Where do we start with that then? From twenty six seconds in, it was clear it wasn’t going to be United’s day, as Anthony Scully and Lincoln City tore us apart time and time again. There’s a few things that didn’t go right for us, on the latest podcast Tom described it as a perfect storm of things working out for Lincoln, and nothing going our way.
Bonner set up in a 4-4-2 formation, Ironside pairing Sam Smith up front, at the expense of James Brophy who dropped to the bench. Shilow Tracey and Wes flanked the central midfield duo of O’Neil and Digby, whilst the defence was unchanged. Lincoln hadn’t won in three games, and United were on the back of two clean sheets at home in a row, against fancied opposition.
I’m not sure we need to look too much in detail at what happened, we were all there, we’ve seen the highlights on YouTube. Put simply, the early goal had United on the back foot, and 4-4-2 doesn’t work for us when we’re chasing a game. We know why we set up like that (whatever you think, one up front isn’t always a negative formation), but we were too slow to change that once it was clear after about fifteen minutes that is wasn’t going to work. We’ve got to remember that Bonner is still a relative rookie to this job – he’s taken charge of less than sixty games for United, and he’s going to make mistakes. He has enough credit in the bank for us not to dig him out on that (and we should remember what he’s achieved here next time we think about booing the team off at half time), and he’s shown us in the past he learns from his errors. The fact is, Lincoln are a good side, despite their recent form, with good players. They were in the playoffs last year, and only closely defeated in the final for promotion to the Championship. We’re going to come up against a number of good sides this season, and in all honesty; we’ll probably lose heavily a couple more times before May.
Certain players yesterday had difficult afternoons, Williams suffered a torrid game against their wingers, same with Iredale and both will know they need to do better in future. Shilow Tracey was frustrating, having forgotten the defensive discipline he showed against Bolton leaving Williams constantly exposed, O’Neil and Digby couldn’t make any mark on the game, and Sam Smith might as well have not been there – I can’t remember him doing anything of note at all. But these players have also put it all on the line for the U’s, last season and already this season. Look at their reaction as a group, heads didn’t drop, tempers didn’t flare over. This is a team that will bounce back from this, you can tell they all have kind of mentality, and Bonner has shown he won’t stand for anything less.
We go to Portsmouth next, another difficult game, but play to our strengths as we did against Bolton and there’s no reason we can’t come away with something. We need to adjust our expectations a bit this season – if we lose heavily trying to play an attacking game (and for what it’s worth, we had 14 shots against Lincoln, hitting the bar in the last minutes) then maybe we have to try and play ugly in order to get the points we need to survive. The Bolton game wasn’t a pretty sight, but it was a hell of a lot more enjoyable than getting stuffed by Lincoln.
Man of the Match: It’s got to be Anthony Scully hasn’t it? Two goals, assists for the other three, one of the best performances by an away player at the Abbey. From United, Mitov stopped it being six or seven and Ironside never gave up, but no-one really shone on a difficult day.
Soundtrack of the Match: Sonic Youth – Shoot
United: Mitov, Williams, Jones, Masterson, Iredale, Tracey (Lankester), Digby (Weir), O’Neil, Hoolahan (Knibbs), Smith, Ironside
We try and make sense of what happened in the latest episode of the UTAS Podcast, listen below