Andrew Abbott's Blog

Thursday, 30 August 2018

City need to keep the points rolling in if promotion quest isn’t to go west.

I’ve said many times that Lincoln City are creating big match atmospheres home or away but in the position they occupy now, at the top of the league it’s more so as the lesser lights look to put one over on the leaders.

Not that you could describe Exeter City thus. They of course put the Imps out of the playoffs only to fail at Wembley and they will be sure to be more than keen that it is they and not the Imps who prevail on Saturday. A draw, I would suggest would be more than satisfactory but I don’t expect Danny and Nicky Cowley to subscribe to that view.

City will take the now well trodden path to Exeter via Bristol City and it’s still a source of pride to me that the Imps have friends in such high places prepared to lend their training facility. I wonder how long it will be before a club asks a favour of us on their way to Scunthorpe or Doncaster or Rotherham. Then we’d know we’d arrived.

Exeter have survived the loss of their manager without breaking stride and, at this early stage it looks like they, City and MK Dons will be vying for the automatic places and not Notts County despite their taking swift action to replace their manager.

I’ve got to say Harry Kewell did not strike me as the dream ticket, if that’s who it’s to be both in terms of the football his team played and the league position and, whilst he’s a big name and that seems to matter to County it’s nowhere near the coup it seemed when Notts landed Kevin Nolan but we saw how that panned out. At least Danny Cowleys name was not touted as a contender this time, I was thankful for that. Maybe people realised Lincoln to Notts was not quite the leap it might have been a while ago.

So the press conference has been held, the bags packed and City head off to prepare for yet another big game. I keep repeating this because it’s a source of wonder to me. City have been a league club for a lot longer than they haven’t but it seems the big time is where the Imps are and every week that goes by seems to confirm that, for the moment at least City are under the big lights and are staying there for the foreseeable future.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Lincoln City top dogs in the East Midlands-and everywhere else.

If I’m honest I probably regard Notts County as the definitive derby, being born in Newark. Magpies always seem to have the swagger of a big club and they are a big club but in Nottingham they’re the little brother so they like to take it out on the rest of us. Well that was then and this is now.

The bookies had Notts and City as promotion favourites and there certainly was a top of the table feel as the game kicked off at Sincil Bank yesterday. Earlier there was a sense of anticipation as Imps and Magpies alike enjoyed a pre match pint but once it was down to business it was the Imps who impressed as the early season pace setters leaving Notts County trailing in their wake. Few amongst their supporters in their worst nightmares would have anticipated Lincoln City at the top of the table and Notts County at the bottom, particularly after the spending they reputedly did in the summer.

City tore out of the blocks and calmed their nerves, if on reflection they had any, with the best goal I’ve seen in a long time courtesy of local hero Lee Frecklington and apart from a bit of a wobble after County equalised the result of the game never looked in any doubt and eventually City were cruising and looking every inch the promotion or dare I say even championship contenders as they swept Notts aside.

Tuesdays game had been something of a nervy affair particularly as Bury had given such a good account of themselves only to be disposed of in a typically obdurate City fightback but yesterday was Lincoln City in coronation mood as they bobbled like a cork to the top of the table. There are many mountains to climb of course but on this form it will take a good side to stay with them. As for Notts, City fans had a lot of fun goading manager Kevin Nolan with chants of you’re getting sacked in the morning. Personally I hope not but you have to say on yesterdays evidence the dawn, for them, looks some way off.

Magpies, typically for a team down on their luck had no luck at all and whereas Danny Cowley, who I’ve seen elsewhere described as tinkerman, personally I wouldn’t dare, had the luxury of refining his team with measured substitutions from his extensive alternatives available on the bench, Nolan was forced to rehash his through largely self inflicted injury. When you’re down the fates have a way of reminding you.

I hope Notts do recover from their tailspin, the league needs big clubs like them but our concern is Lincoln City. Talking of big clubs, City are looking the part more and more with each passing week. With an authentic big match feel to every game the board are working hard to drive ever onwards. It may be an irritant to some but with a largely full stadium City need to maximise matchday earnings, not having the luxury of a stadium that generates income every day. Gone are the days, at least for the moment of little old Lincoln taking on the football world we’re big old Lincoln and getting bigger every day. Long may that continue.

