Sunday, 9 October 2011

A temporary blogging hiatus

There will be a brief pause in my blogging during October while I go to spend a few weeks in China.  I will mainly be re-treading familiar territory in Beijing and Sichuan, but I am also getting the chance to venture up into Xinjiang (the mainly ethnic Muslim province in the far north-west), so I'll no doubt feel the urge to blog about my experiences and share a few photos of the stunning scenery on my return.

Sadly, of course, I'll also be missing some Imps matches, so I hope that the few remaining fans will give a little cheer on my behalf, and I'll hope to return to news of a healthier looking points haul (or perhaps even a new manager...)

In the meantime, I wish all my readers, new and old a very happy few weeks.  I'll leave you with a photo I took at the Louvre a few weeks ago.  I'll call it 'man contemplating trip to China.'

Tamworth v Lincoln City, 8th October 2011

Venue: The Lamb Ground, Tamworth
Attendance: 1,232
Final score: 4-0

I'm actually rather thankful that I had to go down to London, and therefore missed what seems to have been an abominable lack of performance from the Imps, based on what I've seen and heard since returning.

The Imps finished the match with 10 men in an embarrassing rout, and never looked like fighting their way back into contention.  The rot began in the 12th minutes when St Aimie rounded Anyon after being put through by a long ball.  On the hour mark, Sinclair was given his marching orders for a trip on St Aimie and a name from the past - Iyseden Christie - slotted home the penalty.  The final half hour was all one way traffic as Francis headed the third mere minutes later, before St Aimie got his second from close range in the 88th minute.  The bad animal puns come thick and fast - City were lambs to the slaughter at the Lamb Ground.  They put in a pig of a performance at Tamworth.

The cries for Steve Tilson to go are now as loud as they've ever been, and those who have defended him in the past, myself included, are now finding such a position harder and harder to justify.

The yoyo nature of recent performances and results make it difficult to see that the team is actually developing as they get to know each other, and the blame for that becomes more and more firmly planted on the shoulders of a manager who seems to have less ideas than anyone how to remedy the situation.

The problems with replacing him are twofold: firstly, if Tilson refuses to do the gentlemanly thing (which he seems inclined not to do), then vital funds will have to be spent paying him off, hampering the chances of the new manager strengthening the squad. Secondly, who on earth would the new manager be? It would have to be somebody who knows this league, and is a back to basics 'work them hard and get them organised and committed' type of manager.  God knows who that would be, but if the board is going to make a decision, it must surely make it soon. Every game that slips by leaves us closer to being adrift at the bottom.

The freefall that the club is in is terrifying and the thought of us slipping down yet another level too horrific to contemplate, yet the silence from the club is deafening. It's as if the board is keeping quiet in the hope that things will magically improve. For a supposed community club, the lack of any real comment or passion from the board is starting to worry me as much as the on-field problems.  It's as if the entire club is in some form of atrophy, and cannot jolt itself into decisive action.

I will actually miss the next month of games while I'm away in China, and to be honest I fear what the situation will be when I return.  In a sad way, being away from matches for a few weeks will be something of a blessing - as much as I dearly love to see a revival, my biggest fear is that I return to a club in the bottom four, and with the same man at the helm.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Lincoln City v Bath City, 1st October 2011

Venue: Sincil Bank, Lincoln 
Attendance: 2,244
Final score: 2-0

Lincoln went into this game against beleaguered Bath City on a hiding to nothing.  A win was expected, a draw or defeat a failure not to be contemplated.  Thankfully, duty was done, if not in quite the overwhelming fashion some might have hoped for.

Poor Bath City have been having a rather torrid start to the season, having amassed only 3 points from their opening 12 games, but with 2 of those coming from away draws, the Imps could not afford to be complacent, especially on a swelteringly hot day in which possession would be key.

City kicked off, and the tone for the match was almost set in the first minute, when Fuseini was allowed to keep going with the ball to the edge of the Bath box, with defenders backing off him, but could only scuff a weak shot wide of the target.

