Andrew Abbott's Blog

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

City close to being kicked out of the Checkatrade Trophy.

If you create a separate disciplinary system for a competition meaning any yellow cards are not counted against league matters do not be surprised if teams exploit that fact. Add into the mix an ineffective referee and a bit of local rivalry and you get last night’s foul fest at Sincil Bank.

As a spectacle it wasn’t a bad game and separate system or not one would presume the FA will want a word about the sheer number of yellow cards racked up by Mansfield in the first half. O’Connor saw red in the second but that was almost an irrelevance.

With fans boycotting the competition because of the perceived undertones of it you’d think the time would be right for a rethink. The fact that Mansfield don’t have a game at the weekend and City do and of course City are sitting pretty at the top of the division meant that the two clubs had a different outlook on the game. I don’t think anyone present at Sincil Bank last night were surprised to see Lee Frecklington go and get some tracksuit bottoms to keep warm on the bench and John Akinde remain seated. In any event the Imps are not out of it yet.

For all that I enjoyed it. There was a strange atmosphere with the usual vocalists absent, it was a decent crowd, 4200 which many clubs would be delighted with in the league but there seemed little in the way of fervour from the assembled Imps, perhaps it was the absence of our favourite Scotsman.

So there you are. City live to fight another day. Whether they do remains to be seen.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

City still top and showing no sign of losing their grip.

Could Lincoln City spend virtually the whole season on top of league two? Surely not. This last two weeks I’ve looked at the opposition, firstly Notts County and yesterday Exeter City and wondered, is this the week the wheels fall off?

I was convinced the Magpies would use the momentum of the local derby to resurrect their season and rescue their beleaguered manager. No such misfortune. City strolled it and Kevin Nolan was sacked in the morning. The change didn’t do them good, they lost again, to Forest Green Rovers. Maybe another star on the shirt come the end of the season? Let’s hope not.

Yesterday I wondered if the previously superior Exeter City would be the ones to knock the Imps off their perch. I listened to the game on the radio. It sounded like they too were swatted away like some pesky fly.

On to Tuesday and Mansfield come to town. Remember them? I really enjoyed all the Checkatrade Trophy games last season and will enjoy our defence of the Trophy we so memorably won at Wembley. Mostly I’ll enjoy it because we have absolutely nothing at stake. We could win it, that would be nice but not as nice as winning it for the first time or maybe we won’t and that won’t matter because we have something far more important to occupy ourselves with.

City are top of league two and look to stay there at least until a bigger stronger better organised team take away our crown.

From where I’m standing I can’t imagine who that may be.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

City need to keep the points rolling in if promotion quest isn’t to go west.

I’ve said many times that Lincoln City are creating big match atmospheres home or away but in the position they occupy now, at the top of the league it’s more so as the lesser lights look to put one over on the leaders.

Not that you could describe Exeter City thus. They of course put the Imps out of the playoffs only to fail at Wembley and they will be sure to be more than keen that it is they and not the Imps who prevail on Saturday. A draw, I would suggest would be more than satisfactory but I don’t expect Danny and Nicky Cowley to subscribe to that view.

City will take the now well trodden path to Exeter via Bristol City and it’s still a source of pride to me that the Imps have friends in such high places prepared to lend their training facility. I wonder how long it will be before a club asks a favour of us on their way to Scunthorpe or Doncaster or Rotherham. Then we’d know we’d arrived.

Exeter have survived the loss of their manager without breaking stride and, at this early stage it looks like they, City and MK Dons will be vying for the automatic places and not Notts County despite their taking swift action to replace their manager.

I’ve got to say Harry Kewell did not strike me as the dream ticket, if that’s who it’s to be both in terms of the football his team played and the league position and, whilst he’s a big name and that seems to matter to County it’s nowhere near the coup it seemed when Notts landed Kevin Nolan but we saw how that panned out. At least Danny Cowleys name was not touted as a contender this time, I was thankful for that. Maybe people realised Lincoln to Notts was not quite the leap it might have been a while ago.

So the press conference has been held, the bags packed and City head off to prepare for yet another big game. I keep repeating this because it’s a source of wonder to me. City have been a league club for a lot longer than they haven’t but it seems the big time is where the Imps are and every week that goes by seems to confirm that, for the moment at least City are under the big lights and are staying there for the foreseeable future.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Lincoln City top dogs in the East Midlands-and everywhere else.

If I’m honest I probably regard Notts County as the definitive derby, being born in Newark. Magpies always seem to have the swagger of a big club and they are a big club but in Nottingham they’re the little brother so they like to take it out on the rest of us. Well that was then and this is now.

The bookies had Notts and City as promotion favourites and there certainly was a top of the table feel as the game kicked off at Sincil Bank yesterday. Earlier there was a sense of anticipation as Imps and Magpies alike enjoyed a pre match pint but once it was down to business it was the Imps who impressed as the early season pace setters leaving Notts County trailing in their wake. Few amongst their supporters in their worst nightmares would have anticipated Lincoln City at the top of the table and Notts County at the bottom, particularly after the spending they reputedly did in the summer.

City tore out of the blocks and calmed their nerves, if on reflection they had any, with the best goal I’ve seen in a long time courtesy of local hero Lee Frecklington and apart from a bit of a wobble after County equalised the result of the game never looked in any doubt and eventually City were cruising and looking every inch the promotion or dare I say even championship contenders as they swept Notts aside.

