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Five Things From An Encouraging Draw At Lincoln City

No repeat of Wycombe away, but still a good afternoon for Reading on the road, thanks to a point at Sincil Bank.

Lincoln City v Reading - Sky Bet League One Photo by Andrew Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Robbed

There are little things, when being a football fan, that you tend to rely on when analysing any situation - those being perspective and a view of the bigger picture. Without them it’s very easy to go too microscopic and just label everything as perennially sh*t because it has been sh*t, so everything still must be… sh*t, right?

If you take those elements added in with a little dash of because of certain other situations within the club, then this result can still be seen as a very positive one with the broader view in mind. In the narrower view, it is two points lost. Both things can still be true.

It’s a rather novel feeling to come away from an away fixture feeling that we were robbed, but we most certainly were. To come away from Lincolnshire with just one goal, versus the four times (if you’re being properly pedantic) we had the ball in the net, then it’s a tough one to square away.

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We had a staggering amount of possession (66%) considering we don’t play a possession game. Lincoln City didn’t register a single shot on goal either. (Cue the gnashing of teeth that they still managed to score, however). But by any measure of the game, apart from the ultimate scoreline, we were the better side. There’s no doubting that.

It was one of those fixtures when, looking back, you’d think “how the hell are Lincoln ninth in the table?”. Apparently they were without options up top, but still, there was little in their overall play to indicate that they should be up there with the likes of Barnsley and Oxf*rd that we had just played and didn’t look a million miles away from those teams ourselves.

So maybe, in fairness to ourselves, we’re now trending above our league position instead of being one of the worst teams in the division and are well worthy of being there. Now, that doomed outlook doesn’t seem to be the case. Our relatively improving form is slowly taking shape and the statistics are backing that up.

Lincoln City v Reading - Sky Bet League One Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

It is now very pleasing to see a familiar team week in week out. A lot of positions are nailed down and, as most fans with perspective will tell you, a settled side with fewer distractions will benefit from this stability accordingly.

Depth

We have a spine in the side, finally, that looks the part and doesn’t resemble a drunken Lego construction on Christmas Day. It’s a spine that has a fair bit of experience mixed in with some much-needed youthfulness.

From David Button to Nelson Abbey, to Michael Craig, to Lewis Wing, to Harvey Knibbs and to Sam Smith - these names would look out of place if they were missing from the team sheet. Coupled with the wider roles of Andy Yiadom, Femi Azeez and, latterly, Jeriel Dorsett. They all are the de facto first choices now and there are fewer reasons to chop and change from these boys.

Yes, we can definitely want for Caylan Vickers, Charlie Savage and Ben Elliott to get berths but we know they’ve got some physicality issues to contend with before they can dislodge any of the current midfield. Of course, Tyler Bindon deserves to be in the mix too, but we have to remember that he’s only 18. We did have Dom Ballard and we do have Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan to mix things up top, but again, both of those options are inexperienced and one of them we won’t see play again.

Aside from the striking positions, we do have decent strength in depth. Decent, but not earth-shattering. We don’t have the luxury of genuine like-for-like replacements, but, you know, perspective and all that.

All of the above, in tandem with a formation that the team is fully behind and settled with, underlines the improvement lately. Aside from individual errors and our inability to deal with crosses, we’re looking a lot better, the shape is more solid and more partnerships are beginning to form.

If we take the last two games into consideration, hmm, let’s call it perspective, we’ve had just ONE shot on target against us in two games! If you take the average position of those two teams, it’s about seventh.

Lincoln City v Reading - Sky Bet League One Photo by Andrew Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

When you look at it like that, it can’t be a bad thing, right? It’s easy to say we should be winning these games, but based on what? The teams we have played, by and large this season, have vastly more experience at this level with squads that are far more stable than ours and, needless to say, with clubs that don’t have the tennis balls or turmoil to contend with either. The further improvement will come when we are more of a danger down the left flank as we are down the right with Azeez.

Composed

These improvements are small but they are incremental. Knibbs epitomises this entirely. HIs shift from out wide in the lamented 4-2-2-2 to playing as near as a 10 as we’re likely to see is paying off with regular goals. With 10 now in all competitions, he’s already bettered his goal return of last season and it’s still December. He’s almost ever-present with only Button having played more minutes than him.

He took his goal very well after a delightfully weighted through ball from Dorsett, who himself is showing his own improvement since arriving on the first-team scene. In isolation, but with *cough* perspective, it’s small things, like this unlikely assist to composed finishes, that show the improvement.

The overall confidence in the squad is growing and that is a factor which has been sorely missing from our game. Have it and you’re onto a good thing; without it, you’re going in the wrong direction.

It’s not perfect, we know it can’t be perfect but we can’t expect it to be perfect. We’re in League One for a reason and this squad will have and does have its limitations, but there are reasons that trickle down from the very top that define this. You could call it… perspective.

Festive

The proof will be in the selection box of festive fixtures that will put our recent performance progression to the test. With key games against teams in the lower half and basement of the division, it’s a very good time to rack up some wins to hopefully bounce ourselves out of the bottom positions and into more rarified air.

It certainly won’t be an easy task, but there’s plenty of reasons and, dare I say it, perspectives that show that we’re perfectly capable of doing so.