PS. Kevin Nolan was sacked in the morning.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Imps season going at a rate of Notts.

Is it Christmas already? No it’s not but it’s a game that should be on then instead of which we’ve got Port Vale, on New Years Day. Call me old fashioned but there’s something wrong there surely when we’re still in August and we’ve played Grimsby Town and about to play Notts County.

You could argue this is a good time to be playing the Magpies. Maybe it will be or maybe they will use the opportunity of a full house at Sincil Bank to announce they’re back, that’s the risk of playing a side that’s got off to such a poor start. You get the feeling that the tide will turn at some stage, particularly after all the money Notts have reputedly paid out.

Looking back at the midweek win you have to admit that Bury were more than decent, they kept their shape and stuck to the plan, at least until City got their noses in front. I have to say, after a bit of thought , it was a very good comeback and having had the benefit of seeing the goals again it was a well taken penalty. Whether it should have been a penalty is debatable and whether it should have resulted in a red card is questionable too. That wasn’t the only howler was it Mr Linesman?

The replay confirmed the quality of City’s winner courtesy of a Frecklington finish. I’m slightly fearful of Notts County but when a team plays, albeit in patches, so well as City have been going and scores as freely as the Imps have been then whilst I’m a little apprehensive my gut feeling is County will have to wait a little longer to turn that corner.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

The good the bad and the ugly.

I must admit I was dismayed when I saw Matt Rhead was starting last night, I know that will not go down well in some quarters but for me it was back to the old days. Not that it seemed that way at the beginning of the first half, both teams looking bright and resolute. It was obvious Bury had not come to be rolled over. Having expressed my disappointment at his early involvement, in the opening phases I thought Rhead was effective and one thing you can’t say is he doesn’t win headers because he does, nearly all of them.

Gradually though City started to resemble their old, sterile worst, the crowd got, well bored actually, certainly much quieter than usual. Bury must have been delighted and even more so when they scored first. Their passing showed City up and players that had been performing well, young Chapman principally but midfield in general, just seemed to melt away. How we missed Woodyard.

The half time whistle came as a relief to players management and fans. It was no surprise things were changed around after half time and after the break the fans woke up too. We’ve grown unaccustomed to being given the run around and it was as if collectively the fans had decided City were not going to be defeated. How that was to be achieved was still a mystery but gradually the tide turned. There was the now almost inevitable penalty put away, as usual by John Akinde. I’ve heard some criticism of our new striker from some quarters. I know I don’t know a lot about tactics but I don’t understand that at all.

With the penalty came a second yellow for Bury and you just knew City, or their supporters, weren’t going to settle for the draw that I would have gladly accepted at half time.

Call it lucky, call it resolute, call it what you like, it’s what we do. Bring on the Magpies.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

City not yet the finished article. It’s not as if we haven’t been warned.

When City swept away Swindon Town last Saturday Danny Cowley was strangely downbeat as he patiently, yet again, explained that the Imps were far from home and dry. Personally I wasn’t far from checking league one to see who we could be playing next season.

Of course, I was wrong and he was right as yesterdays performance at Blundell Park demonstrated. City scraped a draw with a fortuitous penalty as a Mariners supporter of my acquaintance described it. I wouldn’t know until I see it but, as they say, they all count and City remain top of the league or they would if Lincoln began with an e and Exeter didn’t if you see what I mean.

Yet I do wonder if, given time that point may eventually be regarded as a decent one. I’m starting to be persuaded that Grimsby Town may not be as poor as their early season form might suggest. I certainly think in Michael Jolley Mariners might have unearthed a saviour if, of course he is allowed the time to find his feet.

That is no concern of ours although I bear them no malice. If they can get themselves to the business end of the table they’ll be a lot more deserving than some clubs I could mention, naming no names.

It’s still only August and nobody won the league at this time of year. Despite Cowleys warning I do believe that the league is ours for the taking and I don’t expect City to be so backward coming forward on Tuesday and, whilst I expect a battle royal the following Saturday when Notts County are the visitors I still think the Imps will have far too much in their locker to be pegged back by our visitors from Nottingham. I don’t expect them to believe that but I do.

As always time will tell but I think City will approach these two games believing and expecting six points from the fixtures. It’s up to them to achieve that.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Lincoln City are going well, Mariners not so well. Expect the unexpected.

