Margetts on the move

There’s never a dull moment with Lincoln this season is there? Star strikers requesting transfers and then staying, snatching stars from almost all of last years play off teams and now selling a striker just seven games into his Imps career. It’s certainly keeping me busy at my computer screen.

I didn’t go  into deadline day with any trepidation at all. We were unlikely to sign anyone as we’re not bound by this whole transfer window thing, and there were no rumours of any departures. In fact instead of following the coverage I was trying to shoot a rat I’d found on the bird feeders with my neighbours air rifle. I was happy.

I’ve always hated the pomp and performance that deadline day brings. Why not do your business early? Why do we have to create a day where agents and media morons can whip up excitement and anticipation for no reason? Deadline day epitomises everything that is wrong with the modern games.

Anyway I got the rat so I thought I’d check my phone, as you do. I just to see the obvious wind up that Margetts is on the move, and I stayed with it as it became clear it wasn’t a wind up. I stuck with it right up to the very end when Scunthorpe smugly put up a photo of him in their claret and blue shirt grinning like the next Jamie Vardy. For the first time since the Cowley brothers took over I have read some fairly negative things. I can understand the frustration, to a point.

Firstly lets deal with the specifics. We didn’t pay anything for Margetts so collecting a fee is very nice indeed. Danny Cowley has said that all the money from the transfer will be made available to him. Apparently Scunthorpe upped their bid significantly during the day which leads me to believe it is in the region of £50k. That’s £50k for free.

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Five goals. Seven games. Two divisions. Fair play Jonny.

 

I don’t expect to hear the full fee as it’s fallen into the ‘undisclosed’ bracket which seems sensible. If we are chasing players as we’re rumoured to be then the last thing we need to do is give agents and opposition teams an idea of how much we’ve got to play with. This money is being reinvested in the near future and we don’t want to show our hand early.

I’m not actually convinced that Margetts was the significant centre forward people have made him out to be. His four goals against Southport were well taken but if we take those out of the equation he’s scored one in six rather than five in seven. I’m not pulling him down as he’s clearly a good striker, but I’d be much more gutted if it was Marriott or Rhead. Much more.

Danny also stated that he was under no pressure to sell and he felt he couldn’t stand in the players way. I’m sure if the offer hadn’t significantly aided his quest to bring someone in then he would have moved to keep Margetts. There’s no way a shrewd character like Danny Cowley would give up something for free.

The worry amongst some fans is that this now sets a precedent and that other teams could come sniffing around our players. They could, but league clubs won’t be able to move on anything until January. If scouts get a load of Alex Woodyard between now and then it really isn’t going to make a blind bit of difference Margetts moving so I don’t see it as starting a domino effect. As we continue to do well league clubs will look at our players, I’m afraid that is a fact of life. It doesn’t mean we’ll sell them all though.

Danny Cowley is far too shrewd to immediately break up his team as it’s falling into place, league football or not. I think it’s more likely that the form of Marriott and Rhead have convinced him that they’re his front two, and that potentially Margetts could cut an increasingly forlorn figure on the side lines rather than accruing value. Of the two Adam Marriott is a far more exciting prospect and has scored more regularly across matches. There was no need to sell, no pressure to sell but there was enough incentive to make him accept.

Does this mean Weslowski is now incoming? Rumours of Dan Bradley keep circulating as well, and those darn Ricky Miller conversations have been doing the round since June. He could be looking for an upfront cash fee to offer Braintree for his old protégé Akinola?

I remember us losing Lee Frecklington in similar shocking circumstances a few years ago. That move left us short of cover and without financial recompense, but I assure you that this will not be the case again.

There’s actually an element of really smart business here. This player cost us nothing just a few months ago, and now he’s generating disposable income. In reality his record is distorted by one outstanding performance. That’s not to say I’m not disappointed that he’s moved on, just that I don’t think it’s the ‘lack of ambition’ many so-called fans will imply it to be.

On the players part I can sympathise fully with his quick turnaround. As a manager I took a job in Cambridgeshire, but just three months later was offered another one which I chose to take because of location. Now although his is a climb up the ladder and mine was a like for like swap I still had to make a decision for my career so quickly after committing to one place. He’s had to do the same and I’m sure it is no sleight on Lincoln City nor the fans of the club. He wants league football and he’s been given the opportunity, so best of luck to him.

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His penalty makes it 4-0 v Southport. You can’t see him in this picture though, but trust me he took it.

 

I’m writing this just 25 minutes or so after the deal is done so much remains to be seen, but I suspect that the value of this deal will not become apparent until we make our moves in the transfer market, and rest assured we will. DC often talks about only adding to the group if he can see an improvement and I’m sure the same goes for players going out. He won’t weaken the group without plans to strengthen and interviews recently have alluded to bringing in a midfielder ‘if deals can be reached’. I’m damn sure some wages to play with and a few thousand more as a transfer fee is going to help grease the wheels.

