Andrew Abbott's Blog

Friday, 29 January 2016

Embattled City boss pulls a very large rabbit out of the hat.

In the considerable form of Jamie McCombe of course, a development that should have the most died in the wool critic of Chris Moyses pausing to consider whether this will turn out to be the banner signing that will get City going again. Like most of you I was a massive fan of the massive defender when he was with us previously, particularly as he deserted Scunthorpe United in favour of the Imps and he was a part of the team that tried and failed in the playoffs.

"We know things have not been good, but we were never going to stop working hard," Manger Moyses told the assembled press yesterday. "At present we are seven points off the top five, we have still to play teams above us as well.

The prospect of playing the teams above us is one that, I have to confess I’ve not been filled with enthusiasm about although the manager seems not to have lost his confidence but to a certain extent he would say that wouldn’t he?

I will say this signing has gone a long way to restoring some hope that City can get moving again and, even at 33 this can be seen as a positive development for the next season or two. Moyses is not having any truck with the doubters though:-

"It is not over and done by a long shot, so we need to do all we can and brining in Jamie addresses some of the issues that have been bothering us.

"Jamie will bring us that bit of knowledge and experience that has been lacking at the back. He's played up to the Championship and is a very accomplished professional."

"I know Jamie has a history with City, but for me his is also very much the right sort of character that we have been looking to recruit this year," said the under fire supremo

"He is also a lad who is based up this end of the country, so he fits the bill in that respect. He is going to be a good addition."

I’ve still not given up on the Imps manager but we can’t go on losing every game the way we have lately and what is particularly disappointing is the home form, previously so solid has disappeared altogether and Imps fans have had to sit through three home defeats in a row and two draws since they last won, against Tranmere back in mid-November.

I’ll just leave you with one Colemanballs style quote from the bellicose manager who must have known what message he wanted to get across but couldn’t quite get it into words as he chatted to the press on Thursday:-

"I just don't like people who look at you in the eye and then stab you in the back.”

Was he talking to an octopus, possibly? We’ve after all had whales in Skeggy this week.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Business as usual.

Despite the clamour on BBC Radio Lincolnshire after the game on Saturday which saw Lincoln City further extend their losing streak manager Chris Moyses is assuming he’s in charge until someone from the club tells him he’s not, unless of course he comes to the conclusion all is lost. At least City scored at Wrexham, albeit a penalty.

I honestly thought City would emerge the winners this time, especially when I heard Rhead had scored from the penalty spot to put the Imps in the lead but once again City slipped to defeat, a result Moyses described as “disgraceful”:-

"It is disgraceful, but we are doing all we can to sort it out," Moyses told the assembled press and media. "I think at times it is too easy to put your hand up and say it was 'my mistake'. Sometimes we need to be a bit more ruthless and that bit more clinical.

"We got options with Chris Bush, he could come into the centre back role. We are going to have to do something now because it has not been working. It is not just centre halves, it is a back four issue. We do need to do better. People cannot keep making the same mistakes and not face the consequences.

"It's a balance to allow people to bed themselves into games and runs of games. It is a theme now and 10 games in the league is a theme which is far too long. I will see what options are available to me, we certainly need to liven it up, though."

Manager in not my fault shocker, that might have made a better headline. To make matters worse injuries are now starting to crop up with both Bradley Wood and Liam Hearn coming off the field in Wales.

Moyses bemoaned the chaotic defending that has become the hallmark of recent performances and hinted at changes but did not specify what or was not asked, I wouldn’t know because I’d given up listening to the radio by then.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Is Saturday the day City slay the dragon?

Chris Moyses has been telling the Echo he has chairman Bob Dorrians unwavering support, as well he might as he was, until fairly recently on the board of directors himself.

I don’t think my support has been too wobbly either although, boy could we do with a win tomorrow.
I’ve mentioned before the sack the manager crew are gathering support and of course it’s always the most vociferous who get their views across because they’re the ones who can be bothered to ring up BBC Radio Lincolnshire and they in turn are going to give them air time and read out their texts.

I do wonder if this unusual relationship may yet turn out to be the saviour of the club though. I’m going to preface my remarks by saying by and large I have agreed with the club when managers have departed although City have got through far too many managers in their time. Looking back I can think of perhaps Keith Alexander, first time round, I’d have given him another season and Steve Thompson, he’s not very fashionable these days but I’d not have let him go when the club did although his was a resignation, admittedly after the club said they wouldn’t renew his contract. Ironically, Keith was the man who came in when Thompson resigned.

