Strikers: The other options

Most people agree that at some point in the near future Lincoln City will need to add to their centre forward options. Days like yesterday do make it seem as if Matt Rhead can do the job of a nine and ten, but the truth is since Jonny Margetts left we’ve been a bit light up front.

Theo Robinson has come in and done a decent job, but I suspect his intention is to secure a move to a Football League club in January, and there are bound to be some takers in League Two as teams look to strengthen.

The obvious choices are Ricky Miller and Simeon Akinola, but I suspect we might have hit a stumbling block on both fronts. Ricky Miller is the man of the moment, but with the form he’s showing I sincerely hope that he is looking to the Football League in January and not cashing in by moving to Village Green. He deserved a crack at league football with Luton but the court case (in which he was found innocent) took away that chance. To be fair to Dover they took a punt on him when nobody would and despite my disdain for them they deserve to get some cash for taking that chance.

The Akinola deal has gone very quiet as well, and I know that Danny and Nicky would love to bring him to the Bank but I suspect like Miller there will be league clubs watching him very closely. There’s also the question of finances, we might be stable but we’re not rolling in cash like many assume. An FA Cup run might help that, and a third round tie would take place ahead of the January transfer window should we get that far. Perhaps there’s a chance a good cup run could fund a move for Akinola, and if by some twist of fate we got Man Utd or Liverpool in a third round tie we might even be able to stretch to Miller.

In the (more likely) occurrence that we beat Altrincham and then get someone like Coventry away and slide out of the cup, we need a Plan B. Your favourite Imps blogger has therefore put together a collection of five players who might just fit the bill.

 

Blair Turgott (Bromley)

After writing this blog I found out Danny had started following Turgott on Twitter, it means very little but it is an indication that the player is at least known to the gaffer. He should be, it was Turgott who capitalised on Tom Champion’s slip earlier in the year to give Bromley a share of the spoils.

Turgott has rolled off the West Ham talent conveyor belt and at just 22 still has his best years ahead of him. He’s had some league experience having played 31 times for Orient and had spells with Coventry, Dagenham and Colchester.

He has represented his country right up to Under-19 level and seems primed for a step back up to full time football. He has primarily played as a winger which could account for a lack of goals in the past, but recently he’s been getting down the centre for Bromley to good effect. He’s young, hungry to succeed in professional football and coming from the south will be all-too aware of what the Cowley brothers might be able to bring to his game.

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Asande

 

Akwasi Asande (Solihull Moors)

Here is a personal favourite of mine who could make a significant impact given the chance. He’s a former Birmingham player who attracted the interest of Ajax in his youth having been born in the Netherlands. He’s a six footer but his all-round game is about far more than just raw power. He had an abortive spell at Kidderminster where he picked up and injury and was later released, but he’s found a real lease of life at Solihull. He’s hit seven so far this season, albeit including hat-tricks in back to back matches. That said Solihull (as we’ve seen) go away to get a point and that often leaves him isolated or even worse not on the pitch. At 24 he’s approaching the threshold for being classed as ‘young’ talent and perhaps might be a risky choice. However he will also surely be looking to get back into the full time game, and more importantly he’s changed his agents in the last three days which could mean he’s on the look out for another club.

 

Louie Theophanous (St Albans)

Louis is another 24 year old who stands at six foot two, so it may be he isn’t exactly perfect foil for Rheady. That said with diagonal ball coming into the box it could be he would add an additional threat. Why would we look to St Albans though?

Well he’s currently the second leading scorer in the National League South with 13 goals, including two yesterday as promotion chasing St Albans hammered Truro 5-0 in a game which he also grabbed an assist. Theophanous is also very well known as being Cristiano Ronaldo’s body double on Nike adverts, and counts arguably the best footballer on the planet as a ‘personal friend’. He was so highly thought of at Staines Town that he was the only full-time player on their books. He’s aching for a shot at a return to full time football and is primed for someone to take a chance on him. Could it be us?

He has had experience at Wimbledon too and is desperate to be given a chance to show what he can do higher up. If we were to tempt someone such as Turgott away from Bromley I could see Theophanous making a step up to them, or another side in the south. However he might just be worth a punt given his impressive scoring record, and his famous connection.

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The only picture I took of Margetts.

 

Jonny Margetts (Scunthorpe United)

It may seem a bit of a cop out to include Margetts on the list, but I have a gut feeling we haven’t seen the last of our former striker. He isn’t getting a sniff at Scunthorpe at the moment and he originally came here for first team football. If Theo moves on it could leave someone the chance of regular first team games, and perhaps Scunthorpe will want their investment to be getting game time? If we continue to perform at the levels we have been doing then he would be getting plenty of opportunities in and around the box, and he might be an economical choice.

I did wonder if maybe we’d see him back before January to give us the cover until the obvious transfer merry-go-round kicks off. He was hungry whilst he was here and I think it’s a crying shame that a promising career has been so stop / start. A lot depends on Scunthorpe but we know DC and NC are big fans of Margetts, so never say never!

 

Nicke Kabamba (Hampton and Richmond)

Kabamba is another name that I’m sure will pop up in the near future after his recent goal scoring exploits. He’s been in fine form alongside Jamal Lowe, and Lowe recently signed an 18 month contract with Portsmouth commencing in January. Even as early as August the Hampton manager Alan Dowson had predicted he’d need to replace his forwards by Christmas, and he’s already half right.

Kabamba has already hit nine goals this season, adding to the 18 he scored the season before. He scored yesterday too as Hampton & Richmond strolled to a 3-1 win over Weston Super-Mare. He’s hot property and could well fall into the demographic that appeals to our managers: he’s only 22 an unlike the others forwards on here he’s made his way up the pyramid rather than down having played at Uxbridge, Hayes, Burnham and Hemel Hempstead before moving to Hampton and Richmond. He may be the sort of raw and ambitious talent that Danny and Nicky would be able to develop if they got their hands on him.

In conclusion

Personally I think I wouldn’t be disappointed in any of these players coming to Sincil Bank, but I think Asande has the potential to really add significant value to the group, and as we know that’s what Danny’s transfer policy is all about. Kabamba is the other player I’d be really excited to see pitch up at the Bank, he is a player on an upward trajectory just like our management team and if his personality is right I think he would be a super fit with our club.

