Andrew Abbott's Blog

Monday, 31 January 2011

Is everybody happy-yes we are!

It’s not easy on the eye but City are now 19th

How many times have we watched teams come to Sincil Bank, shut up shop and come away with the points after a defensive slip up? Well Port Vale came to Lincoln with the avowed intent of getting a point but, unfortunately for them and fortunately for the game of football they left Lincoln with what they deserved, nothing.

Vale were going great guns until their manager departed for pastures new, hardly their fault. They appointed Jim Gannon and since then it’s been downhill all the way and with this lack of ambition it’s hardly surprising. Valiants packed the midfield and hardly troubled Trevor Carson in goal. Things were going to plan for Vale when Ashley Grimes latched on to the ball following an interchange between the vastly improved Josh O’Keefe and Luke Howell and blasted a goal with just minutes to go. Only then were Port Vale roused from their lethargy but it was too little too late and the Imps celebrated their third win on the trot. Next up are Bradford City, who knows, this run may continue as the Bantams are hardly setting the league on fire.

What a difference a week makes, a few days ago City were looking down and out. Although they had not been truly undone by anyone (Bury apart) Lincoln couldn’t buy a win. Three wins later the Imps are well out of the relegation places and in the process have beaten sides that they would normally struggle against in Stockport, Cheltenham and Port Vale. A word of warning though, two of these three sides are on the slide as are City’s next opponents, Bradford and Cheltenham’s home form was none too clever but who cares? City need points and it doesn’t matter where they come from.

Captain fantastic, Delroy Facey was once again at the helm as the Imps ground out a result against a team who had come to Lincoln to grind out a result: a nil nil result. Well hard luck Vale, nothing doing. Facey was once again outstanding as, just for a change the defence held out for a clean sheet against a team that admittedly didn’t plan on getting a nose bleed due to high altitude. Manager Tilson was understandably delighted;

"It's a fantastic goal from Ashley and when he's in that form, he feels he can score from anywhere," he said.
"It's gone in the top corner and it was enough to win the game. People will talk about his goals alerting other clubs, but we have got him until the end of the season and that will do for me.
"Outside of that if he keeps scoring, then he won't be playing at this level. He's a good player, he's bright, he's scoring goals and he's enjoying his football.
"For him that's got to be the main thing and if I can keep him until the end of the season and he keeps on doing what he is doing, that will be great for us."
Imps fans will note the caveat but will hope the club and manager will demonstrate some ambition of their own, in words if not in deed.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Two wins in a week take Lincoln off the foot of the table

A long way to go but team spirit will improve matters.

Snow caused the cancellation of Lincoln Christmas Market, it's getting the blame for the downturn in the economy and it certainly derailed Lincoln City's season before Christmas when tundra like conditions decimated the fixture list and left the Imps unable to even train properly. Some of their rivals managed to carry on and the thaw came Lincoln stuttered to defeat after defeat. Well, it's always darkest just before dawn and with difficult fixtures against Stockport County and Cheltenham Town away to negotiate Imps fans were wondering if they would ever see the team win again. Not any more. In a remarkable four day period City have garnered six points and moved out of the relegation spots, at least for the moment but yet another tough game is on the horizon, Port Vale.

Steve Tilson and Paul Brush have been working hard to bring in the necessary new faces to freshen up the squad but it was the bonding factor that pleased the boss most about the upturn in form and the latest win;

" It was a fantastic result and a great performance from the lads. What I liked more than anything was the team spirit showed and the feeling of togetherness" Tilson enthused.

"The game showed there was a bit of spirit in the camp now, where we were lacking that before but we are getting there."

The fans will share the managers delight in coming away from such a difficult venue with all of the points and will dream that, in time, Tilson might bestow on the long suffering supporters some of the success he had at Southend but for the moment the boss is concentrating on the matter in hand.

"We defended really well, they had about two shots in the entire game and we on the other hand created about seven or eight good chances," he said

"I was disappointed to go in only one goal ahead. I felt we created some good chances and we could easily have been further ahead at half-time."