I was reading comments by a Grimsby Town fan along the lines of their older fans not seeing the Imps as local rivals but harking back to the old days of jousting with the Sheffield clubs and other such luminaries. We could all do that but you have to go back a fair old way. Personally I think that’s pushing it a bit and certainly for most of recent memory we’ve been locked together even sharing the ignominy of non-league football. For clubs of Grimsby and Lincoln’s stature I do think that is a matter of some shame that it should come to pass, for both clubs.

Still, we’re not on our own with the likes of Stockport, York and Darlington cast into the depths we should perhaps rejoice that the good times have come back so fully. I think from Mariners supporters point of view they are fearful that Lincoln City are on the sort of roll that will catapult them some way ahead of their favourites. That’s not our concern although it is the cause of some amusement if only because I’m sure they enjoyed peering down on us from the heights of the championship some years ago. It would be nice to think something similar for the Imps might not be out of the question.

Still, first things first and the first big derby of the season needs to be negotiated and that, despite City’s recent form, is far from a foregone conclusion. Form really does go out of the window on these occasions and City will have to be on their mettle to emerge victorious but, leaving local rivalries aside this is precisely the sort of fixture that needs to be overcome if City are to return to a league position that seems only yesterday to me but was in fact some considerable time ago.

Early indications are good with City overcoming an iffy start, then winning well in the first home game against Swindon Town then that brilliant win at Port Vale to earn them an away tie at Blackburn. I’m expecting a big win or maybe a narrow one or possibly a draw. There again, could be, Grimsby Town will upset the odds.

I don’t know the answer to that and neither do you. Isn't life great?

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Promotion? Don’t mention it.

Yes I know, no one got promoted by winning the League Cup and Lincoln City aren’t going to win the League Cup although on this form they’re going to take some stopping.

I was reminded of that episode of Blackadder when Danny Cowley took to the microphone after City’s demolition of Port Vale. It was the one where the actors in, you know, that Scottish play, had to go through an elaborate routine if the name of the play was uttered. So keen was the manager not to get anyone overexcited he rather overdid the stern schoolmaster, we haven’t won anything yet lecture.

It’s difficult not to be enthused though after the start Lincoln City have had with an away then home win and now a cup progression fashioned with a team consisting of many players who have not featured much to date. Well Cowley will have had plenty to think about on the journey home as the understudies threatened to upstage the leading men. What a problem to have.

In a way it’s a good time to play Grimsby Town. We’re buoyed by the start we’ve had, theirs has been indifferent. That’s got banana skin written all over it but if I had to put money on it I’d say, get those players on the pitch at half time Mr Jolley, get your flip chart ready, we’re coming to get you.

I know I’ve said it before but there’s never been a better time to be an Imp.

You’ve got to be in it to win it.

The League Cup I mean which for several seasons we weren’t as we weren’t in the league. Last season brought an early exit at the hands of Rotherham but this year brings an intriguing tie. Port Vale.

If it were a league match I‘d be really quite confident but as it happens I’m kind of confident but can’t wait to see what the team is. City aren’t in the position of having that many players in the squad they can afford to field two or even three different sides but are in the healthy state of having players who haven’t featured yet or not featured much, who need a game and are capable of giving a good account of themselves, so it’s a fascinating prospect.

It’s pointless trying to guess who will be in but it wouldn’t surprise me to see a start for Matt Rhead and likewise for Matt Green who ensured he wasn’t going to be the forgotten man with a sparkling performance last time out during which he managed a goal and an assist.

Will Joan Luque get a run out, who will get the night off? Will we see what Grant Smith is made of? It’s a prospect I’m awaiting with some excitement which is more than you can say for most of the encounters I’ve seen with the Valiants over the years.

There again, these are very special times to be interested in the Imps.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Anderson conjures up a fairy tale first home game

Here’s a tip for you. If a forthcoming opponent states he knows what to expect from Lincoln City get your 50p on the Imps. If he says they’re going to get the ball on the deck and pass us off the park I’d make it £1.

Danny Cowley probably had that ill judged comment pinned up on the dressing room wall. As it happened it was Swindon who ended up, seven players backed up in their penalty area, watching the Imps pass the ball around in the wide open spaces that constituted midfield. The passing didn’t need to be very good to take advantage of the territory available but in the event it was. Very good indeed.

