Andrew Abbott's Blog

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Abject City get a spanking.

Before the game Crewe manager Dave Artell gave us the usual guff about direct Lincoln City. These are usually the bleatings of a manager pretty sure he’ll be on the end of a beating at Sincil Bank. Yes we lost but I am the guardian of the true spirit of football. Except it didn’t work out like that as Crewe, playing a high pressing game proceeded to out Lincoln the Imps.

As is customary City got off to a good start and as is often the norm failed to score in the initial phase of the game. Had Matt Rhead converted what was to him a sitter and had City then added a second when they did eventually score (are you keeping up at the back?) then I think City might well have run out comfortable winners. As it happens it was the Alex that took the wind right out of City’s sails with a very accomplished free kick on the stroke of half time.

Time for another City speciality, the strong second half with the Imps clued up by a half time break digesting the wisdom dispensed by the Cowleys. It never happened and it was Crewe that raced into the lead which they never looked like surrendering. City by comparison looked positively stone-aged to Crewe’s relative sophistication their clubs and battering rams no match for Alex’s rapier like counter attacks.

As the clock wound down, some unity from the stands was called for but, whilst the noise was impressive and the support unwavering there were hoots of derision and cat-calls for those who did not wish to prolong the agony and left early. It had been a glorious late winter day but as the sun waned the cold wind began to exert its influence and hint that the forecasters warning of a last icy blast of winter for those of us in the east might well be correct. All of a sudden things began to look a whole lot bleaker.

Maybe on reflection Danny Cowleys warning, don’t expect too much too soon may be true. My worry and I’m sure yours too is if success does not follow success the Cowleys could come to the conclusion their work here is complete and it’s time to move on.

I don’t think that is the case and all their considerable energies will be put into recovering from this setback as quickly as possible but it’s particularly dismaying to sit thorough a display like that. We could have done with a bit of Pep Guardiola pzazz but instead of visions of Gaudi’s Barcelona glory we got a reminder of Englands Coronation Street debacle that saw the end of Roy Hodgsons reign as manager.

Up the Imps! Tomorrow is another day.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Important game blah blah blah.

One of the joys of writing a blog as opposed to a publication is that there’s no editor. When I started writing, for the PFA, I thought long and hard about each headline as it’s that which draws the reader’s attention to the article. Without exception the editor altered the headline but left the article virtually untouched.

Now, as we enter the business end of the season the headlines write themselves. Imps in vital season defining match, or something along those lines. Come to think of it in a season like this, where it’s tight all through the term you could say that for all of the games City have played.

Last week was something of a damp squib after all the excitement of the publication of last year’s financial results and highly successful fans forum where Danny Cowley spoke so eloquently and convincingly of the days and weeks ahead. No wonder he’s so adept at motivating the players. If he’d asked us all to scale down the outside of the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel, where the AGM was held rather than by the lift I’m sure most of us would have done it.

It was a wakeup call when City failed miserably to impose themselves on last weekend’s match although probably not all that much of a surprise to those of us who witnessed the home game against Crawley Town when they gave a resolute performance.

As we regroup for the weekend the talk, once again is of sold out stands and general anticipation but as we know a full stadium is no guarantee of a win, if only it was we’d be home and dry. In fact the Crewe game has banana skin written all over it after Alex’s snatching of defeat from the jaws of victory effort last time out that will have stung them viciously.

The Imps will, I’m sure have the management’s words ringing in their ears and will be primed not to slip up and we must make sure the wall of support is as loud as ever to stiffen their resolve. We can maybe take Neal Eardleys encouraging comments on the possibility of a renewed contract as our motivation. That revelation at yesterday’s press conference certainly gave me a shot in the arm.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Imps enthusiasm extends to the fans forum.

Lincoln City held their AGM last night. This is normally followed by a shareholders question and answer session but this year we had a full blown fans forum which was I suppose predictably a full house. I don’t think it would be right to divulge the matters discussed between board and shareholders but within the resolutions to be debated were some clues as to the hoped for direction of the club and that was very much onwards and upwards.