"It's about us, I'm not bothered about the other teams or looking at other results. If we keep getting three points we will be doing what we need to do," he said.

Once again, no clean sheet but the management will be heartened by the way the team defended their lead right the way through the second half, something they have largely been unable to do previously where they would have slipped to a draw or lost the game.
Defence clearly is still very much in mind and Tilson has made centre half Patrick Kanyuka his first permanent signing but he may need to wait for his debut as he will need international clearance. Further personnel are expected, in the form of another central defender and midfielder.
The manager is well aware that in order to generate extra income for team building, attendances are going to have to increase, he wants to give the fans something to look forward to;

"The win on Tuesday should give the team a lot of confidence," said Tilson.

"I thought the fans who turned out to support us at Cheltenham were fantastic.

"They were different class for the whole 90 minutes.

"It was a long journey and we were delighted with the turn out.

"But we've now got to go and improve the home form.

"We've got to give our crowd at Sincil Bank something to watch.”They want to see us winning
and get points at home."

Monday, 24 January 2011

Captain Delroy to the rescue

Facey tells team mates "don't let me down"

A few days ago, City vice chairman Chris Travers offered a frank explanation of Lincoln's falling gates;

"We have to provide a reason for supporters to come and watch us but at the moment we're not, and there's no point in pretending otherwise," he said.

Strictly speaking he was wrong, the Imps have scored some spectacular and memorable goals this season and there have been good spells of more than decent football but of course fans will not turn out in numbers in the hope of such entertainment if the expectation is that the team will lose. Thankfully that was not the case on Saturday and the Imps recorded a win for the first time in five starts. Strangely, for this correspondent, that merely served to underline the enormity of the task ahead of the team and management and indeed supporters, for City remain rooted at the foot of the table. The importance of this win cannot be overstated however for the one thing in their favour is the number of games in hand over their rivals. If points are being picked up, happy days, if not then those games in hand are neither use nor ornament. Saturday's game provided not only good goals but a win and inflicted, if not a mortal blow, then a savage dent in the hopes of one of their main protagonists in the battle to avoid the dreaded drop.

Stockport has not been a happy hunting ground for Lincoln over the years and we now move on to another venue that has offered very slim pickings for the Imps, Cheltenham, where City have not had much luck even with a successful team. The players must adopt the mindset that winning now is the norm and believe that they can do it. Rather like a skydiver, Lincoln must not pay too much attention to what is to come as the fixture list makes daunting reading but the management will be impressing upon the team that survival is in their hands and a decent return on the extra games will see them safe. They have a new weapon in their armoury, Delroy Facey has been sharpening up his "once more unto the breach dear friends" oratory and, in his capacity of stand in skipper on Saturday delivered a team talk to his fellow players any General would be proud of as hat trick hero Ashley Grimes revealed;

"He pulled the lads together for a huddle before kick-off and he's been a top man to be fair.

"He just told us how massive this game was for the club and how it was so important that we did not get beat.

"Del underlined how crucial it was that we dug in and looked after each other and we managed to do that"

That spirit, that leadership is what is required and a seasoned professional rises to the challenge. Del, we salute you, more of the same please.

Boss hails Gavin's volley against Wycombe

But we're going to need more where that came from.

Make no mistake about it Lincoln City need to start garnering some points and fast. The table does not lie although it does show that the Imps have not yet completed half their fixtures, unlike most in the league but City are on a four game losing streak and need to engineer a rapid upturn in form if they are not to become detached from the teams above them. Stockport away offers as good a chance as any to achieve this.

Assistant manager Paul Brush pulled no punches in his assessment of recent performances but is mindful of the effect his comments may have so offered a word of understanding to the players in their present fragile state of mind;

"While we have scored some fantastic goals, we have conceded some of the worst I have ever seen in my life, whether I have been in a park or a stadium," he said.