Tuesdays game had been something of a nervy affair particularly as Bury had given such a good account of themselves only to be disposed of in a typically obdurate City fightback but yesterday was Lincoln City in coronation mood as they bobbled like a cork to the top of the table. There are many mountains to climb of course but on this form it will take a good side to stay with them. As for Notts, City fans had a lot of fun goading manager Kevin Nolan with chants of you’re getting sacked in the morning. Personally I hope not but you have to say on yesterdays evidence the dawn, for them, looks some way off.

Magpies, typically for a team down on their luck had no luck at all and whereas Danny Cowley, who I’ve seen elsewhere described as tinkerman, personally I wouldn’t dare, had the luxury of refining his team with measured substitutions from his extensive alternatives available on the bench, Nolan was forced to rehash his through largely self inflicted injury. When you’re down the fates have a way of reminding you.

I hope Notts do recover from their tailspin, the league needs big clubs like them but our concern is Lincoln City. Talking of big clubs, City are looking the part more and more with each passing week. With an authentic big match feel to every game the board are working hard to drive ever onwards. It may be an irritant to some but with a largely full stadium City need to maximise matchday earnings, not having the luxury of a stadium that generates income every day. Gone are the days, at least for the moment of little old Lincoln taking on the football world we’re big old Lincoln and getting bigger every day. Long may that continue.

PS. Kevin Nolan was sacked in the morning.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Imps season going at a rate of Notts.

Is it Christmas already? No it’s not but it’s a game that should be on then instead of which we’ve got Port Vale, on New Years Day. Call me old fashioned but there’s something wrong there surely when we’re still in August and we’ve played Grimsby Town and about to play Notts County.

You could argue this is a good time to be playing the Magpies. Maybe it will be or maybe they will use the opportunity of a full house at Sincil Bank to announce they’re back, that’s the risk of playing a side that’s got off to such a poor start. You get the feeling that the tide will turn at some stage, particularly after all the money Notts have reputedly paid out.

Looking back at the midweek win you have to admit that Bury were more than decent, they kept their shape and stuck to the plan, at least until City got their noses in front. I have to say, after a bit of thought , it was a very good comeback and having had the benefit of seeing the goals again it was a well taken penalty. Whether it should have been a penalty is debatable and whether it should have resulted in a red card is questionable too. That wasn’t the only howler was it Mr Linesman?

The replay confirmed the quality of City’s winner courtesy of a Frecklington finish. I’m slightly fearful of Notts County but when a team plays, albeit in patches, so well as City have been going and scores as freely as the Imps have been then whilst I’m a little apprehensive my gut feeling is County will have to wait a little longer to turn that corner.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

The good the bad and the ugly.

I must admit I was dismayed when I saw Matt Rhead was starting last night, I know that will not go down well in some quarters but for me it was back to the old days. Not that it seemed that way at the beginning of the first half, both teams looking bright and resolute. It was obvious Bury had not come to be rolled over. Having expressed my disappointment at his early involvement, in the opening phases I thought Rhead was effective and one thing you can’t say is he doesn’t win headers because he does, nearly all of them.

Gradually though City started to resemble their old, sterile worst, the crowd got, well bored actually, certainly much quieter than usual. Bury must have been delighted and even more so when they scored first. Their passing showed City up and players that had been performing well, young Chapman principally but midfield in general, just seemed to melt away. How we missed Woodyard.

The half time whistle came as a relief to players management and fans. It was no surprise things were changed around after half time and after the break the fans woke up too. We’ve grown unaccustomed to being given the run around and it was as if collectively the fans had decided City were not going to be defeated. How that was to be achieved was still a mystery but gradually the tide turned. There was the now almost inevitable penalty put away, as usual by John Akinde. I’ve heard some criticism of our new striker from some quarters. I know I don’t know a lot about tactics but I don’t understand that at all.

With the penalty came a second yellow for Bury and you just knew City, or their supporters, weren’t going to settle for the draw that I would have gladly accepted at half time.

Call it lucky, call it resolute, call it what you like, it’s what we do. Bring on the Magpies.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

City not yet the finished article. It’s not as if we haven’t been warned.

When City swept away Swindon Town last Saturday Danny Cowley was strangely downbeat as he patiently, yet again, explained that the Imps were far from home and dry. Personally I wasn’t far from checking league one to see who we could be playing next season.

Of course, I was wrong and he was right as yesterdays performance at Blundell Park demonstrated. City scraped a draw with a fortuitous penalty as a Mariners supporter of my acquaintance described it. I wouldn’t know until I see it but, as they say, they all count and City remain top of the league or they would if Lincoln began with an e and Exeter didn’t if you see what I mean.

Yet I do wonder if, given time that point may eventually be regarded as a decent one. I’m starting to be persuaded that Grimsby Town may not be as poor as their early season form might suggest. I certainly think in Michael Jolley Mariners might have unearthed a saviour if, of course he is allowed the time to find his feet.

That is no concern of ours although I bear them no malice. If they can get themselves to the business end of the table they’ll be a lot more deserving than some clubs I could mention, naming no names.

It’s still only August and nobody won the league at this time of year. Despite Cowleys warning I do believe that the league is ours for the taking and I don’t expect City to be so backward coming forward on Tuesday and, whilst I expect a battle royal the following Saturday when Notts County are the visitors I still think the Imps will have far too much in their locker to be pegged back by our visitors from Nottingham. I don’t expect them to believe that but I do.

As always time will tell but I think City will approach these two games believing and expecting six points from the fixtures. It’s up to them to achieve that.