Andrew Abbott's Blog

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Imps put a dent in that very big football club from Mansfield.

Steve “box office” Evans loftily declared that he had other priorities than the Checkatrade Trophy, as have we all but I don’t suppose his clubs supporters were too happy to be put in their place by minnows Lincoln City at Field Mill last night. City themselves made changes to their regular line up and, predictably it was a couple of Mansfield old boys, Ollie Palmer and Matt Green who did the damage to the Stags as the Imps got their trophy campaign off to a roaring start.

Much has been made of the supporters distain for the competition, not just Mr Evans then but the City fans turned out in numbers for this local derby and it sounded a great atmosphere on the radio. I haven’t much time for the supposed boycott of the competition preferring the City managers view that it’s a competition we’re in so we might as well take it seriously.

The combative Scotsman lost no time in renewing hostilities with the Imps but it was Danny Cowley who found himself in the directors box after a spat on the sidelines so at least the Stags boss will have something to chuckle about. It was the Imps supremo who had the last laugh though as City fought back from Town’s early goal to set things up nicely for the forthcoming match between the two sides at Sincil Bank.

Imps supporters will presumably be preparing a suitable welcome for the Caledonian schemer and it’s nice to know that some spice has returned to City’s world after the bland fare on offer for the last few years although one or two protagonists did their best to liven things up. They are now in the past though as we contemplate a return to the old order.

It’s great to be back.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Imps face the best opposition yet-and coast it.

Danny Cowley said Carlisle United were the best side Lincoln City had to face so far this season. Despite the scoreline I can believe him. Carlisle were organised and enterprising, once City had destroyed their main tactic of the day which I’m convinced was to come away from Sincil Bank with a point. They then had to try to fashion a goal. When it came it was a bit of a howler to be honest. Paul Farman may come to rue the day he didn’t see the ball out of harms way. We’ve all come to the realisation that these league two clubs are no mugs and it was probably no great surprise when the ball ended up in the net rather than into the crowd behind the goal.

If Farman’s fluff was a bit of a collectors item there were several more. You can now tell your grandchildren you were there the day Alex Woodyard scored two at Sincil Bank. What THE Alex Woodyard they might retort? The one who played for (insert Premier League or top continental side of your choice) Yes, he played for Lincoln City early on in his career. When they came they certainly were worth waiting for. Matt Rhead scored a classy penalty too. You could call that a collectors item if you were basking in the glory of City sweeping aside a very good Carlisle team and feeling a bit cheeky.

On the minus side, by way of a change Neil Eardley misplaced a pass and Michael Bostwick had a bit off an off game but no matter it was a stirring performance from the men in red and white shirts and the racket which greeted Woodyards opener would have surely ruffled the moustaches of the Steam Punks all the way up at the castle.

The gate was not the 8000 that witnessed the seasons opener at Sincil Bank, it was more and, I confidently predict it will be even more, perhaps even over the 10000 threshold for the visit of Luton who surely will sell all their allocation in the Stacey West stand. On today’s evidence they will be by no means certain of returning south with anything more than a bit of a grounding on who the new kids on the block of this league are.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Imps hope to get the point(s)

I keep banging on about this and Paul Farman is in the Echo saying it but league two is proving a tough nut to crack and it’s especially difficult to take when you’ve been served up an unremitting diet of success lately. Tomorrow doesn’t look particularly promising either.

Still, we got to the league on merit and it’s only August. We spent a lot of last season winning against the odds so I don’t suppose the manager is particularly downcast about the start City have made. All we can do, as ever is turn up in numbers and make some noise for the boys.

Now that the dust has settled on transfer matters, hopefully, I’ve been thinking not only have the Imps got the best of both worlds out of the Raggett sale that affair has been a good opportunity for City to show prospective signings that the club is the sort of place where players can get a good football education, improve themselves and secure a move that will enhance their careers greatly. Danny Cowley is not in the business of signing also ran players. It will happen of course but the idea is to enlist talent that will fit in to and improve our squad and have the ability to move on to bigger and better things. Meantime City themselves as a club would hope to do the same on the strength of those acquisitions. I think we’re moving along the right lines there.

That’s all for the future of course, the Imps need a win and once they do I’m sure it will be onwards and upwards. Maybe on reflection the Exeter performance was a bit below par. The manager won’t allow that to happen with regularity. I’m still convinced City have the squad to prosper although some transfer news would be welcome.

