Andrew Abbott's Blog

Thursday, 27 December 2012

City left punch drunk after Boxing Day encounter.

Graham Drury, Boston United’s new manager told the Lincolnshire Echo last week that the Pilgrims are the county’s biggest club. They, giants that they are, battled out a 1.1 draw in front of a much improved Boxing Day crowd of 1176. Meanwhile minnows Scunthorpe United were defeated at Sheffield United, whoever they are watched by 21819 and, just to get back to the matter in hand, Lincoln City were humbled by Grimsby Town 4.1 at Sincil Bank where the attendance was 5702.

Love them or loath them, personally I just don’t wish them well, Mariners, particularly when they are at Lincoln and when they are going well which they undoubtedly are at the moment, do have a touch of the big time about them and the noise made by their sell out away following (over 500 more than your entire attendance, Mr Drury) is impressive and they easily outshouted the Sincil Bank faithful although the home fans tried manfully to match them. Maybe that is something to do with the fact that Grimsby are doing so well at the moment but there again, City have been on a decent run of late.

Talking of enthusiasm, I thought a home attendance of something like 4000 to see a team that had hauled themselves up to mid table from the relegation places, in just a few short weeks, to watch them take on our traditional rivals, who are top of the league (as they repeatedly reminded us), was pathetic and there were seats to spare galore in the main stand whilst the Stacey West contained it’s usual sprinkling of supporters, dotted about. Big time is not an epithet I would use to describe us at the moment.

Not wishing to be churlish, although I appreciate it does sound like it, Mariners were no great shakes. City slightly edged possession as well they might being the home side although you would have expected a team having such an excellent season to dominate which Grimsby didn’t particularly. Looking at the general approach to the game in my view it would have been hard to see who were the team at the top and who were mid table. Until it came to taking chances that is. Ably assisted by City who were having one of those Charlie Chaplin days when it came to defending, Grimsby gleefully accepting City’s gift wrapped Christmas offerings.

City started off dropping like flies though, collapsing to the ground on virtually every challenge, whether they were trying to get the referee on side although if they were it didn’t work as just two yellows were dished out, one to each side. City just gave the impression they couldn’t live with the big boys and even the home crowd were getting fed up with it. After that, same old story I’m afraid, chances came and went, defending varied from inadequate to kamikaze, Farman had an off day to say the least and the defence should be kept behind after school. One thing’s for sure, play like this at Blundell Park and there will be a cricket score and we will be back with the haunted ones at the bottom of the league. There again, were not the biggest club in Lincolnshire are we?

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Regal dining in café society.

Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister has been trying to persuade anyone prepared to listen that, in the future when the good people of Scotland have voted to separate from the United Kingdom, his administration will seek greater contact and possibly an international accord with Scotland’s natural allies and soul mates, er Scandinavia.

Leaving aside the generally accepted view that if Scotland has any particular natural allies and soul mates it is with those to the west, not the east, on the other side of the Irish Sea, one thing you can say about the Scots is that, like the Scandinavians, our northern friends and neighbours do embrace winter time with rather more gusto than we English do.

This is nowhere more apparent than Edinburgh at Christmas when the entire city centre is bathed in sparkle from a million Christmas lights, in the trees, in the shops and the Christmas Market is in full swing.
Edinburgh's take on the skate park

You may have formed the impression as I certainly did that Christmas in Scotland is a somewhat muted affair before the real fun starts at Hogmanay. Not a bit of it. The canny and fun loving Scots have the best of both worlds and they don’t wait for New Year. I’ll go as far as to say you won’t see a better Christmas city than Edinburgh with it’s fun fair and general sense of seasonal bonhomie.

I’ll go as far as to say as well you’ll be hard pressed to find a better selection of pubs than Edinburgh and sitting regally, appropriately enough, on the top of the pile is the Café Royal. This is not a café in the accepted sense of the word but, boy is it royal. Expensively appointed and decorated exquisitely with ceramic tiles in the form of large framed paintings this bar is the epitome of civilised society and the beer selection is unsurpassed and, as you’d expect, impeccably kept. This is a pub experience par excellence. Through the bar, if you’re lucky enough to secure a table, is a small restaurant. As if that’s not enough, in the corner is the very table used in the film “Chariots of Fire” for the scene where Harold and Sybil have dinner. Yep. We got that table.

Needless to say the meal was excellent but we resisted the temptation to run round any quadrangles afterwards although there was a bit of a rush for the bus out on Princes Street after our meal. In an Olympic year this was the perfect curtain closer to our visits to Scotland until 2013.

You'll never drink in a grander bar than this.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Hibee Jeebies.

Hibernian v Motherwell.

