Andrew Abbott's Blog

Monday, 9 May 2011

City relegated without really trying

Let’s get things in perspective. Lincoln City’s relegation will not directly involve anybody’s loss of life. Your boss will not fire you because of it although he or she might seriously question your judgement. Your wife will not leave you because the Imps are relegated, she might though if you attempt to renew your season ticket particularly if you took her along to Sincil Bank and made her sit through this pathetic rubbish. Almost 8000 people were at the Bank on Saturday not because they particularly wanted to be but because they cared what happened to their local football club. Unfortunately though insufficient players cared about the outcome of this match and this season and the prospects of their employers. This magnificent attendance was testament to the affection the people of Lincoln and surrounding area have for their club and also underlined the potential and goodwill towards the Imps as thousands queued to get in, Mrs Abbott had to blag her way in to the Echo stand as the house full signs went up for that particular area of the ground and the great and the good were in evidence as everyone with red and white in their hearts made their way in. The slightly cadaverous form of Ian Dowie, for Sky Sports, high in the stand a reminder that today was the final judgement although, in his lofty perch, he looked like an eagle circling above looking for pickings from the body. You won’t get fat picking over this particular corpse Ian.

Yes, those much maligned fans who stood accused of frightening the players and being the cause of City’s woeful home form, not that the away version has been anything to write home about lately, here for one last time in the hope that it won’t be the final time they are able to watch league football at Sincil Bank. Well it was and on this evidence it will be a long time, if at all before that particular delicacy is back on the menu.

Things were not exactly going swimmingly but the Imps maintained an uneasy parity with their visitors throughout the first half, the team, as is usual now, making their guests look like world beaters as they struggled to put two passes together and the paucity of the attack became apparent to those fans who were at a game for the first time this season. Hopes rested on Barnet being unable to improve on whatever City did in the game and half time came bringing with it no relief from the tension.

Then came the hammer blow, in fact two hammer blows and both of them were penalties. Before the game had even restarted Barnet were ahead, the gloom soon finding its way into everyone’s breast. Then, as night follows day City were behind as Clapham erred in the box. Clapham of all people, who does not stand accused by this writer of not caring, quite the reverse. It must be something to do with the fact that this season has been such a struggle and we are not saying the referee was in any way biased but decision after decision was going the way of the visitors so it really was no surprise that this one did and it might as well have been the matadors coup de grace as the shiny sword found its way between our shoulder blades and we sank to our knees. There was no way back.

As the game wore on the previous forbearance started to get a little difficult to maintain and a few home truths were relayed to the team. Ashley Grimes became involved in a nasty little spat with a fan as the realisation dawned that City were down and there was to be no knight in shining armour come to our rescue. Port Vale were defeated at Underhill and City defeated at Sincil Bank, the now familiar flurry of goals coming to rub salt into our wounds.

Keith Alexander will be turning in his grave. The legacy he left us, evidenced by this turnout, now frittered away and the club exposed in their tattered rags. Even at this last chance City put out a team and a formation that the fans will question. Wasn’t all out attack needed? So what if we took another stuffing a few more goals would have made no difference and at least City would have gone down fighting instead of the usual capitulation. The team disappeared down the tunnel without a backward glance. Well good riddance.

Next season does in fact offer the prospect of some good games and a return to some local derbies but this is testament to the lack of success in this neck of the woods with only the Iron to look out for in the league and even they were relegated but how we wish for ourselves that relegation should simply mean a return to League One. Boo Hoo!

Unfortunately for City, fans may merely cherry pick the best games from next term rather than sign up for a whole season and after this debacle of a campaign who could blame them? Once again, the Imps face an uncertain future.

