Andrew Abbott's Blog

Sunday, 9 December 2018

The importance of being resilient.

Just before five yesterday, watching Soccer Saturday and following the match on twitter (sorry radio Lincolnshire but sometimes I just want to get the facts of the game, not a commentary), inevitably all the results were in except for City’s and I got a text from my match companion Stewart, something along the lines of, good result today. As we were still playing I didn’t want to tempt providence but I needn’t have worried, City had ground out another win on the road.

There’s been a lot of negativity lately but we seem to have got into a familiar scenario again, the Imps doing what they do, adding to the points tally quietly and without drawing too much attention to themselves but as we approach the busy Christmas period City are surely where the managers would like us to be. I’m not too disappointed to be second in the table, City have it within their capabilities to get the win in due course against Yeovil to regain top spot but for the moment are looking comfortable where they are, despite a few wobbles among some element of the support.

It would be nice if a gap started to appear between third and fourth in the table but for the moment that isn’t happening. It often does though eventually. I was reading in the Echo that the Imps are expected to prosper from the inevitable deterioration in some clubs pitches as they are a squad for all seasons. Unusually, City’s pitch is expected to hold up well as the club have the resources to spend on it so home games will be business as usual hopefully and it was remarked on Hope and Glory I think it was that there are very few postponements at Sincil Bank and it would be an advantage if that remained the case.

It’s certainly the case that pitches will not be what they were at some venues due to the weather though and the ability to keep going whatever, presuming City do what they usually do and not all clubs are able to do that irrespective, Forest Green Rovers spring to mind there as a team that do not like it when the going gets tough. Much though we didn’t want to I think most of us were impressed with FGR in terms of their passing and ball retention (didn’t get them any points though) but you could imagine that won’t come so easily when the surface cuts up.

Thankfully the John Akinde debate has subsided somewhat and he scored, from a penalty again yesterday. There has been much debate about many of his goals coming from the spot to which I would say, well we get them, which is a definite plus, and Akinde puts them away, with aplomb. I’d go as far as to say I’ve not seen a better penalty taker in a City shirt and much as I cheered Sam Ellis’ blasters in their day I never used to have the confidence in him that I do in Akinde. Freck is good. Matt Rhead is an excellent penalty taker in his own mind but not on the pitch but in John we have a spot kick taker as good as any in my view and that includes the so called superstars at home and on the continent. Long may that continue. I don’t care how he gets them as long as he gets them.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

City out of one cup and immediately eying another.

Well it makes a change from criticising our own players, the Imps brushed aside Carlisle and we all had an enjoyable evening in front of the TV to see who we got in the third round. It wasn’t Manchester City or Chelsea but pretty much the next best thing, Everton. We now know it’s a Saturday too and eagerly await Everton’s decision as to how many tickets we are allocated. However many it is, we’ll sell them.

Before that, Saturdays game came as a welcome distraction from the petty sniping that had gone on the preceding week and with it a bit of a love in actually as Matts Green and Rhead took to the field from the start and both performed well and were generously received by the decent crowd of 6500. So were John Akinde and Shay McCartan when they replaced them, not that it should be a surprise but after the silly week we had you do start to wonder where some peoples loyalties lie. Maybe the keyboard snipers were not supporters at all, either way it was another very good effort from the home support and they were rewarded with, for me, a very entertaining spectacle.

Everton, like those opponents the year before last seem to conduct themselves admirably, according City equal status with themselves which does them great credit. They can’t be expected to know what sort of support City command on the road but seem happy to accept our word as reliable. It makes a nice change from some of the nonsense we get from our rivals at our level who seem to think they have to build themselves up to counteract what they assume to be their fate at the Imps hand with their holier than thou “they have their way of playing, we have ours" bleatings. Well, all I can say is most of them end up sat on their backsides and they can claim the moral ground as much as they like, it doesn’t do most of them much good.

One things for sure though, City are going to have to replicate the endeavour they showed against Carlisle United and go up a gear again if they are to prevail. They’re capable of it and there can be no slipping up now that Christmas is round the corner if they are to succeed with their aim of League One football next season.

The support, once again is there with Imps followers snapping up all the tickets for Stevenage but there never was much doubt that that would happen and it remains to be seen if the Imps can send them home happy.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Happy now?

Lincoln City comfortably disposed of Carlisle United this afternoon at Sincil Bank. Danny Cowley chose to start Matt Rhead and Matt Green. I don’t know what the motivation was but it worked as the Imps swept into the lead in the first minute but failed to capitalise on that lightning fast start.