We know the managers will be conducting due diligence on anyone who might be a potential target, and I would expect both Danny and Nicky to be well aware of all the players on my list and to a degree their strengths and weaknesses.

I think a strong favourite to actually wear the red and white in the near future would be Jonny Margetts though, his lack of game time at Scunthorpe will be a major concern and if we don’t get the cup run and increased income then I can see us looking to the loan market to fill the gap left. Who better to fill a Jonny Margetts shaped gap than Jonny Margetts?

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2006/07 v 2016/17

There’s little doubt we are currently watching one of the best Lincoln teams for a long while. Last night I proclaimed on social media I thought it was the best side in a decade. In order to achieve that feat it would have to be a better side than John Schofield’s play off semi-finalists of 2007.

As I have an extra hour to play with today and my body clock isn’t as easy to put back an hour as my normal clocks I decided to do a pound for pound comparison of yesterday’s squad compared with the Imps team that took to the pitch on the corresponding date in the 2006/07 season. On the 28th of October 2006 we beat Swindon 1-0 away to go top of League Two. Tough competition for the class of 2016.

I would like to point out that I’m going to have to be really objective here. I know some players read my blog (cheers boys) but I can’t let that cloud my judgement if I’m going to get an honest result. Also I haven’t planned this in advance, I’m literally matching the players up one against another as I type.

Here goes:

Alan Marriott v Paul Farman

Ouch, started with a tough call. Paul Farman is my favourite Lincoln keeper since Alan Marriott, but Mazza was an outstanding stopper who deserved his testamonial. I’ll never forgive Peter Jackson for treating him the way he did. I’m afraid at this moment in time Mazza edges it purely for his consistency of performances over a spell of several years. However Farms isn’t far behind and if he continues to perform to the levels he’s found in the last twelve months then I have no doubt he could go on to eclipse everything Mazza achieved at Lincoln.

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Lee Beevers v Bradley Wood

That’s right, Lee Beevers was our right back the night we beat Swindon, and ten years later he could have been compared to himself had it not been for that cruel injury on Tuesday night. Remember I’m comparing the Lee Beevers of ten years ago to Bradley, not Lee of today. Even then it is an incredibly tough call. I’m going to say that I think Bradley Wood of today could give Lee Beevers of ten years ago a run for his money, but Lee went on to achieve good things at a better level. It’s a tough call, but as it’s 50/50 I’m going to plump for Bradley Wood because I’ve never seen him lose a 50/50!

Paul Mayo v Sam Habergham

Sam Habergham, all day long. I was never the biggest Paul Mayo fan anyway and I feel that Sam has more to offer going forward as well as being more than a match defensively. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of our England C left back as yet, and running at 80% I think he’s a better option than Mayo.

Nat Brown v Sean Raggett

Again a clear win for the current defender. Sean Raggett is getting better and better, and his partnership with Luke Waterfall is beginning to look incredibly solid. Yesterday we conceded two which was unlike this defence, but Raggett increasingly looks lik a player who will play higher than the National League, and probably higher than League Two as well. Nat was a limited centre half who played with passion but didn’t have the ability to reach the levels Raggett does. My only whinge with Raggett is sometimes he carries the ball out of defence and you just want him to play it easy and drop back into position. Despite that it’s a win for the current team.

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Adie Moses v Luke Waterfall

We’re comparing a player on his way down (Moses) against a player on his way up (Waterfall) and it’s a close call. I think had we been comparing six months ago I’d be tempted to go with Moses, but his spell at Lincoln was at the tail end of a decent career. Waterfall has come on leaps and bounds since being given the captaincy and has possibly been our most consistent performer over the last ten games. This is looking like a whitewash, but the current side gets it again.

Defence: Tough on Paul Farman coming up against a real club legend in Alan Marriott, but other than that the defence of 2016 is (in my opinion) much better than the defence that topped League Two going into November of 2006. The best defender of 2006 (Beevers) is with us now!

Ryan Amoo v Harry Anderson

The question here isn’t would Anderson get into that Lincoln side, that answer is obvious. The real question is how did Ryan Amoo ever get into the side in 2006? He wouldn’t make the bench in 2016, in fact he would probably be out on loan somewhere like Halifax or Fylde. No contest.

Nathan Arnold v Jeff Hughes

At last a proper match up to get my teeth into. Nathan Arnold is a league quality player, of that there is no doubt. Jeff Hughes ten years ago was just embarking on a sterling career that would see him play at a really good level. I like Arnold a lot, he has a great engine and an eye for goal, but Hughes was in his Lincoln prime in the 06/07 season and even with my tinted spectacles on I can’t give this match up to Arnold. Two players who would grace any team at League Two level, even today.

Lee Frecklington v Alan Power

Now we’re talking, now I’m beginning to see what the 2006 side did have to offer. After a mediocre looking defence we’re into a real powerhouse of a midfield. Lee Frecklington ran the show that season and was pushed out of the club by ego Jackson a season later. Alan Power is another Lincoln City stalwart who deserves a promotion to add some glitter to five years of real battling. I really rate Power and I’m delighted to see him in the side but if someone offered me 2006 Lee Frecklington to play alongside Woodyard I’d take him all day long. This one goes to Freck.

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Scott Kerr v Alex Woodyard

Scott Kerr divides opinion even today. Many have him down as a pointy and shouty workman with little substance and a lot of bluster. Others have him down as an unsung hero, a workhorse who kept running above and beyond the call of duty to try and pull the Imps out  of the mire. For the record I have him down as the latter, and therefore this isn’t a straightforward choice. Woodyard though, well Woodyard is different class. He does the unsung work and a lot of the dirty work, but he does it in such a way that you notice what he’s doing. His passes aren’t always the easy option, but nine times out of ten they hit their target. Like Kerr he perhaps needs to add a goal or two to his repertoire, but if he does then they boy could go on to play (and I’m not living in cuckoo land here) top flight football. That’s how good Woodyard could be, and I’m afraid that puts him a cut above Scotty Kerr.

Midfield: It’s a tight battle, John Schofield assembled a decent midfield back in the day. It’s a draw overall, but I think the margin of victory for Anderson over Amoo gives the mantle to the class of 2016. Again.