City were breathtakingly, astonishingly good once they’d got to grips with Swindon’s opening gambit. Can they keep up this tempo, this style, this joi de vivre? If they can they’ll sweep straight to the top of league two and through the league above but I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s not forget City were not ever so good last weekend but they certainly were this.

For me, the substitutions told of the difference between the two teams. Swindon, not at all bad but when City were hanging on a bit I thought, have we got anyone on the bench who could change things? We soon found out as Jason Shackell came on, we thought to shore things up a bit. Bozzie moved forward and City looked a totally different prospect. That much talked of proposition of the fresh forward coming on to torment tired defensive legs, this time Matt Green, and what a torment he was, then it was City cruising and, as Swindon retreated ever backward. It was City passing them off the park. Corner flag? I don’t think so. It was then the Imps supporters going through the full repertoire of ole’s and farewells to the rapidly diminishing away support.

Bozzie got man of the match, I’d have given it to Harry Anderson who put in, for me, his best performance in red and white. In fact you could have given it to anyone, there would have been no complaint.

The new players were, in my view, a marked improvement on the departed and that included Luke Waterfall and, yes, even Alex Woodyard. Make no mistake this was the best performance by the Imps in a long time. If they can keep this up we’re in for one hell of a season.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Cowley throws off the Shackells to deliver a window of opportunity.

Yes, I know, that’s cheesy even by my standards but, unlike the previous deadline day Lincoln City have not only added to their squad but really put the icing on the cake and produced a rounded roster with something for everyone. Presumably Jason Shackell is a direct replacement for the departed Waterfall and in Joan Luque not only an exotic foreign player but one who started his career at Barcelona no less. Didn’t I say that’s the sort of club City should emulate? Ok it’s not Messi but in Luque Cowley has taken a punt on an unknown and we have a player we can get excited about. Let’s hope he gets his chance and has the fans off their seats. You never know, in a couple of years he could be the player everyone is talking about.

So to the first home game of the season and the indications are it wont be far off a full house. That’s not the talking point any longer but even so a full stadium confirms that the people of the Lincoln area are still firmly behind the club and we are going to have another profitable term on the gates.

Of course the transfer window brings not only interest in terms of players coming in but the threat that some of our best loved players may go. In the event it was only Luke Waterfall but without sounding too churlish I don’t think that vacancy will be too hard to fill. We shouldn’t be too worried that teams covet our players either, that is a sign that we have real quality at the club. We didn’t have that problem before for the simple reason that other clubs did not see our players as anything special. Now they do. We should embrace that. Hopefully, as alluded to in the press the new contracts will not contain the dreaded release clause that leave the club powerless to resist a player moving. Those clauses were in for one simple reason, the club were not a particularly enticing prospect and that was the only way we could get good players to join us. So hopefully now the only sales we would have to agree to are those really juicy offers that the manager could use to build up the quality and wants to accept rather than has to.

Where were we? Oh yes, the first home game. Danny Cowley on the one hand delivers to us two more mouth watering prospects to add to the already enthralling squad assembled to have another tilt at league two. He then tells us not to get over excited.

Do me a favour mate!

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Can’t get used to losing you no matter what I try to do.

So no more Luke Waterfall and one less song in the repertoire. There have been a few slightly surprising departures since the end of last season but there’s a sort of pattern emerging, albeit in different ways.

The one that was a shock is of course was Alex Woodyard I think I could convince myself though that even his departure may be a case of get your move in whilst the price is still high. Was he the player he was that first season? Possibly not. Did we want to keep him, yes certainly. Will he be adequately replaced very possibly.

This would be an appropriate place to bring in Nathan Arnold. For some reason he seemed to be averse to getting promoted, firstly with Grimsby Town then with City. There are other aspects to his story, I know that.

Back to Woodyard and I think we can also consider Sean Raggetts move. Has that gone how he’d imagined? Well he’s in the championship but in a team expected to struggle. Is that the end of his journey, will he get his chance at Carrow Road and will Woodyard prosper? We’ll see.

