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Lincoln, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom
Senior news reporter at the Grimsby Telegraph, UEA History graduate, former BBC Kick Off sports reporter & Lincoln City fan.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Southport more than a match for sluggish Lincoln

Southport 2-2 Lincoln City
Haig Avenue, 13th August 2011.

Relegated Imps begin life in non-league with a hard fought 2-2 draw in Merseyside.

Written by Matt Scrafton

A new look Lincoln City side were forced to settle for a point at Haig Avenue this afternoon following a cagey encounter.

Lincoln, who twice took the lead through headed goals by summer signings Sam Smith and Kyle Perry, played some neat football in limited spells, yet were caused plenty of problems by a dogged home side. With the skillful brilliance of the mercurial talent, John Paul Kissock, Southport cut Lincoln open on more than the one occasion, with right-back Adam Watts feeling the full brunt of Kissock's unpredictable talent and incisive passing with a wayward performance.

Yet it was the Imps who took the lead on the half-hour mark, in front of 578 away fans, thanks to an instinctive corner from Russell, which was expertly placed on Sam Smith's head following Ali Fuseini's curling cross. This came after Southport had dominated the opening 15 minutes of the match, causing several disturbances amongst the City defence yet failed to beat Lincoln's Joe Anyon.

Southport deservedly drew level just a few minutes before the half-time whistle, in a half that they matched the visitors. Josh Gowling hacked down Kissock 25 yards from goal, and predictably the diminutive figure fired into the top corner away from Anyon's leaping dive.

Whilst the City fans entertained themselves baiting the local stewards, the two sides arrived back onto the pitch for the second half, both unchanged. Lincoln came rapidly out of the firing blocks, edging one ahead again thanks to Russell's superb delivery from the right wing, following good build-up play from the midfield. This time it was ex-Mansfield striker Kyle Perry who nodded in from a difficult angle.

Yet just as Lincoln fans were celebrating excitedly and expecting their side to go on and win the match comfortably, they were pegged back for the second time just four minutes later. Fuseini dithered with the ball dangerously just outside of the City box, and Kissock impulsively slid the ball in to winger Shaun Whalley behind Watts, who then cut inside the Lincoln centre-backs and fired home at Anyon's near post.

Both sides traded half chances towards the end of the game, but neither managed to find a way past their opposing 'goalkeepers, which brought an end to an entertaining game where both sides were satisfied to share the spoils of the opening day fixture.

Attendance: 1,687 (578 City supporters)

Lincoln Match Ratings:

Joe Anyon - 6/10 - Didn't do much wrong, although he only had 1 or 2 shots to deal with. Can't fault him on today's game & he couldn't have done much about either of the goals.

Adam Watts - 4/10 - Struggled with Southport's wingers and was caught out on numerous occasions.
Josh Gowling - 6/10 - Won his headers and dealt with the long ball pretty effectively. Not great with his distribution, however.
Danny Hone - 6/10 - As above.
John Nutter 6/10 - Wasn't tested too much down Southport's right side, so was pretty solid. Good crossing ability and supported well going forward.

Gavin McCallum - 7/10 - Rarely found space due to the narrow pitch, but beat his man consistently when he had the opportunity. Crossing was also good.
Ali Fuseini - 5/10 - At fault for their second and rarely found himself involved in the play despite the assist for City's opener.
Alan Power - 6/10 - Spread the play well at times, as seen for the Imps' second. But failed to stamp his mark on the midfield.
Sam Russell - 7/10 - Impressive delivery from wide positions, corners and free-kicks. Hasn't got the pace of McCallum but he provides something different.

Sam Smith - 7/10 - Held the ball up efficiently and worked well with Perry at times. Took his goal very well.
Kyle Perry - 8/10 - my MOTM today. Won the majority of his headers, pestered the Southport defence and headed home expertly.

Monday, 8 August 2011

A neutral's take on Coventry v Leicester

Coventry City 0-1 Leicester City
Ricoh Arena, 6th August 2011.

My first taste of the new football season took me to the Ricoh Arena, where the Sky Blues took on promotion favourites Leicester City. How did the two teams fare?

Written by Matt Scrafton.

A game that will be remembered for two malicious challenges, both deservedly resulting in red cards, marred an otherwise unspectacular, yet comfortable opening day victory for Leicester City.

Sven-Goran Eriksson's promotion favourites secured the bragging rights in Saturday's lunchtime East Midlands derby, thanks to a well guided header from summer recruit, right-back Lee Peltier. However, the typical post-match analysis on message boards and radio phone-in's tended to focus on the two red cards that were dished out in the opening half by referee Darren Deadman.

Darius Vassell was first to be given his marching orders, following a dangerous lunge into a studs-up challenge on defender, Richard Keogh. This was just after 10 minutes, and seemingly Coventry now had a perfect opportunity to gain a surprise victory over their millionaire rivals. However, the aptly named Deadman returned the favour and sent off Coventry midfielder Carl Baker, following a robust, over-the-ball challenge on Richie Wellens not long before half-time. As if the 'tackle' wasn't enough on it's own to justify a red card, the sight of Kasper Schmeichel rushing 30 yards from his goal-line certainly made up the referee's mind.

But there was a game of football to be played, and Leicester efficiently went about their business while Coventry struggled to penetrate the visitors' sturdy defence and midfield. Gelsen Fernandes protected the back four superbly, proving just what an astute purchase most of us already knew he would be. On the rare occasion the lacklustre Coventry midfield found themselves behind the protective midfield shield, the Foxes defence was more than capable of keeping them at bay.

Richie Wellens sprawled on the floor in 'agony' following Baker's poor challenge

Although striker Lukas Jutkiewicz worked tirelessly up front on his own, and youngsters Gael Bigirimana and Cyrus Christie showed glimpses of promise, Coventry looked entirely unimpressive. Whilst they remained tidy and patient with their build-up play, they rarely found themselves in promising positions. And when they did, they were limited to long range pot shots at goal, which Schmeichel had no problems dealing with. It says a lot that the loudest cheer of the day that emanated from the home end was for a stray squirrel that managed to entertain the Ricoh crowd for all of 40 seconds or so.

Admittedly, you can't draw too many conclusions from an opening day fixture and certainly not against a club that should be aiming for the title this season. On the face of it, a 1-0 defeat to a side that has spent almost £10million is nothing to be ashamed of, and the Sky Blues certainly held their own. Aside from Peltier's headed goal, Leicester only had one or two opportunities for themselves; the most obvious of which rooted Joe Murphy to his line as Nugent's superb header bounced back across the line after striking the post. However, there was nothing on display that changed my pre-match opinion regarding the likelihood of Coventry struggling for Championship survival this campaign.

As for Leicester, they strike me as a Championship replica of Man City. For a club that has spent so much, you might expect a more expansive, exciting side that would go on to sweep away sides like Coventry 3 or 4-0. As we all know, that's never a realistic expectation and Eriksson knows that better than anyone. Instead, judging from Saturday's game it seems Leicester will be a ruthlessly effective side that will 'get the job done', to quote an age old footballing cliche. The Foxes have sufficient quality to edge out most Championship sides, and if Sven manages to capture one of his current striking targets - Nicky Maynard or Shane Long - then it's difficult to imagine anyone getting in the way of their title pursuit.

Although this fixture only served to wet my appetite for a real football game (I had to eat and drink in Tesco Express, for god's sake!), it made a nice change to see talented footballers like Gelsen Fernandes and Matt Mills, and a smart stadium (albeit bland, and nothing compared to your more traditional stadia).