"We will keep working with the players we have and will not try and destroy anybody's confidence, but we know they have to be consistently better.

"Mistakes are so costly and, at the moment, if you look back at the last four fixtures we have been well in those games.

"We look like we can score and when we came to this club three months ago this team had only scored nine and they didn't look like they can score.

"But now we look like we can't go from 20 minutes to half-an-hour without giving the opposition a goal."

Brush is quite right about the goal scoring. City do at least look capable of netting and Ashley Grimes and now Gavin McCallum have added some much needed va va va voom to the striking capability but as he himself points out some of the defending has been lamentable. Talk about one door opening and another one closing!

In Stockport the Imps face a team almost in freefall. They have won just once at home in the league this term and drawn seven so no prizes for guessing the likely outcome of this one. Most fans would settle for not losing after the run City have been on but a win would do much for their confidence. With the Edgeley Park outfit in truly awful form at home, Imps fans will dare to dream.

As is usual for a struggling team, the Lincoln treatment room has been a busy place with Adam Watts (knee) Mustapha Carayol (foot) Clark Keltie (thigh) Gavin Hoyte (hamstring) and now Joe Anderson (knee) all jostling for a session on the table. At least Watts is almost ready for action although whether he makes it in time for Stockport is debatable. Steve Tilson took heart from McCallum's strike and hopes this will spark him on to greater things.

"It was very disappointing we couldn't go on from there to win the game.

"But hopefully that goal will give Gavin the confidence to go on now and put in performances for us.

"You could see after he had scored the goal that his confidence had grown. He looked bright and positive which is what we are looking for him to be on the pitch."

City have now signed Stephen Hunt on a months loan from Notts County. Hunt has generally played as a left back but it is assumed the defender has been recruited to play in the centre of defence bringing some much needed maturity to that position. Also at Sincil Bank for a month is Sunderland goalkeeper Trevor Carson.

Taylor the perfect host as winner presents coveted prize

Watford put on the style at award ceremony

Ever wondered what it would be like to watch your team from the best seats in the house? Play director for a day? Well that's just what Ben Clarke did when he entered the monthly PFA fans vote, conducted by give me football and saw his name selected to not only present the prize to Championship winner Danny Graham but to spend a VIP day at Watford's Vicarage Road Stadium. Watford certainly laid out the red carpet to give season ticket holder Ben a day to remember.

The day started when the winner arrived at the hospitality entrance at the stadium, that's right, no creaky turnstile today Ben was provided with his match ticket for himself and his father together with boardroom passes. You read correctly, boardroom passes. From then on it was first class all the way as Ben and his guest were shown up to the hallowed portals where he was met by PFA representative Marwan King. They certainly do it with style at Vicarage Road and the tables, laid out for lunch, were as good as any four star hotel with glistening glassware, crisp white tablecloths and starched napkins folded into bishops mitres. Drinks were served by the waitress straight away, no lager in plastic cups on this occasion.

The boardroom soon began to fill up and before long chairman Graham Taylor arrived and began to greet the guests including the winners' party. Taylor was the perfect host and put everyone at their ease and even took time to give a little insight in to his own early career at Lincoln City where his managerial reign got off to a disastrous start, he got home one evening to be told by his wife that the chairman had been on the phone and wanted to see him in his office. Not usually a good sign. The chairman wanted to know why he was working so hard! Despite the bad start the board of directors stood by him and the rest is history.

After a delicious lunch, there was even a vegetarian option for Ben, it was time to go down to the pitch to present Danny Graham with his trophy and silver stud, a photograph and some good natured banter with Ben's friends who were in their usual seats behind the goal then it was straight back up to the boardroom where an announcement was made that the teams were coming out. The Directors Box is right outside the boardroom but there was a sinking feeling as the party took their seats, they're so soft and luxurious! Marwan commented they were more comfortable than the seats in his car! In the Box there were luminaries such as former England keeper Ray Clemence, Chris Hughton, lately Newcastle boss and Keith Burkinshaw, one of Spurs most successful managers.

