Lincoln v Luton: the Rhead-Green combo

Matt Rhead –

When one outside Lincoln thinks of Matt Rhead, the image that often comes to mind is that of a battering ram, but his performance against Carlisle last week proved that there’s more to his game. His pass to Alex Woodyard for the midfielder’s second goal changed the direction of play expertly and shows that he has a creative mind given space.

That space is often created by the tireless pace of Matt Green, who has had an excellent opening month. The duo compliment one another because, if defenders stick another man on Rhead, as Carlisle did in the first half, Green has space to run into, but if they let Rhead have the ball he can do damage too.

That combination could pose a threat to Luton, who defended poorly at Mansfield on Saturday. For the first goal, they had Scott Cuthbert, Jack Stacey and Dan Potts outnumbering one player at the near post from a deep right-sided free-kick (below 0:17), leaving a three against three situation at the back post. The only man to try to attack the ball in the air was 5’10” Alan Sheehan, who unsurprisingly missed his header, leaving two strikers with the job of marking the two Mansfield players.

There was more poor defending for their second goal (0:46), for which they were undone by a simple ball in behind. Right-back Stacey was nowhere to be seen, leaving Cuthbert exposed against Angol and one can quite easily imagine Green doing similar damage.

Luton have been outstanding going forward this season, having scored 13 goals in four games, more than any team in the EFL. The fact they could score two goals at Mansfield, a game in which they were largely dominated, says something in itself about the strength in depth Nathan Jones has at his disposal.

Substitute Harry Cornick linked up well down the right with Stacey, who crossed for James Collins’ goal. The division’s joint-top scorer then used his physical presence well in the build-up to the equalizer, laying the ball off for a close-range cross that set up Danny Hylton. The latter was arguably the most complete striker in League Two last season, now competing for a place with Collins and Elliott Lee, who has already bagged two goals himself.

Creating for two of those three strikers could be Andrew Shinnie or Luke Berry, who could have been good enough for a lower Championship club and Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu with his driving runs from deep. With this embarrassment of attacking riches, Luton have no excuses not to make the top three this year, but they’ve got to sort their defence out.

Lincoln have created enough chances so far this year to suggest that they will breach the Hatters’ suspect rear-guard. They would be level on points with their visitors, were it not for a wonder-show from Morecambe goalkeeper Roche in the second week. Marek Stech, who saved a penalty for Luton in Nottinghamshire, could have another busy afternoon.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 2-2