The fans forum was well publicised but I must admit I’m baffled that some supporters still believe Sincil Bank could be made fit for purpose in this modern age, I thought the case had been made for a move long ago. When we heard that with the increased attendances the stadium cannot even get enough water pressure to flush the toilets then I think we know it’s time to go. The fact that we now face several years of cramming in to the old stadium it’s plain to me that this is holding us back and as far as I’m concerned the move can’t come soon enough but wait we must.

One thing I would agree with, Sincil Bank is a far better place full than with us all rattling about in the wide open spaces of a couple of years ago but as I keep saying the club must match the ambition of the managers if they are to stay, so for me it’s a no brainer.

Back to footballing matters and it’s Crawley this weekend. It’ll be tough I’m sure but we can guess what the Cowley brothers solution would be to when the going gets tough don’t we?

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Eardley missile downs Cheltenham (Oh yes it did)

I compared Lincoln City to Cinderella after the victory against Chelsea under 21’s last week. Last night we got the ugly sisters knocking seven bells out of each other in an effort to get the glass slipper on their bunioned size elevens. Pretty it wasn’t until up steps Prince Charming in the shape of Mr Neal Eardley to fire an Exocet that Cheltenham, ultimately, failed to recover from.

It was always going to be a slog, it usually is for this fixture. What is less usual is an Imps win.

Yet for probably fifteen minutes it looked as if it was going to be a stroll in the park as City set about their opponents with vigour but the ball just wouldn’t find the net. Eventually the game turned into a pitched battle World War One generals would be proud of. Till Neal Eardley intervened that is. As it was on the very stroke of half time surely City would walk it in the second half? We probably should have known better.

Come to think of it people probably see City in this light but for a club from such a beautiful place Cheltenham have no regency panache at all. I’m not going to criticise them for that, we get enough of that ourselves but it's pragmatic football and it’s effective and maybe because of that this latest win should be all the sweeter.

City just need to get Crawley out of the way this weekend and can then look forward to a more measured game a week to recharge their batteries leaving aside the trip to Mansfield. They certainly look like they need it but there are positives, the new players are bedding in nicely and we have a new hero in Ryan Allsop who had a great game. He looks calm, unflappable and made a couple of brave saves that probably won it for City just as much as Eardleys haymaker. It must break Paul Farman’s heart to see how well he has settled in, not that he’d admit it.

They say it’s good to win when you’re not playing well. I don’t think that was the case last night, City were good just not very easy on the eye but they all count don’t they?

Friday, 9 February 2018

The life and times of a Lincoln City fan.

Well it seemed to fit the bill. It’s been another hectic week with the excitement and joy of reaching Wembley, more of the same speculation as another managerial seat became vacant and City playing tonight, much to Danny Cowleys disgust.

That’s probably so much psychology to be honest, City will be as well prepared as they ever are tonight and again on Tuesday.

A couple of things to consider given that you can read about the Imps preparation and the likelihood of a result elsewhere. Hysteria whenever a manager’s job comes available is not going to go away so we’d better get used to it. I don’t know what more Danny Cowley can say to reassure us but I still get a thud in the pit of my stomach when it all starts again. I’m pretty sure how the Cowleys departure will pan out and I’ve spelt it out before so I won’t bore you with it now but I just don’t think it will be a hurried mid-season thing.

It won’t be to the likes of Barnsley either and that isn’t intended to be any kind of dis-respect but when you think about it, what challenges would that role bring?

The other thing that has got me thinking is the goalkeeper’s position tonight and going forward. I think and almost hope I’m wrong but maybe Paul Farman’s time at the Imps is coming to a close which would be a shame but the manager is paid to make difficult decisions and he made one the other night so certainly isn’t afraid to do it.

We owe Farman a lot and I love him to bits but, for me he doesn’t display that calm assurance behind the defence that we need. I’d back Paul Farman to get somewhere near one out of five penalties but Ryan Allsop not only got near but saved one and put in an assured performance. I think he came to City to play and play he will. It’s a cruel world, football but those in it understand that.

So to Cambridge tonight and City backed as ever by a considerable force of numbers.