Now to the vexed question of the present manager. I said previously Rome wasn’t built in a day and City are never going to buy their way into the league, it’s got to be an organic process. Is Moyses the man for the job? If you look at the Imps first half of the season you’d say yes. If you look now you’d say no, or would you? I don’t think I’ve seen City trounced this season at home, one or two clubs have found us out, particularly in attack. In defence too we’ve shipped some stupid goals but this is the national league, what do we expect?

I’ll take my rose tinted glasses off now and say, obviously there has got to be a dramatic improvement. I’m more than a bit fed up of seeing City start off well only to revert to kick and rush football, I’ve given my support, can we see much less hit and hope please?

Having said all that, City play Wrexham tomorrow and they’ve lost five in a row. They also play pretty football so, seeing as I won’t be watching maybe Saturday is a day for a smash and grab raid.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Barrow have faith in City’s strike force even if we don’t.

That’s a bit tongue in cheek as I think we do have faith in our strike force but dearly wish it would strike up again.

Barrow, having put paid to the Imps promotion ambitions with a swoop for Liam Hearn have now turned their attention to Matt Rhead and tabled a five figure bid for him on Saturday morning prior to the Forest Green Rovers game. Hearn’s loan was a disaster for him and the bid has been rejected but you do wonder what sort of an effect all this speculation and subterfuge has on the players. Chris Moyses, decent cove that he is felt duty bound to inform the player before the game. I’m certainly not laying responsibility for yet another loss at Barrows door but it all must be unsettling for the players.

Just looking at the fixture list and there are no midweek games to keep the players occupied. It’s been such a mild winter there have been no postponements and City have been going about the various cups with their customary total lack of success.

With some tough games coming up I seem to have lost the anticipation that was starting to build up as City swept all before them earlier in the season. Those pictures put out of Graham Taylors all conquering side playing at a packed Sincil Bank on the sad death of Percy Freeman merely seemed to deepen my sense of a football following life somewhat passing us Imps by.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Lincoln City need a new and better bench, not a new manager.

I was going to expand my thoughts on the nature of Forest Green Rovers, the village team who look like they may grace the football league next season but the Echo beat me to it. This is most certainly sour grapes on my part but this “club” bring nothing to football, their 40 fan following on Saturday was pathetic. I have no time for these teams who are purchased and appear out of nowhere. John Pakey said he hoped they get promoted and out of our way. I would prefer what happened to Rushden and Diamonds, somehow or other the money disappears and so do they. Their position is an insult to the football clubs up and down the country struggling to make ends meet, fans valiantly assisting the board of directors to keep the wolf from the door.

For someone who wasn’t going to expand on the subject of FGR I appear to have done exactly that but now on to more pressing matters. Radio Lincolnshire was alive to the sound of Chris Moyses’ critics after the latest home defeat and there’s no doubt about it, it’s a very worrying run of losses. If we just had five more points we could breathe more easily and yet, for much of the game City more than matched their opponents. Once again it was the inability to take chances that was their downfall. Hearn was out with a groin strain (I really think you should take note of this Liam, you clearly can’t play all of every game) and upfront the Imps had a makeshift look. If I have a criticism I’d have started Robinson alongside Rhead, having Power if not alongside but expected to shuttle between midfield and supporting Rhead, didn’t produce a goal.

Talking of Robinson much though I like the idea of having local players in the squad it’s a make or break season for him. I’m not sure he demonstrates the urgency of his situation. I’m sure Boston would love to have him and maybe that’s his level.

For me, Saturday cried out for someone to come off the bench and reinvigorate the team. It didn’t happen, at least not when it was needed. The reason? This was more or less confirmed in the manager’s interview, the reason was there wasn’t anyone any better and therein lies the problem. I said previously that investment in the team would probably be wasted but now we have a different difficulty. The playoffs are out of reach but relegation isn’t. We need two or three players who will assist the present squad to get the points needed for safety.

Ironically, given thought as to who those players are they could be all that is needed to produce a playoff achieving team although that wouldn’t give an awful lot of squad depth. Nolan is gone and Nat Brown will surely be going although he would certainly go with my best wishes and thanks for his efforts. The rest of the non-playing squad need to be examined or rather need to examine themselves and to ask themselves the question, do I want / have the ability to get in the team and stay in it? If the answer is no they too should look elsewhere.

As for us, the crowd I don’t believe there is any great clamour for a change, what good has it done us before? There was just a bit of a grumble at the end rather than wholesale dissatisfaction. It’s now up to the club to keep us all onside with two or three good acquisitions to get us going again. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Imps only option is to try to keep going.