Have a good summer.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Last chance saloon

Whose round is it? Almost certainly the players but as usual we fans find ourselves in the chair however there’s no point in moaning about it now as our former and unlamented manager was fond of saying we are where we are and we might as well get on with it. One more chance to go out with a bang. Will we take it? Despite the criticism directed at us, for this writer having been to more than one or two away fixtures in his time, we’re no better and no worse than other supporters. Granted some fans can crank up the noise at home but there again they probably haven’t put up with years of under- achievement. No matter. We can’t put anything in the past right now and, sorry to rather harp on about it but, as we approach the last day of the season it is still in City’s hands to decide their destiny. Will it be Plymouth and Swindon or Kettering and Barrow next season?

Actually the Blue Square Premier doesn’t look quite the barren wasteland it did the last time City fans were forced to contemplate it, or it’s predecessor to be accurate and it has to be said there are some more tantalising games and local derbies than we’ve had this year but lets not go there.

On to the game now and the club have announced much reduced prices for home fans only. Aldershot are not best pleased as you might expect. Quite what provisions City have made to prevent away fans simply coming in to home areas is a source of amusement to us here at the mad house, well we’ve had precious little else to amuse us this season. Presumably anyone with a southern accent will be frogmarched to the away corner, bit hard on those softies who have made their home with us and adopted the Imps as their team? We can’t help feeling it might have been more sensible to charge the same for all, it’s not as if many away fans would have made the trip and we wouldn’t have been too pleased if it had been us. Another management master-stroke there we think?

City will be without Danny Hone for the game having received his marching orders at Oxford. He is one of the few this season to have performed reasonably well. Could he have played his last game for the Imps. Will we recognise many faces next season? We’ve got to get there first. Rather than yet another pre match review and again, at the risk of repeating ourselves, we must do what, as supporters, is the only thing we can do and that is support the team. If you are reading this then you are probably a dedicated fan and as such will be at Sincil Bank on Saturday. Leaving aside the notion as to whether or not our presence at the Bank is beneficial to the team we are asked to be there and be there we will but Lincoln City Mad appeals to supporters lapsed or not to be at Saturdays game and to make as much noise as possible to try to cheer the team over the finish line bringing with them friends neighbours, wives, long lost cousins, anyone really. Other than visit your local church, temple, mosque or synagogue to ask for help it’s difficult to know what to suggest. As is always the case no one will help us but ourselves or will they? City need to match whatever Barnet do so win lose or draw, if that’s what Barnet do we’re safe. Does that make you feel better? Thought not.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Judgement Day

So, it has come to this; in this nightmare season our worst fears are realised. After a decent spell, once the management team had bedded in, City had it in their power to move away from the melee at the foot of the table. Stockport and Barnet were such dead ducks that the Imps had only to pick up the odd win at Sincil Bank and the occasional point away from home and we could look forward to a bright new dawn with our enthusiastic bosses, maybe a new Ashley Grimes plucked from obscurity, at least defenders who knew how to defend and midfielders who could pass the ball. Instead we must suffer the agony of having our fate decided on the last day of the season. Those stiffs who were causing us such merriment, Northampton, Hereford, Burton, have all secured their future in the league leaving us to battle it out with Barnet. Who amongst us truly believe City have it in their power to secure a win on the final judgement day? We may be mad but we’re not stupid. The Imps have secured copyright on losing so the way we see it, though our future is in our hands, it’s more a question of whether Barnet will lose as we do not have it in our locker to win. There you are providence, what do you make of that?

As on so many other occasions this term, the Imps got off to a good start, Cian Hughton heading in after only five minutes, then Luke Howell hit the bar. Elliot Parrish survived a scare when he brought down Craddock, some Imps tweeting that they thought it was a dive, the home crowd demanding a red card. Anyone who has ever seen a game at Oxford will know the home crowd spend the entire game, or at least that half of it where the opposition are defending the home end, demanding penalties with shouts of “handball” every time a player is anywhere near the ball. As night follows day the U’s were level followed by a winner. We were never going to be so lucky as we were in the corresponding fixture at the Bank, in fact lady luck seems to have deserted us entirely in our hour of need. With a certain predictability, Danny Hone left the field early for a second bookable offence, one of the few players this season who, for this correspondent, can hold his head high, but you’re going to have to wise up a bit Dan.