So far I haven’t felt let down by the mangers once. No signing has underwhelmed me, no performance has been lacklustre or devoid of effort and not once has he said something that I’ve disbelieved or disagreed with significantly. I have every faith that this surprise move will in the long term benefit Lincoln City.

How much remains to be seen, but rest assured it will only add strength to the group. Everything he does is to add strength to the group.

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What will September bring?

It’s fair to say it’s been a decent summer for Imps fans. We got new managers in who seem to know what they’re on with, we brought a few players in who can play a bit and we’ve handed out a couple of sound beatings, most recently to a side who you’d expect to be in amongst the top ten by the end of the season. It’s been our very own summer of optimism right here in 2016.

However as the leaves turn brown and the Christmas adverts start to appear on TV we have traditionally failed to keep ourselves in touch with the pace setters in our division. We are really only one dodgy ref away from being clear in second, but even third is nothing to be sniffed at. We’re third not by chance, not by a quirk of the fixture list but purely and simply by merit. The bank holiday weekend showed us to be what we’ve all felt we are for a while now: contenders. Not many teams will go and win at Macc, especially not if they go 1-0 down. Similarly very few teams will keep a clean sheet against Gateshead and if they do I doubt very much it will be accompanied by three goals in the ‘for’ column.

So what of our chances of maintaining this fine run of form, and who will remain up there with us if we do? Tranmere are the obvious early pace setters and I don’t think there will be a fan inn the land who is surprised at their start. I heard them being accused of ‘not having played anyone yet’, and although they have had a kind start lets not forget they have beaten Eastleigh, albeit before the manager change. The surprise draw against Southport proved they are far from all conquering though and their game against Guiseley led many Imps fans to feel that we could squeeze something from our clash with them in a couple of weeks.

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A suitable venue for a top of the table clash

They’ve got quite a tough looking September. As well as our visit they’ve got to go to Aldershot who are quietly going about their business, but more on them shortly. Tranmere also have trips to York and to Sutton this month, and I’d be very surprised if they avoided defeat all the way through September. The smart money would be on us beating them, but the really shrewd money would be on an Aldershot win on Saturday. They” wrap up September with a win though as Woking are the visitors on September 24th.

Forest Green are looking very tasty in second place but they’ve got a couple of tests on the horizon. They should triumph in a trip to Chester on Saturday, but another away game at Dover on September 10th looks tricky. Dover are down in 12th at the moment but you’d expect them to start picking up a few points despite the loss of key players in the summer. Tuesday 13th sees Eastleigh visit the Villagers, and the outcome of those two games in close proximity will be a good barometer of FGR’s title credentials. I did say title credentials because on Tranmere’s performance on Saturday I’m not convinced they’ll be runaway leaders. They finish September with a trip to Braintree in a game that will no doubt be attended by under 1,000 people. Exciting.

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FGR’s expected crowd at Braintree

Dagenham have a comfortable looking September with Boreham Wood, Bromley, North Ferriby and Solihull on the fixture list. Dover do visit on Tuesday 13th but that’s as tough as it gets for John Stills side. I’d wager they’ll stay tucked in just behind the leaders and as they’re unlikely to drop points their challenge will be sustained deep into autumn. Like us they’ll not only be looking to stay in contention, but they’ll have one eye on taking the top spot and there’s no reason why they won’t be top as we welcome in October.

So who else do I see as creeping onwards and upwards? I really like the look of Aldershot and my sources tell me they’re playing some neat football too. The win away at Dover this weekend cemented them in my view as potential dark horses, although they did lose 2-0 at Braintree earlier in August which is the sort of result that makes you question the sustainability of their challenge. However after Tranmere on Saturday they face Chester, Boreham Wood and North Ferriby before ending the month at home to Gateshead, and looking at that you can see them picking up a few more points. They weren’t amongst anyone’s tips for the play offs but as we know there’s always one team that surprises and Aldershot have a chance to stake a claim this month.

Barrow will probably string a couple of wins together before they visit us on the 17th. Home ties with Bromley an Boreham Wood set them up for a trip to Southport and they could feasibly come to Sincil Bank on the back of five wins, having already won their last two. They’ve spent a lot of money and expectations are high, but they’ll need to be on their game facing the Imps at present.

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Alex Woodyard – a proper footballer.

 

Enough of everyone else: we need to talk about Lincoln City. I’m not going to wax lyrical about Monday’s performance for two reasons. One I was extremely drunk for the duration of the win, and two everyone else has really beaten me to it. While I slept in my clothes at 7.30pm to the bemusement of my other half the internet was alive with talk of our convincing and complete display against The Heed. Is it going to continue though?