Carlisle always seem to me quite a big club in waiting, I’ve even seen them play in the top division many moons ago so another big match atmosphere is guaranteed I’m sure.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

How you going to keep ‘em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?

I suppose I was hoping for a seamless transition to league football after promotion. The only losses, player wise were fairly peripheral, the recruitment good. In our heart of hearts I think we all knew a really reliable striker was desirable but they’re neither plentiful nor cheap, but we hoped we had the basis of a good league team. I still think that.

After our exile from the league it was easy to lose sight of the fact that, historically Lincoln City are a league club. It felt like an eternity we were absent. Now we’re back it seems to me like meeting an old flame again. You kind of hope they’ve packed on a bit of weight maybe, lost their looks. The reality though is that usually you can see what it was attracted you in the first place, they’re looking pretty good, maybe they’ve married a millionaire or won the lottery.

Now as we try to find our feet in the new set up we can see things have moved on. City gave a good account at Wycombe and settled for a point. Morecambe received a battering. Just a point. Exeter away was always going to be difficult. Nothing to show for our efforts. It's hard to take, we're used to winning. Used to being at the top, on the telly.

The league has done well for itself, gone up a notch or two. It seems, well, more like the big time. Danny Cowley said we're a nearly team. Good point. I still stick to my view that a breakthrough is there for the taking. I’d sooner be in the bottom four in August than Christmas.

Better still though I’d sooner not be there at all.

Friday, 18 August 2017

We’ll always have Burnley.

So, it’s finally happened. As widely predicted Sean Raggett is now a Canary but will stay with Lincoln City until January.

I said it earlier but I’ll say it again, the player has conducted himself with the utmost professionalism. If anything he’s actually got better since all this speculation began. That he can handle the pressure of first class football is not in doubt.

I believe he’ll not stop at Norwich City, with all due respect, I think he’ll go on to play for a top club and cap it all with England appearances, lots of them.

This blog sends its very best wishes to Sean and I’m sure we’ll all enjoy his remaining performances before he goes off for the next step in his career. That there will be a tremendous reception for him when he does is assured.

Business as usual.

At the time of writing the Sean Raggett saga rumbles on but we do know he will not travel with the team today in preparation for the game v Exeter tomorrow, so somethings in the wind. The latest rumour is that it’s Norwich City he’s going to with the strong possibility Raggett will stay on at City on loan. Probably this explains the relatively low figure of £250,000 that has been mentioned although this was stated to be an initial payment.

Whatever happens you’ve got to say Raggett has displayed the utmost professionalism in his behaviour, turning out for the Imps even though we’re told he was advised not to and not just playing but getting better and better. One things for sure whoever signs him is going to get a player well capable of making the step up. A further period at Lincoln could even mean, if it is the Canaries the player could be ready for the Championship in a few months’ time and a fine player he’ll make I’m sure.

One criticism we had of Raggetts game last season was in his progression out of defence. We wanted him to pass the ball out not bring it out as he wasn’t terribly good at it. Raggett looks every inch the ball playing centre half now as he confidently strolls out of defence and delivers a telling ball up the field. Almost Beckenbauer like I’d venture.

One door closes, or is about to close and there will be opportunity for others although I was a bit surprised that Howe has once again gone out on loan. Was he that far from a place? The manager knows best of course.

Talking about the manager do I detect a bit of frustration about the training ground? I thought we were expecting to be in it and up and running if you’ll forgive the pun, by Christmas. We’re going to have to get our skates on. It’s Danny Cowleys pet project and it motivates him far more than money. l do hope we’ll hear something about that soon.

Oh and there’s a game tomorrow. After the week we’ve had it’s sometimes easy to forget that.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Harsh realities of league life become apparent.

Carrying on with my Lincoln is becoming a football city theme of last season the first home game of the return to the football league once again felt like I was somewhere else, maybe Nottingham or Sheffield as we limbered up for the game starting with the use of our season tickets to travel to the city centre courtesy of Stagecoach. Parking is becoming more and more difficult around the stadium so instead of leaving the car in Bracebridge as we’d done last season we decided to go the whole hog and catch the bus taking advantage of the season ticket holders offer of free transport and that worked very well. In fact as we departed public transport for our hostellery of choice the bus almost emptied as well it might as most were in red and white or black with a few variations along the same lines.

