Andrew Abbott's Blog

Sunday, 31 December 2017

The good the bad and the ugly.

So, City take another six points off Forest Green Rovers, thanks very much, end of. Well not really, the truth of the matter is that FGR looked decent and in Christian Doidge have a really formidable striker who once again found the net and would have done so again were it not for a wonder save from Josh Vickers to preserve City’s lead. A further strike was disallowed but the whistle could clearly be heard before the ball went in the net. Cue complaints from FGR that the referee was biased in favour of Lincoln which was anything but true. He annoyed both teams in, I thought, an even handed refereeing performance that I’d have no complaint about, particularly after some I’ve witnessed this season.

I’m reminded of our days of rivalry with Boston United. I once observed to my very good friend, the Pilgrims fan that it seemed to me he’d be quite content to get relegated with a record low number of points as long as they beat City home and away. He sort of agreed. I do wonder if yesterday we saw a Forest Green side revved up because they were facing Lincoln City as they didn’t look a relegation haunted side to me although Mark Cooper, their manager, did have a rather faraway look as he detailed the many new recruits on their way to shore up their survival quest. I’m not going to get carried away with the insult throwing that seems to accompany our games against FGR but if the reality is a hefty recruitment drive rather than a replacement at the top then Cooper is a lucky man indeed. I think if I were their chairman I’d be questioning if quite so much tippy tappy football is the answer to a season at the coalface that can often be league two. So on reflection, six points FGR, thanks very much.

As to City we must not get carried away but defeats for Luton and Notts County underline the liquidity of the position at the top of the table. A few weeks ago we were talking of satisfaction that City were surviving in league two, then it was the play off positions, then top three. Could we, dare we think of the? No I’m not going to say it but I’m thinking it particularly after I had a look through my copy of The Impossible Dream yesterday. (Thanks Santa).

Finally I have to mention Sean Raggett. Shouts of you’ll never beat Sean Raggett were ringing out yesterday a la Paul Morgan. Younger readers will be mystified as to who he was, ask your Dad. I think it’s a bit late in the day and we could have afforded Raggett a chant of his own long ago but, as is now apparent he leaves us after Luton and yesterday was his final Sincil Bank appearance. He was as imperious as ever. Personally I hope he now stays with Norwich and battles for a place in their team. He’s played against Ipswich, Brighton, Burnley (with honours) and Arsenal all with distinction and has had an almost flawless half season in league two. I think he’s ready. What I will always remember of Raggett is the way he conducted himself through the speculation, the signing, the loan period. He didn’t miss a beat. A true legend and a true Imp. He’ll go far.

So, dear fellow fans we move on. Our own new recruits are largely awaited. We now anticipate two massively important matches which will shape the remainder of our season. The final run in is in sight. At worst, we retain our place in the football league. On the other hand?

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Driving home for Christmas.

City carried on where they left off at Sincil Bank yesterday comfortably seeing off Stevenage as they had done Accrington previously. It wasn’t all plain sailing though and when they went ahead if anything it was slightly against the run of play.

Not that we’re going to let that bother us. City had, by all accounts been struggling with illness before Christmas, tell me about it, but when it came to the crunch they played with their now usual swagger to sweep away Stevenage’s resolve. Those early days of toil now seem an age away as the Imps firmly grasp the challenge before them and now find themselves in the top three.

If you’d have told me City could be in the promotion places by Christmas at the start of the season I’d have believed you to be honest. The realisation of the task ahead and quality of opponents knocked us all back a little, no one more than me but the fact that City would eventually start to get to grips with all that is not a surprise.

I do have to say, as you will no doubt, no one won promotion at Christmas and if anything the worst is yet to come in terms of weather and injuries and suspensions take their toll on a small squad (there, even I’m saying that now) but as to the conditions, if ever a squad was made for the English winter, if ever an attitude was right to overcome adversity, if ever the mentality was there to override the shenanigans and mind games of opponents and managers and clamber through it all to reach the sunlight at the end of the season we’re watching the embodiment of it, no more so than yesterday.

Yet it has been far from plain sailing whether the attitude was right or not but yesterday was surely something of a rarity to see an entire team plus subs, illness or not, all play well, some exceptionally so. Matt Green, where has that millstone gone? Matt Rhead, I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard such a reception as when you left the field. Neal Eardley (again) do you ever have an off day? Raggett, Anderson, I could go on.

So to another home game next Saturday, another big gate against Forest Green Rovers. Poor FGR (as in not very good). Bottom of the league, you were heading for the championship weren’t you? Will City go easy on them?

Answers please on a postcard.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Imps looking a different outfit.

You could make the comparison with a couple of years back or a couple of months, there have been significant changes in both periods. Two or three years ago would City have been training at Aston Villa before making their way to a nice hotel to arrive at Newport County ready for action? Probably not. I remember John Reams saying he liked night matches because whatever the distance he didn’t have to stump up for accommodation. Nowadays the default position is preparedness. You get the feeling Danny insists on it.

