Andrew Abbott's Blog

Friday, 25 March 2011

A hunted quarry is dangerous prey

Not long after writing last Sunday’s appraisal of Lincoln City’s failure against Stevenage your scribe was looking at some Rotherham United offerings on the net and was surprised to see that Millers manager Ronnie Moore was under some pressure from fans, aided and abetted by the media in view of Rotherham’s position in the play off places as opposed to the automatics. Chance would be a fine thing! The Sheffield Star reported last Monday that the Millers manager looked set for crisis talks with the chairman over recent poor form. Things got so bad that when the Star attempted to quiz Moore about the situation the Rotherham chief walked away from the Stars reporter. A few hours later and Moore was no more so to speak, sacked by the Millers. They clearly do things differently up in South Yorkshire, City fans would give their eye teeth to be flirting with such disaster but the club have clearly set their sights on greater things.Whether this development will make an iota of difference to Fridays result time, as usual, will tell. Rotherham now find themselves outside even the play off positions. If the Imps are going to win this one though it will be the first time in twenty five attempts for our hapless heroes so no one is holding their breath.City are boosted by the availability of Ashley Grimes who looked as if injury might get the better of him earlier in the week. Grimes is walking something of a tightrope though as he is one booking short of a ban so he may understandably have lost a little of his usual edge. Grimes was quoted by the Echo earlier in the week as being agreeable to making a permanent signing for the Imps. Yes, it’s that time of year again!Season ticket holders can take advantage of a special offer to purchase a second ticket for a friend for just a fiver. The club will hope this promotion will galvanise Lincolnians as gates have been on the slide this season. Our friends in the North will no doubt head South in numbers, expectant of extending their impressive unbeaten run against City and should be in their usual raucous good voice so City could do with all the support they can get.In a fast moving week, for Impdom and elsewhere in the county news seeped through that keeper Trevor Carson was to be recalled, this story has been doing the rounds for a while but he has now gone, taking his TV and x-box with him, much to Julian Kelly’s chagrin, we understand. The manager will presumably be on the phone looking for a replacement as the alternative is Muzzy, no offence intended. Meanwhile the Imps have signed midfielder Tom Kilbey from Portsmouth until the end of the season. Is he any good between the sticks? Joking aside, City are short in this area, Luke Howell having perhaps made his come back a little too early and still no real news on Clark Keltie’s return to first team action.Tilson was philosophical on the goalkeeper situation;"Sunderland were well within their rights to recall Trevor – that's football," said the manager"He has been fantastic for us but his club had a 24-hour recall clause and it's their prerogative to have him back."It's not fantastic timing for us and it leaves us in a bit of a pickle but we'll have to see what we can do."I've put in a couple of calls and not got anywhere so far but I'll do my best to get someone in. These things are here to test us."Meanwhile Danny Hone warned that Rotherham will not be best pleased to have been thrashed by Chesterfield;"You always expect a backlash when a team has lost 5-0 in their previous game,"We’re way ahead of you Dan!

Right then

Hopefully that is the end of disorder on this blog. I can now keep it up to date. I have been doing some other writing, helping out with the revived Deranged Ferret but that can't be on here till the Ferret has gone out but please do subscribe as it is a fund raising effort for the Imps. Thank you.

In a hole at Boro. Now Ronnie awaits. Gulp!

Oh well, another pointless weekend in Impdom. City observed another unwanted tradition as they left former non league Stevenage with nothing to show for their efforts despite taking the lead from the penalty spot courtesy of Ashley Grimes. That lead was soon wiped out as Lawrie Wilson first equalised and then gave Boro’ the lead with a goal which was to eventually turn out to be the winner. 401 Imps were present indicating that City’s followers did not regard this fixture as a dead rubber but their efforts to galvanise the team came to naught. City must now look to Rotherham at Sincil Bank on Friday night to garner three more points towards the fifty demanded by the manager to ensure safety so no problem there then. No? How about Port Vale on the following Tuesday? Torquay the next Saturday? Yes, there’s a tough looking series of games to face before the Imps can finally get the Boden catalogue out to order their holiday attire.

Fortunately, both of this terms under achievers, Barnet and Stockport lost again. A return to this seasons and indeed last seasons form for the Bees after City’s charity a couple of games ago. Fans will recall Barnet were candidates for the executioners tumbrel last season when Darlo’s and the Mariners truly awful form saved them. They’re in the shadow of the grim reaper alright now as are that once mighty (for clubs at our level at least) Stockport who have flirted with the ignominy of relegation from the league before, most notably, for Imps, the year City became the first cub to be relegated automatically from the football league when their escape was masterminded by our own Colin Murphy. It will take more than the Murphs legendary powers of motivation to save the Hatters this time round. Their attempts to stave off the drop becoming as unlikely as Murphy claiming the plain English award for his programme notes whilst at Sincil Bank. Guardian blogs tip for the play off, Burton managed a draw but remain third from bottom.