Mark Stallard v Matt Rhead

Now here’s a clash you wouldn’t want to get in the middle of. Anyone getting caught in a Stallard and Rhead sandwich would come off worst. They’re actually very similar players, both rough and tumble forward men with a reputation for being bruisers, but both possessing some really neat touches and flashes of skilful inspiration. Both score goals at a good rate and both bring something unique to the side. I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to call this, so it’s going down as a draw. I know some might say Stallard was a bit more mobile but I refuse to undersell the importance of Rheady to the current side. I think he’s been a revelation this season, he’s bounced back from the whole transfer list thing and shown such amazing character that I can’t honestly say I think Stallard was better.

Jamie Forrester v Theo Robinson

Well for a start Jamie scored his own goals and didn’t need to claim them from other people. This is a no-contest like Amoo v Anderson, Jamie Forrester oozed class from the second he pulled on a Lincoln shirt to the moment he left the club. He lacked the pace of Theo but his football brain compensated for that as he got older. His touch never, ever let him down and he was perfect foil for the big man Stallard. In 2016 the general consensus is that we need a Forrester style player in and around Matt Rhead, and at the moment that hasn’t proven to be Theo Robinson. Time may prove me wrong, but this one goes to Jamie.

Up front: It’s a win for the 2006 pairing of Stallard and Forrester. They’re the best centre forward pairing we have had in an awful long time and history hasn’t dulled their appeal for me.

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On the bench

It’s just a straight out ‘which bench was stronger’ question here. Against Swindon it was Simon Rayner, Colin Cryan, Leon Mettam, Martin Gritton and Ollie Ryan. Yesterday it was Jamie McCombe, Terry Hawkridge, Taylor Miles, Elliott Whitehouse and Jack Muldoon. Again I think 2016 edges it for depth and versatility.  In 2006 we were fine unless we needed a change anywhere across the midfield, whereas yesterday we could change any position on the field bar Paul Farman. The squad as a whole is incredibly strong and that is reflected on the bench.

John Schofield / John Deehan v Danny Cowley / Nicky Cowley

Up to October 28th 2006 I probably wouldn’t have heard a word against John Schofield, but after this game we lost five of the next six, and in the season run in we won just twice in 15 games including the play-off semi finals. Was there a plan B for Schofield? Probably not. The squad wasn’t strengthened adequately in the transfer window, and again in the summer and we paid the price. I don’t think in a years time we’ll look back on this season and say the same things about 2016/17 Lincoln. When we hit a bad patch earlier this season the managers had the resourcefulness and character to make the changes that corrected the slump, and I think history will eventually back up my choice of our current managers over the 2006 paring.

So overall I make that eight v four in favour of the 2016 side. Could they hold their own in League Two? Undoubtedly. The 2006 squad overachieved in those first few months of the season and then capitulated, whereas I firmly believe this current side will be in the mix right up until the end of the season.

I refuse to do a like for like from the season before because the Keith Alexander years were beyond compare, and to build the squad he did from administration would amount to much more than a straight forward match up, player to player. However I’m confident in saying now that this is the best side we’ve had in ten years.

Up the Imps.

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Capping off a fine week

City managed to make it eight games unbeaten after coming from behind twice to register a superb 5-2 win against Chester. It caps off a fine week after beating Boreham Wood on Tuesday, having now scored seven past two teams with reputed good defences.

Typically Danny Cowley was careful to manage the expectations that this excellent run might be generating. Speaking to Michael Hortin on BBC Radio Lincolnshire he said:

“We’ll enjoy it tonight, but it’s only three points. The boys can enjoy it until six o’clock and then we focus on Altrincham. The fans can enjoy it until seven!”

Of course the 413 travelling fans will enjoy it way beyond seven this evening, and with the focus switching to the FA Cup we can rest comfortable knowing we’ll be in second place for the next two weeks. The first half didn’t go as perhaps we have come to expect from City. A series of niggly fouls culminated in Chester getting a penalty after we’d only just got back into the game. However an equaliser in injury time from Sean Raggett meant a clean slate from Danny’s perspective.

“To get back into like we did we felt second half we could go and play with freedom.”

The Imps certainly did play with freedom in the second half, Matt Rhead grabbing a third straight after the restart with a cool finish. Chester switched to a more direct 4-4-2 but two goals late on from Jack Muldoon and Harry Anderson ensured we grabbed seven points from the last three games. The fact we came from behind was not lost on the gaffer.

“Good teams have got to win games in all different ways, and good teams have to win games when they go behind.”

The man of the match this afternoon was Matt Rhead, bagging a brace and setting up the other goals. He left to a standing ovation and rightly so. Rheady takes a lot of stick from opposition fans and often gets overlooked by referees when he’s being battered about, but both Tuesday night and this afternoon he’s shown he’s so much more than a big lump up front.

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Excellent saves

 

The Imps could have easily lost the match though, Paul Farman pulled off a couple of great saves and on an afternoon when the attacking play will get all the plaudits it’s important to remember his contribution. Farms has developed into one of the finest keepers at this level and his saves today at crucial times gave the outfield players a platform to build on.

There were strong performances all over the pitch, Harry Anderson was superb once again. It seems bizarre that Peterborough didn’t mind him being cup-tied, but the presence of Barry Fry at Sincil Bank on Tuesday night shows he isn’t being forgotten by Posh. If we could secure him for the duration of the season it would be a massive bonus.

Nathan Arnold put in another strong performance as well, despite not getting on the score sheet. He was full of praise for Matt Rhead in his Radio Lincolnshire interview.

“We’re really happy to score five away from home, but we know there’s work to do. Matt Rhead’s performance today was really good, he’s such an asset for us. We don’t over-use him but we use him in the right way. We love Matt, he’s like the big bear in the dressing room! He’s got a lovely touch, he’s not just a big target man.”

The frightening thing for the rest of the National League is that as games go on, City look fitter than their opponents. As the season goes on Danny promises that the side will only get better, and Arnold paid tribute to that as well.

“Every game we go into we look stronger, we look fitter and we look better. That’s testament to Danny and Nick. We’re in a good place at the minute.”

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I scored on FIFA last night and an hour later Theo rang up and claimed it.