Saturdays this season have become more and more something to be dreaded rather that eagerly anticipated and this next one is going to be no exception. Will dawn come and wake us, disturbed and sweating realising it was all a dream? No. This is the here and now and we must come face to face with our destiny. If the will and determination of the fans had anything to do with it City would have secured a win yesterday. For such a maligned group, once again the City fans demonstrated that they do not deserve to have this horror visited upon them, even with free coach travel 774 Imps at the game is a magnificent testament to the fans commitment to the cause and yet we constantly have to hear that we are the cause of home woes, well boys, we’re all you’ve got so you’d better make the most of it.

Lincoln City Mad appeals to all who have red and white flowing through their veins and Lincoln City or even the City of Lincoln in their hearts to be at Sincil Bank on Saturday and to the team, not for the first time to throw off your shackles and play. Your lives may not depend upon it but your reputation does. Good luck.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Don’t look back in anger.

Back in September, when this writer was the fresh faced, newly installed Lincoln City Correspondent on Give Me Football, the official website of the Professional Footballers Association an article was published for the then forthcoming home fixture against Barnet. Here is an extract;-

“Barnet are the visitors to Sincil Bank this weekend and whilst it would be far too premature to think of this game as a make or break moment, a win would go a long way to dispel the fear that is starting to creep in to a lot of supporters minds.

For those unfamiliar with the goings on at Lincoln City, they were the first club to be automatically relegated from the league, only to bounce back at the first time of asking, a feat that few fans would be expecting if that particular nightmare should come true again, so Imps fans could perhaps be forgiven if they seem to be unduly panic stricken at the prospect of a lowly league position, even at this early stage of the season.”

For the first and, come to think of it the only time, a critical supporter commented on the website that the Lincoln City Correspondent had no idea what he was talking about, no one was in a panic, everything in the garden was lovely and we should all get behind the team and all will be well.

Twenty days later, Chris Sutton was no more, which you may judge a good or bad thing and several months later if there a single one amongst us who is not panicking we would like to meet them because from where we are standing on the roof of Mad Towers, Imps fans are in complete turmoil as to the teams prospects particularly after Mondays “Three points? No problem, would you like them gift wrapped?” performance. After the previously reported, we’re in a false position but it’s all your fault anyway attitude, who knows if the team Steve Tilson manages to put out to face Oxford have it within themselves to haul themselves over the finish line. Amazingly after the run the team has been on it is still possible to escape the drop whatever the opposition do by their own actions.

All this is not to suggest that there was absolutely no merit in Mondays game because there was and this is what made it worse. If there was a poorer side in opposition this season this correspondent didn’t see them and the Imps gave them the run around but, once again, no goal to show for it and once Cheltenham got one City’s resolve collapsed quicker than that blokes soufflĂ© on Great British Menu the other night. Here at the Mad House we wouldn’t normally dare to disagree with our Lincolnshire Echo reporter but to heap praise on our midfield after that debacle doesn’t quite ring true. At least Keith Alexander’s sides knew they were bypassing midfield, on Monday they were simply AWOL. One hesitates to say it but a comment was overheard that a certain player didn’t even look like a proper footballer. We haven’t got any managers sons in the ranks have we?

What worse final away opponents could there be than Oxford? Well, to be honest there are worse but Oxford has traditionally been a bit of a graveyard, apart from when the U’s were spiralling out of the league themselves and of course they put on a show of such ineptitude at Sincil Bank they are bound to want to put the record straight on home turf.

It’s a little bit scary to look back and find one had an inkling it might all go pear shaped but in reality this situation has been brewing for some time, in fact, for this correspondent you can go right back to when the team were sitting pretty on top of league two and a little more investment might have seen the team promoted. As it is it’s been downhill ever since and those in charge of such matters must ask themselves if the right direction has been taken. For the moment let us sincerely hope that the direction is no further downwards in the next two weeks.