Well, it’s a start at least. It might not be the 3 points that United so desperately needed, and it’s not that a point at a struggling Lincoln side will keep us up. Far from it. But walking away from Sincil Bank on Saturday, it was hard not to feel the small glimmers of some optimism creeping through.
After Shrewsbury racked up the goals last weekend and put United down to a humiliating and worrying defeat last weekend, you’d be forgiven for thinking the nails were being hammered one by one into the relegation coffin. Each strike another blow signalling the end of our short spell back in League One. Saturday’s draw was that one small step to showing there is more to this side than we have seen in the past few months, and our business over the January window, along with the return of a handful of crucial players, has only gone further in proving that.
The performance itself was solid. Despite a desperately poor football match, the U’s gave themselves a decent amount of credit. Mitov’s influence didn’t go unnoticed, his presence starting to reinstall the signature personality of Bonner’s United sides. Jones was back to his imperious best, a player that will be absolutely crucial for us and looks like the full package of a centre half – someone that we can almost guarantee has bigger and better things ahead of him regardless of our final place this season. Bennett (Ryan) and the returning local boy Morro alongside him looked absurdly assured. Their experience could well be the crucial factor to an extra few points that makes the difference come May 7th. Bennett (Liam) as dangerous as ever, and Brophy matching him on the other side with some threatening breaks into opposition territory. In midfield, Mcgrandles provided a bit more grit and nous, suring up a backline that has been leaking goals at the rate of a dam exploding.
Granted, going forward we left a lot to be desired. Smith had a very good shot saved first half, and young L. Bennett managed to create a few moments of excitement when he beat his man, only for nothing to materialise. The inclusion of Ben Worman is one that raised eyebrows pre-game, and despite having not put in a terrible performance at all, his lack of influence on the game was slightly frustrating. In a system like this, that third central midfielder role shoulders a lot of responsibility for being able to move the side up the pitch and break open the backline. And with Lancaster on the bench, it felt like maybe we had slightly better options to try and do that with.
One point to note in the attacking areas is the return of Fejiri. A player blighted by injuries but whose goalscoring at this level speaks for itself, he could be someone we hope to see a lot more of playing alongside Smith in a front two that we can hopefully rely on to be very potent given a decent level of service.
Aside from an analytical look at the performance, which as mentioned does provide some reasons to be cheerful, I’d point more at an undefinable sense of unity in the away end. It felt like the 800 strong following showed a real sense of togetherness with the squad and staff – a realisation that, despite what’s happened over the past few months, we’re all in this together. Every single person associated with the football club wants nothing more than survival, and nearing the end of a positive transfer window, there’s nothing more we can do as a fanbase than to try and impact games in that way.
Bonner has spoken recently about our 20 game season, and it continues next week at home to Ipswich in our “local game that is definitely not a derby”. A point at Lincoln and a renewed sense of togetherness and optimism is all well and good if you can back it up with something. If we can take anything from next week, we’ll have done just that, and the narrative can really start to shift as we look to attack the next 18 games after that.
Man of the Match: Most were a 5/6 out of 10, but Liam Bennett can have it (again) this week.
Soundtrack of the Match: Arlo Parks – Hope
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