Well September gives us plenty more opportunities to see how far along the group of players are, and after our visit to the English Riviera comes the first real big test, Tranmere away. We acquitted ourselves well at Dagenham and were desperately unlucky not to come away with a point, and I expect something similar when we travel to the North West. Tranmere may be pace setters but they’ve yet to be tested and I’m confident that we can take at least a draw there, if not all three points. We look much better against teams that try to play us at football and Tranmere will try and play the game in the way god intended, on the deck. It’s dangerous for teams to come at us in that way though because I haven’t seen a side play football like we have this season in an awful long time.

After Tranmere, Solihull Moors visit the bank for their first ever competitive fixture against us and although there’s a danger of ‘doing a Sutton’ we should have too much for them if everyone stays fit. I can’t see the Cowley brothers letting us become complacent against any opposition and if we’re serious about the play offs it should be a routine win.

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Class

 

Up after that are Barrow at home and we all know this will be a tasty fixture. As I’ve mentioned they’ve spent the cash and Paul Cox isn’t a liked man here in Lincoln. If results have gone our way we could be looking at a 4,000 crowd for this clash and with 3,850 or so home fans this promises to be quite an occasion. Money doesn’t buy fans and it doesn’t buy class and September 17th is very much Class v Crass, and of all the game we have on the horizon this is one I’d love to see us win resoundingly. Paul Cox tempted Liam Hearn last season and tried to lure Matt Rhead away as well and I hope he gets his just desserts at the Bank.

We wrap up September with a trip to Dover which hasn’t provided us with happy memories over the last couple of seasons and it concludes a tricky September for the Imps. We have been gifted a decent start and coupled with the two wins this weekend we’ve made the most of it, but if we’re to stay in touch with the leaders then we have to get points at places like Dover. Can we do it? There’s no reason why not. Last time I wrote a piece full of optimism we lost two on the bounce in four days so I’m trying to keep my feet on the ground. In a months time the league will begin to take shape, but once again it appears that there will be a glut of teams from sixth to fourteenth all tightly packed in with little to separate them. The trick for City is to make sure we’re not dragged into that pack. When it’s time to wake up Green Day we should still be tucked in ahead of that chasing pack, looking forward to a great October.

Macclesfield 1 Imps 2

Just practising writing match reports in the vain hope one day I might get to do it for an actual job.

Lincoln City won their fourth game of the season after battling back against Macclesfield Town this afternoon.

Both teams went into the game on nine points and both were looking to build on decent early season form. The Imps welcomed back powerful striker Matt Rhead who had bagged five goals in five games. He started up alongside Johnny Margetts who scored four in his last outing.

City didn’t look very inspiring in the first 45 minutes and it was a fair reflection of the game when Kingsley James put The Silkmen ahead just before half time. A Chris Holroyd shot came back off the post and it was James who reacted first to give the hosts the lead.

Macclesfield came out strongly in the second half as well and it looked like it would be a damp afternoon all round for The Imps. However a swift breakaway in the 56th minute saw Terry Hawkridge slide the ball through to loanee Harry Anderson. He struck a shot from the edge of the area that looped over an unimpressive Richie Branagan in the Macclesfield goal.

Shortly afterwards Matt Rhead came off after an ineffective display and Adam Marriott came on to add a different dimension to the Imps attack. Instead of a direct approach Marriott offers some skill and unpredictability and it was the former Stevenage man who made the difference. A 75th minute knockdown from Luke Waterfall was cleverly converted to put Lincoln 2-1 ahead.

The 380 travelling fans had little to be nervous about as the final fifteen brought no real drama to speak of. Lincoln controlled the second half extremely well and they continue to build on a series of good performances in the early part of the season.

The referees whistle brought the three points home for Lincoln and sent them to fourth in the table, with a crucial match against fifth place Gateshead up next at Sincil Bank in two days time

Fourth win, fourth in the table

City had a great win at Macclesfield this afternoon to cement their place in the fledgling play off spots, but there’s so much more to be happy about than just three points.

I was unable to travel myself today so I satisfied my thirst for Imps action by listening on the radio and it was apparent that in the first half we were a little lacklustre. Chatting to a friend at the game revealed that we seemed to be going a little bit too direct to Matt Rhead and he wasn’t looking sharp having just come back from injury. Their goal was down to the usual defensive lapse that we’ve almost become accustomed too. Indeed when you’re sat in fourth but you’ve only kept one clean sheet that is a real testament to the quality of your attack.

However teams that get promoted have to show character and resilience and even in the two games we’ve lost this season we’ve had that in abundance. Against Sutton we battled on against twelve men and got ourselves back into the game, and we were desperately unlucky not to at least bag a draw against high flying Dagenham. However we got our just rewards this afternoon perhaps a little fortuitously when Harry Anderson struck to level the scores. I must note that the ‘pass that led to the pass that led to the chance’ did not come from Alex Woodyard but from Lee Beevers, a player I’m not entirely convinced by. He’s grasped his chance in the side though in Bradley Woods absence although I can’t see him keeping Wood out of the side.

