New Lincoln City coach Michael Skubala has identified one area he feels his new team needs to ‘learn quickly’ after their defeat at the weekend.
Skubala took charge of his first match on Saturday as the Imps travelled to Stevenage. They dominated possession in the first half, but a tactical tweak by Steve Evans saw the home side gain the upper hand, eventually scoring the only goal of the game from a corner midway through the second period.
After the game, Skubala, who has previously been caretaker boss at Leeds, said that his team needed to be stronger and more streetwise in key moments if they were to win such encounters.
“We need to get physically stronger; there’s no doubt about that,” he said after their defeat. “That takes time; it’s not something you can just flick a button on.”
He went on to clarify that he wasn’t suggesting he had weak players but rather that they needed to be stronger and a little more aware of some of the dark arts.
“They’re strong; it’s just in the moments sometimes, when you have to do the scrappy stuff away from home against Stevenage, that we just got outfought in those battles.
“It’s everything; it’s being a little bit more streetwise in those moments, it’s Lukas (Jensen) not getting his shirt pulled and his hands pulled down so he can come and collect things.
“It’s not just the gym, it’s being streetwise on the football pitch that stops those things. Young players learn that as they go, but they have to learn quick.”
The 1-0 defeat came after a turbulent couple of weeks for the Imps, who saw head coach Mark Kennedy dismissed in October. The hunt for his replacement took four weeks, with Skubala the standout choice from a shortlist thought to contain eight or ten names.
However, in the gloomy Hertfordshire weather, they were unable to stop a robust and confident Stevenage side from snatching all three points; Jamie Reid bundled home from a corner on 68 minutes to give his side the win.
Lincoln’s best chance in a game of very few opportunities fell to loanee Jack Vale in the first period, although the Blackburn striker had to come off injured later in the game, adding to the Imps striker woes.
Lincoln seemed to have signed physically strong players in the summer, with Alistair Smith and Reeco Hackett both standing in excess of six feet. However, they’ve been susceptible from corners all season, and whilst they weren’t bullied in the traditional sense against Stevenage, they won far fewer duels than they’d expect.
Robust players such as Lewis Montsma, Paudie O’Connor and Ben House were all missing, but some of the second string perhaps failed to impress in the early autumn mizzle at the Lamex.
It will be interesting to watch Skubala’s influence over the next few weeks, especially as the Imps get some of those key players back into the side.