I don’t think many of us will have failed to notice the sight of Matt Rhead going from strutting goal machine to the frustrated figure seemingly banging his head against a brick wall in his bid to score.

Opponents, having previously had two in form attackers in Rhead and Liam Hearn to contend with all of a sudden found City’s goal threat substantially reduced and only one striker of note to deal with. They duly applied the strong arm tactics. Referees in this division largely seem to turn a blind eye with the result that the goals dried up and Rhead has spent an awful lot of time on the deck.

Well now Hearn’s back but despite scoring in each of his return games City have not got back to winning ways. In my last article I drew the curtains on another seasons efforts. The manager says all is not lost. Can he prove me wrong? I would very much like to think so but City have a mighty tough home fixture this Saturday against moneybags Forest Green Rovers. If they can win that I think we’d all have to revise our opinions.

Earlier in the week the Echo’s John Pakey was optimistic, well I’m all for that and in todays Echo website Matt Rhead says he welcomes Hearn back, all good friends and jolly good companee as my little sister used to sing in her song and dance troupe. Regular readers will know I also welcome the return of the prodigal if only because the Rhead / Hearn partnership represents our best route to goals, it’s no more than that, personalities don’t come in to it.

Just looking back at previous Echo observations I see Hearn did offer an apology to manager and team mates explaining that he was going through a difficult time personally. He extended that apology to us the fans however I don’t think an apology to us is necessary. I did feel let down, a bit humiliated to think that my club couldn’t hang on to a player who was the subject of overtures from Barrow. I find it quite shocking we couldn’t retain him in those circumstances but apology, no. Every player in these freedom of contract days has the right to go where he pleases and clubs will dump a player who is not performing without a second glance. Similarly fans can turn on a player also. I await seeing the crowd’s reaction to Hearn on Saturday as I missed the last home game. I think his importance to the team overrides any negative thoughts but, influential as he is it is of no consequence if the team aren’t winning.

So is John Pakey right about our chances against FGR or will our forebodings be played out before our very eyes? As always we’ll see come Saturday.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Imps promotion bid. End of.

I sat watching and, yes cheering Scunthorpe United at Chelsea yesterday, less recently I suffered through Grimsby Towns long run in the Championship. The Iron themselves made the second level in the not too distant past. I don’t pay much attention to what is happening at other clubs but I did sit up and take notice when the commentator at the Chelsea game stated that the Irons manager still had hopes of making the League One play offs.

For years Scunny had been the bridesmaids of Lincolnshire football and there they are stratospherically higher than ourselves or the Mariners in league position. Town themselves having seen off the possibility of losing their manager are once again looking like they might escape the pit that is the National League.

It did seem at one time that Peter Swann who bankrolled Gainsborough Trinity to play off success, having tired of the Blues might transfer his affections to Lincoln City but instead ended up at Glanford Park. If the rumours surrounding the possible move to Lincoln were true were Scunny really a better proposition than City? Did something happen at boardroom level to stop the move?

You’ve probably gathered I’m a bit morose after City’s latest setback, back to back home losses and I can’t really buy into Chris Moyses assertion that the playoffs are not beyond our reach. In football, direction of travel is paramount and City are going nowhere at the moment. In fact the way things are at this time the Imps are on 42 points so even after that good run early in the season disaster could await although I hope my disappointment at the way the season has panned out is clouding my judgement.

Our own new investor still seems to be a spectator and in any event there’s not a lot of sense in putting vast sums (if only) in to rescue a season that may well be beyond us. The mighty Forest Green Rovers await at Sincil Bank on Saturday. I’m thoroughly sick of having to regard outfits such as Dover and Forest Green Rovers as superior to City.

Did I wish you a Happy New Year by the way?

Friday, 8 January 2016

Time to put up or shut up.

Or as Chris Moyses told the Echo, January is make or break month. Christmas is reckoned to be the point at which you make your pitch. Your end of season finishing place will match your position then.

If that’s the case, City are sunk and of course the less said about the Christmas results the better. Can the Imps rescue themselves after the disastrous yuletide performances? Time will tell. I really must move on from this but, you don’t need me to tell you this, the slump coincided with the absence of Liam Hearn on an ill-fated sojourn at Barrow. Ill-fated for the City striker, ill-fated for City.

Can City recover? Well Hearn is back, he scored at the weekend and new recruits are arriving, dead wood (sorry Nolan but you were the author of your own misfortune) has been jettisoned, fringe players out on loan and hopefully a new resolve can be conjured up to get the show back on the road.