We then switched to a Margetts and Marriott attack which worked so well against Southport and Marriott got the goal that brought home the bacon this afternoon. I know Margetts and Rhead are leading the scorers charts, but it is the prospect of Adam Marriott that gets my pulse racing. He’s such a livewire he always looks like he might create something, and if the balls into Big Matt don’t work then we have a bona fida plan B. I wrote about a Plan B last season, but at that time both plans needed Matt Rhead. I feel we now have a cracking option up front with Margetts and Marriott, and in truth I feel it will eventually become the Plan A. If I were a betting man I’d wager (if he stays fit) Marriott scores more this season than Margetts. Anyone want a tenner on it?

Whichever way we went about it we got what we deserved from the game today and displayed real character and mental toughness to get back into the game. When we say ‘Macc is never a nice place to go’ we could be talking about any team in our league, but the drive there is uncomfortable and despite the friendliness between the clubs in recent years thanks to Butch and Keith it is still a tough place to travel. The conditions weren’t ideal either, and most fans would have taken the point before the game.

I hoped for four from six over the Bank Holiday with today down as a draw, but now we’ve got to be looking at a maximum haul. Gateshead are right up there with us, but another three points in 48 hours time would begin to set us apart from the chasing pack. If we want to sustain a challenge for the play offs there’s no better way than winning games and creeping away from the glut of teams battling it out on the fringes. Last season we were on the periphery but this season I think it will be significantly different. The two results against Dagenham and Sutton seem like a distant memory, but anyone recalling them will recollect that we didn’t play badly. We haven’t actually played badly yet this season. We’ve had bad halves but have bounced back from them with aplomb, today included.

Macclesfield are a decent side and they’ll be part of the chasing pack this season, but if we continue to play football like we did in the second half today, and continue to fight when we go a goal down like we did today then I’m absolutely convinced we could be going to Wembley in May of next year.

I said there was reason to get excited and I firmly believe that is still the case, and away wins at the stronger clubs will only serve to enhance that belief. Up the Imps.

Khano Smith

When the Imps signed Khano Smith from New York Red Bulls in October 2009. He came on a short term deal having impressed the hopeless Chris Sutton during a ten day trial. He appeared to have all the qualities the Imps were looking for. He’d played international football (for Bermuda) and had scored 15 goals in 28 games for the oddly named Dandy Town Hornets before stepping up to the MLS.

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Captain of his country. God knows how.

 

Standing at six feet and three inches and weighing about four stone wet through he didn’t look like a league two footballer, and from the outset it was apparent he wasn’t. In his five outings for Lincoln he was consistently the worst player on the pitch by a mile, but as I’ve mentioned elsewhere he still kept young Sam Clucas in the stands The FA Cup tie with Northwich stands out for me where Smith wasn’t just ineffective but he may as well not even have turned up. Bear in mind we won that game, essentially with ten men.

He was unsurprisingly released once his three month trial expired and he sloped back off to America to play first for New England Revolution then the Bermuda Hogges. He never really got his career back on track after his dismal outing in England and the last we heard of him was assistant manager of Orlando Pride Womens Team.

Sam Clucas

I’m sure very few of you will have heard of this guy, but back in 2009 then manager Peter Jackson described him as a real find. Lincoln born, he spent 6 years with Leicester City before dropping down to play for Nettleham. Jacko signed him up as one for the future and he made his Imps debut against Darlington in the Football League Trophy. He was replaced in that game by former Glenn Hoddle pupil Chris Fagan. That game resulted in a 1-0 defeat and saw Peter Jackson dismissed.

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Not a bad career – for a ginge.

 

Chris Sutton came in bemoaning his luck at the squad he inherited. He signed lots of young players from the top flight such as Matt Saunders, Adam Watts, Anthony Pulis and Steven Lennon. The name of Sam Clucas didn’t feature on any of his team sheets and the youngster was released into obscurity at the end of July 2010 with just a solitary appearance to his name.

Oh no, wait. He wasn’t released into obscurity at all. He went off to the Glenn Hoddle Spanish Soccer School and then…. well then he’s not done badly has he?

He’s since gone on to play in all five divisions climbing the ranks quickly. he’s now a premier league player featuring regularly for Hull City. What of Saunders, Watts, Pulis and Lennon?

Ask Chris Sutton. Tit.

In fact please remember everytime you hear Sutton speak on the BBC that he thought Anthony Pulis, Shane Clarke and Khanu Smith were worth a start over Clucas, and over Richard Butcher. Tit.

