Wednesday, 29 March 2017
I don’t know anyone who truly believed once the cup exploits were out of the way Lincoln City would sail majestically to the end of the season and gain promotion without really trying.
It’s certainly not turning out that way but I’m having to reappraise my view on the likely competitors for the big prize on the journey. This morning it’s Tranmere who gained two points on the Imps winning where City drew. City hang on to top spot though.
At one time I thought Dagenham & Redbridge were going to prove to be the main contenders in the run in but now it looks to be City, Tranmere and Forest Green Rovers. Of the three we’ve got to hope that City will have the resilience, squad and nerve to see the task through to completion. The cup money has been used wisely I think but of course no one expected City to go as far as they did in the knockout competitions, well the Trophy maybe but not the cup, so it was very much a matter of catching up but at least the money was there to reinforce the squad when it was needed.
Those squad players are going to need to step up to the plate hereon in if the Imps are to achieve the ultimate aim, as well as the first team maintain their focus.
There’s a job for us fans too and a difficult one. We’ve got to support and try not to let our nerves filter through to the players. It’s easier said than done but City’s home form is good and an away point is far from disastrous even given the circumstances.
Have a look at the remaining fixtures, there aren’t that many but more than Tranmere and FGR have and they have to play each other. City only have to play the fading Dagenham & Redbridge of the really big hitters.
It’s going to be a thrilling season end and we’ve been part of the squad all season. We must all continue to play our part.
Sunday, 26 March 2017
I started to watch the match when I got home from Sincil Bank. I see the FGR love fest is back on as far as the TV pundits are concerned and they seemed convinced the moneybags village team are going to take the league, not the Imps. Mind you I did wonder if City were going to be able to claw their way back into Saturdays early lunchtime encounter myself.
Yet even though it didn’t look ever so hopeful come the start of the second half it did seem that this was as much City’s fragility as Forest Green Rovers dominance, they weren’t dominant. For all the Imps lack of penetration they looked the more likely championship contenders whatever the so called experts may think.
City had to find some way out of their uncertainty following the exit from FA Cup and Trophy in the space of a week. I expected that to come last Tuesday when the win or even draw failed to materialise. I expected three points from Borehamwood and one on Saturday but the win against the brief league leaders will do very nicely as it blunts the pretenders progress and chalks another game off the league programme. City don’t have to win those games in hand, draws will do or at least match what their opponents do.
The TV pundits would have us believe City are the long ball cloggers and FGR the silky smooth operators, well excuse me I saw nothing on Saturday to suggest that was the case. FGR may not be direct as City are stated to be but give me a team that attempts to get the ball in the danger zone quickly over FGR who seemed to be intent on launching the ball into the stratosphere most of the time. Once City had got that first goal out of their system I thought they looked every inch the table toppers.
City’s advantage over the rest of the field is slender and we must now hope that they can continue the swagger that came back as they overcame Rovers for the remainder of the fixtures. We now know that City do have a soft underbelly that had seemed well protected but is now a worry but the way they saw out this latest home win gives us hope that the jitters may be over.
The performance of Lee Angol alongside Matt Rhead seems to suggest City have happened upon a front two that teams may struggle to cope with. Defensively the Imps are strong but need to cut out the errors visited on the side by those who are supposed to be assisting defensive duties, mentioning no names but altogether it was a very satisfying win.
I’d have liked to have seen Matt Rhead slot that sitter away though. Still, you can’t have everything.
Monday, 20 March 2017
In the end I suppose it was our bad luck to draw one of two teams, Barrow being the other, who seem to have the ability to negate Lincoln City’s supremacy this season. In Barrows case, City do not have the answers to beat them and in York the Imps simply could not get the goal that would have put them out and when York City were awarded a penalty in the most contentious of circumstances and converted it there was no way back for our heroes.
City have of course not won every game this season but that loss and with it the realisation that we would not be going to Wembley hit me very hard on Sunday and left me disappointed for the first time this season.
Not half as disappointed as the mandarins at the FA I would imagine as the expected final between Tranmere and Lincoln and with it probably a forty thousand gate melts away to be replaced by Macclesfield against York which will not exactly get the turnstiles clicking. I was looking forward to the possibility of supporting Cleethorpes Town as well although I would imagine their following will be boosted by a good many Mariners fans which I suppose would have led to an, ahem, interesting mix at the national stadium.
So we go from fighting on three fronts to just the one objective in the space of a week and there is some trepidation at City’s prospects of re kindling the quest but here I shake off my own uncertainty as I think the management at Sincil Bank have all the answers to the task ahead. Come tomorrow I’m expecting a renewed City to re enter the fray freed from the responsibilities of the knockout competitions and tear into the challenges that face them with relish.