Of course it’s down to management that there is the money in the bank to be able to schedule an overnight stop but you get the feeling those are the terms if the managers are to stay. For a manager from largely the lower reaches of non-league until fairly recently the contacts are good too and I’m sure the younger squad members would enjoy and be inspired by the surroundings at Villa.

As we approach Christmas a season that looked as though it was struggling a bit with the gradient has now all of a sudden found another gear and is starting to power on at just the right time. It does help when your two main strikers are scoring. There again, who could have named our two main strikers a while ago? There’s no doubt now and I’m mightily pleased for Matt Rhead and ourselves too that he has re found his mojo and that Matt Green is also finding the net. In our hearts we knew that would happen at some stage but were impatient for the elusive strikes. We wait no longer.

So on to Newport and then the big Boxing Day game against Stevenage. Stevenage won’t make it a big game and it’s puzzling that with Mariners, Stags and Spirites or Cambridge at a stretch in the league that we can’t have a local game but it won’t matter to us. We’ll make it a big game and if we don’t sell out or near enough I’d be surprised.

After all those away jollies don’t pay for themselves.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Determined City in no mood to roll over.

Unlike Accrington Stanley who did a fair bit of rolling about. Maybe they thought it was worth the effort as referee Seb Stockbridge usually responded with a free kick however ludicrous the dive.

Hang on a minute, Seb Stockbridge? Oh yes, our old friend from Notts County. He of the red cards. He waved another one yesterday as the Imps were awarded what many, certainly Stanleys manager John “Mr moral high ground” Coleman, thought was a soft penalty followed by a red. We got chatting to Accringtons chairman at the final whistle. He was incensed at the red although he seemed to accept the penalty. Expect an appeal for that one although referees are usually backed up by the powers that be.

I do question why such a good footballing side as Stanley adopt the attitude they do with their gamesmanship, for that’s what it is whatever their managers holier than thou stance. They pass the ball assuredly and retain it very well, playing more like a side a division higher. Why indulge in the sneaky behaviour?

We said during the game that this was the first home match which seemed a genuine promotion tussle and with City winning it they must now regard themselves as realistic contenders for an automatic spot. Matt Green played like a man freed from his demons and with Matt Rhead, never one for self doubt you’d imagine, in such good form, the defence strong not to mention midfield but I do mention Michael Bostwick. Is he even playing football? It seems he’s on a higher level altogether. He certainly looks like some character from Greek mythology and yesterday’s performance had a touch of the Gods about it. Alex Woodyard by comparison, for me seemed to find it a bit of an effort by which I mean he was reduced to mere mortality whereas he normally floats through a game in the heavens. City are certainly the artisans to Stanley’s artistry though but it was all very heartening.

All this, coupled with the clubs buying power in the January sales only enhanced by another bumper crowd at Sincil Bank yesterday fills me with optimism that City can follow last seasons triumphant progression with yet more success.

What a time to be alive and an Imp to boot.

Friday, 15 December 2017

City hoping for a repeat prescription.

I know many of you will not have seen Accrington Stanley this season but I have and I can tell you they’re decent.

I can also tell you that if part two of the Stanley series is anything like part one we might be in for a treat tomorrow.

Just because City emerged triumphant in the Trophy it doesn’t mean they will do so again but I’m confident they will and I’m hoping for more of the entertainment we enjoyed last time out. City are of course on the back of that marvellous win at Yeovil. My own experience there was way back in Keith Alexanders time, come to think it could have been the Imps last outing there but it did not endure long in the memory. What I do remember is I did twelve away games that season and I don’t think I saw more than a draw. This from a team known for their exploits away.

These days of course City are very much a force at home which must be in no small part to the supporters who are expected to attend in numbers again despite the unappealing weather and other matters pressing on fans time. The Cowley effect meaning most fans do not wish to miss a home game.

You can almost imagine Danny or Nicky materialising behind the perfume counter at Debenhams to lead us back by the ear to Sincil Bank with an admonishing “they’re open on Sunday you know”

Not that we would dare to miss would we?

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Who needs pace when you Rhead the game like Matt?

It all seems to be a little quiet in Impdom this week but one piece of news has enlivened matters, Matt Rhead will be staying with City for the foreseeable future. He may even end his career as an Imp.

Like you I suspect and certainly like many of our opponents’ supporters I thought Matt was a typical non-league bruiser. Opponents who brush him off in similar vein usually change their minds by the final whistle. After the Oldham cup tie I read one of their bloggers who described Rhead as “typical non-league but with a touch I’m not used to seeing”. Bearing in mind that was a fan who regularly watched league one that was a big compliment.

Now of course we Imps know Matt for the player he is. Don’t judge a book by its cover. In terms of ability to receive the ball in a crowded space, laying off and passing, heading, he’s up there.