 

The beginning of the end

I’ve always attributed our fall from grace not for failing to sign decent players in the 2006/07 transfer window, but when Peter Jackson let Freck go and failed to replace him. By the time I wrote this article that was to be published on the Lincoln City Mad website I had lost faith in Jackson completely.

I never actually published this. I was employed by the club at the time (albeit voluntarily) and if I’d spoken out against the bad things happening my job could have been on the line. However years on I feel pretty safe now, especially as I’m no longer volunteering full time there.

Imps In Turmoil

  • Frecklington left after losing faith
  • Patulea won’t play for the club again.

Fan were left wanting answers after yesterdays dismal 1-0 defeat at home to Rotherham, but their queries look set to remain unanswered. The Imps promotion hopes have been left in tatters after a run of form that has seen us win just twice in two months.

At Sincil Bank yesterday the players barely looked as if they’d met before, let alone played football together. Fans were chanting the name of leading scorer Adrian Patulea who was sat in the stands after being dropped from the squad. Now it appears that the popular Romanian may have played his last game for the club.

It has been suggested that Patulea has been dropped because of an ‘attitude problem’, and with his contract up in the summer it looks like he won’t be offered a new deal. Patulea has allegedly expressed concern at his lack of opportunities since City signed Anthony Elding on loan, and wants to know what exactly he’s done wrong. Imps fans feel the same way after seeing Adi’s spectacular fall from grace. Just a few short months ago he was in the Lincoln side, scoring a few goals and fast on his way to becoming a potential City legend. Fast forward to today and he cuts a forlorn figure sat in the stands further from the first team than he has ever been. His mood cannot have been helped by an awful City display that saw Elding turn in another ineffective and lethargic performance.

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Elding – Useless

 

The former Boston striker has lost the confidence of the fans after several powder puff displays, and the decision to take Horsfield off him off against Rotherham instead of Elding was met with a chorus of boo’s. Though Elding undoubtedly has talent he has rarely shown it in the red and white of Lincoln City, and the Imps attack was non-existent once again. Indeed Elding only really seemed interested if the ball was played within half a yard of him, and didn’t want to run for the cause. It would seem Patulea covers more ground walking to the burger bar and back in the stands than Elding does for a whole ninety minutes on the field. Fans are asking ‘What exactly has Adi done wrong?’

However this is just one issue currently leaving City fans wondering what happened to the bold promises of pre season. Imps favourite Lee Frecklington has gone out on loan and is unlikely to return from Peterborough. The midfield now consists of a fading Scott Kerr and the enigma that is Stefan Oakes. Oakes arrived with a fanfare and to widespread joy as Imps fans were left salivating at the potential offered. Now with promotion dreams in tatters Oakes typifies everything that is bad about the City team. He seems unmotivated, lazy and unable to grasp the basics of a game of football. It’s galling to think in these tough financial times that it probably takes a hundred Imps fans all paying full admission price to cover Oakes wages for ninety minutes.

The other ‘big’ signings of the summer have almost all failed to impress. David Graham and Kevin Gall left without a goal between them. Frank Sinclair is a shadow of his former self, lacking any real pace and failing to organise a lacklustre defence. Aaron Brown has looked lively in the wide left position, but he was signed as a potential left back! Brown certainly appears to be a player who could do a job for City, but is in and out of the side and doesn’t currently seem able to put a decent ball into the area for the forwards to attack. That said its not as if the forwards are likely to attack the ball. Geoff Horsfield is a decent player clearly still regaining full fitness, and as covered Anthony Elding doesn’t look like he’ll ever score another City goal, nor does he look like he wants to.

Janos Kovacs certainly has potential, but is prone to errors and often cannot cope against pacy forwards. In a battle with a big forward, like Drewe Broughton on Saturday, Janos can hold his own. However a quick forward with skill will beat him every time.

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Top keeper – Burch

 

From the magnificent seven signed in the summer only Rob Burch has proven he has the desire to succeed and the ability to match, pulling of several great saves. His defence let him down time and time again, and there are only so many shots a decent keeper can save before something gives. However Burch looked frustrated on Saturday and often resorted to hitting the ball long towards a vacant Elding.

Even those hailed as stars of the future have struggled this season. Martin Pembleton is rumoured to be thinking of quitting the game after becoming disillusioned at not being given a chance in the advanced midfield role vacated by Freck. As for Gary King, he’s out on loan at Boston looking like he wants to be there as much as Anthony Elding wants to be at Sincil Bank.

What of Lee Frecklington? The midfielders move came as a shock to everyone at the Bank, especially coming after deadline day leaving only a loan signing as possible cover. However rumours of the reason Frecklington left have been circulating message boards and bars across Lincoln.