Now Luke Waterfall. I suppose it’s a testament to our quality that a league one club will pay good money to secure the services of a player who has struggled to stay in the Imps team. That’s not sour grapes it’s the way it has been for the player. If they’re looking for a battler who will be up for the survival quest many expect for them then Shrewsbury have a good fit. If they’re looking for a league one standard defender to replace the players they’ve lost then I have my doubts. I’m trying not to be too negative but the fact remains Waterfall has been in and out of the team. I couldn’t not wish him well though.

So depending which way you look at it we’re losing players, oh, I forgot Ollie Palmer, well he fits right in with my theory which is that even if we judge players are either on the periphery or surplus to requirements there are plenty of other clubs, without taking a step down, who are more than happy to take them on.

That has to speak volumes about the standing of Lincoln City at the moment.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Cowley unconvincing as he plays down unconvincing City.

After match interviews can sometimes provide a wealth of information often from a manager who didn’t intend to impart it. Yesterday Danny Cowley sought to bring a few soaring hopes down to earth a bit but I found myself thinking that’s all very well but I bet you’re absolutely delighted with those three points. I know I was.

Usually at this time of the season a manager will seek to play up his sides chances. A start away from home is inevitably followed by a home game and those seats need filling. That’s not the case at Lincoln City as the tickets are already earmarked so it’s a strange juxtaposition. The less City look the finished article, the greater the clamour there is for people to witness the next performance. That’s some problem to have. No wonder the Cowleys are not thinking of upping sticks any time soon.

As for the match stuttering City somehow survive the first half, regroup in the second, get one chance and take it and are then thankful goalkeeper Josh Vickers is in such sparkling form. Northampton Town and their supporters can take the moral high ground as much as they like. The Imps were decidedly not the best side and Cobblers were but we’re the ones with the perfect start so you can stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

Of course the doomsayers will make their glass half empty statements and analyse the game pointing out the formation is wrong, so and so looked out of sorts, what’s his name didn’t look fit, matey should have played. I remember donkeys years ago trekking all the way to Swindon to watch the Imps get comprehensively overrun by the home team yet come away with the points courtesy of Jamie Forrester getting sort of ejected off the front to slot home. Swindon Town fans were so delighted my sisters car got keyed for the crime of having a Lincoln City sticker in the window. What a charming bunch.

Anyway, Cobblers, you can scoff as much as you like. Yes you were the better team. We didn’t look the part. As for us we’ll take the three points, thank you very much.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Summers gone.

Except it hasn’t of course in fact it’s fairly sweltering up in my garret under the rafters. That’s an exaggeration too but, never mind here we are on the cusp of another season and I wouldn’t mind betting, unlike in the past sometimes, you’re raring to go and so am I.

To say that Lincoln City have done some rebuilding would be the greatest understatement. For my money City have spent the summer preparing the way for a full blown tilt at the championship. If Accrington Stanley can do it on their meagre resources, albeit expertly manipulated by their excellent manager, then City with all the advantages at their disposal, the record season ticket sales, the new elite performance facility not to mention the best two managers in the lower divisions, should be an absolute certainty for a top three finish. Personally I’m expecting the Imps to be lifting at least one trophy come the end of the season.

Once again, the Imps have not gone for numbers. That can be an advantage provided most of the players can remain fit and the disciplinary record stays in credit. That is a bit of a worry. With yellow and red cards for the managers our dynamic duo are going to have to be on their guard against slip ups. It’s a lovely view from the top of the press area but I’d prefer our managers to be up there out of preference rather than as a sanction.

I’m not going to name any names of the new intake, I’m looking forward to seeing all of them. Of the players who have gone, whilst we wish them well, they were support players, lets be honest. With the exception of Alex Woodyard, that was a shock, all the players who have gone have been replaced with better players. Some with established reputations, some looking to make a reputation, some seeking to rebuild a career that has not gone as hoped. All of them will have no better chance than the one presented to them here at Lincoln.

Danny Cowley said at the first press conference of the season these players are coming to one of the biggest clubs in the league. Forget Notts County, forget Swindon Town forget Northampton Town we are the biggest, the loudest, the most numerous. They will realise that on Saturday when they see the sell out away following and the first home game when they will play in front of the biggest, most supportive, most enthusiastic audience they will have encountered.

I hope they’re looking forward to it as much as I am.