Defensive headache for Cowley as Lincoln labour to disappointing draw
by Matt Scrafton
In a week where UK news has been dominated by a debate on how best to defend our shores - with the vote on Trident - Imps boss Danny Cowley will have a similar headache over the state of his own backline.
The Imps' back four was as porous as a sieve against Gainsborough Trinity on Tuesday evening - eventually labouring to a 3-3 draw at Northolme.
They squandered an early 2-0 lead to head into half-time 3-2 down, in what can only be described as a hectic 45 minutes of football.
A superb second-half Matt Rhead turn and volley, which flew in the net in off the post, was enough to peg back the hosts. But Mr Cowley will not be satisfied.
Given Cowley, the former Braintree manager, was fuming to have conceded in the 88th minute during the 5-1 rout of Grantham - one can only imagine the fury directed towards the players during the half-time break.
To put it bluntly - and somewhat bleakly - the Imps conceded as many goals in 15 minutes as they had in the previous four games put together.
And it could have been worse.
The game began in lacklustre fashion, with the two sides favouring basic and fairly rigid 4-4-2 systems. However, it only took three minutes for the game to spark into life.
What first appeared to be an innocuous throw-in rapidly turned into an opening goal for the visitors, when Johnny Margetts continued his early pre-season form by letting the ball run across his body before launching a looping volley beyond the keeper's despairing dive.
Three minutes later, Margetts had doubled Lincoln's lead and his own tally - with an easy tap-in at the second attempt after the Trinity defence had failed to deal with a routine long throw into the box. They weren't the only culprits of that - but more on that later.
That's now seven goals in four games since the Doncaster-born hitman joined on a one-year deal. The 22-year-old also seemed to enjoy his return to Gainsborough, after netting ten times in 13 games for the National League North outfit on loan from Hull in 2014.
It wasn't long until Trinity were on the scoresheet. A straight-forward punt up the field by Gainsborough 'keeper Jonathan Hedge was flicked on into the path of Jacob Hazel, who fired into the bottom corner after shrugging off Bradley Wood.
Around ten minutes later, Margetts almost notched his hat-trick when he was sent through on goal via a clever flick by targetman Rhead, only to fluff his lines when the ball became stuck under his studs.
The Imps were forced to pay for that miss when their counterparts scored twice in quick succession to take the lead - and once again the defence was far too easily beaten on both occasions.
A curled finish from Liam Davis from inside the box put Trinity on level terms after uncertainty in the Imps' defence, and it was the number ten who profited again from stationary defenders as he stabbed home from close range - ignoring the appeals for offside as he calmly netted under no pressure.
Gainsborough did the basics well and Hazel and Davis linked up well at front. But they were allowed far too much space time and time again.
The second half was largely uneventful and the plethora of substitutions did little for the flow of the game.
The only highlight of note was Rhead's astute swivel and volley to equalise on 56 minutes - a timely reminder of the quality he possesses. He's far from the "big, awkward lump" that he's unfairly tagged with.
The draw brought an end to Lincoln's winning run, but tougher tests await Cowley's men.
Lincoln move on to another away tie at Lincoln United on Saturday, which will act as the semi-final of the Lincolnshire Cup, before facing League One side Peterborough United at Sincil Bank on Tuesday, July 26.
Let's hope the defence will have improved by then. As for Trident, let's hope that doesn't prove to be another costly mistake.
Richard Walton 5
Bradley Wood 5
Jamie McCombe 6 (Howe, 58)
Luke Waterfall 5
Lee Beevers 6
Elliott Hodge 5 (Muldoon, 52)
Taylor Miles 7 (Everington, 77)
Alan Power 6 (Stanley, 58)
James Caton 5 (Acar, 70)
Johnny Margetts 8
Matt Rhead 7 (Simmons, 61)