City’s foot weary troops will now trudge to Sincil Bank on Friday night with all the enthusiasm of a dog making his annual visit to the vets and it’s usually a similar experience, slightly uncomfortable but it’s soon over and won’t need to be faced again for a while. In fact if the Millers have their way it might not be for some time as they are, once again flirting with the promotion race as well they might when they boast a strike force including the formidable Adam Le Fondre. Who knows? They might be playing in Rotherham the next time City lose to them, sorry, play them. Maybe it might even be in a stadium fit for football. That would be nice!

Definitely not nice, if you’re a Millers fan, was the five nil pasting handed out to our next opponents by the all conquering Spirites, surely now a shoo in for the championship and worthily so. Chesterfield blasted past what, let’s face it is a pretty decent Rotherham side led by a more than decent manager. So City face a team that habitually beat them who have a red hot striker, stung by a recent chastening from their neighbours and who are gunning for a place in the play offs. Should be a piece of cake!

The show must go on

Steve Tilson has set a target of fifty points for safety and City are now within touching distance of that, one win and a draw to be precise. It’s the generally accepted bench mark for breathing more easily after a season of struggle. It would be nice to get to that point sooner rather than later but this is Lincoln City after all. Reaching safety is not necessarily the recipe for an exciting end of season’s football but few of us would swap the Imps position for that of Barnet or Stockport just for the sake of some edge of seat entertainment. Not many would relish much more of the likes of Accrington or the first half of the Southend game either but beggars can’t be choosers and most of us will be content to see the season out and anticipate what Tilly and Paul Brush have in their locker to titillate our football taste buds for next season. Hope that’s not tempting providence too much.

One things for sure, Tilson will be without the services of Delroy Facey and Ben Hutchinson as the team shape up to face Stevenage on Saturday. In Delroy’s case fans will be genuinely sorry to be without the services of a player who has gone from journeyman to Captain Marvel in a few weeks with displays of muscle and, biggest surprise this, speed, putting many a specialist left winger in the shade with some scintillating displays latterly. He has taken to the captaincy like a duck to water and it has somehow enhanced his game. We at Lincoln City Mad wish Del a speedy recovery. In Ben Hutchinson’s case he has gone from not far off zero to even lower in the eyes of some fans judging by the reaction to his sending off at Macc, a situation the player retrieved to a certain extent by posting an apology on Twitter on Tuesday night. We have all got to accept though that, especially with Ashley Grimes being one misdemeanour off a suspension himself, City are going to need to use their understudies for the remainder of this term. Scott Spencer will not be able to get on the pitch quickly enough to atone for that fluffed effort in the dying minutes last Saturday and Andy Hutchinson is still waiting to show what he can do. Let’s face it there is about as much chance of Grimes being at Sincil Bank next season as Ben Hutchinson had of winning player of the season at ten o’clock last Tuesday night so perhaps we all need to calm down and do what we hope we do well, support the team. Hutchinson will need no telling that he was in the wrong at Moss Rose and here at LCM we hope that he will put his anger to good use the next time he dons the red and white. Tilson will presumably use the remaining season to judge who is going and who is staying and he can’t do that relying on a player who is not going to be here next term.

On to Stevenage then and a chance for Southern based Imps to have a lie-in and not have to face the delights of the A1. Stevenage, confusingly known as the Boro’ even though they no longer go by that name, have not had an outstanding season at home with a total of six wins in comparison with City’s seven. Where the teams differ is that, in comparison with the Imps eight losses, Boro’ have lost only three and have drawn the remainder so it would be no great surprise if City emerge from this fixture needing just a win to reach their target. Time will tell.

Beauty and the beast

Backed by a noisy and enthusiastic crowd both teams set about the fixture with gusto with well crafted goals from each side. The referee blew kisses to the supporters before the blues emerged victorious. They’re great, those half time games aren’t they?

Southend United fans turned up in remarkably large numbers for Saturdays fixture as they said they would, many of whom wanting to pay homage to their former manager who rewarded them by sending them home potless in a manner that would have pleased him no end as Tilson won the tactical battle by playing a slightly unfamiliar 4-3-3 line up with a rare start for Ben Hutchinson, who acquitted himself very well, Delroy Facey slotting in to the left to deal with Shrimpers expected strength in that area. It worked a treat as City nullified an arguably better side, certainly in the first half to record a victory and put the team a win and a couple of draws short of the managers declared safety target of fifty points with eleven games to achieve it.

It’s a salutary thought that, impressive though the away following was the Imps were regularly backed by such numbers a few seasons ago, average home support hit the five thousand mark and away average over eight hundred, ironically around the time Steve Tilson was plotting Southend’s rise and as part of the process, a defeat for City at the Millennium Stadium. That all seems a long time ago and now the former Roots Hall man is ours whilst Tilson’s replacement is the unlikely figure of Paul Sturrock. They just about managed to shake hands at the end. City football fans are going to have to, once again, back the team in such numbers, if not more if Tilly is to emulate his success with Southend up in Lincolnshire.