Cup competition is all about the best team on the day going through rather than the supposed best team. That team is York City, good luck to them. Would I swap with them? No. Haunted by the spectre of relegation they’ll have their day but give me the prospect before Lincoln City every time.
The fact that the Imps emerge from their cup exploits still (just) at the top of the league will energise them and us. Those games in hand provide a substantial cushion and, when you think about it City only have to match what their opponents do. Those opponents are inconsistent. City have the considerable good fortune to be playing Forest Green Rovers this coming Saturday whilst the hurt of the Trophy exit gnaws at them in front of us, their loyal, noisy and numerous fans. I expect the record for best attendance in the league this season both for Sincil Bank and the National League will be broken.
We will not let our boys down, they will not let us down. Even a draw will hurt FGR far more than it hurts us and we all now have a clear, uncomplicated way ahead. Now is not the time for doubt and we should not entertain it.
Friday, 17 March 2017
It’s two games a week from now on for the Imps but it feels quite calm at the moment. I have no idea how ticket sales are going for tomorrows deciding FA Trophy second leg but at least the frenetic queueing seems to have quietened down as far as I’m aware. I do hope there’s a good gate at least from home supporters after the York public’s lack of enthusiasm for their team’s chances in the first encounter.
Mind you they made plenty of noise considering and those that weren’t there missed seeing their team record a rare win against the Imps. It doesn’t sound like there’s going to be a full house at Sincil Bank but it’d be nice if it was.
Hopefully things have simmered down a bit since the fiery encounter last Tuesday although it’s bound to be a high pressure affair with a day out at Wembley for the winners. York can’t seriously be satisfied with their single goal lead and City will be disappointed and concerned that they are not at least level but judging by the last home game against the Minstermen no one in the City camp will be taking anything for granted.
I heard one or two voices stating once again that the league is the overriding priority, which indeed it is but having got this close to Wembley and having had such a marvellous day out in North London last weekend few would welcome being knocked out at the semi-final stage but no one will be under any illusions as to how tough it will be.
Still, whatever the team put out City know how they have to approach the game having given York the run around with a fast tempo game in the first half only to be hauled back in the second. We learned in the week that the Imps have the use of facilities at Robert Pattinson School in North Hykeham for the rest of the season and the management will have surely been concentrating on who is the most fleet footed of the squad, on a similar surface to Sincil Bank not that they didn’t know the answer to that already.
Wednesday, 15 March 2017
No one who was at the recent league match between Lincoln City and York City at Sincil Bank recently would be under any illusions that this was going to be any easy progression to Wembley and this morning the possibility of the Imps playing at the national stadium may seem as remote as ever. The temptation as we all returned from the Emirates was to be philosophical and point to this semi-final as the winnable option. It still is of course, just not the formality we’d perhaps allowed ourselves to imagine.
Maybe we’ve treated the FA Trophy in the way that many big clubs treat the FA Cup, most of us accept that the management have been quite right in putting out a largely changed side in the Trophy due to the overriding desire to win the league. Nothing’s changed there. Yet the team that City put out last night ought to have been more than capable of securing a result, it had quality written all over it. It’s tempting to draw attention to some erratic refereeing, if we do secure promotion I’ll never criticise league referees again after the experience of non-league but in reality the ability to put the ball in the net is the acid test.
Still, we’re not out of it yet and it will be interesting to see the line-up come Saturday for the second leg. For my money I think we should treat it as the last game of the season and we need to win by two goals. Having got this far I don’t think we should abandon the quest. There are no more FA Cup games and if we progress to the final of the Trophy it will add one more game to the program.
On to Saturday.
Monday, 13 March 2017
So the great FA Cup adventure is at an end. No more the scanning of the Sunday papers to see extensive coverage of Lincoln City’s exploits. The headlines said something like the fairy-tale ends. Except that, as far as we’re concerned we hope it’s just the beginning. I’m very confident that the club will use the proceeds of this run in the cup to cement our future and if we can get promoted and it’s a big if, we could re-enter the league in very good order, with a squad of players capable of continuing the progress made and, in contrast to many clubs, a comparatively wealthy outfit. I never thought I’d hear myself say that.
We chose the special train arrangement, not necessarily the quickest way there and back but great fun which started off at Lincoln Central Station where there was a very large gathering of Imps awaiting this and the other trains bound for the capital. When it arrived it looked more Hogwarts Express than HS2 but it was clean and comfortable enough. There was a sense of anticipation on the train and thankfully no rowdiness. I’m getting a bit old for shenanigans.
Down at Arsenal I’ve got to give credit where it’s due we were met with friendliness and respect wherever we went, at the station, at the stadium (and what a stadium) in the bars, it was a first class day out.
