Andrew Abbott's Blog

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Team changes miss the point.

Or points to be precise. City’s form of late has been more like a relegation struggle than promotion. The Echo is full of theories about formations and trying out some of those that haven’t seen much action. Regular readers will know I don’t get involved with tactical considerations and other suppositions preferring to leave that to those who presumably know what they are talking about. Maybe that’s why BBC Radio Lincolnshire haven’t been in touch lately about coming on the radio to talk about the Imps. I don’t know where this idea that we fans all have to be tactical geniuses before we can attend a match. They’re not where I sit, that’s for sure.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, despite his protestations the manager has had his mind on other things latterly and by other things I mean next season and why not? It’s been as plain as the nose on your face that City’s promotion bandwagon had stopped and formed a circle for the night round about Christmas time and wouldn’t be going anywhere till the new season.

Talking of going nowhere, again in my view the manager will be given next season to fashion a winning side and there would have to be a spectacular drop in form to change that. Chris Moyses is cast from the same mould as the board of directors and will be given time to prove his credentials. That may be a good or bad thing. I think good but with caveats. This season has been better, better home form, better, more exciting players better, dare I say it, tactically.

There will always be those who think they know best of course, that is the nature of football but I see no benefit to be accrued from chopping and changing manager ad nauseam so we might as well try something different, certainly from the way things have been at Sincil Bank for the last umpteen years and that is a bit of continuity but and it’s a big but, there has to be progress and the progress that looked substantial a while back is now rather diluted as the points tally grinds to a slowdown. If that continues and the natives get really restless and start directing their ire at the occupants of the posh seats in the middle of the Software Europe Stand no amount of theorising will save the man in the hotseat.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Reality check for City as they underestimate Kiddy.

Manager Chris Moyses was almost speechless after Saturday’s game at Sincil Bank and professed himself unable to explain why his charges failed to gain any points from the encounter. Moyses was particularly cross that the Imps appear to have believed merely turning up would be sufficient to beat Kidderminster. In the event they were treated to a masterclass in finishing that in any other context would have been quite enjoyable.

More to the point is Moyses own team selection and formation given that the Imps have enjoyed success at home recently. City were without McCombe and Caton for the match due to injury. I found myself peering at unfamiliar names in unfamiliar places, it was like the first game of the season. Why, I asked myself when we had two forced changes did we create further uncertainty by making two other changes, that’s over a third of the team changed about? It that a recipe for continuity? Furthermore the two players left out were (In my humble opinion) the hugely influential Lee Beevers and one of this season surprise packages, the energetic and resourceful Greg Tempest. No wonder City failed to impose themselves on the game particularly in the second half.

Matt Rhead, who has led the line with distinction this season, I’d better say that as I’m about to offer an observation he won’t like but I’m normally a big fan, honest, seems to have believed, so superior has he become that he need barely move about the pitch at all and spent most of the game appealing for free kicks that were never going to be awarded. I’d have hauled him off. I don’t suppose he’d have liked that either.

Despite the managers assertion that City were still in the hunt for the playoffs the crowd appeared to have voted with their feet and there were substantially fewer in attendance. Maybe they saw the team in advance, which is more than I did and decided City have given up. That was certainly the impression I got as the game ended.

Monday, 14 March 2016

City make up the numbers against Macc.

301 City supporters were at Moss Rose to see City take a point from the game. That’s 18% of the gate and I’d imagine many a club chairman would view any successful promotion campaign from the Imps as highly undesirable. I’ve got a feeling in my water though that we may well be witnessing a very serious push at least for the playoffs next season if the present team can be retained and embellished.

I did feel a bit weary though when looking at the Echo’s website today to see the Chris Moyses detractors are still around with one expert bemoaning the fact that Liam Hearn was out on loan again. I think someone is getting a bit mixed up about who he is supporting, it’s Lincoln City not Manchester. In any event it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s an ulterior motive in Moyses actions. I don’t believe Hearn is part of the plan any more and for all we know the manager may be more comfortable with Hearn out of the way.