For a Lincoln City fan adopting Hibernian Football Club as your “other” club is perhaps a bit too close to home although this season at Easter Road has been a lot better than last when Hibs got to the Scottish Cup Final only to be thrashed by the detested Hearts and they also damn near got relegated.

The hopeless Colin Calderwood was replaced by Irishman Pat Fenlon, never a bad move for a club formed by Ex Pat Irish workers, and the team have had a more structured look and even graced the top of the SPL at one point but have, worryingly, lost a bit of form of late. Who better to play next then, to get the show back on the road, than Motherwell, one place above them in the league?

It was all going so well too despite the on loan Griffiths missing a sitter but eventually, man of the match Doyle capped a generally effective performance with a goal in the first half and another, a very well taken effort when one on one with the keeper, in the second half.

They say two nil is a dangerous scoreline and so it proved when Motherwell got a foot back into the game and such was Hibernians jitters upon conceding that it looked pretty certain that if the Steelmen got an equaliser they would not stop there, so it proved and Hibs went into the vital Christmas and new year programme in fourth place with Motherwell second. From two nil up they lost by the odd goal in five.

In the bar afterwards I managed to get the blame for the defeat on the basis that Hibs lost last time I was there. Suspicious lot the Irish, especially ones with Scots accents but anyway they did not lose on my last visit so you can put the wicker man away.

There’s a popular misconception that the Scottish Premier League is just a little behind the English one when it comes to TV money. It’s not. I read somewhere that Celtic amassed £2m from TV income last season. By comparison relegated Wolves got in excess of £50m yet the expectation is still there.

Hibs get by on a hotchpotch of Irish League players and a smattering from English sides, players that can’t get a game in England, usually Scots or Irish. Griffiths is a Wolves player and Hibs are heavily reliant on him. Wolves may well want to sell him and with a gate like that present at Easter Road, under 9000 in a city of about half a million it’s hard to see where the club are going to find the resources to prise a player who has done well in Scotland, from wealthier Southern competitors.

Football in Edinburgh, like Glasgow, is divided on religious lines. If you’re Catholic, especially from Irish descent, you follow Hibs. If you’re not you follow Hearts and therein lies the problem for Hibernian. There’s very little cross sectarian support, however well the team does. Hibs Wikipedia entry says otherwise and it would certainly help if more fans could be persuaded to adopt this enigmatic and friendly club as their own. As for those lads in the bar, my Grandmother was Irish, and a Catholic. I’ll see you in August.

Easter Road. A few less empty seats would help.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Run for our money.

It just goes to show a little cup success goes a long way, and what we have missed out on over the years.

Steve Prescott, City CEO told BBC Sport:-

"When we come to the cashflow throughout the year, we may not need to use next season's season ticket money to keep the club afloat in the close season."

"We can use the money constructively for next season. Any extra income is always welcome.

"We are desperately disappointed to go out but the team performed pretty well, so there are no complaints.

"It was just that we knew what the prize was so we were very excited about that possibility of playing Liverpool at Sincil Bank.

"It's been a good cup run financially. We had a memorable win at Walsall and the supporters have really enjoyed it.

"What was great was the turnout of the Imps fan we had more than 1300 - there there have been a lot of positives.

"Certainly we have made in excess of £100,000 which is great news because we only budget for about £5,000 so that will help us balance the books."

So, the second round and its happy days. Makes you wonder how different things would be with a bit of success most years. Some clubs manage it.

It’s never us is it?

So the dream is over for another year although Lincoln City fans will be hoping the FA Cup run will be the catalyst that will set the club on an upwards trajectory towards the play offs.

City participated in an impressive six cup games this season having entered the competition in the final qualifying round. This being the Imps it did not mean progress to the fifth round but a stuttering run of generally poor home performances, always accepting the home leg v Mansfield was a roller coaster of emotions, followed by finishing the job off away. Until last night that is.

David Holdsworth was full of bravado when interviewed after the game, maintaining that City were the best side throughout the second half. Apologies if you went and disagree with me but, from my armchair seat in front of the TV it looked as if City reverted to that biff bang, whack it up the front and run after it football that has so frustrated us previously and it was to end in heartbreak as Mansfield took the tie and look forward to a game against Liverpool. To my eyes they were the better side and therefore deserved it.

I switched off fairly rapidly after the final whistle but not before a few shots of jubilant Stags punching the air and cheering themselves hoarse. I felt like I did that time at Cardiff when, decent bunch that we are, we stuck around after the play off final to congratulate the victorious Bournemouth team before sliding off into the night, the Cherries fans taunts ringing in our ears, always the bridesmaids.

Monday, 10 December 2012

You little Tinker.

Well it worked this time didn’t it? David Holdsworth made wholesale changes to his starting eleven, in preparation for the now imminent cup replay against Mansfield and, presumably in reaction to the well below par performances in Tuesday’s home defeat to Woking.