I thought, despite the final result the Imps did us proud and once again, for most of the first half more than held their own. If Nathan Arnolds run had produced a goal if they had just held out to half time if, if, except they didn’t and once they went behind that was that.
We’ve quickly established ourselves as a noisy crowd par excellence. I’ve never heard us make that sort of racket for such a prolonged period of time. Compare that to the home fans, well there is no comparison. However, I do have to say, like at Ipswich the Gooners were very generous with their applause for our team and the players were very generous with us fans, they gave us a day to remember for the rest of our lives.
Back to Finsbury Park after the game there was a bit of a delay awaiting our train but soon enough an announcement was made that it had left Kings Cross (platform 9 and three quarters presumably) and we were on our way back to Lincoln.
I felt nothing but pride reading those papers on Sunday morning and those same papers were fulsome in their praise for the team, for the Cowleys, for the club and for us fans.
So not the end for us, maybe the end of the beginning but I don’t think I’ve ever been as confident that Lincoln City can use the proceeds of this cup run wisely and we will still be feeling the benefit of it for seasons to come. To hear Bob Dorrian talking about the possibility of City once again playing at championship level after all these years fills me with hope. If they could achieve that we will look back to this season, the one where it all started as the best ever.
Football fans always have hope. For me as an Imp I was starting to wonder if this sort of thing happened to other fans not me but now it is us and maybe when I do hang my scarf up City will have got back to where it all started for me, in the championship. It’s a dream but they’re starting to come true for us.
Friday, 10 March 2017
I suppose you’re like me, struggling to maintain concentration awaiting the big day tomorrow. At the time of writing the team are at their temporary training quarters, courtesy of West Ham and meanwhile back in Lincoln the carnival atmosphere is starting to build. Westgate Water Tower is lit red and white and the souvenir hawkers are on the High Street.
As we know the main aim of the season is not the winning of the FA Cup although progress in that competition is uppermost in the mind of the manager and players this weekend. We supporters may be dismissive of the Imps chances tomorrow although come to think of it the longer the week has gone on the more confident I’ve been that miracles do happen and there might be one more giant upset. I’m just going to enjoy the day though and see what happens.
The win at Braintree has dampened the league nerves a bit although again personally I’ve not succumbed to them. I’m a subscriber to the it’s a marathon not a sprint school of thought and in any event our competitors must surely be feeling the same insecurities and as it turned out City finished the week six points ahead of the chasers.
During the week and today the squad has been strengthened further with three new arrivals two, one would suspect cover although that was not the way the manager was talking about the goalkeeping position so Paul Farman had better mind his p’s and q’s.
The big question of the week, vexed question you might say was did City pay a fee for the services of Lee Angol? It was reported in the Peterborough Telegraph that a fee in excess of £100000 was paid. This was met with incredulity in some quarters although personally I could imagine if the manager is convinced that Angol can provide the goals that will propel City to promotion and by paying a fee prevent the parent club recalling the player before the end of the loan period then that might have been a gamble City were prepared to take. £100000 plus though? Well City do have that sort of money available in fact all of a sudden they are probably one of the wealthier around the mid reaches of the pyramid. Danny Cowley confirmed a small fee had been paid. So not £100000 or are City all now somewhat bigger hitters and that sort of money isn’t a lot? Somehow I doubt it.
All that remains for me to do is to wish you a pleasant day following the Imps whether that be at the Emirates Stadium, down at the big screen at Sincil Bank or the other big screen at Software Europe on Doddington Road.
I certainly don’t remember not one but two big screens in the city. There again I don’t remember anything as exciting as the fare being served up by Lincoln City FC at the moment.
Wednesday, 8 March 2017
City got back to winning ways last night with an emphatic win away at the managements former stamping ground, Braintree. One or two fans were getting the jitters after two draws but not your correspondent, I’m of the it’s a marathon not a sprint persuasion.
Sprint though is what the Imps did taking a bit of time to get going but once they did it never looked in any doubt and there then came a moment that encapsulated what this group of players are all about, the philosophy instilled by the management and the togetherness and willingness to do what it takes to win.
Matt Rhead was bundled over in the box and a penalty was awarded. Now I did wonder what would happen at this point. Alan Power was rested, Rhead has taken penalties. I’m a massive Rhead fan but penalty taking is not one of his most admirable qualities. I thought he’d take it though. To be fair if he had it would have been because he genuinely believed he was the best man for the job, you may not believe that, I may not believe that. Rhead didn’t however, he handed the ball to new boy Lee Angol who had scored two goals and was therefore on a hat trick. There you are, now’s your chance for a hat-trick. Angol obliged therefore becoming the first City player to score a hat trick on his debut since Billy Cobb more years ago than I can remember.