Its alleged that Freck was unhappy at Peter Jackson’s decision to single him out for stinging criticism after giving the ball away in the build up to a Luton goal in the 3-2 reverse at Kenilworth Road over Christmas. Freck had apparently also become disillusioned at the lack of direction on the field, allegedly stating that the players often didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing on the pitch. Motivational talk will only get a side so far, and eventually tactical ability needs to be used. However that didn’t come and it was with great reluctance that Freck decided to move to Peterborough despite having recently signed a new deal at Lincoln.

Even the Imps most consistent performer this season, Lee Beevers is thought to be considering his future. Lee has excelled at full back this season, and often plays as if his life depends on it. He’s settled in Lincoln and wants nothing more than a new deal. However the terms being offered are currently not acceptable, and he could be leaving in the summer if things are not sorted out. Beevers would be missed if he were to leave as he plays with heart, passion and determination.

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You loved him too, right?

 

So where does this leaves Lincoln? It certainly leaves us in League Two next season, possibly without Beevers and Patulea as well as Dany N’Guessan who will almost certainly leave on a Bosman in the summer. Given the transfer policy over the last twelve months it would take something special to easily replace those players, and other leading first team members like Paul Green and Rob Burch could find themselves in a scrap to preserve their league status.

There are very worrying times ahead for Imps fans as the team lurch towards the end of the season with no purpose or direction. Only time will tell if the next crucial spell of five games that we have to win will be able to restore the fans faith that has recently been tested to the absolute limit.

LCM hopes to see a return to the starting line up for Adrian Patulea alongside Geoff Horsfield, with Aaron Brown and DNG providing service from the wings. Shane Clarke should join Scott Kerr in the centre of the park, and the youngster Moses Swaibu should be given a start alongside Janos at the back. However if anything remotely connected to dignity is to be salvaged from the season then Elding needs to be sent back to Crewe and an attacking midfielder who is prepared to work, and an experienced centre back who can organise a defence need to be brought in.

2006/07 Final game

Tonight I’ve delved into the archives (the hard drive) to find the programme notes I wrote the last time we had a significant say in what was to happen once the 46 league games had been concluded. I wrote these ahead of our game with Chester before the play off defeat by Bristol Rovers.

The end of yet another season is upon us, and barring some magnificent performances elsewhere today we’ll be looking at a record fifth consecutive tilt at the play offs. This could be measured as success or failure depending on whether your glass is half full or half empty, but I for one would take our position over that of Boston and Peterborough any day. I suspect at the beginning of the season many of us would have settled for 22nd above those two teams, and despite our poor form since Christmas I am perfectly happy with a chance to play at the new Wembley.

The temptation is to write about the end of the season and the end of certain era’s, but I’d like to focus on new beginnings instead. In particular I’d like to mention two people who are unlikely to feature at Sincil Bank after the summer.

Paul Morgan will potentially be moving to pastures new this summer after a distinguished Imps career spanning the most unlikely of ups and downs. Morgs was present when the spectre of financial ruin and conference football loomed large, he was present for the first play off final and he’ll hopefully be present to witness us achieve our goal of League One football. It will be a sad day when Irelands Bobby Moore hangs up his Imps shirt for the last time, but I have little doubt that his fresh start at a new club will bring him the success he’s achieved here at Sincil Bank. Once Morgs has gone he’ll be mentioned in the same breath as Imps legends such as Trevor Peake, Sam Ellis and Grant Brown. It’d be nice if the fans could give him the vocal send off he so richly deserves whether we make the play offs or not.

The other new start is for reserve goalkeeper Simon Rayner. I accept his departure hasn’t been confirmed, but signs do indicate that he may be making way for another man to attempt to dislodge Mazza from between the sticks. The big Canadian may not have appeared that many times for City, but every time he has he’s performed with passion and pride. Not a lot of our fans will know Rayner has battled through a number of set backs in his career, and at one point played Champions League football for Port Talbot and Barry Town. It is a shame that such a likeable character hasn’t managed to make the grade at City, but his recent outings for Torquay have brought him to the attention of a few managers. The last two weekends he has featured in the media’s various ‘teams of the week’ and perhaps a new start might be the move he needs to kick start his career in English football. I wish him the very best of luck.

Personally today is also the start of a new era for myself. I recently landed a new job that will allow me to attend every Saturday game, home or away. Unfortunately my away trips have been limited due to my current job, and hopefully I’ll now find myself able to take in trips to Leeds and Forest next season.

I suspect the ‘new beginnings’ do not end there. Many staunch Imps fans will next season find themselves at University or colleges, some of you will probably be married or have kids and many of your will possibly move away from the area. In your place there will be some fresh faces, those returning from educational institutions or moving back to the area. Those who do leave can be safe in the knowledge that when they do return, our football club will be here waiting to welcome them back with open arms.