If the manager was the architect of this win, Ashley Grimes was the means by which the victory was secured although Tilson will argue it’s a team game, once again it fell to the Millwall striker to supply the coup de grace, gambling, as all good strikers do, on Shrimpers keeper Evans making a mistake to sweep home the loose ball. As Grimes observed in the post match interview, nine times out of ten the keeper will claim. Good strikers make those runs ten times out of ten to capitalise on the odd mistake. It’s not rocket science. Grimes’ second goal was worth subscribing to Imps player to have another look at as he carved his way through the Southend rearguard with crowd and team mates screaming for him to pass. Not on your Nelly, in it went! Not many City fans expect Grimes to be around next season, who will supply the goals? Hutchinson played very well but he’s not got that surgical strike ability despite that million pound price tag or is it millstone? Scott Spencer is waiting in the wings for his chance. What better opposition than his former employers to show his capabilities? Poor old Spencer. Admittedly, only granted the merest of cameo opportunities, he found himself with only the keeper to beat to add a third to City’s tally, in fact he seemingly only had to meet the ball to score. Over the bar it went. In his dreams, or nightmares, the ball would nestle in the net but he doesn’t see it as he’s wheeling over to his tormentor, Sturrock to celebrate and rub it in. Cheer up Scott, next time it will.

You can tell I'm not a techie

For a few articles I seem to have lost the ability to copy and paste to my blog but I've finally worked out what I need to do but here are the outstanding blogs from Lincoln City Mad starting with................

Friday, 11 March 2011

For whom the bell tolls

No doubt all of you are keen followers of the ballet. Cinderella was on one of the posh channels the other night and your scribe could not help finding a comparison between the age old fairy tale and Lincoln City’s current situation after the defeat at Burton Albion. Cinderella must leave the ball by midnight or her elegant gown will disappear from her shoulders. In City’s case, after this latest defeat it occurred that the end of the season could not come too soon in case the clock strikes twelve and the Imps are exposed in their rags. As it happens the ugly sisters both lost, to Accrington and Wycombe so panic over for another week. In any event City are still eleven points from the drop zone but so far March remains a mixed bag, results wise with City, once again, just to continue the theme a tad longer, playing Fairy Godmother to another relegation haunted team after their largesse against Barnet.
A not best pleased Steve Tilson told the Lincolnshire Echo;
"If we don’t carry on competing then we could find ourselves in a relegation battle,
"This year, the aim is to stay up and hopefully build a side in the summer.
"But at Barnet and against Burton we looked like a relegation side and I had a few words in the dressing room. We need to do better.
"The game was very similar to Barnet as we started slowly,
"If you keep conceding early goals it puts you on the back foot and we did that at Burton. It was disappointing from that point of view.
"For the second goal, Julian Kelly gave a misplaced pass and after they delivered a fantastic ball into the box, Aaron Webster scored with a decent volley.
"Early goals in both halves kill you, then there was a penalty, which shouldn’t have been.
"Ashley has scored a late goal but we did not do enough, and I include him in that”
Barnet and Burton will be far from the minds of Messrs Tilson and Brush now though as they contemplate a fixture that will have been uppermost in their thoughts since they came to Lincoln; Southend. Tilson and his deputy were somewhat mysteriously placed on gardening leave by the Essex club they had bestowed such success upon, partially at the Imps expense you will no doubt painfully recall. Woe betide any player who falls short in this grudge match as the City supremo and his deputy seek to dump the Shrimpers in the deep end and show the club hierarchy what they are missing out on. The pair will hope for a substantial improvement from the squad which produced that five game winning streak. That is starting to look a dim and distant memory. Tilson will presumably be reminding his team that those here permanently will be looking for a new contract sooner or later. Those here on loan are not in that position because they have set the world on fire. He may wish to quote John Donne, “No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main .If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any mans death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind and therefore never send to ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee” - or words to that effect.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Bike shed finish