At the pub there was a beer festival but, as most of the clientele and for that matter bar staff, were in City shirts it was actually a football festival and the football feel continued as we made our way to Sincil Bank. Once there the general melee around the turnstiles, this was not long after two mind you, and around the bar gave the impression of an atmosphere you’d have at a much bigger game. Today a glance at the football pages confirmed that City had enjoyed the largest gate in the league, a remarkable situation eclipsing such well supported clubs as Bristol Rovers and Notts County. Even Mariners hosting Coventry City could not best the Sincil Bank crowd.

As to the game I’ve been reading about a remarkably one sided game and I wouldn’t disagree with that. I’m reminded of something Danny Cowley said last weekend and that was that the Imps had had to work far harder for their draw at Wycombe last week than they did for victory last season. Once again City laboured almost in vain and, superior though they undoubtedly were struggled to break down a resolute Morecambe. One thing that is apparent this season is that defences in this league are better. Sorry to disagree with those who said the Imps’ draw was bad luck, defences are better. Coupled with a goalkeeper having as good a game as he’ll have in a long time and a decent strike from Morecambe, yes strikers are better too and we begin to understand why it may take some time for City to get to grips with the standard this season.

On a more positive note surely the way City have played so far the dam is going to break sometime and I fully expect them then to go on the sort of run we enjoyed last season. I see no reason why that shouldn’t happen sooner rather than later and when it does I expect City to take some catching so I’m certainly not dismayed that all this skill and effort has seen the Imps out of the League Cup and with only two points to show for their efforts.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Home is where the heart is.

For most of us Lincoln City fans the season starts here although we’re a week into it really. I’ve been reading that some supporters seem to believe our newly won or returning fans should show their commitment to the cause, or contrition for deserting the cause, by attending all matches home and away and that the, to my mind magnificent turn out at Rotherham was a bit of a poor show really and should have been much more. This seems a bizarre viewpoint to me. Whilst for some football is an all-encompassing passion for others it’s a pleasant diversion. Nevertheless it will be interesting to see what sort of gate City get tomorrow. Some season ticket holders will be on holiday of course and it remains to be seen how many non-season ticket are in attendance.

I see Eventbrite were not even offering seats in either of the main stands on their website. I think the club would like to be in a situation where most supporters buy in advance but I await our usual game of guess the attendance with interest. It’s going to be a decent gate, that’s all you can say at the moment.

More than ever, second guessing the team will be difficult although some players are starting to establish themselves as ever presents. The goalkeeping situation, if anything is more fluid after Tuesday which is a good thing and although the squad isn’t large the manager has engineered a position for himself where he can keep opposition and supporters on their toes trying to work out what the team and formation will be. That can only be good.

So we don’t know what the team will be, don’t know how they will play and don’t know who will be in goal although I think most fans believe it will be Paul Farman but you never know. We do know the opposition will be Morecambe who seem to be most pundits pick for strugglers. Banana skin alert. I’m sure the manager doesn’t need me to tell him that.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Imps lose at Rotherham. Nothing new there then.

We’re all proud of our fine up and coming city and I think we’re sometimes a little bit chippy about places like Rotherham but there’s one area where we can have absolutely no sense of superiority at all and that’s football. We never do anything there. Whether it’s the old Millmoor or the inhospitable (in winter) wide open spaces of the Don Valley Stadium and now the New York Stadium as far as Imps are concerned, abandon hope all ye who enter there.

So it proved last night as City, having negotiated the first half then put in a spirited display in the second, nevertheless exited the Carabao Cup at the first time of asking admittedly to a club who were playing in the Championship last season lets not forget.

When I was getting really serious about supporting Lincoln City they, for some reason suddenly swapped their traditional and time honoured red and white stripes and appeared in Arsenal shirts. Except they weren’t they were Rotherham colours. The chairman at the time was a Millers fan really so he did the next best thing to owning them, he turned City into a carbon copy. If only we were carbon copies now.

For many years the Imps were, I like to believe, roughly on a par with Rotherham United but like many others, Barnsley, Tranmere, Port Vale, off they all went leaving us behind in the bottom division and as we all know worse was to follow.

Now Rotherham are the sort of club we would like to emulate starting, as far as the club directors are concerned with a fit for purpose stadium like theirs and very fine it looks too although some fans complained of getting wet on an admittedly foul night. Should that happen?

So Rotherham on a bit of a slide and City on the up, surely time for that old albatross on City’s neck to vacate it? Not a chance. Well as City played Rotherham’s superiority prevailed and there is to be no League Cup run. Is that a good thing?