Probably the most surprising was the inclusion of David Preece in goal but it was not a huge shock to see Andrew Boyce left out as he is another player on four yellows and would be greatly missed for the Mansfield clash if he got a fifth and a suspension. Sheridan was out too as he is in a similar position. A few weeks ago fans might have said “so what?” but Sheridan has impressed of late and will be a key player on Wednesday. Taylor was serving his ban having “suffered” a yellow last time out. He’s now on a clean sheet and, such was the sparkling form of Colin Larkin he was not particularly missed as City raced to a four goal lead at half time courtesy of a Dan Gray first goal for the Imps and a Larkin hat trick. He’s one of those players City fans have wanted to see more of. Now they know what he has to offer. It’s good to know all our eggs are not in the same basket, striker wise.

Needless to say Dartford, who are having an excellent season having been promoted last season following a rise up through the pyramid, were not going to take the first half pasting lying down and gave a better account of themselves in the second half to make more of a game of it.

With Mansfield also winning the stage is now set for a cracking cup replay, City fans have snapped up tickets in good numbers despite the match being on the TV. I said after the Woking defeat that good teams bounce back after a defeat. Does that mean the Imps are now a good team? It just might.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Vital elements that City must address.

When you sit at your keyboard analysing a City performance, particularly when the team has lost a game you don’t know whether your take on the game is in accordance with ones fellow fans. In many ways that doesn’t matter, people log on to a blog to find out what the writer of that blog thinks, so provided the hits figures are good, end of story.

Of course no blogger should sit down to write what he or she thinks readers think, that would be pointless but it’s interesting, nevertheless to read others take on the game so it was an education to log on to who usually run a “your views” feature after matches.

What fans thought was, pretty much my take on matters as I hope I got across in my own article on the Woking fiasco. Tinkering around with the side, whilst understandable, necessary even, has not worked for us, we are out of the FA Trophy which I appreciate I have rather banged on about but I really did think it would be worth going for but always accepting the FA Cup is far more significant if only for financial reasons. When the team is changed and other squad players brought in it has merely served to underline that strength in depth is not our er strength.

Several players, who I thought were consistent performers this season had what I can only hope is an off day. Gilbert in particular who I think has been a rock for us. Several contributors on Vitals agreed with me, one even expressing the wish that Nutter had been on the bench. Ouch!

Another disappointment on the night, Morgan. I had been looking forward to seeing him again, failed to shine and a player I did not highlight, skipper Mills does not seem to be setting your worlds alight. Farman didn’t get a mention, I thought he was poor; Taylor even came in for his share of dismay. Hopefully it’s a one off. One thing’s for sure, play like that against Stags and there will be no need to book a morning off work to queue up for tickets to see Liverpool.

It’s not Liverpool or indeed Mansfield next but, just going back to last Saturdays game and the commemoration of Bert Linnecor’s passing did serve to underline to me how far City have travelled in the wrong direction since Bert’s days. He was most fondly remembered for a hat trick scored against Liverpool. In the league. Tomorrow it’s Dartford. I rest my case.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

City a dead cert? Don’t bet on it.

Me and my big mouth! Win at a canter? The old nag looked about ready for the knackers yard, well a good rest at any rate. As Su Whittaker on Radio Lincolnshire’s sports report said this morning the team looked tired. The usually ultra reliable Peter Gilbert had a mare, if you’ll forgive the pun, Garners performance highlighted what a good player the absent Miller is. Add to that the fact that Farman was definitely having an off day and quite what the watching sponsors made of picking a man of the match is anyone’s guess. In the end they went for Jake Sheridan which I’m not going to argue with but least bad man of the match might have been a better description.

Jamie Taylor certainly looked in need of a rest and he’ll get one now, having gone in the book, that’s a fifth card and a one match ban for a misdemeanour so stupid, kicking the ball into the net ages after the whistle had gone, that you have to wonder if it was engineered to have him fresh and free of sanction in time for the cup replay. That was the way it looked to me although said it was for kicking the ball out of the keepers hands which is almost as daft.

It’s tempting to call it the curse of the manager of the month but of course all good runs come to an end some time, usually unexpectedly and I suppose Woking being the wounded beast they were having shipped a hatful of goals previously City should have been ready for a backlash as I’m sure they were. Decent teams manage to bounce back rapidly from such setbacks and we must hope that is the case with the Imps.

The pity is, and this is far from a rarity, that there was a considerably better attendance in Sincil Bank last night, partly as a result of the improved form and certainly taking advantage of the generous offer of £5 entry and the board of directors must this morning be ruefully contemplating the fact that all of those extra punters were merely transported back to the sort of performance that caused them to stop going in the first place. I can only urge them to give the players another chance and assure them that those of us that have kept going have not been suffering the sort of display we saw last night. Far from it.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Back to basics.

