This article is part of Football League World’s ‘Comment’ series, this content strand is where the author of the article issues their personal opinion on the topic at hand….
To the casual observer, this weekend’s clash between Lincoln City and Bristol Rovers is a banker; the Imps have won all three of their matches so far this season.
On the other hand, the Pirates have lost all three of their away fixtures, failing to score a goal in any of the games. Graham Coughlan’s side seems to focus on not getting beaten, which isn’t working out well for them.
His recruitment was very defensive focused and he’s likely to travel to Lincoln looking to sit deeper, defend against their slick attackers and maybe hit them on the break. That approach might not be the best way to beat the Imps.
The game has taken on a new dimension as Lincoln manager Danny Cowley has left the club, moving to Huddersfield Town. Whilst caretakers Jamie McCombe and Andy Warrington will be looking for continuity, it’s likely to be tough for the Imps to remain focused and as effective as they have been in recent weeks.
They still carry a real threat going forward, they’ll have Joe Morrell back from Wales duty and likely feature Everton’s Callum Connolly in the middle of the pitch as well. However, despite the array of talent they have at their disposal, Bristol Rovers could do worse than go on the offensive.
Even the least studious of coaches know the approach an opponent is likely to take. Lincoln’s backroom staff will have watched the Gas away from home, saw them trying unsuccessfully to keep it tight and formed a game plan based on that.
Usually, away from home, Rovers go defensive. They were 5-3-2 when they lost to Burton the other week and that’s a sure way to draw Lincoln into peppering their goal. The Imps like the ball out wide, they overload full backs and can control the midfield in this setup. Only a long ball to Nichols or Clarke-Harris will relieve the pressure and then it’s up to Michael Bostwick and Jason Shackell to deal with the threat, which they will.
However, if Rovers matched fire with fire, going to a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-2, then they might find success. Dropping Tom Nichols might be an idea too, Tyler Smith would give the defenders a different element to consider; pace. Lincoln don’t have a lot at the back and if they’re expecting to be dealing with long balls and deep defenders, it might pay dividends to surprise them.
It could backfire of course; go too adventurous and Jack Payne will thrive behind Tyler Walker. The Imps will bring their wide players into the channels and it could be a feeding frenzy. However, with no goals and no points to show for their previous excursions out, what have the Gas really got to lose?
If they play their cards right, they could ruin everyone’s accumulators this weekend.