It’s quite remarkable really.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Bridesmaids dress. Barely worn. Genuine reason for sale.

Yes, that’s right. Put that broom down Cinderella, get out your sparkliest ballgown. Lincoln City are going to the PARTY!

Last night at Sincil Bank the Imps made all their supporters dreams come true. In a commanding performance City barely let their illustrious if junior opponents out their own half. To a man the Imps bested Chelsea under 21’s players. Whilst many of these boys will no doubt go on to earn big money and have high profile careers last night they were dumped out of the Checkatrade Trophy on penalties. Hopefully there was genuine pleasure from our fellow league one and two toilers and, presumably a sigh of relief from on high.

Bozzie and Matt Rhead stood out for me winning everything in the air and when Luke Waterfall headed the Imps ahead would Chelsea’s heads drop? To their credit no although had Danny Rowe finished with only the keeper to beat maybe they would have done but he didn’t and they didn’t so it was on to penalties.

That’s that then surely? No, emphatically. Given that Sam Habergham’s effort probably crossed the line City gave an exemplary display of penalty taking and Chelsea couldn’t. As my Scottish mate observed, years of watching England fail at penalties didn’t stir the blood but we needn’t have worried, after Sam they all went in with Lee Freckingtons encapsulating the night. Brought on by the skin of his teeth to take a penalty, one kick all game boom!

City players and fans celebrated as if they were doing so on behalf of every fan that ever stood on the Sincil Bank terraces or elsewhere, in red and white this last 133 years. However, we are Wembley bound and you ain’t seen nothing yet.

For the moment though, once again Imps felt pure joy. When will this roller coaster ride end? Not for a long time hopefully.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Wembley the prize.

I must confess it’s never really bothered me, not getting to Wembley. Typically for the Imps we would have played there twice but didn’t as it was shut. That seems to sum us up.

Tonight though City have an opportunity to put that to rights as the Imps take on Chelsea’s youngsters in the Checkatrade Trophy. Win and we’re there. It will be no easy task of course as we will be playing one of the best young teams certainly in the country, maybe in Europe.

It will be interesting to see where these young players are in five years’ time though. Will any of them be playing in the Premier League? I suppose by the law of averages yes but it’s by no means certain.

City have two advantages over their opponents. Danny and Nicky Cowley and us, the supporters. For all the talk of boycotts City have played in front of decent attendances in this competition. The gate in the quarter finals was not far short of the league average and tonight should be full or nearly full. There should be very few away fans and for what it’s worth the eyes of the lower leagues not to mention the FA will be upon us. There will be very few hoping for a Chelsea win.

Chelsea’s youngsters will be exposed to the full volume of our support. They will not have experienced a team that play like we do. They will be well outside their comfort zone. City on the other hand will be wrapped in our warm embrace and propelled by our noise.

If I’m making it sound easy it won’t be. On ability alone Chelsea will win but as has been shown these last two seasons ability is only part of the story and of course impossible is just an opinion.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Old demons return to haunt City.

They’re not slow on the uptake in league two. They know Paul Farman is not the number one keeper anymore. They know why too. He’s suspect on long range shots. So they instruct their forwards, have a go from distance. It doesn’t help when the defence rather leave him to it instead of trying to snuff out the danger so I’m not going to get too carried away on the blame game. I’ve seen Farman save far more points than he’s lost.

Nevertheless when a keeper makes mistakes the team usually pays. Add to the mix the fact that no one seemed particularly on their game and that includes, am I allowed to say this? The management. So as the game reached it’s deafening crescendo and City somehow forced the ball over the line in such scenes that no one was particularly certain who scored including the scorer in the end everyone was pleased with the point, well I was that’s for sure.

Yet another here to see me “performance” from a referee who seemed to be making it up as he went along, a bobbly pitch, a team who are fantastic away and another equally at home, er at home and I suppose this match had draw written all over it although it didn’t seem that way until virtually the last kick of the game.