Win, lose or draw today life goes on and football goes on. Should the impossible happen and we don’t make it the tears will soon dry up and the disappointment will be replaced by optimism. If we do go through the same applies for the semi finals and the play off final. If come May 27th its Lincoln City receiving the play off trophy then I guess there will be a new beginning for all of us, a life playing in the countries third tier once again. In my lifetime that has only happened once, but as my Dad regularly reminds me Lincoln are ‘traditionally a third division club’. Perhaps its time for tradition to come back home.

I’d like to add that as a big believer in omens and coincidences there are several things worth noting. When the Imps were promoted in 1998 one of the clubs dropping out of the league above was Brentford, much the same as this year. When we first made the play offs in 2003 it was a goal by Simon Yeo that clinched our place. I wonder what price on him to score today? It’s also worth noting that we have never appeared at the old Wembley, and fate does have a habit of surprising you. I’d like to wager a bet that it doesn’t take us 120 years to appear at the new one!

So good luck to everyone leaving us, and lets embrace all those joining us. One of those new faces will be here today, 2 year old Alfie Stimpson. His Dad Paul is a massive Imps fan and Alfie will doubtless be gracing us with his presence for the next fifteen years or so until University beckons him. I’d like to welcome Alfie to the Bank and congratulate him on making the superb choice of following the Imps, albeit with a little push from his old man.

See you at Wembley.

Five things I already knew before we played Southport.

I’m going to confess I didn’t learn a lot of new things about our beloved Lincoln City this week. The 4-0 drubbing of Southport was only unexpected because of the last two games, and not because of the quality of opposition.

I think it is an accepted fact that Southport will be in the bottom half, and I think it is similarly accepted that we will fight at the other end of the table. However yesterday accentuated those beliefs for everyone in the ground. Here’s five things we already knew before we beat Southport.

  1. Alex Woodyard is class. There’s no denying the work rate that the lad puts in, but he really does seem to be at the heart of everything the new management team are trying to achieve. The quality of football on display at Sincil Bank has increased ten fold, and at times it looked like boys against men as the little exchanges of passes found openings all over the park. Even before former Imp Ashley Grimes was sent off for kicking out at Woodyard we looked in full control. Woody 2 really does pull the strings, breaking up play and spreading balls all over the park. Usually when we speak of players in his position  we mention that their work often goes unnoticed (Scott Kerr, David Batty), but in Woody 2’s case it doesn’t. I might be jumping the gun here but I think at some point in his career he could grace the Championship. He’s that good, and at the end of this season there could be another Woody challenging for the player of the year awards.

    City v Southport 4-0 016

    Destined for bigger things?

  2. We’ve got goals in us. Even without Matt Rhead we looked really dangerous every time we rampaged forward and the score really didn’t do justice to the total dominance we displayed throughout the game. Four goal Johnny Margetts could have had six, and we had a host of other chances and half chances. I really liked the new lad in last seasons kit, Harry Anderson. He was skilful, direct but also incredibly strong. His home debut reminded me of James Caton’s home debut last season. It’s not hard to see where we’re going to get goals from this season, they can come from everywhere. Adam Marriott looked every inch the perfect partner for Margetts yesterday and it looks like the ‘accelerated plan B’ that the manager spoke about in midweek really could be effective. Teams are not going to know which Lincoln City are going to turn up, the one with the powerful front man that balls simply stick to, or the one with intricate and speedy one touch passing and swift movement. Be excited.

    City v Southport 4-0 072

    Is there a better sight for an Imps fan than the ball nestling in the back of the net?

  3. There is a lot of depth to the squad. Bear in mind that Taylor Miles and Matt Rhead are injured, that Power, Hawkridge and Arnold were suffering (amongst others) and in reality we were unable to put out our strongest team. In years gone by I’ve sat watching half decent Imps sides at full strength saying ‘one day we’re going to hand out a proper thrashing to somebody’. Well in three home games we’ve handed out two now, and that’s without a full strength side. I know we lost two games recently and I know it isn’t always going to be plain sailing, but how many seasons can we honestly say we’ve started by handing out sound beatings? North Ferriby aren’t proving to be the whipping boys they looked like when they played us either, so on the face of it 6-1 was perhaps more of an achievement than we gave ourselves credit for.

    City v Southport 4-0 048

    Not content with scoring 4, Margetts fancies going in goal as well.

  4. The new refereeing policies are causing some confusion. Even before Woody last week we were looking with some suspicion at the performance of referees and yesterday was no different. I thought the ref had a decent game yesterday, but two decisions do stand out. Neither really affected the outcome as the Imps had control from first minute to last, but how did the keeper stay on the pitch for the first penalty? I know the rules state that intent to play the ball is to be taken into consideration, but his clattering of Margetts looked almost Harold Schumacher-esque and clearly denied a goal scoring opportunity. I thought he was incredibly lucky to stay on and save Terry Hawkridge’s weak penalty. Like Woody last week I also didn’t clearly see the Grimes incident despite it being right in front of me, but it seemed very harsh at the time. Sutton protested to get Woody sent off last week, but not one Lincoln player raised an arm as Grimes kicked out. I don’t think Southport felt hard done by, but on another day they could have been crucial decisions.