The Imps showed why that team selection was right and also why, here I risk ruffling a few feathers, why it is hopelessly inadequate for the top end of league two. Don’t get me wrong, I love Matt Rhead. No, really love him. Need my car for your holidays? Just make sure the insurance is sorted. Want my house for a party Matt? Leave the key under the mat. I’ll always be a fan.

Yet, as the game went on as an instrument, City got blunter and blunter. I’ve already used the expression one dimensional but that’s how it felt. When John Akinde and Shay McCartan came on City suddenly came alive. Akinde scored, the crowd showed they were still behind him and when Matt Green went over to congratulate him there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

So another pay day another exciting evening in front of the telly checking out who we’ll get in the third round, talk about unaccustomed as I am it’s so thrilling. We were told before that the Lincoln City directors particularly wanted a manager who had a good record of progression in the cup. Well we got one.

So we move on. Rhead got a heroes reception, as well he might, Akinde was welcomed on the pitch as one of our own, as well he might. Vickers got man of the match, quite right in my view. Harry Anderson was his enigmatic self, Neal Eardley was back at his best as was Freck. Oh and Bozzy has had a trim.

How do you feel tonight? I feel absolutely brilliant.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Visible means of support.

It’s not for me as a blogger to attempt to cheerlead the Imps but my goodness me judging by some of the comments I’ve been reading on social media this week I wouldn’t like to be in the trenches with some of the keyboard warriors who appear to have given up on City already if the negativity I’ve been reading is anything to go by.

The Imps are going through a sticky patch, there’s no doubt about it but a couple of drawn games and the loss of the league lead is hardly a disaster not that you’d know that from some of the doomsayers.

With all this lack of confidence comes an unfortunate and in my view unnecessary criticism of individual players principally John Akinde who’s only crime as far as I can see is not scoring many goals. Anyone who cares to look can see the players indispensability to the side but this aspect is ignored in the, well I won’t call it clamour, there’s not enough of them but lets say the call for Matt Rhead to start. For all I know this may be what the manager has in mind but surely that move would be a return to a more one dimensional approach when we have so much more in our armoury now?

Anyway, again, it’s not for me to criticise my fellow supporters but surely, in that role it’s up to us to get behind the team and, well, support. We’ve built up our reputation as a vociferous and partisan crowd as has been commented on by various managers so let’s not slip into the bad old ways of players preferring to play away from home as has happened in the past.

In any event we have a break from the rigours of the league this weekend, perhaps we needed a change of scene and a golden but lets not be too gung ho about it, difficult chance of progressing to the third round of the FA Cup and with it the chance of landing a real big fish either at Sincil Bank or away at a famous venue as we so enjoyed the season before last. The task of disposing of Carlisle United stands in the way of further progress first though and they held our heroes in another two draw sequence earlier in the season.

Maybe the manager will ring the changes for this game. Personally I’d like to see Matt Green get a chance to impress but I’d think the manager will give a fair amount of emphasis to this game what with the prize money on offer and the chance of further adventures should the Imps overcome Carlisle but were going to need all our resources going into the battle and that includes us the supporters.

Cup or league we’ve come too far in this journey to falter now and it’s as good a time as any to remind ourselves that our enemies are outside the walls and not within and furthermore there is a prize greater than any of us could have dreamed of waiting to be grasped. Are you up for the fight? I know I am.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Lincoln City back on top. Let’s have a good moan.

In a pulsating encounter against a team who, to quote a great man, will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season, City went toe to toe and came agonisingly close to a famous victory. Both sets of supporters had their moment in the sun. Both, I would suggest, should have gone home happy.

For me, this game had everything and not all of it on the pitch. The 617 squadron had meticulously prepared a spectacular display just before the kick off. I know this because the lady I sit next to had helped out with the preparations. Sadly it didn’t come off but they made up for that disappointment by completely drowning out the racket I’m sure the Mansfield fans had hoped to make at Sincil Bank yesterday. Until their last minute equaliser that is. Stags manager, not for the first time, made a fool of himself with a pathetic whimper about Lincoln City, I don’t know whether this was directed at players management or fans or all three but he described us as “smug”. He’d wiped the smile off our faces as indeed he did.

In order to do that you have to firstly have that smile. We certainly did when City looked like grasping the winner. Well do you know what Mr Flitcroft? I was still smiling at the end. Sorry about that. I was smiling because your expensively assembled team couldn’t do what was predicted pre match. It was said in some quarters that City needn’t bother turning up as they were no good and were going to be demolished. Well that didn’t happen.

For some reason City’s performance produced as many brickbats as plaudits. I can’t for the life of me see why. Many were saying they couldn’t see the Imps being top at the end of the season. Why ever not? Some were saying Rhead and Green should start. Really? Matt Rhead has been and is a marvellous servant to the club. His value is as an impact sub these days. Impact subs come on at the end not the beginning.