 

We certainly are in a good place. The buzz around the club is unlike anything seen for ten years. The players look more committed than any squad since Keith Alexander was here, and at times the football is (dare I say it) as good as I’ve seen in thirty years of following the Imps.

On the radio Steve Thompson said now is the time to go out and sign a couple of players, but I have to disagree. I think we’re one player away from a really good squad, and that is a centre forward. Theo Robinson will be hoping for something to develop in January, which is why he’s so desperate for his name to appear on the score sheet at the moment. Aside from a number ten I think this is the most complete squad we’ve seen at Sincil Bank for a decade. Losing Beevers is a blow and perhaps the only real negative to take away from an otherwise wonderful week to be an Imp.

Long may it continue.

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Financial Fair Play – Is it actually fair?

I’ve read with some interest that Village Green are interested in signing Ricky Miller and it occurred to me that at some point the FFP rules must stop them from buying success. What point exactly is that?

The financial fair play rules differ the further up the spectrum you go. In the Premier League rather than being restricted on wages because of turnover, you are permitted to make a financial loss of no more than £105m over three seasons, or £15m over three seasons if your owner doesn’t inject equity. The figures drop in the Championship to £13m and £5m but the rules stay the same.

We all know that the rules don’t apply in our league, and if they did we’d probably be battling with Tranmere and Dagenham alone at the top of the table. However owners like Dale Vince and Jim Parmenter are allowed to bank-roll clubs with poor attendances and give themselves an unfair advantage. Parmenter is perhaps different to Vince as any transfer fee they receive at least goes to their turnover, with Village Green they don’t even sell players on.

So what happens if they manage to get promoted? There are a set of FFP rules that apply in League Two, will sub 1,400 attendances mean they have to move players like Ricky Miller and Keanu Marsh Brown on to control their wage bill?

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Dover travel in numbers.

 

No, unfortunately for all that is fair and honest in football the League Two FFP rules stipulate that owners can donate cash to the club and include it in the turnover. So even though they can only spend 55% of their turnover on wages, that turnover can include a nice fat cheque from my least favourite eco-warrior.

In League One you can spend up to 60% of your turnover on wages, but once again owners can donate to the club and include it as turnover. In essence the term ‘Financial Fair Play’ actually means absolutely nothing below the Championship. If you’ve got a sugar daddy it doesn’t matter that you have low home attendances and only take thirty to away games. Basically Village Green can get away with buying success right up until the Championship.

I think it laughs in the face of clubs who suffered the ignominy of relegation or administration in recent times. The likes of us, Hereford, York and Macclesfield who have the fan base but don’t attract a multi-millionaire investor are put at a disadvantage, and our ultra competitive league is allowed to become polluted with rich men’s play things.

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Dale Vince stood in a field full of Forest Green fans that regularly travel away.

 

Realistically looking at attendance figures we could have a top of the table clash between Dover and Village Green that attracts less than 1500 fans, and yet they could be about to fork out £100,000 for Ricky Miller. We can’t afford that as a well run business attracting an average attendance of 3,425, but Village Green can offer £10,000 per fan that regularly travels away for Dover’s star striker. With £100,000 Dover could afford to give every one of their loyal home supporters £100 and still have money left.

Maybe it’s jealousy on my part, but I can’t stand to see these abominations buying their way up the league ladder. It pains me to see seven clubs in the National League North attracting more fans than a side bound for the Football League. That’s right, FC United of Manchester, Halifax Town, AFC Fylde, Darlington, Salford and Kidderminster all have a higher average attendance than Village Green. It may be an anomaly of sorts, but even step FOUR side Hereford get more bums on seats.

If Village Green get Ricky Miller I concede it would be incredibly hard for any team to stop them running away with the league. My fear is when does it stop? Next year AFC Fylde come up with a big ‘money no object’ budget, and that’s in addition to Eastleigh and Barrow. At what point do well run and modestly funded teams get a chance to compete? When they attract hungry young managers like the Cowley brothers? When they attract players who want more than a big pay packet, but want to play in front of bigger crowds in decent stadiums? Never?

I actually think it was easier to get out of this league back in 1988 with just one place up for grabs. We knew back then we had to win the league, but with the biggest attendances and remaining full time, our promotion ensured a natural balance was restored. However now with teams like Forest Green simply buying success without the fan base to justify it, even with the play-off spots it is becoming increasingly hard to compete, and the weight of favour is with those teams that can afford to pay for it.

We may be in a unique position in that we have other attractions this season, and as a club we’ve identified ambitious players who want to play for the bigger clubs, but my fear is that if we remain in this league and the Cowleys move on, are we forever stuck in a competition that allows the very richest to buy success over hard work and endeavour? Isn’t that the epitome of everything wrong with society today?

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To fund or not to fund?

There’s been a little bit of an adverse reaction from some quarters of Imps fan base this week, bizarrely aimed at an attempt to raise a few quid for Lee Beevers in the wake of his recent injury against Boreham Wood.

It’s a little bit sad that we have to even see debate of this kind, but then I am also a big believer in free speech, where and when appropriate. In this instance I feel people are entitled to an opinion, and if it differs from our own then that is fine. However as I’ve spent three days not publishing anything I thought I’d chuck my two-pennies worth into the ring.

Firstly let us look at the facts here. Lee Beevers suffered an almost-certain season ending injury this week, and the scenes at Sincil Bank were unpleasant as he was first stretchered off and then ferried to hospital under flashings blues. Lee has been the most improved member of the team who really seems to have thrived under the Cowley’s management. It seemed incomprehensible at the season outset that Bradley Wood would play anywhere other than full back, but talk has switched now to signing a new right back just to keep him in midfield, such has been the impact from Lee and Brad’s new positions.

Lee Beevers is under contract and therefore will be paid for the duration of his injury. I would imagine there will be some form of insurance in place somewhere, either by club or player, that would pay out in the case of a career ending injury. In terms of actual finances the player and his family won’t be forced onto the breadline. There might be a dip in an appearance bonus, but the financial implications won’t be as far reaching as one might think.