Talking of comfortable I’m sure I’m not alone in being quite relaxed about the way the remainder of the season will shape up. I’d like to be like a coiled spring as I contemplate the will they won’t they of City chasing the last remaining playoff berth. I’m not though and the gap between us remains five elusive points. The problem is the other teams, they keep winning.

Nevertheless, as we approach the end of the season and the weather warms up we’re not out of it yet. Saturday afternoons are once again a pleasure with City either chasing wins at Sincil Bank or we can sit in front of the TV reasonably confident that catastrophe will not befall the Imps.

With just four home games remaining it will soon be time to vote in the player of the season awards too and whilst there may have been a lone finisher making his way along the home straight at one time a sizeable bunch of hopefuls are staking their claim at the moment, reflecting the way the season has played out before us.

All in all a far from disastrous winter, despite what some of our number may believe.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Lincoln City a carefully constructed team put together by chance.

More interesting reading on the Echo’s website on opposition hacks views on who will be in the final mix for promotion. Not surprisingly no one gives us a prayer. That is probably the view of the vast majority of us fans and the management team only believe we have a chance because they have to for publicity purposes. Still, where there’s life there’s hope as they say so we’ll just keep on supporting, the team will try to garner as many points as they can and we’ll just have to see what happens.

It was something else in the Echo that got me thinking and that something was an interview with Chris Bush. The usual laddish banter if I’m honest, not that there’s anything wrong with that and it’s good to see that the players seem to enjoy each other’s company and thrive on the joshing about. What struck me though was despite Chris Moyses meticulous planning and research pre season what we’ve ended up with, and what gives us hope for the future, is a team far removed from the one that started the season.

That team was of course initially successful and we were just starting to get our hopes up when the wheels fell off good and proper when Liam Hearn decided to go walkabout. More on him later. Back to the defence and I think we’re all agreed that the catalyst for the recent revival has been the recruitment of Jamie McCombe. The real conundrum is Bush. Do you think he’s our next best centre half after McCombe? Me neither. Would you leave him out to put Waterfall or Howe back in at the moment? Me neither.

Back to our friend Hearn and the Echo report he’s gone to Harrogate on a season long loan although at the time of writing no confirmation on the club website. In my view he won’t be back and the reason I think that is the form of current strikers Matt Rhead and Jack Muldoon. There’s another conundrum. Who’d have thought that would be the way the Imps strike force would pan out?

We then come to midfield or rather, this being Lincoln City, those parts of the team not comprising defence or attack. That bares little relationship to the one that started out. I think Alan Power has had probably his best season with us although for a team captain he gets subbed a lot. Tempest has forced his way into the side with aplomb and James Caton is very much in our thoughts when it comes to who we fans would like to be watching next season. Injuries muddy the waters still further.

Perhaps I’m merely highlighting the obvious, the best City sides I’ve witnessed have not always happened by design, managers too, Graham Taylor and Keith Alexander to name but two and we really shouldn’t be complaining about a season that has produced so many wins and good performances at home. The opposition don’t give us a hope. Fair enough, we’ll see.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Good spell from City raises thoughts of what might have been?

Lincoln City manager Chris Moyses is insistent it isn’t all over, we hope it isn’t all over but following Saturdays cruise to victory against Aldershot I can’t help but think it certainly wouldn’t be over had the promotion express been not derailed but certainly shunted into the sidings leaving the Imps with the task of getting out and back onto the main line again. Having done so they’re certainly rolling along quite nicely now and Saturdays encounter was no exception.

It really was one of those sit back and enjoy it experiences last weekend and City lost no time in getting on the score sheet either when Jamie McCombe of all people headed in Terry Hawkridge’s cross. No defenders nod in either, this was a really well worked and well finished effort but it actually prefaced quite a barren period in the game and if it’s possible to score too early maybe City did.