Matt Green I have every sympathy for. He does a good job whenever he is called upon. I have a horrible feeling he’ll be gone at Christmas, mores the pity. We saw from the Stags fans what they thought of him. I’ll feel the same if he goes.

All in all it was an excellent display in my book. If we’d had Freck there’d have been every chance we’d have won but we didn’t and neither did MK Dons so City rise back to top like the cream in the gold top we used to get on our cereals when we were kids. That’s how I see this City side, win lose or draw they never let me down and usually they rise to the top. If they’re still there at the end of the season you can quote me on that.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Gentlemen verses players.

It’s a decent headline and maybe I’m struggling to make the narrative fit the bill. It’s to do with the way things have been lately. Mansfield the gritty former mining town. The designer suits can’t quite keep the eye from the dirt under the fingernails. It’s not that far away yet the accent seems from a different era. To me there’s a feel of frontier settlement colliding with the genteel cathedral, University City. Lincoln wasn’t always so and you certainly wouldn’t describe it as posh, not by any means.

You wouldn’t associate Lincoln City with money either whereas Mansfield Town positively drip with it. No club associated with Steve Evans has been exactly short of the readies whereas City have had to acquire their new found wealth the hard way. A cup run and the best gates in the league enable the Cowleys to keep up with the wealthier classes of league two and Stags are certainly among them.

The money’s been well spent too. Whatever you may think of Evans he laid the foundations of the squad they enjoy today. I think we’ll see plenty of that quality on Saturday. He’s a good talent spotter and a good manager too as evidenced by the job he’s doing at Peterborough.

So it’s a fascinating rumble in prospect. The tickets were sold two weeks ago. Stags manager David Flitcroft has been ruminating on the Imps supporters ability to sway refereeing descisions our way. A strong referee is needed to prevent the poor dear being swept away by the noise we create making it a one sided game. All I can say is he can’t have had us watched that much if he believes that. If anything several of the refs have displayed an I’ll show them attitude and we’ve lost out as much as we’ve gained.

To listen to many of the opposing managers you’d think we were the league ruffians and it remains to be seen how we judge Mansfield. Perhaps rough diamonds and quite what that makes us I really wouldn’t know.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Two peas in a podcast.

In years gone by for the supporter of a fourth tier team there wasn’t a lot to get your teeth into. Few papers carried much about the fourth division, there was no local radio so you didn’t even know what your manager let alone the players sounded like and apart from the results at five o clock on Saturday and the Football Echo news and views were hard to come by.

It’s no reflection on today’s Echo but the Football Echo really was an excellent publication. It was on the news stands at about six on a Saturday evening, I know because I used to deliver them and was a comprehensive review on City and the local football scene with league tables and interviews. You name it, it was in there.

A couple of notable names from the past were the redoubtable Maurice Burton, the Echo’s City reporter and later on a certain Chris Ashton, the Oracle of Optimism who was I suppose an early incarnation of the fan writer who are so prevalent today, myself included and I certainly would cite Chris and an example I follow of the critical friend most of us try to be when giving our views on the club.

Now fans in general and certainly Imps supporters are spoilt for choice and the first port of call for the avid searcher for all things Lincoln City has to be BBC Radio Lincolnshire. Where would we be without them?

Now, the latest development in their output is the podcast. Usually a handy digest of the weekend’s happenings or a taster on a Friday of what’s to come. This weeks offering however was an extended interview by Michael Hortin of Danny and Nicky Cowley. I don’t know whether this was intentional this was a real eye opener for all the right reasons as far as this Imp is concerned. If ever we, as fans wanted some assurance that the Cowleys are still committed to the cause, that the ideas are still flowing and that there is scope in the project for some time yet, this was it.

Danny Cowley does not actually give an answer to the questions, the politicians could learn from him. Whilst you don’t get a direct answer to a direct question what you do get is a wealth of information. It’s just that you learn what he wants you to know not what the interviewer wants to find out but it was hugely encouraging to hear of the complex world that is now behind the scenes at Sincil Bank and of the effort to extract that one per cent that can make the difference between success and the ordinary. The organisation that goes on to get that little bit more than the other outfits we are competing with is mind boggling but what shines out like a beacon in the dark is that the quest is still on. The desire to succeed with this, our club, is undiminished. The inspiration that drives our dynamic duo is, if anything increasing as each week goes by.

If you haven’t heard it yet please do. You’ll be enthused and energised yourself. You can listen or download it through the BBC’s new Sounds app. You’ll be glad you took the trouble to look it up.