OPINION: Lincoln City 2 Fleetwood Town 0

Lincoln City's Jack Payne and Harry Toffolo (3) vie for possession with Fleetwood Town's Peter Clarke
Lincoln City's Jack Payne and Harry Toffolo (3) vie for possession with Fleetwood Town's Peter Clarke

If Joey Barton felt Fleetwood Town taught Lincoln City about League One and competing at the top end of the division, then it was the Imps who showed Town a thing or two at Sincil Bank.

If Joey Barton felt Fleetwood Town taught Lincoln City about League One and competing at the top end of the division, then it was the Imps who showed Town a thing or two at Sincil Bank.

While Town played some of the best possession football seen thus far this season – and dominated before Lincoln forward Tyler Walker’s quickfire double – they lacked end product.

Lincoln defended resolutely, limited Town to just a few opportunities, and then punished them for tame defending.

Surely the team teaching a lesson was Danny Cowley’s newly-promoted side?

They illustrated what we have seen from League One from the last five years; that games of football in this division are won in both boxes – and Town lost out in both.

Yes Fleetwood dominated the opening 30 minutes but what did they have to show for it?

Multiple offside decisions, Harrison Biggins’ wayward effort from distance and Josh Morris’ shot off target.

There were certainly no efforts on target – through no fault of Paddy Madden and company.

Town, on the other hand, would be their own undoing though Walker’s first goal was a delight to watch with diving headers one of football’s greatest arts.

That first goal showed the cracks in Town’s defence, another one coming from the right flank.

Jorge Grant’s looping ball from deep inside his own half found Town’s right-flank in trouble.

With the Imps in their own half, Town were primed for the press and that long ball caught them on the back foot.

Wes Burns was understandably up the pitch and Lewie Coyle was not quick enough to close down Harry Toffolo.

Grant’s long ball needed just two touches from Toffolo to pick the ball out of the air and then whip the ball into the mix with Coyle still racing back in his attempt to stop the cross.

Barton felt Harry Souttar should have given Peter Clarke more warning as Walker got ahead of him to nod home.

It was a sublime diving heade but, from the Fleetwood perspective, it was simple defending as Clarke should have not allowed Walker to meet that ball first.

The second goal came in a matter of minutes and, again, it was the basics.

From the restart, a loose ball fell to Callum Connolly in Lincoln’s half.

His curling ball cut through Town’s defence with Walker positioned expertly on the shoulder of their backline.

Clarke was too slow to get back and Coyle not quick enough to get a foot in as Walker coolly slotted the ball home.

Walker’s two goals were well taken but Town cannot defend like that in the build-up.

They’d had the stuffing knocked out of them by that first goal but there was no excuse for being cut open through the middle like that.

Of the nine goals Town have conceded, seven have come from their right flank.

Does that offer questions of Coyle or their 4-3-3 formation?

Town want to play with width but the midfield never seems to be around to help Coyle.

Though he does get more support when Burns fills that right-wing slot the chopping and changing of Morris and Burns either side of Madden not only confuses the opposition defence but Town as well.

Barton had made one change, removing Ash Hunter (right) and putting Harrison Biggins into the starting XI.

While Biggins aided Town’s possession football it was when Hunter returned to the side that a toothless Town truly looked capable of recovering from that two goal blow.

The introduction of Ched Evans at the break for Clarke and the shift from 4-3-3 to 3-5-2 also aided Town.

A later switch to 4-4-2 and a new central defensive role for Coyle allowed Hunter and Morris more room on the wings, though it was Lincoln who looked more potent in attack.

Harry Anderson somehow fired over unmarked at the back post after another teasing cross from the left.

Fleetwood had chances with Madden, Hunter and Jordan Rossiter all wasting chances.

It was Lincoln had the more clear-cut opportunities with substitute John Akinde poking a Toffolo cross towards goal but Souttar was on the line to clear.

That was solid defending from a man who will now be jetting off to join Australia on international duty.

Town’s day in attack would be summed up by a late chance.

A Morris effort from distance thundered towards the unmarked Madden but his header flew tamely to the right of the six-yard box.

Minutes before that Evans had pounced after good work from Burns and Kyle Dempsey in the build-up but his effort skimmed the post and went wide.

Had that gone in, then the momentum would have been with Town.

There were plenty of positives, including the cameos of Dempsey, Hunter and Evans who are pushing for starts.

Once again, there were errors at the back, but with Souttar on international duty for the next two games Ash Eastham will get his chance to stake his claim.

Town looked more of a threat with Hunter on the pitch, while they also found more bite and attacking flair with Dempsey in the middle.

Fleetwood did teach Lincoln a lesson about League One; fancy football will get you nowhere if you cannot do the basics and find an end product – but it is Town who need to learn.