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However the crowd funder isn’t in place to try and put bread on their table. It’s in place to just do something nice for the family in the wake of a bad injury and to help them get through a tough time. Finances are one thing, but there will be an emotional impact on the family. Lee won’t be playing, and as Danny mentioned basics such as work at the house won’t be getting done. I heard Lee’s little boy cried his eyes out when his Daddy was stretchered off on Tuesday, and I imagine it will be hard for them as a family, whether there’s milk in the fridge or not.

Anyone who thinks Lee earns a big wage would be sadly mistaken. I’d wager that well over half of the squad earn less than (for instance) the manager of a popular trade kitchen sales company with two branches in Lincoln. Football might be glamorous and lucrative in the top flight and even he Championship, but down here the boys earn the same as me and you. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is some sort of campaign to line the pockets of a fat cat sportsman. It’s a campaign to give a normal, down to earth family something to smile about during a tough period.

The crowd funder may represent ‘too much charity’ for some, and that’s fine as they’re allowed an opinion. For my money I think it’s a further representation of the strong links being developed between staff and fans. We know Lee’s family won’t go hungry, but a token of fans appreciation in the form of a day out or weekend away will doubtless mean an awful lot to a very popular player and his wife, and his kid(s).

If you don’t want to donate, then don’t. If you would like to give the Beevers family something to smile about, then do. It’s a straightforward choice that you’re entitled to make. However I’m not sure some of the more derogatory comments about fund raising are entirely appropriate. This isn’t ‘hand wringing and egos’ by any stretch of the imagination. This is just people doing something nice for other people.

I’m going to make a divisive comment before I sign off. I think some quarters of Imps fans are a little too critical of one man and his fund raising efforts, and I find that a little sad. Helgy is a strong character and I understand that doesn’t always sit well with some people, but the work he does isn’t to raise his own profile. That is how he feels he can contribute to the Lincoln City journey. I do it by writing, he does it by fund raising.

We both have time during the day (at present) and instead of sitting around and playing computer games we do what we can in and around the football club. I write, he sets up fund raising ideas. When Helgy has to collect a cheque or do something involving being on camera he hates it, he doesn’t want any personal kudos at all. There’s no ego there, and if you don’t want to support his ventures then don’t, but criticising ventures such as the FPS or the Cowley’s Campaign Crowd-funder will make you sound a little bit bitter.

We’re all Imps aren’t we?

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Please take the time to vote. This is a prestigious blogging award and for us to get to the final is amazing in itself. For a Lincoln City / non-league blog to win the main award it will take all of our collective input, but we made it this far so anything is possible!

 

 

Imps Power past Boreham Wood

The Imps registered a superb home win this evening against an in-form Boreham Wood, with the serious injury to Lee Beevers taking the shine off a seriously good fifty odd minutes of football.

I thought the first half was at times sloppy, with possession being given up too easily against an opposition who seemed content to lump balls into the channels. Our defence were more than adequate at stopping their threat, but further up the pitch we weren’t at the races. It was clear why Boreham Wood don’t lose many away, they played compact and got numbers back. Harry Anderson got no luck against their left-back Ilesamni who really impressed me although I noted he swapped with Arnold to see if he could get anymore joy, and for a while he didn’t.

The defining moment of the first half came as an innocuous free kick across the box caused Lee Beevers to rise up and then crumple to the ground. Immediately Paul Farman launched the ball out of play and ushered the physio on, and it was clear to everyone in the stadium that we were dealing with a severe injury.

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Superb all season: Beevers

 

We’ve been informed it looks like a ruptured patella tendon, and I’m afraid to say that isn’t good news at all. The patella tendon connects the knee to the shin and in most cases it will require surgery. if indeed it is a ruptured patella  it probably means Beevers won’t be able to move that leg at all, and without being distasteful to Lee I would imagine it will be the end of his season. There was a palpable shock amongst the players as he was stretched off, and a short while later blue flashing lights outside the stadium indicated he was heading up to the hospital.

Lee has been playing the best football of his second spell at City, possibly the best of his whole Imps career and it will be a massive blow for him and for the club. Bradley Wood slotted into his usual right back position in his absence, and it meant a rare outing for club captain Alan Power. I thought Whitehouse was the obvious choice, nut Power coming on made me wonder if our new signing is being groomed as a potential partner for Matt Rhead rather than a central midfield option.

Obviously the delay meant a long stretch of injury time, and six minute in the Imps got the breakthrough they barely deserved. A smart ball from the always impressive Alex Woodyard was nodded down by Rheady, and Nathan Arnold was on hand to smash the ball home low and hard. Theo wants it, I suspect Arnold will get it.

The goal immediately changed the complexion of the game. Boreham Wood had to come out and have a go after the break, and that was their undoing.

Second half I thought City dominated from start to finish. I’m going to cause some debate here, but I thought the difference was Power sitting alongside Woodyard. Between them they controlled the tempo of the final forty five minutes, spreading play neatly from side to side and stretching a tiring Boreham Wood side time and time again. I’m delighted for Power, it’s been a difficult season for him but he has kept working hard for his chance, and in my humble opinion he really grabbed hold of it tonight. I saw perhaps two misplaced passes which was no more than anyone else on the pitch, but he looked lean and entirely comfortable back in the side.

Wood

Equally effective at right back as centre midfield: A real gem

 

Bradley Wood settled in nicely at right back and was his usual self with some really crunching challenges and a lot of hard work. The whole team responded superbly to their opponents trying to get out more, and every space was exploited excellently. Harry Anderson hadn’t had a good first half, but he looked far more comfortable in the second. The Imps poured forward time and time again, and we were unlucky not to score two or three immediately after the restart. DC always talks about intensity, and the first goal really gave us the confidence to lift our display to another level.

The second goal obviously killed the game and settled a few nerves. Once again it was the big man Rheady in the thick of it, firstly starting the move with some smart play thirty yards out, and then ending it with a lovely take down and deflected finish over Grant Smith. I know people will talk about the control but what really impressed me was his work ethic to not only start the move, cleverly spreading the play out to the left, but also to get back into position to finish it all off. He takes a lot of stick at times for his lethargic looking performances, but the lack of goals recently is no indication of a lack of work rate. How many times have we heard ‘Rhead knock down’ ahead of an Imps goal? It’s not like we’re just lumping it forward either, those diagonal balls across the box are always dangerous, but they’re always created by smart build up and patient probing.