Better not let the manager hear that although it is one less distraction to the main business, establishing ourselves in League Two and accumulating points. The FA Cup potentially offers the opportunity of bedding ourselves in with the prospect of some nice easy non league opponents to progress at the expense of but as we all know football has a way of bursting your bubble. We’ll probably draw Rotherham.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

It must have been love, but it’s over now.

That was the headline on an article in the Deranged Ferret the day Gareth Ainsworth was transferred to Port Vale 20 years ago. I still remember it because I wish I’d written it but I didn’t. Such was the nature of fanzines I don’t know who wrote it as everyone wrote behind a pseudonym. If you younger fans wonder why you were singing there’s only one Gareth Ainsworth to a man who left Lincoln City all those years ago and who was managing our opponents that song came to epitomise what it is to be a Lincoln City fan and it’s why, humble though we are and lowly as Lincoln City are in the football firmament when we express those emotions we are superior to other supporters.

The song was eventually changed to there’s only one Lincoln City at Ainsworth’s request as he was concerned at the effect it may have on his team mates as it was repeated loud and often and as we all know football is a team game. When Ainsworth left we felt regret not anger. The pop song the headline referred to was by Roxette and part of the first chorus goes “It must have been love but it's over now.
It must have been good but I lost it somehow..”

That’s how we felt when Ainsworth left and we may experience something like it when Sean Raggett departs as the fevered media speculation is insisting although there hasn’t been the time to establish the relationship Ainsworth had.

Enough of the what if’s though and Lincoln City returned to the football league loudly and proudly. The contrast with the despair felt when the Imps slid out of the league could not be greater. I was tempted to say crashed out but you have to get up speed to crash and City were incapable of acceleration that fateful day.

Anyway, away with those desperate times, we’re back and hopefully the team showed that we’re capable of prospering in the football league. City got in the lead, lost it and salvaged a point. I do wonder if Wycombe represents a decent point for City. As was pointed out on the radio the Imps last year struggled against direct physical sides, which the Chairboys are so a point may be considered a success. There’ll be plenty more where they came from though and if we thought league two was going to be a walk in the park, heed the managers words, it won’t.

So on we go, firstly away again, to Rotherham in something of a sideshow and then to the first home league game home to Morecambe. I got my season ticket through the post yesterday, lets hope interest in this first home league fixture for years will test the new ticketing system to the limit as the supporters gear up for the match. After all there’s only one Lincoln City.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Back for good.

Not long to wait now For us Lincoln City fans and it’s good to see last season’s enthusiasm is undiminished as City head for Wycombe Wanderers backed by a healthy following of away fans. It could even be a sell-out according to the Chairboys website.

It’s interesting to see how matters have progressed in the league since we left it, certainly it feels like we’re back in the big time, when compared to last season. One thing I noticed last Saturday was the posh subs/time added boards that I was delighted to see are two sided so you can see who’s coming off as soon as the board goes up.

The new ticketing arrangement is not a direct consequence of promotion but we seem to have moved to a system where you don’t seem to be able to buy an advance ticket through the club. Presumably if you can it all goes through Eventbrite and I notice a ticket to the Morecambe game appeared on my phone through the Eventbrite app. Either this is the way it’s going to be for season ticket holders or the promised credit card type tickets are not going to be available yet. We’ll get used to it.

Having said that you do wonder if this progress is going to be a bit much for elderly supporters who might just give up as they’re not part of the brave new computer world we’ve moved to. As far as some fans are concerned you turn up on a Saturday with your cash and in you go. I hope those days aren’t gone but it’s quite plain if you want to get a decent view from either side you probably need to buy in advance.

The new improved website seems to be ok so long as you fork out for a season pass to get you into the premium areas. If you don’t there’s very little on it to enthuse. I signed up for the free version which doesn’t seem to offer a lot.

The camera position has moved to the Coop stand, displacing a good few seats and there’s general feeling that we’ve moved upmarket. I’m expecting a considerable improvement in football standard and judging by the teams approach in the Walsall game so are the management. Let’s hope there’s a corresponding improvement in refereeing. We don’t want too much do we?

As to City’s prospects Danny Cowley has been playing these down. Personally having seen the standard last Saturday, taking in to account the calibre of signings the Imps have made, the season tickets sold and the continuation of interest in the club I’m optimistic. A top half finish would be considered a good performance over the season but I really do think City are capable of taking League Two by the scruff of the neck.

Certainly the Imps are some way behind some clubs in terms of financial clout, facilities and infrastructure but in football momentum is everything and City have it.