Alex Woodyard went into the book more or less straight from the kick off consigning him to an almost unheard of early bath. The starting formation didn’t work for me but as I’ve said on many occasions what do I know? Even Neal Eardley had a so so game, another collectors item. It was a bad day at the office. But was it though? You’ve got to admire the sheer bloody mindedness of a team that simply refuse to lie down and you’ve got to hand it to a crowd that absolutely stood shoulder to shoulder with their heroes and produced such a racket that no team would dare to fail or fail to be inspired.

It was monumentally entertaining; the only thing preventing a full house was the unbelievably poor away following for a side that give their fans such joy on the road. What more do their supporters want? Those that were behind the goal gave good backing but, as is usually the case these days their efforts went virtually unheard.

Did I say bad day at the office? Maybe at the end of the season it may be seen as a very good point, a very good one indeed.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Another big game coming up. Been there done that.

There was a time as I was chatting to my football mad Boston United friend I remember saying every game for City seemed a big one. That was back in the playoff years.

Then came the slump but games were still important as we all fervently hoped (without much conviction) that we would get back in the league. Even so the atmosphere was flat and excitement limited. It was hope over expectation. I also felt, wrongly I think that the club were trying to prepare us for a non-league future.

I’m confident that wasn’t the way it was and now it’s anything but if the letter I received from that nice Mr Dorrian, inviting me to the club AGM is anything to go by. I liked the tone of the letter as it was almost one fan to another, just that some fans have more onerous responsibilities.

The letter went into some detail about the training ground in particular and other matters that I thought I ought to keep to myself but it’s now in the Echo and out in the open. In particular, all should be revealed soon as to the nature and positioning of the new facility. Its cost can be confirmed though, £1 million plus. Phew! I keep banging on about City’s ambitions and horizons on something of an upward trajectory, there’s your proof.

So we come to the visit of Swindon Town tomorrow and another massive test for the Imps and for our lungs. If you like your football in less fervent and more homely surroundings that equally nice Mr Bradley will be pleased to welcome you to Lincoln United. I’ve no evidence to support that, it may be a hotbed for all I know and I certainly wish the Whites all the best. I know they would like to see some of us at Ashby Avenue but I digress, tomorrow will be another huge game, the sternest test of both the team and ourselves as supporters.

Although I may not have realised it was going to happen at the time these moments, these games, these attendances, this excitement was the stuff of my dreams all those fallow years. I’m sure you’re the same.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Window of opportunity.

When I first started writing and doing my apprenticeship (I wish) I wrote a headline that I thought was a real belter. It was so good I can’t remember what it was but I do remember what the sub editor altered it to, it was “The Life and Times of a Lincoln City fan”

This somehow came to mind as we were all absorbed by the final day of the transfer window, confidently hoping for and expecting to hear of a striker being signed. I was expecting back up, someone to keep the main two on their toes. I’d imagined we wouldn’t hear anything until ten and by twenty to eleven I was pretty sure no announcement would be made. That assumption was correct as it turns out.

This situation has got the fans talking but, disappointed as we are I don’t suppose it matches the dismay of the management who have repeatedly said they would like a fourth striker on the roster. For all we know that may be the case. Nothing the Cowleys do is by chance, there’s always a plan B.

In other news we signed a back up keeper. The fact that Josh Vickers is likely to be out for some time had eluded me. Other than that, in the cold light of day I don’t see how we can regard the signings made, in terms of quality or quantity as anything other than a very strong signal of intent by a club determined to make the most of the remaining season.

I just want to comment on the Ricky Miller situation. I don’t think a club like ours could afford to take the risk of signing this player, both in terms of his temperament and likely success or otherwise in league two. I know Danny Cowley is a fan but I struggle to see how he would have fitted in although I’ve heard it said that Cowley believes one maverick can be accommodated.

Miller will either sink or swim, it’s not our concern. Personally I don’t think we’re big enough to sign a player who could light up the season or bring it crashing down. Peterborough thought they were then thought otherwise and if Miller is not suitable for Posh then, with our ambition, he’s not suitable for us.

Let’s now enjoy and embrace the remainder of the season. As far as I’m concerned I can’t wait.