City looked organised and composed, cleverly dictating play and slowing it down in the second half. I had to chuckle as one of the ball girls rushed to get Paul Farman the ball back, he seemed to indicate to her to calm down a bit, just take the pace out of the game. In seasons gone by a 2-0 Imps lead meant very little, but this season you feel it will be enough to win most of our games.

We’ve now kept as many clean sheets this season as we did throughout the last campaign, and that is an indication that the work DC and NC are putting in on the training round is paying dividends. Raggett and Waterfall were both immense, snubbing out the predictable aerial threat with relative ease. Raggett in particular looks ever bit a Football League player, confident in travelling with the ball just as much as winning and distributing it. I will be incredibly surprised if we don’t have to fend off approaches for him in the January window, so it’s comforting to know Callum Howe is getting regular football at Southport in preparation for the worst.

Rhead

A good night for Rheady, creator and scorer.

 

I don’t think the importance of this win can be under-estimated, and whilst the injury to Lee Beevers sours it somewhat the management have a right to be happy overall. I can see why Boreham Wood are difficult to beat away from home, but I was disappointed they didn’t offer more of a threat even when they tried to get out more. Was it their lack of performance, or was it that we have found that next gear? For these rose-tinted eyes of mine I think it’s the latter. Had we been more composed in the first half I thought we had the beating of them anyway, but in the second we looked every bit a team on course to at least feature in the play-offs come the end of the season.

So to summarise (which I never really do) there were two negative points, the injury to Lee and the sloppy first forty minutes or so. However the plusses were numerous. A clean sheet is always good but against a team well known for getting results away from home it was incredibly satisfying. Correct me if I’m wrong but that’s seven clean sheets at home from eight games, the sort of record the very best teams have at this level.

However the re-emergence of Alan Power is one of the biggest plusses other than the three points. If he starts to get in and around the first team again it will be like another new signing for us, and with Elliott Whitehouse having an impressive cameo and Taylor Miles nearing full fitness I can’t imagine Brad will get much more game time in the centre of the park, and that won’t diminish our options in front of the back four.

I want to wish Lee Beevers all the best and I sincerely hope that his injury isn’t as serious as social media is suggesting tonight. He can however rest assured that in his absence we have the resources to continue to push on towards the play-offs.

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IT’S NOW OR NEVER – 3 DAYS LEFT TO VOTE

Please, please, please place your vote for me in the FBA’s. You can click on the link below and select ‘The Stacey West Blog’ from the drop down menu under the Best New Blog Category. All you need is an email address to vote. If you voted in the first round you can now VOTE AGAIN in the final stage.

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If you do Twitter it couldn’t be easier either – just click on the link below to be taken straight to a tweet to vote

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The last 24 hours

Now, and only now will I write about the little storm in a teacup that seem to have evolved on social media in the last 24 hours. I refused point blank to commit any time and effort into writing about mindless speculation. However now there’s been a move to dispel those rumours I think we need to get a few things straight.

Firstly it is going to be a fact of life that as we progress through this season and (hopefully) remain in the play-off hunt other teams are going to look at our managers. Some teams will want a quick fix and they’ll see the dramatic turnaround at Sincil Bank as a good indication that our gaffer knows what he is doing. That will attract a few vultures wanting a ‘get good quick’ scheme. It’s inevitable.

Any league club wanting these two boys is going to have to be a very attractive prospect indeed. For a start how can they go about implementing their blueprint on a new club in the middle of October when they can’t sign any players?  We’re not talking about a Mark Cooper here, lured by pounds and pence. We’re talking about two men who want to build a legacy and a reputation, and you don’t get that reputation by club hopping.

I also felt some of the speculation was a little disrespectful to Nicky as they’re very much a partnership. I don’t think Nicky would let it bother him too much, but writing my blogs I always try to allude to our management ‘duo’ as much as possible. Danny would go nowhere without Nicky and vica-versa. Also what about the likes of Luke Jelly, Micky Hinds and even players like Alex Woodyard and Sam Habergham? Would the management really up and move sticks leaving behind an army of people they’ve brought along for the ride? Of course not. Plain ludicrous to think they’d consider it. Jonny Margetts leaving suddenly is one thing, but the Danny and Nicky going is entirely different altogether.

Somebody mentioned they have had three clubs in the last three years, and that much is true. However they’ve also had three clubs in the last ten years. Perspective can often warp facts. A desire to step up from part-time to full-time drove their move to Lincoln, but given their competitive nature they’re not going to want a back door to the football league. Having spoken at length to both Danny and Nicky it’s clear they want to earn their stripes the proper way. They’re former school teachers remember, no short cuts or quick steps up in that field. You have to earn your rewards and reputation and these boys want to earn theirs the right way.

I’m going to be brutally honest now, if it was 2017 and we had gained promotion then I think we would be in serious danger of losing them. Colchester and Southend would be attractive prospects for them location wise, but in truth they’re more than likely going to end up managing somewhere else after Lincoln. They’re ambitious and dedicated and they know (harsh reality check coming up) they can only take Lincoln so far. What’s our wildest dream? League Two? Maybe League One? If we were to get out of this league and start strongly next year then there’s every possibility that we’d have to listen to offers, and there’s every possibility that they would want to. Like any job anywhere, they want to rise to the top of their profession if they can.

I know for a fact they had at least one offer if not two on the table when they came here, and if internet rumour is to be believed one of them was arguably a bigger club than us, possibly the biggest in our league. However they don’t want to manage a football team, they want to influence an entire club.

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The here and now is that they are committed 100% to our football club, and that includes every aspect of it. Whether it’s dinner with a bunch of starry eyed grown men or donating table football games to youth clubs, they’re here to change our whole club for the better. They’re not 9-5 managers and they’re not first team only managers, they buy into an ethical approach to football, believing that the whole club is just as important as the eleven players on the pitch.

I promised myself not to talk about our conversations the other night, but one thing that really came through from them was the integrity with which they operate. Even as the odds tumbled on THAT job becoming theirs last night I never once thought they would actually leave us at this stage. Lets face it they’ve been good for the club, but the club have done everything possible to back them as well. The fans have made the boys welcome, the board have made funds available and a strong relationship is being formed. They are men of principle and integrity and if they were going to leave our club I firmly believe it will only be once the project is complete, if (and when) it’s complete. I believe that project is league football.