City continued to look comfortable, though poor passing was leading to possession being given away cheaply, and as the first half passed by, City were clearly the better side, but Anyon had been the busier keeper as Bath were lifting the ball into the box quickly, whereas as City were determined to be more patient with their build-up.

As has become almost expected in recent matches, it was McCallum who stood out as the player most likely to open up the opposition, and he was able to do just that on 19 minutes, when he dinked a chip into the box, to find Smith able to outjump his opponent and head the ball home despite the keeper getting a touch.  Regular readers will know that I have been critical of Smith in recent weeks, and he had talked in the Echo this week about players needing to step up and make things happen.  Despite being fairly anonymous up to that point in the game, strikers are judged by their goals, and this was an important one to settle City nerves.

Rather than spurring the Imps into life though, the goal did little to change the tempo of the game, and if anything Bath enjoyed some better possession.  Fortunately, the Imps were able to score a second goal on the break on 30 minutes.  McCallum received the ball just inside the Bath half and managed to keep ahead of the chasing defender as he entered the box, and put a neat shot over the despairing sprawl of the keeper to score his overdue first of the season.

City were lifted by the goal, and within minutes the keeper also had to make a good double save, first from Power, then from McCallum’s follow up.

Bath proved that they weren’t willing to fold, however, and actually finished the half strongest, first forcing Anyon into tipping a good dipping shot over the bar, then seeing the resulting corner end in a header hitting the outside of the post.

The second half began with the Imps attacking, and shortly after kickoff a superb curling effort from Power rebounded off the woodwork, but Gowling could only stab the rebound back to the grounded keeper.

The remainder of the game actually proved to be a rather more sedate affair, as City dozed in the afternoon heat, doing enough to keep the game safe, and Bath were unable to break their opponents down when they had the ball.

City were ultimately unable to put their opponents to the sword, but considering the heat, that cannot be too unexpected.  The final whistle blew to signal a third unbeaten home game for City, and a performance that, overall, left City fans going home happy.

One thing about the game got me thinking.  There is a general belief among Imps fans this season that we are accurate enough with our shooting, but that we simply don’t get enough shots away.  In essence, we have a lot of the ball in midfield, but can’t convert that possession into cold, hard, chances.  I therefore had a play with some of the statistics from the first 13 games of the season.

The graph below shows the number of shots on target and the number of goals that City have had this season.  Apart from a few blips, the team are actually taking as many shots as they were at the start of the season, and after a few blank games, the goals have returned as well.  In total, City have scored 11 goals from 76 shots on target - a ratio of 1 goal every 6.9 shots.

In contrast, the same figures for City’s opponents show that the ratios are quite similar – confirming that City’s games have all been close run things, as we know.

The telling statistic for me, however, is that our opponents have scored a goal for every 3.9 shots on target (16 goals from 62 shots on target) - twice as good a return as the Imps.

Perhaps its stating the obvious, but contrary to popular belief, it seems that its not the sheer number of shots that City are taking that we need to worry about, but that too many of them are not beating the keeper and ultimately we’re not making our opponents work hard enough for their goals.

1 Joe Anyon
13 Tony Sinclair
6 Danny Hone
5 Josh Gowling
3 John Nutter
8 Alan Power
10 Ali Fuseini
27 Jean-Francois Christophe
15 Simon Russell
14 Sam Smith
30 Gavin McCallum
23 Josh O'Keefe for Fuseini 76
19 Bradley Barraclough for McCallum 76
9 Kyle Perry for Smith 90+1
4 Adam Watts
17 Nicky Nicolau

1 Glyn Garner
5 Gethin Jones
24 Charlie Clough
26 Andy Gallinagh
19 Joe Burnell
21 Alex Russell
11 Lewis Hogg
16 Marc Canham
18 Marley Watkins
23 Ben Swallow
10 Lee Phillips
27 Sean Canham for Phillips 38
7 Scott Murray for Watkins 55
3 Paul Stonehouse for Burnell 61
4 Jim Rollo
15 Mark Preece