Matt may not get the game time he used to or that he would like for that matter but the Cowleys are masters at managing the health and effectiveness of their players. I think Rhead realises that which is why he chose to stay rather than departing for more game time elsewhere.

In any event, going off with the applause of your supporters ringing in your ears, many thousands of supporters, can’t be too bad a way of ending a game or a career for that matter.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Football. The joy and pain-for life.

Football supporting is not like going to the supermarket or even the theatre. Its pot luck. You may see a classic, usually you won’t. Football supporting is not like just going to a match either. In my youth I went, with a mate, all over the place. Nottingham, Sheffield, Derby, Grimsby even. That was just to see a game. Supporting a team is different. Unconditional. Through thick and thin.

Football supporters are optimistic too. It’s always going to be our year. Until we discover it’s not but there’s always another year and another. Soon enough you’ll be an old codger like me sat in your flat cap in the Selenity Stand saying things like “that wouldn’t have even been a free kick in my day”

When I hear some of the moaning about the present side, sniping about a misfiring striker or a midfielder who can’t pass I’m saddened. Football fans like to moan, I’m not talking about that but when I look back at some of the stuff I’ve watched over the years I’m reminded of a politician called Harold MacMillan. You've probably never heard of him, he was from way back but he said, of the country “you’ve never had it so good”.

That, dear fellow fan is my appraisal of the current situation at Sincil Bank. For us, it doesn’t get much better. Further promotion could be achieved but in terms of where the club is going, the fan zone, the training ground (soon please), the new stadium plans, things could be a whole lot worse and I know because I’ve been there.

I’ve enjoyed the Checkatrade Trophy, I don’t mind admitting but I’m cross with the football authorities for coming up with such a divisive concept. I think that’s partly to blame for this present undercurrent of uncertainty in our support. Let’s instead delight in the tenacity of our intrepid 272 fans at Yeovil yesterday to see City break in to the playoff places, just in time for Christmas and you know what they say about league position at that time.

It’s a bit too early for a Christmas message but if I was sending one I’d say enjoy it while it lasts. You’ve never had it so good.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Mondays send their audience home Happy.

Happy Mondays at The Engine Shed.

I’m starting to really appreciate the Engine Shed as a music venue more and more these days. In a strange way it reminds me of the Park Stage at Glastonbury and that’s probably where the Happy Mondays might perform if they did Glasto.

Just like the Park Stage there was a slightly unruly audience to see a slightly unruly band as the Mondays rattled though their back catalogue as befits a greatest hits tour. No here’s one from our new album here, it was nostalgia all the way. Does Shaun Ryder have to work on that shambolic persona he effects? Consulting his set list before every number he expresses genuine surprise as he learns the next song on the list. Bloody Hell (or words to that effect) here’s one from the 80’s.

Ryder aspires to incompetence but the show was anything but as the band give an accomplished performance as does Ryder whatever impression he may wish to give. Definitely accomplished is the lovely Rowetta who needs a big voice to rise above the considerable decibel level produced by the band. This she does with ease. She makes a beautiful sound.

Then we come to Bez, described as a dancer and percussionist. What exactly does he do asked my wife. He certainly can’t dance unless you count Dad dancing and there’s very little percussion but what would the Happy Mondays be without him?

It’s nice work if you can get it.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Imps reach the last 16 of the Checkatrade Trophy. What more do you want?

If ever there was a cup tie that delivered on all fronts this was it. Accrington slick and looking every inch a team third in League Two, City workmanlike and industrious. Who would win out? Don’t take your eyes off the pitch.

Accringtons manager was mealy mouthed. We’re direct, the pitch was awful. He was half right. How many times have you sat at home watching the Champions League, some fast passing continental outfit playing their opponents off the park only to be undone by a bit of good finishing while they passed the ball all around the box. That’s what last night was like.

So Stanley looked the part, in the first half anyway but that’s not the whole story. It was City that started the best and pinned Accrington back only for them to break away and take the lead. Paul Farman received some grumbles but could he really have got to the shot? City equalised but Stanley got back ahead through McConville with an amazing and audacious strike from the centre circle. It looked a howler but on reflection was it?

The same player then inadvertently restored parity with an oggy although Matt Green would be happy to spare his blushes by claiming it himself.
Farman more than redeemed himself though with a series of brave and instinctive saves. This wasn’t a performance to put him in the managers mind when selecting for the next league game but it was mightily entertaining.

Let me see, yes we had an almighty pitch side spat between each dugout with much finger pointing and angry words. We did our best to crank up the animostity, what fun.

City produced a trademark strong finish to take the tie and upset the purists. To make matters worse for them the pitch resembled Skeggy rather than Sincil Bank for some reason Danny Cowley couldn’t fathom.

I’m quite breathless just describing it all.