If (and when) they get us into the football league then I’m afraid it’s a whole different game of cards. Then they deserve the right to speak to bigger clubs if they are approached and as fans we wouldn’t be able to begrudge them that right. However for now Danny and Nicky Cowley and Lincoln City is still a match made in heaven, and if anything will strengthen that further I’m damn sure turning down Grimsby Town (should they come knocking) will do the trick just fine.

That said I must admit I did crap myself a bit as those odds tumbled even if I didn’t really think there was anything in it. I still remember deadline day and the shock of Jonny Margetts leaving. I must confess I’m delighted to see Danny’s video today and think it is another example of the perfect PR strategy they are undertaking at Sincil Bank. Now let’s get down to the ground tonight and hopefully upset the excellent away form of Boreham Wood.

Tonight we make some noise for the boys, and not just the eleven on the pitch.

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JUST DAYS LEFT – YOUR VOTE IS CRUCIAL!

Please, please, please place your vote for me in the FBA’s. You can click on the link below and select ‘The Stacey West Blog’ from the drop down menu under the Best New Blog Category. All you need is an email address to vote. If you voted in the first round you can now VOTE AGAIN in the final stage.

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If you do Twitter it couldn’t be easier either – just click on the link below to be taken straight to a tweet to vote

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Please take the time to vote. This is a prestigious blogging award and for us to get to the final is amazing in itself. For a Lincoln City / non-league blog to win the main award it will take all of our collective input, but we made it this far so anything is possible!

My all-time Lincoln City XI

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Regular readers may be aware but this weekend I had the extreme pleasure of spending an evening in the company of Danny and Nicky Cowley at a dinner hosted by John and Lisa Dexter. It was a reward for a crowd funder contribution and it was a night of the very highest quality.

Danny asked the assembled diners to go through our all-time top Lincoln City XI, and I think we got as far as goal keeper before there was disagreement. As we had all witnessed different eras it was hard to get any semblance of agreement amongst us. I never saw Peter Grotier play so there I couldn’t really nominate him.

For what it is worth I have decided to run down my all-time Imps best XI, starting in the 1987/88 GMVC season which was my first as a fan. Anybody before that is not eligible, so please nobody start shouting at me because they think I should have included John Ward!

I’m going to line up in a traditional 4-4-2

In Goal….

Only one choice as far as I’m concerned, Alan Marriott. I have seen some good goalkeepers in my time alone, starting with Nigel Batch and moving on through Mark Wallington, Ian Bowling and even our current keeper Paul Farman. However Alan Marriott edges it because as a relatively small goal keeper he more than earned a place in the squad with eight or nine years of good, solid performances. It was a travesty the way Peter Jackson let him go.

At Right Back….

Again only really one choice for me, the enigma that was Mark Bailey. Bails had an engine that would just run and run, he could deliver a wicked ball and he was capable of scoring the odd goal, not least one from his own half against Carlisle. He played through administration and out the other side and never once let Lincoln City down. Paul Casey and Paul Smith ran him close though.

At left back….

My first change from the chat with the guys on Saturday. I had initially gone for Stuart Bimson, but I think perhaps my judgement was clouded by our fond recollections of that glorious side Keith moulded. The player whom I remember impressing me most at left back was the guy I’m going for, Kevin Austin. Ian Baraclough would have been there or thereabouts as well.

At Centre Half….

We’ve had so many good centre halves in my time it feels almost crass to have to leave some of them out. Amongst those I can’t include (but would like to) are Jamie McCombe, Grant Brown, Dean Walling and Trevor Matthewson. It actually breaks my heart not to include Matthewson who was a colossus the year we won the Conference, but once again I’m dipping into the team that Keith built. My centre half pairing are Northern Ireland’s Bobby Moore, Paul Morgan and of course his countryman and current Premier League star Gareth McAuley.

 

On the right of midfield…..

Gareth Ainsworth. Next.

On the left of midfield…..

Peter Gain. Next.

In the centre of the park….

Very, very tough area of the field to select two players for. John Finnigan only just misses out, and if Dean Keates had stayed much loner there’s little doubt he would have ranked up there as well. I was tempted to go with home-grown Lee Frecklington as well, but ultimately I’m going to span two different eras to bring together two players who never have, no sadly never will share a pitch.

First up it is Richard Butcher. I’m not sure I need to explain this particular choice, he’s a City legend and showed that by returning to the club not once but twice. Forever a player I will admire and that was absolutely the case before his tragic death far too young.

Alongside him in midfield is a cult hero and a right character to boot, Graham Bressington. To say Bressington was hard would be an understatement, and although he was perhaps a bit part player in the GMVC title win he went on to epitomise everything a fan wants in someone who pulls on the red and white. Once remarked to me at a sportsman dinner that he would ‘sell his gran for a win on the pitch’. He was fortunate we didn’t win that many games once we came up, otherwise he’d need to get a few more grannies. If yours is missing, maybe Bressy sold her?

Image result for richard butcher footballer

and finally up front….

Impossible to select two players without causing debate and anger, but I’m going to do it anyway. I’m not even going to rattle off who it could have been, I’m literally just going to land you with two names.

Simon Yeo took a while to get going, but once he had he couldn’t stop scoring. His goals from the bench fired us to the play-offs in 2003, and by the time Cardiff 2005 arrived I was surprised if any other player got a look in on the score sheet. Quick, energetic and occasionally a little too committed for the referees of the day, Yeo will always be a club legend, and turning up at the Bank to watch us even today will cement his hero status for years to come.

Jamie Forrester came to City at what seemed to be the tail end of his career, but for a season or so he proved that what he lacked in pace he made up for in footballing talent. Maybe I just pick players who scored a couple of goals against Grimsby, or maybe the hat trick away at Mansfield has clouded my vision. I’m not sure that Yeo and Forrester would give us enough height from set pieces, but for out and out goal scoring prowess I can think of few others who could match these two.