If I had been Danny Cowley at that point I would be bursting with pride. Rhead was saying I don’t care about personal glory, I don’t care about who finishes top of the scoring charts I care about Lincoln City and I care for all the players in my team.
I read various stories about Lee Angol. I do know he is a quality player badly injured at Boston pre season. I know he’s struggled at Peterborough of late, I know opinion is divided at Posh as to whether he ought to be out on loan. Their chairman was tweeting last night he felt the player is at the best place he could be at this point in his career. I think they will get back a fully rejuvenated and confident player.
I hope Angol is a happy man this morning. I hope Matt Rhead is a happy man this morning. I think the managers wake happy men every morning and we fans also.
The same cannot be said of Arsenal. We await further developments.
Monday, 6 March 2017
We’re now at that stage where we are just waiting for the Arsenal match and bread and butter league games could be thought of as a bit of a distraction but of course nothing could be further from the truth as it’s the league that is of paramount importance. Nevertheless, for the sake of our league campaign, pleasant though it is and given the huge boost in the clubs finances no one should be too dismissive of the cup run but I can’t help feeling the sooner Saturday is out of the way the better.
The fact that City have drawn two matches now in the run up to the cup is neither here nor there as far as I’m concerned although if we had managed two wins there would have been daylight between us and the pack. However no one should be surprised at the draws against an improving York side and a very good Aldershot team. I don’t think the proximity of the cup affected things.
It did occur to me that although the Arsenal tickets seem to have been disbursed without too much drama there are a group of supporters who really have not been catered for and they are fans who live away and for whom a season or other priority giving ticket was not appropriate as they probably go to mainly away games. There are many fans, for instance who live in London so visit Lincoln every now and then and go to away games in the south. I think they should have been invited to give proof of address and some sort of registration scheme.
The club would say that merely proves that someone lives away from Lincoln, they may never go to games I appreciate that but some sort of registration scheme could be put in place for next season, a membership register or something for which a small fee could be levied might be an idea.
I think all this could have been avoided if the club had been specific about the fact that there would be no general sale of tickets after the priority buyers had been processed. If that had been made clear from the start there might have been less bad publicity. Most fans know another supporter who has a season ticket and could have asked for some help getting a ticket. I’m a final strEight ticket holder and I made sure I contacted a friend who I thought might have given up his season ticket for job reasons, he now has to work Saturdays. I got an extra ticket and now he’s coming to the game. I do think that might have been better explained.
One thing I’ve always said is that City’s PR is not all that it could be. It’s got a lot better of late but there’s some way to go. There’s an excellent public relations firm in Lincoln, maybe now that we’ve got some spare cash that could be looked at.
Wednesday, 1 March 2017
Any notion that Lincoln City somehow have a bye through to the Wembley final of the FA Trophy was firmly rebuffed by a robust York City at Sincil Bank last night. Our semi final opponents must have had their eyes across the Pennines a few weeks ago when a similarly uncompromising Barrow inflicted a rare defeat on the Imps.
Travelling to the match I got the feeling that already the Cowleys have transported the club up several notches in terms of our match experience despite the fact that nothing tangible has been achieved yet as we battled through the traffic on the way to the stadium. No more slipping out the house half an hour before kick off. Incredibly we still managed to park on Cross Street although that was sheer luck, we must have got the last parking space for miles. There was a big match atmosphere as we approached forty minutes before the game. Even with reserved seating you can’t afford to leave it too late.
Inside the stadium it was obvious there was going to be a big crowd and so it was to turn out as the team performed in front of the best part of 7000. I don’t think it was the size of the audience that overawed the players. I hope not as they’re about to experience a much bigger one soon. City just didn’t look the part as the game commenced and by the time the second half started all substitutes had been used. Danny Cowley admitted he got the team selection wrong, there’s little point in rubbing it in, he’s earned the right to make a few mistakes, all the rest of us do. City had experienced a rare bit of bad luck as illness and injury decimated the team.
I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between York’s giant striker Jon Parkin and our own battering ram Matt Rhead. The Minstermens version came perilously close to a sending off in the first half but managed to compose himself in the second. Others disagree but I thought he acquitted himself quite well but I have to say Rhead is a master of touch and delicacy compared to Parkin.
City battled back with a goal from Alan Power, I really don’t understand his doubters, I thought he was superb again. As we all checked our phones later in the game it became obvious that the point was by no means disastrous and the Imps edge another point away at the top.
Any repeat of this performance against a team let us remind ourselves, at the foot of the table will result in cherished ambitions for the season crashing round our ears. You have to have red and white vision of the most Impish hue to see us getting through to Wembley in the FA Cup and at this rate we could be concentrating on the league before too long.
You may judge that a good or bad thing.