The Hornets certainly pulled out all the stops for our winner with a 3-0 demolition of Derby County, themselves not doing too badly in the Championship. Danny Graham duly obliged with a virtuoso finish for Watford's second goal. Ben's prediction was for a draw but Watford were having none of it and cantered to yet another win.

There was just time for a cup of tea and a look at the other results and tables and the experience was over. As the party left the stadium the Rams fans were boarding their coaches for home. It was time for Ben to rejoin the fans world. It had been a memorable day.

This fantastic prize could be yours too; you can vote right now for your player of the month here on give me football.

Difficult times at Lincoln

The club are trying to pull together but it's not easy.

The average Lincoln City fan would like to be humming things can only get better but down down deeper and down keeps popping into mind. It's not nice being bottom of the entire league but that's where city find themselves and over the next few weeks we will certainly find out what the players are made of and whether the management has what it takes to get the Imps out of the trouble they are in. There are games in hand but they are not much use if the team are losing every week which is the way it is at the moment and that cycle needs breaking as soon as possible.

For the record it seems that the management are not getting the blame for the situation Lincoln find themselves in, the board of directors and former management, rightly or wrongly, are but in reality it is a series of situations coming together that have led to reduced income and, as night follows day, poorer team performance which leads to lower gates and income reducing still further. There are no knights in shining armour to come to the rescue and, unfortunately, the players start to come in for some stick, some more than others and this correspondent is not going to make matters worse by naming names, suffice it to say that the team probably prefer to play away this weekend where only the most committed and therefore the most understanding fans will be in attendance. Say what you like about Lincoln's support they are at their best at away venues and can usually be relied upon to be city's 12th man. They're going to need them.

Attracting investment in to the club isn't easy though, particularly in these straightened times. Vice Chairman Chris Travers;

"We've begun to focus more on local interest where I think we've got a better chance of success.
"We need to attract more investment in the club and I think the best way to do that is to attract it locally."
He added: "I think anyone who would want to invest in a club like ours would have to have a vested interest or a love of the club, the city or the county and would want to put something back into it.
"We need investment at every level. The board of directors are also fans and we've been able to invest in the club to a certain extent, but we're not in a position to make an investment at a level which would make a significant change."

Travers was brutally frank about the current situation.

"We have to provide a reason for supporters to come and watch us but at the moment we're not, and there's no point in pretending otherwise," he said.

We haven't been giving the public what they deserve. We have to stabilise things to the end of the season, and I believe Steve Tilson and Paul Brush will then build a squad and a team next year which will excite the fans."

"We have to look at every possibility. We are still talking to people abroad and we will talk to anyone who will bring investment to the club on the right basis.
"If that means relinquishing control of the club, for the right reasons and to the right people, I have no problem with that."

Friday, 14 January 2011

Search for reinforcements intensifies.

Tilson looks to boost Lincoln's options.

As the season grinds on one cliche after another comes to mind, new dawn, turn the corner, that kind of thing and it's obviously uppermost in the managers thoughts as he had two triallists organised to face Hull City on Wednesday in a reserve team fixture. The fact that the two are a centre half and a goalkeeper should not come as a surprise to the fans although Djoumin Sangare withdrew from the game as he has agreed terms with Oxford United. The uncomfortable truth about the goalkeeper situation is that Joe Anyon needs some competition to concentrate his mind and he's not going to get it from City's current number two, goalkeeping coach Paul Musselwhite. The trialist in question is James McKeown and he comes highly recommended by Boston United fans as he had a highly successful loan period with the Pilgrims. They would love to retain his services but are realistic as to the prospects of that. Steve Tilson is also scouring the non league scene in an effort to boost the squad. City supporters will not object to that in view of the team that Keith Alexander managed to fashion out of mainly second chancers, never-had-a-chancers and others cast offs.