So far there has been no banner signing to underscore City’s new and novel, for us, situation of having a bit of cash to throw at the problem. I say bit of cash because the amounts City are due to receive from our new investor are a trifle compared to the sums being pumped in to some clubs I could mention. That’s not to say we’re ungrateful.

Moyses was at pains to underline the threat posed by Dover if they are to get back to winning ways at Sincil Bank tomorrow. There is a ray of hope though:-

"Dover have done really well, they are flying at the moment, but they will be without their top scorer Stefan Payne for the game as he is suspended,"
"He is their main goal threat, so that will be an advantage for us.
"We need to focus on ourselves, though. We need to get the work done and get three points. It is important we get back to winning ways as this is a big month for us.
"It is a make or break month. We need to take each game on its merits and hopefully come away with three points each time."

The Imps are going to have to if they want to prosper. That Christmas spell has left no margin for error. Moyses recognises the need to win and keep winning if they want to end up in the playoff mix come the end of the season:-

"We started the game looking fresh and lively and I was pleased at how we passed the ball at times. There is a lot of positives to be taken from it,"
"It was a pity we couldn't hang on for the win. I have looked back at both the goals we conceded and they are down to ourselves, so we will work on that."

Thursday, 7 January 2016

‘Allo ‘allo. What’s all this pantomime?

Sat in our seats at last years panto at Lincoln Theatre Royal we were assured by Cannon and Ball that they would be returning for an eighth year. We thought no more about it until the nights began to draw in when, much to our surprise, no sign of Tommy and Bobby, we were getting Vickie Michelle and Martin Daniels. I think underwhelmed was my first reaction, Cannon and Ball were a Christmas institution in Lincoln.

I’ve still not seen any kind of explanation of why Cannon and Ball decamped to Hull, money perhaps? My own theory, having met the comedians previously and been told that Tommy Cannon liked to go home each evening after the performance, is distance. I presume Tommy lives in the north west and Hull is a lot more commutable than Lincoln.

As regular panto goers and yes, rock on Tommy, fans of the duo we were undecided whether to bother going. As it turned out we were very glad we did. Normally we would go on a Friday or Saturday at the end of the run but went on a Wednesday this year due to other commitments and it was quite a surprise to see the auditorium considerably quieter than usual which was a shame because it’s a really good pantomime.

Vickie Michelle is still a well known celebrity (do you see where I’m going here?). Would she make a good baddie as the wicked fairy? Yes-ish but I do have to say any slight deficiencies in adapting to the role are more than made up, for us chaps of a certain age, by her statuesque appearance. She can come and stir my cauldron any time she likes and the children (including us) enjoyed booing her and she connected to the audience very well.

Regular baddie Peter Amory was rather upstaged as Beauty’s father, the King and appeared to be torn between kindly monarch and villain which is a shame because when he’s bad he’s very very bad and I’ve greatly enjoyed his previous roles in the panto, no matter, he’s still good value and is another who interacts well with the audience. His role just fell between two stools for me.

The Lincolnshire Echo described Martin Daniels as stealing the show, who am I to argue? My regular football companion, Stewart thought his magic tricks were a bit see through but I thought they were, well magic. He certainly led the line here and I could see myself speaking to our regular panto friends in to seeing Daniels again when he appears in his comedy show at the theatre later in the year. You’ll like that. Not a lot!

The handsome prince was handsome and could sing and dance well. Beauty less so but very easy on the eye and the young dancers were, as usual very charming not forgetting regular dame Steve Barclay, always on hand to give us some corny jokes.

All in all then a very good night at the Royal, once again and one in which we certainly were not saying “get me out of here!”

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Percy Freeman 1945-2016

Like many an older Lincoln City supporter I heard of the death of Percy Freeman with considerable sadness not to mention shock, Percy was just seventy.

Percy Freeman epitomised the ethos of the great Graham Taylor side which showed us fans that we did not have to settle for fourth rate mediocrity. The team that Taylor moulded into a championship winning side was not composed of multi-talented individual players and Percy was not blessed with great football ability. Ability certainly, they all had that but the word that summed Percy up was heart.

Percy Freeman was a barrel chested forward in the finest English tradition. The fans loved him and I’m quite sure he loved us back. The outfit he was a member of swept all before them. You could get really close to the action at Sincil Bank then and certainly close enough to look into the eyes of our opponents. What we saw in them was fear. Those opponents were beaten before they even got on the field of play.

When I first started following the Imps they were a championship level side and I’m convinced that team and that manager would have got us back there but of course events intervened. It did herald a better period for City but it was of course soon over and you don’t need me to tell you where we are now but at least those of us of less tender years have our good memories and of that particular time and with it memories of the wonderful Percy Freeman.