    City v Southport 4-0 065

    300 Imps performances between them. That’s what I call experience on the bench.

  5. Any doom and gloom merchants who began seeping out of the woodwork on Wednesday were wrong. I’ll confess I didn’t see an awful lot of moaning and whining myself. I did notice someone on Twitter called Trisimp who was scathing throughout Tuesday evening, but these people are simply not right. This isn’t ‘same old Lincoln’ and it isn’t the year of the shattered dream again. We are a work in progress, but the work being put in is clear for everyone to see. Some of the passing and movement on show yesterday was like nothing I’ve seen at Lincoln in at least a decade if not two. The ball was being zipped about and players were dropping in and out of space like they were blocks in a game of Tetris. The play flowed beautifully and anyone who says it was the quality of the opposition are missing the bigger picture. Yes I acknowledge it was occasionally broken down and at times players took a little too long on the ball, but I lost count of the number of times I looked down at my phone to check my bets and when I looked up we’d advanced fifty odd yards through little one touch passing. I confess I missed some of the build up to Margetts second because I was checking to see if Liverpool were going to save my accumulator. One moment it was in the middle of the park and through a fast interchange we were through on goal. Anyone who can not see a significant step change in the quality of performances is either blind or will eternally be critical of Lincoln City.

    City v Southport 4-0 019

    The dismissal of a former Imp did little to affect the result.

So there are five things I already knew about Lincoln before we beat Southport. I didn’t know what a talent the boy Anderson is from Peterborough as I’ve mentioned. He looked rugged, strong and direct and although I was surprised we brought in another wide player it is easy to see which qualities DC saw when he decided to bring him in.

The final thing that has surprised me a little is the preference towards Waterfall and Raggett at the back over McCombe. I was really enthused by big Jamie returning and likened it to a marquee signing and a coup of sizeable proportions. It seemed clear that it would be McCombe plus one at the back, but recent selections have indicated otherwise. Maybe it’s building for the future, maybe it’s just use of a good sized squad but the big man not making the starting eleven has surprised me a little. Not quite as much as defeat by Sutton but enough for me to comment.

I’m off now to bask in the glory of seeing two sound thumpings of poorer opposition inside a calendar month. It’s not always easy to be a Lincoln City fan, but at least this season it seems the highs will make up for the lows.

Imps owe fans a response

Danny Cowley spoke today of how his players feel they owe the fans a good performance against Southport on Saturday as they look to put the disappointment of the last few days behind them.

“We’re all disappointed, we don’t like to lose and certainly not two on the trot

“The fans were brilliant here again Saturday. A lot conspired against us but they really stayed with us.

“On Tuesday night against Dagenham they were brilliant, they clapped every player off the pitch. Alex Woodyard said it in the meeting today that we owe them one and we do, we want to put smiles on their faces.”

Southport is a chance to get things back on track, and keeping the fans on the edge of their seat will be a priority.

“5th game in 14 days is a physical challenge, but we’ll be watching Southport v Macclesfield later today. The motivation is to try and put the past two performances behind us.

“We’re going to be brave, move the ball quickly and get the supporters back with us again”

Cowley said Luke Waterfall should be fit, and Matt Rhead is also in contention for Saturday. However he managed to find a positive in losing the big man.

“The week has been a challenge for us to adapt a style of play without Matt. It (the injury) has allowed us to fast track the process of finding a way to play without him, something we’ve always been working towards.”

Rhead

Can we find a style of play that doesn’t rely as heavily on the talented front man?

 

Alan Power came in for some criticism on Tuesday for his poor performance, but Cowley revealed he wasn’t fully fit.

“Alan was at 75%, we had to make a decision and as captain of the team he was willing to put his body on the line for the group. We said if you’ve got 75% then give us 75% and he did that.

“It impinged on his performance, he wasn’t able to move as he likes. Needs must and credit to him.”

Talk of a new signing is proving as difficult as buying a house, but Danny confirmed that the club are still in the hunt for Australian midfielder James Weslowski. It had previous been reported that club and player were a long way from an agreement but it seems the move is still alive.

“It’s still a possibility. There’s some different things for that to happen to move over the line.”

Danny had previously alluded to a move for a midfielder by describing it as incredibly difficult to pull everything together. Although he wasn’t speaking directly about Weslowski it seems safe to assume he was discussing the experienced midfielder.

“It’s frustrating because you’re waiting for things to happen. It reminds me of buying a house. There’s normally three parties in a deal, the two clubs and the player. There are six parties involved here.”