Non league is not particularly a cheap option and City fans cannot afford to be too sniffy in any event in view of Lincoln's current financial position and with gates dropping like a stone that is unlikely to improve soon. On this subject the Board of Directors have issued an investment pack to try to encourage funds in to the coffers having searched far and wide for new directors to join the club.

Meanwhile Tilson and Paul Brush must prepare the squad for the not inconsiderable threat posed by Wycombe, next up at Sincil Bank. What frame of mind they will be in after losing against Hereford United in the FA Cup, a game they surely expected to win at a canter, is anybody's guess. The Imps match day squad is looking threadbare although at least Danny Hone will, presumably , be available after the cup game. Adam Watts and Gavin Hoyte are not. The irony is Lincoln appear to have put their goal scoring woes behind them and, a rare bit of good news, Ashley Grimes has committed himself to the Imps cause until the end of the season unless of course another club wants to buy him from Milwall. This is balanced against the defensive crisis that has engulfed the team where injuries, lack of confidence, concentration, know how, call it what you will continue to beset the management. No one said it would be easy and the fans view is that we are in safe and experienced hands. Whether that will be enough, time will tell.

Tilson expressed his delight at capturing Grimes to the end of the season;

"Ashley has done ever so well for us

"He's a very bright, very clever player and he's a very good finisher.

"We've just scored three goals at home so at the moment we're not too bothered about up front.

"We are scoring goals. I'm a positive person and I want my teams to be positive, so that is good.

"But defensively we are not good enough.

"That's been a problem all season. It was a problem before I came here and it is something we have got to try to improve.

"Defence and midfield, no doubt about it are the priority. that is where we need to strengthen"

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Number One Problem

BBC Lincolnshire's Boston reporter Scott Dalton has been singing the praises of goalkeeper James McKeown on twitter today. McKeown has been playing for City's reserves this afternoon at Hull and has been on loan at York Street. Other Pilgrim fans here in Boston rate him too.

I don't think it's any coincidence he's at Lincoln for a trial. Joe Anyon needs some competition and he's not going to get it from a 40 year old goalkeeping coach.

Richard Butcher

Imps fans will be shocked and saddened to hear of the untimely death of Richard Butcher.

Butcher became a great favourite in his first spell at Sincil Bank and it was no surprise when he eventually moved up a division to join Oldham Athletic, his performances in red and white certainly meriting a chance in a higher league. The North West did not entirely suit him however and Imps fans were glad to welcome the popular midfielder home for a loan period where he rejoined his mentor, Keith Alexander.

Butcher was later to rejoin Lincoln City in a permanent deal, signed by Peter Jackson but it was for his initial stay that he will be particularly and most fondly remembered.

The Lincoln Correspondent knows that his fellow supporters will want to join him in offering our most sincere condolences to Richards family and friends and colleagues at Macclesfield Town and the wider football comunity.

Monday, 10 January 2011

City produce football as good as any

Lincoln would swap the pretty stuff for a win.

Passion, commitment, a devotion to the cause and a never say die attitude. If the team could only have matched the qualities of the self styled passionistas in the Stacey West stand behind the goal Lincoln would have been home and dry. As it happens a makeshift City team tumbled out of the FA Cup in the second round, defeated by Hereford. It's not sour grapes to to offer the opinion that the Bulls are not the best team City will face this season, not by a long way and, at the risk of sounding faceteous and not being so presumptious as to offer a seasoned manager like Steve Tilson advice, the team would have done well to keep the visitors as far away from the goal as possible as each time they got anywhere near they scored, the Imps defence showing all the resilience of butter when faced with a hot knife.

At something like 13 fit players and a measly 1794 in the ground we were down to the bare bones alright although,as is often the case, small though the crowd was they managed to conjure up a good atmosphere even though Lincoln fans had to come to terms with the now familiar goal in the first two minutes as Manset netted early on. Undaunted, well they're getting quite experienced at coming from back from early goals now , Clapham tapped in after Delroy Facey had seen his header blocked on the line. Facey himself powered City in to the lead with a well struck left foot shot. City were enjoying good spells of possession now and making every effort to indeed keep Hereford from the ball with a series of good passing moves although Hereford themselves hit the woodwork not once but twice in this spell and with a sort of inevitability Stuart Fleetwood scored twice to send the Bulls in to the break with their ringed noses in front.