Even at League Two level the game of Association Football can still be described as the beautiful game although the exponents may be a little more workman like and honest endeavour may take the place of amazing skills, the surroundings more homely, ramshackle even and attendances more modest but nevertheless the spectacle is capable of lifting the supporter from his or her daily grind and transporting the viewer to another place far from the day to day worries of modern life. Then there are matches such as Lincoln City versus Accrington Stanley which cause the season ticket holder to question their investment for the next season and the more casual supporter to wonder whether £16 might be better spent elsewhere. The problem is, for every Accrington game there is the unadulterated joy of the Oxford fixture and if you don’t go regularly you might miss out on, if not beauty, entertainment on a grand scale.
All of the above should not be seen as a criticism of either management or players who have, by common consensus done us proud, no the problem is these dour performances which would be greeted as a valuable point were City to be gunning for a promotion or play off place now seem to be consigned almost to irrelevance now that, thanks to the efforts of said team and manager the Imps sit in a relatively safe area of the table. Accrington Stanley arrived at Sincil Bank, it would be fair to say, not with the avowed intent of amusing the City faithful, why should they? Just 125 away fans would seem to confirm not many Accy fans find their team too compelling away either and on this evidence it’s not hard to see why, still it’s not up to the away team to entertain the home crowd and City grafted away to little effect, what goal mouth opportunities there were nullified by a pitch that nature had conspired to resemble Mablethorpe beach at low tide in terms of smoothness of surface, grassy though it still is. The real villain of the peace had been the awful weather pre Christmas which had had the twin effect of ruining pitches, and don’t forget that Lincoln are a club that can’t afford a decent, permanently signed striker so they’re hardly likely to find the money to relay the playing surface. That and all the missed games have produced a pretty unrelenting diet of twice a week football and as we all know, you can have too much of a good thing. The two teams did manage to conjure up a grandstand finish. Unfortunately the stand in question was Poachers Corner rather than the Coop and not even our esteemed pre match jester could turn this particular sow’s ear into anything more glamorous.
Ah well, Burton Albion next. Keen eyed readers might recall Lincoln City Mad reported that the Guardian football league blog were recently touting the Brewers as having the capacity to mount a late bid for the play offs, what with all the games in hand at their disposal. Well they’re still third from bottom just one point above Barnet and Stockport. The Hatters, unusually, managed a win against Oxford. Barnet secured a good point at Rotherham. On Tuesday, when City take on Burton, Barnet have a difficult looking visit from Wycombe whilst Stockport travel to Accrington. Small world isn’t it?

Friday, 4 March 2011

Something appealing something appalling

Something for everyone a comedy tonight. On Tuesday night to be precise. Despite scoring early, a collectors item, City were decidedly second best to a lively Oxford outfit who were first to the ball, first to the second ball, better passers, well passers, City didn’t seem to be bothering, enthusiastic and motivated. It was no surprise when they drew level and no surprise that it was a defensive error, Trevor Carson once again in the baggy trousers, pointy hat and honker horn in his hand. Did Joe Anyon have a rather smug look on his face in the half time lark about with the subs?
After the break, fans were expecting a team chastened by Steve Tilsons appraisal of their performance putting right the deficiencies of the first period. Not a bit of it, they set about being very ordinary again and given a thorough chasing by the side from the South backed by a good following who proceeded to chant “yellows yellows” at the team in blue. Thought they were supposed to be smart, down in Oxford?
Just when it seemed the U’s must score they did. Cheers lads. Facey’s hook may have been heading for the net but after Worley’s intervention it certainly was. Cue delirium from the Imps faithful. Delirium turned to incredulity when Tonkin put a much better howler past Oxford keeper Clarke following good work by Carayol to get the cross in. After that, to be fair City did see the game out well and didn’t seem to be in too much danger of throwing it away. The Comedy of Errors would have made a suitable headline but somebody else got in first with that title.
All of which brings us to Accrington, much speculation about them in the late summer or more particularly their manager who was thought to be interested in the Imps hotseat . Was that just a convenience though as the Stanley board, whoever they are, were stalling on a contract renewal and had been for some time. Not after the conjecture as to Lincoln’s new manager they weren’t and John Coleman duly got his new deal. Good luck to him, he’s a good manager and City fans would not have been disappointed had he become our leader but he didn’t, Steve Tilson did and Imps are not disappointed about that either particularly when he has luck on his side as he did on Tuesday.
Tilson had expressed a desire to gain at least four points from the two home games. Most fans would have assumed that Oxford would have been the most difficult of the two so to go in to the Accrington game on a win and a fortuitous win at that will hopefully send the team into this game on a high. March is something of a defining month with two games every week so City could emerge from the winter period safe, with a good month or still in the mire if the recent form continues. Three points against Stanley would see the Imps in a much better position, depending on what the others do and with a good view, in the rear view mirror, of their competitors as the finishing straight is entered.
Financial considerations still dog the North West club with the latest indignity being the proposed sale of, amongst other items, seats and floodlights from the clubs Crown Ground, a sale forced on the club by the Revenue in view of an agreed monthly payment of the clubs outstanding tax bill not being paid in full. The Lancashire Telegraph reported this week that the sale was averted when the instalment was paid, albeit late. The Telegraph stated that the players apparently haven’t been paid on time either. These financial matters and the continuing uncertainty over ownership continue to beset the club but Lincoln City will content themselves with denying Accy any further accumulation of points. After Oxford the team will believe this is well within their capabilities.