Matt Rhead failed to settle the fans anxiety for another goal when he stepped up to take a well-deserved penalty just before half time. Chris Moyses said after the game he will take the next penalty City get. I do hope not. I’m a big admirer of our burly forward but his effort was poor. There are others in the team who I’m sure are better penalty takers, Alan Power for one. It was he who was brought down for the spot kick and I’d have been happier if he’d have taken it. At least Power gives it plenty of, well, power.

It was an own goal that settled it in a debacle which reminded me of my own glorious playing career in division four of the Lincoln and District Sunday League. At least there was no one around to see my howlers.

The manager was a happy man as he spoke to the press after the game:-

"I don't feel Aldershot really tested our goalkeeper, Paul Farman. Their attempts on goal were very few and I thought we defended really well.
"At half-time, I told the players that I felt when we play at 60 to 80 per cent of our ability we are in control of the game. I felt in the first half we were only about 55 per cent. I felt we needed to up the work rate and they went out there and lifted it in the second half.
"They worked hard for each other and they wanted to win. They are a great group of players. The players are expressing themselves and they are really enjoying it. It is great to be part of it all."

Quite, couldn’t agree more except for when he went on to say Rhead will take the next penalty. Please don’t.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Muldoon looking for a bonus as Hearn states he’s not a loan.

Back to the football this weekend. Although it’s sometimes nice to view the results at Saturday teatime in relaxed mode as fans we’re wanting the stress and excitement of the season so it’s good to be back musing on the ever changing world of the Imps.

Talking of the Imps comings and goings the Lincolnshire Echo has two good reads on their website at the moment featuring a very much up and coming player and one who has been the author of his own downfall although I’m sure we all wish him well in his recovery.

Those players are of course the very exciting Jack Muldoon and forgotten striker Liam Hearn. It’s pointless and probably a bit over the top to reiterate his difficulties, he’s come back and declared himself one of us again so let’s leave it at that except to say that perhaps now he realises the kid gloves treatment he was given by the management were for a very good reason both for the club and the player. Now he’s back in training but few of us would expect him to be back on the bench just yet as there are others who have grabbed their chance.

Principal chance grabber Muldoon has revealed the club has sorted out a bonus payment should he reach ten goals:

"I want to get to 10," he told the press. "The gaffer has sorted me a bonus if I get to 10, so I'm aiming for that. It will get my holiday paid for! Hopefully I can get even more than that."

It’s not just goals though that have got the fans noticing and appreciating his performances but as he also explains he was far from a shoo-in for the role of partnering Matt Rhead:

"I think I was the last hope as we were short of strikers,"
"Seriously, we've had two good strikers up there for a lot of the season in Rhead and Liam Hearn.
"But he (Moyses) put me up front for the last 30 minutes of the Wrexham game. After that he thought I could do a job up front, so it all changed from there.
"I've been a winger since I've been at Lincoln, but before I came here I'd always been up front or on the right wing.
"I'll play wherever the gaffer tells me to play. If he tells me to play right wing or even centre-half, I'll go and play there.
"I just need to keep performing and working hard. I've got to stay fit too – that's the main thing in football. "You've then got to be at least six or seven out of 10 in training every day and then eight or nine in the matches."

Hearn meanwhile it has been revealed has been the subject of an enquiry by the club about a loan to get match fit but he’s decided to stay put and fight for a place. I must admit I’d thought Hearn would be gone sooner rather than later:

"We made enquiries to a couple of clubs who might take him, but Liam has declined to go at the moment," the manager said at his weekly press conference.
"He sees himself getting a chance here. He's fully focused and his intention is to get back in the team, which is good. His attitude has been okay, it has been fine," added Moyses.

I’m not sure that’s exactly a ringing endorsement from the gaffer:

"He's not in contention yet," he went on. "We've got enough on the bench. We've got to make sure he's ready for five or six games on the trot. We'll have a better idea before the weekend."

Well, better a player who wants to battle to get back in than the one who went sulking off to Barrow. As we all hope and the manager insists, it’s not over yet. Hopefully not by a long chalk.