The best was yet to come. Three minutes into the second half Ashley Grimes fashioned a goal from well out curling an ambitious effort past Bartlett. It was a fantastic strike and Grimes enjoyed celebrating it as much as the fans enjoyed seeing it. Surely City could go on to win the tie and proceed to the third round to meet Wycombe? No, in a word. Manset scored again to dump City out of the cup and consign them to a third straight loss.

Those three wins in a row back in November now seem an awfully long way away. A dejected Steve Tilson made the perfectly reasonable point that three goals at home should herald a victory but not the way City defended and yet, cobbled together as the team was there were defenders in defence, midfielders in midfield and strikers in attack. There were welcome returns for Paul Green, injured and Cian Hughton, ignored.

That old cliche about the drawing board will not be resurrected here but another old chestnut will; City can now concentrate on the league. Concentration is a commodity in very short supply but is exactly what is needed. This game was as entertaining as any with great goals from both sides and decent spells of very good football but right now City supporters would settle for any old rubbish as long as it results in three points.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Romance of the cup? More a shotgun wedding!

Lincoln need to improve and fast.

It's the FA Cup third round this weekend but not for Lincoln City and Hereford who must first deal with their much delayed second round fixture. The winner will play Wycombe Wanderers. For City a chance to get their season back on track, the Imps have been stranded in the recent snows. They were showing signs of an improvement in form, if the debacle against Bury is discounted, but have emerged from the ice age and have only a poor showing against Bradford City and a disappointing loss against Northampton where they conceded a late wonder goal, for their efforts. Manager Steve Tilson was in no doubt that the Imps were good value for a point against the Cobblers.

"I thought we deserved a point and we were far the better side in the first half" he said.

"We kept the ball really well, but in the second half they came out and got the ball forward quickly.

"Although they looked a danger from set pieces , they never looked like hurting us in open play.

"Again they scored from a long throw and for the second goal again it was a throw that we failed to clear.

"It's disappointing and we certainly deserved to get a point.

"They put a few long balls into the box but we dominated in the first half.

"It was disappointing to concede in the last couple of minutes but I honestly felt we could clear our lines better."

Not for the first time it's back to the drawing board for the Imps but with no league points at stake and even if they win a less than inspiring tie in the third round maybe this is the sort of stress free encounter the players will lap up and find their shooting boots. Trouble is Hereford will presumably be of the same mind, their season has been as disjointed as City's and will view the game in the same light.

Tilson made a good few changes for the Northampton game so it will be interesting to see who claims a shirt this time. Danny Hone, returned from Darlington was immediately reinstated with Moses Swaibu left out after the Bradford match where a mix up led to the Bantams taking an early lead. There is some controversy here as the players are not giving interviews to the local press following their coverage of Swaibu's alleged misdemeanour so enough said about that. Scott Kerr cannot seem to fully force his way into the Gaffers affections despite his usual resolute performances in midfield where Luke Howell will hope to claim a place. Clapham too, after being ever present for the last few games was absent from the squad altogether and Jarrett and Carayol found themselves on the bench , again the pair were automatic choices until Sixfields. The manager gave the usual stock reasoning.

"We've played two games in three days and you have to remember that until then we had not played for 35 days" said Tilson

"It was just a change of personnel to get some fresh legs in there to give players the opportunity to perform"

Tilson will not need reminding that a performance is just what is needed to banish those winter blues and get the fans minds back on football in general and Lincoln City in particular. for chairman Bob Dorrian, other concerns.

"By winning it we get a decent amount of prize money. I urge all supporters to come down and get behind the team."