Something of an anticlimax tonight as the Imps are at home to Woking, well you might think so but if the club are to progress they have got to get fans back onside and attending regularly. They made a good start on Saturday when, after a largely forgettable first half performance they gave a good account of themselves later on in the game although that old demon of conceding last minute goals reared its ugly head, as we all know. Hopefully a good proportion of the fans in attendance will come and have another look, especially at £5 entry.

Long term, and unusually for City lately the omens could be good, especially if the Imps could get through to play Liverpool at Sincil Bank following a good payday at Mansfield, with the match being on TV. The scene would then be set for something of a renaissance with, we are told, the relegation hangover debt cleared and hopefully fans starting to return, I’m getting a little carried away here I know but if, and of course it’s a big if, City did face the Reds and the climb up the league continues then presumably the board may be far more disposed to invest further in the squad and have a tilt at the playoffs. That would certainly be something I thought would be several seasons away.

Well that’s quite enough conjecture although the team are perfectly capable of progressing at Mansfield, given they’re got this far by drawing at home and finishing off the tie away. Tonight we are back to the league and the visit of Woking. If ever there was a team there for the taking it’s the Cards, smashed 7.0 in their last outing at Hyde although they themselves put 7 past Farnborough the week before in the Trophy. Away, they are frightful and hopefully we can look forward to plenty of goals to warm us on what promises to be a thermals sort of a night. It could be we will see our old friend Gavin McCallum but we certainly won’t have John Nutter to contend with as he is not allowed to play under the terms of his loan from City to Woking. Apart from the fact that it’s going to be chilly, at £5 a pop I can’t see why there shouldn’t be a decent crowd at the Bank tonight to see the Imps in a game they should win at a canter. Famous last words!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Battle of the Bank leaves fans in need of a pacemaker.

It was like the old days at Sincil Bank on Saturday as a bumper 5000 plus gate was in attendance to see the Imps take on Mansfield.

Before the game commenced there was a minutes applause to respect the memory of Bert Linnecor , who lived round the corner from me and, whilst I do not recall seeing this great player in the flesh, he was nevertheless part of the history of the club if only for his hat trick scored at Anfield in the days when City regularly locked horns with such luminaries as Liverpool. What follows has an almost written in the stars feel to it.

The minute’s applause was presumably preferred to the more traditional minutes silence to lessen the chance of the Mansfield fans ruining the solemnity of the occasion. City officials need not have worried. Even though they presumably had no idea who Bert was, the Stags supporters joined in the applause to a man and the occasion was marked, not by petty local rivalry but by respect and solidarity. Well done Stags fans. You are a credit to your club and to football.

In an age when the major clubs have devalued the magic of the FA Cup it has to be said that Lincoln City and Mansfield Town added glory to the ethos of this oldest of competitions in their determination to progress in it. City were simply not at the races in the first half, a pale shadow of the form that had preceded the clash. They went behind, deservedly, in the first half before regaining some composure and equalising as the half came to a close. It was almost as if the Imps had failed to set their alarms for the early start.

No sooner had the second half commenced the Imps were ahead, Jamie Taylor adding to Alan Power’s first half equaliser and City got to grips with the second half to put themselves in the driving seat. Not to be outdone, Mansfield levelled through Briscoe with an effort that simply had to be admired, it was hit with such ferocity.

Undaunted, City pressed on and it was Power who was to get City’s noses in front once again and as the clock ticked down it was beginning to look as if the Imps were through before Rhead headed in to force a replay, even after this Mansfield had to clear what looked like a certain City winner off the line.

It felt like a defeat but at least City were in the draw and when it came there was a certain inevitability in what was to be revealed. The day after Imps, and indeed, Stags had honoured a great Lincoln City stalwart and tormentor of Liverpool, for the Imps were victorious on the day Bert Linnecor scored his hat trick, the winners of the tie, it was decided, would play those same Merseyside giants.

I remember a day when City, riding high in the league faced Mansfield, top of the division I believe in a midweek game. The red tail lights formed an unbroken line from Newark to the stadium. I got in just before half time and could only see the ball when it was in the air. Time has moved on but I can see a mass exodus from the city for this one as the fans rediscover their thirst for seeing City away and the unaccustomed pleasure of seeing if the Imps can progress to surely one of the most prestigious fixtures ever to be held at Sincil Bank. Lincoln supporters have unfailingly backed the team wherever they have played and City fans can say with certainty, and definitely for this replay fixture, to their favourites as ever. You’ll never walk alone.

                      Good to see Sincil Bank rocking again. Let's hope for another red letter day.