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Lincoln City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

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After The Final Whistle: ‘The Stacey West Blog’ chat in the aftermath of Lincoln 0-0 SAFC!

What do Lincoln fans think of the game Saturday gone, how Sunderland played, how we’ll fare for the rest of the season, and which players were most impressive? We chatted to Gary Hutchinson of the famous Stacey West Blog to find out...

Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

RR: So, now that the dust has settled following the game at the weekend, what’s your overall assessment of how it went?

GH: I think the game went well for us; let’s be honest, we should have been three or four down around the hour mark.

That’s not to say we played badly, this was one of those rare occasions where the opposition side played well, and we didn’t gift goals.

That’s been our problem you see; very few teams have been better than us this season, we’ve be the architects of our own downfall on so many occasions.

That wasn’t the case on Saturday; we took a draw from a game we probably deserved little from, but we fought and battled. You can’t ask for any more than that.

RR: All things considered, I imagine a point and a clean sheet isn’t a bad result for Lincoln?

GH: It’s our fourth clean sheet of the season, and was our second in eight days. That’s the problem, as I alluded to in the last answer; we’ve given so many teams a goal head start, or capitulated when winning, that it’s become a bit of a sick joke for supporters.

We’re a decent side; the ‘proper’ Lincoln is the side that beat you 3-1 at your place. To a degree, the same side went out this weekend against what I thought were an infinitely better Sunderland team.

You’re unlucky in a way; I don’t think there’s another side in the division that have faced us over 180 minutes and not seen the bad side!

We’ll definitely take a draw from this and move on.

RR: Lots of the talk going into the game was about the impact Chris Maguire could have on the game - do you think he played well enough?

GH: Not really, no. He’s got four goals this season in the league, three against you and the other one (against MK Dons) was a penalty.

Overall, that’s not a good enough return for a player of his magnitude, and I’m not convinced he’s entirely happy in his current role.

I thought he was committed at the weekend, but virtually anonymous for much of the game. The role he plays s crucial in our new 3-4-3 (which is almost a 3-4-1-2), he’s the link between the two forwards and the midfield.

It didn’t work for him against you, and our best spell came when we went to a flat 4-4-2 and the creative responsibility moved to other players as well.

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

RR: Lots of Sunderland fans feel we created enough chances to win the game - do you think Lincoln defended well?

GH: Absolutely, yeah, but you were very wasteful. I’ve said it all week; this is the best version of you we’ve faced since you’ve been in this division. Sadly, the final finish just wasn’t there for you, otherwise all of our stoic defending wouldn’t have mattered.

As you know, Jack Clarke missed a couple, and when you did get one on target, Jordan Wright pulled off a magnificent save.

I’d say this Sunderland side is 95% of the way to being capable of getting into the top two over a 6-game season; but it’s too late to click now. The same goes for us. We defended well, we fought hard, and if we’d done that in all of our previous 37 matches instead of just a few, we’d be in the same sort of position as Bolton right now.

RR: Near the end Anthony Patterson made a fantastic save to stop Lincoln taking the lead - tell me how you felt watching him claw that one out...

GH: The obvious answer is gutted, but that wouldn’t be accurate.

If that had gone in, we’d have needed a mask, gun and bag for the three points, because we would have robbed you. Of course, it would have been great to get three points, but honestly, my first thought was along the lines of ‘at least if that had gone in, a point looks safe’.

That’s how I felt against Sheff Weds; we went 3-1 up and my first thought was ‘3-3 s a right result here’. It’s not pessimism in its most obvious form, but there’s a certain amount of dark humour around our support right now. We know some of the reasons we’ve struggled (injuries being a big part), but clean sheets have eluded us.

When we look like scoring, it’s often viewed as a safety net, rather than a lead to defend. Maybe, with our performance against you, and Wimbledon the week before, things are turning.

We’ll ignore the two goals in a minute we gifted Rotherham between the two matches!

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

RR: Which Sunderland player impressed you most?

GH: Patrick Roberts, although I liked the full back, Cirkin as well.

The thing is you guys should have better players; you’re a bigger club with a better budget, and that’s not me bleating or moaning, it’s fact. If a player like Trai Hume has to choose between you and us, as he did this winter, he should chose you.

I expect to see a Sunderland team look much better than us, with better players worth more money, but the issue for you is we’ve not felt like that. This was the first time I saw Sunderland and thought ‘yep, they’re a different level to Lincoln’.

Roberts was a big part of that, but Jack Clarke looked superb as well, bar his finishing. I really liked Cirkin though, he got forward and had bags of energy; he’s a big one for the future. I guess the real shame for you guys is you have Roberts for six months, Clarke on loan and there’s no guarantee they’ll be back next season.

It’s a bit like we felt with Morgan Rogers and Brennan Johnson last season.

RR: Overall then, do you feel better or worse about the rest of the season on the back of that performance?

GH: Better, but not just because of this game, because of the whole week. We were poor against Wimbledon, and won (a minor miracle). We were poor in the first half against Rotherham, but won the second half 1-0 and showed we have the class to fight any team in this division. The game against you capped it off; we were under the cosh at times, but we weathered the storm and could have snatched it.

Sadly, players like Brooke Norton-Cuffy and Lewis Fiorini will go back to their parent clubs, Conor McGrandles will leave at the end of his current deal and the green shoots of recovery are just a taster of what might have been, had we remained injury-free and turned up for 90 minutes, week in, week out.

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