later, but his free-kick flashed wide of the post. A corner from the opposite side to the goal nearly went straight in, while House should’ve had one late in the half after he made space for himself in the box but just rushed his shot.

Credit: Graham Burrell

Shrewsbury couldn’t live with us, in and out of possession. Every time the visitors had the ball at the back, they didn’t look comfortable and we took advantage of that. House is a massive asset to this football club, and I think last night was his best out of possession performance since coming back from injury. It wasn’t just House though, Taylor put in the hard graft too, along with Hackett. The forward line pressed extremely well and the visitors had no answer. When they did go long, one of Mitchell, O’Connor or Roughan won it straight back in the air. 

There wasn’t a single opposition player that could get near Bishop in the middle. The former Ipswich man may have got a goal, but his performance was so much more than just that. Everything he’s shown us in recent weeks was once again on show. He was the creative force, and he links up with Hackett so well too. We know the quality that Bishop has, and to see it like this on a constant basis is so satisfying.

I’ve seen calls that Shrewsbury were by far the worst team we’ve seen at Sincil Bank all season. While I agree that statement is probably accurate, I think we punished them for their mistakes. Look at other home games this season as an example. Burton were really poor, but even up until Danny Mandroiu’s red card we were just as bad. Even in our win against Cheltenham, we could’ve kicked on and won the game by more, but we didn’t create enough after going two in front. You have to beat what is put in front of you, and how many times have we talked about a team being awful but they somehow come away with a point. Shrewsbury weren’t great on Tuesday night, but we were fantastic. 

Credit: Graham Burrell

The second half started much like the first, with Skubala’s Imps on top. Hackett should’ve ended the game as a contest really early in the half, after a superb ball by Erhahon played him through on goal. The winger just dragged his effort wide but Reeco wanted his goal and got it just a few minutes later.

Erhahon won the ball back in the middle from Jack Hinchy, before playing the ball through to Taylor. The loanee striker played a clever back-heel into Hackett, who fired a first time effort past the Salop keeper at his near post. The chances kept coming after the goal. Taylor had a shot saved, before Hackett nearly had another to add to his tally of six for the season.

Our third of the evening came from a penalty but it wasn’t as simple as it sounds. House was taken down by the keeper, leaving the referee with no choice but to award a penalty. Bishop stepped up and missed the spot-kick, hitting the post (potentially with a touch from the goalkeeper). The Shrewsbury defender cleared his lines but only as far as Sorensen on the right. The Dane attempted to lift a cross into the area, but it evaded everyone and went over the keepers’ head and into the back the net. He certainly didn’t mean it, but it was a third on a night where City could’ve had 5 or 6.

Credit: Graham Burrell

This is where I normally single out players for praise, but if I did do that I’d be writing for hours. Everyone was on top of their game on Tuesday night, it was a real team performance. Jensen made a big save in the opening few minutes, the back-line stayed strong and posed a threat from attacking set pieces. The wing-backs both scored and put in top performances, while the midfield three probably all had one of their best games for the club. Taylor was on top form once again, and did everything but score and House was so important for us in terms of creating chances.

The talk of playoffs is what is on everyones lips and while I want to remain grounded, it’s hard to do that. We are playing some great stuff and like I’ve said in match reviews over the past few weeks, why can’t we get involved because at the moment we simply don’t look like a team that will lose. Saturday is a massive game, if we can reduce that gap to 5, we are in with a massive chance. 

Skubala is the best thing that has happened to use post Cowley and I don’t say that lightly. The appointment was questioned, but I feel we are only seeing glimpses of what he’s capable of as Lincoln City head coach. This feels like the beginning of something special.

By Joe Briley

AllLincoln Site Owner.