Image result for jamie forrester

On the bench

Obviously I’d have Keith Alexander managing the team, alongside him would be the best ‘assistant’ I think anyone had, and that’s Neil McDonald who was the only man to make Jacko’s promises look like becoming reality. Player wise? Well I’m going for one from each position so you’ve got Paul Smith (the ginger one), Trevor Matthewson, Stuart Bimson, David Puttnam, John Finnigan, Gary Taylor-Fletcher (who we’ll stick out wide for the purpose of this blog) and Tony Lormor. Oh, and Gordon Hobson. Can I have eight subs? Yeah, I can. It’s my blog.

Feel free to leave your comments below or one the various social media outlets I’ve taken to polluting on a regular basis. Also as I’ve now got a few people reading the nice guys at http://www.classicfootballshirts.com and I have gone into a little partnership. There’s a link to their site at the bottom of the page in case you fancy any classic football shirts, just don’t buy the match worn 1982 Lincoln one as I’m saving up for it.

JUST FOUR DAYS LEFT – YOUR VOTE IS CRUCIAL!

Please, please, please place your vote for me in the FBA’s. You can click on the link below and select ‘The Stacey West Blog’ from the drop down menu under the Best New Blog Category. All you need is an email address to vote. If you voted in the first round you can now VOTE AGAIN in the final stage.

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If you do Twitter it couldn’t be easier either – just click on the link below to be taken straight to a tweet to vote

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Please take the time to vote. This is a prestigious blogging award and for us to get to the final is amazing in itself. For a Lincoln City / non-league blog to win the main award it will take all of our collective input, but we made it this far so anything is possible!

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Eastleigh – My View

I got a bit pre-occupied with writing other stuff yesterday, but I was actually at the Eastleigh game and I did actually have some thoughts. If you want to read them please do, if not just scroll down to the bottom and vote for me in the Football Blogging Awards.

I thought we played really well against a resilient and organised Eastleigh team, and although a point was a good result I think the boys did enough to earn all three. I called Lee Beevers as man of the match to Rob whom I sat with, and I stand by that now. I thought Beevers was absolute class, he looks like the same player we poached from Boston a decade ago. His diagonal balls are dangerous and he has a real energy that a man of his age shouldn’t possess. The odd thing is that last year he didn’t have the same energy and one can only assume that the new fitness regimes the team are undergoing are paying dividends.

Bradley Wood stood out for me as well. I’ve maybe been guilty on this blog of having a little love-in with Brad, but his all action style will always win friends. Saturday typified what he is about, 87 minutes on the clock and he crunches into a 50/50 with one of their boys. The Eastleigh player is left in a heap on the floor but Brad is up and carrying the ball down the line with pace. With the same energy he showed in the first minute the ball comes across and he creates a chance that on another day could make it 1-0. 87 minutes, that’s the time players begin to tire a little but after so much football he looked as fresh as a daisy. In his pre match interview Michael Hortin asked him about his injury. ‘What injury?’ End of conversation. This guy could get hit by a bus and I think the bus would be a write off.

I thought Theo Robinson looked like he can really add something to the team as well although I suspect it will be in the short term and not the long term. We all know he shouldn’t really be in this league, and although there’s a concern as to why he is, there’s also clear indications of his superior quality. His touch was a little off at times and had he been more composed he could have given us a first half lead, but he was busy and livewire and clearly gave their defence another head ache in addition to the behemoth that is Matt Rhead.

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Rhead on the end of a ball from Beevers. eagle eyed readers will spot it isn’t Eastleigh though, I forgot my camera!!

 

Finally on the playing front I think Luke Waterfall and Sean Raggett are looking more solid by the day. Their menace up-front, Mandron is a real talent and mark my words, he will play league football very soon. However he looked subdued and shackled all afternoon by our ever-increasingly robust central defence. Once again I think fans know that it doesn’t matter how long Raggett’s contract is, the boy will play at a higher level, and the best we can hope for is six months to a year of good performances and a nice fat fee at the end of it. Anyone thinking otherwise is (I’m afraid to say) deluded.

The final thing I wanted to pick up on is how compact the league is this season. There’s talk of Forest Green running away with it, but if my spies are correct they may have a new manager search to conduct fairly soon. Mark Cooper would surely relish a move back up closer to home, and Grimsby Town are rumoured to be interested. I blogged about the Cowley brothers being linked with them and I refuse to comment anymore on that. However if something upsets the FGR stride then I’m convinced the title will still be up for grabs going into the final game or two of the season. Anyone can beat anyone and I think we look more likely to beat the Eastleigh, Tranmere and FGRs of this world than we do the Solihull Moors and Boreham Woods.

Tuesday isn’t going to be a pretty affair and I don’t think a 0-0 draw there will be half as entertaining as Saturday. I said four points from the two games but I felt we’d beat Eastleigh and then settle for a draw against an organised and efficient Boreham Wood. However we need to go and get a result against a team that won as recently as two weeks ago at Macclesfield, and it will be by no means easy. I think it will be the first test of what Elliott Whitehouse can add to the side, because we will definitely need more than knock down’s from Matt Rhead and diagonal balls into the box. To beat Boreham Wood we’re going to need that little bit of class and composure, and a little bit of guile through the middle.

I’ll tell you what though, drawing with Eastleigh might have been seen by some as a statement of our intent, but beating this Boreham Wood wide would send a real message out to the rest of the National League.

Would the Cowley brothers go to Grimsby?

More chance of finding tits on a fish.

Next blog please.

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JUST FIVE DAYS LEFT – YOUR VOTE IS CRUCIAL!

Please, please, please place your vote for me in the FBA’s. You can click on the link below and select ‘The Stacey West Blog’ from the drop down menu under the Best New Blog Category. All you need is an email address to vote. If you voted in the first round you can now VOTE AGAIN in the final stage.

http://www.footballbloggingawards.co.uk/about/vote-now-football-blogging-awards/

If you do Twitter it couldn’t be easier either – just click on the link below to be taken straight to a tweet to vote

https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?text=I%20am%20voting%20in%20%40TheFBAs%20for%20%40Staceywestblog%20as%20the%20Best%20%23New%20Football%20Blog

Please take the time to vote. This is a prestigious blogging award and for us to get to the final is amazing in itself. For a Lincoln City / non-league blog to win the main award it will take all of our collective input, but we made it this far so anything is possible!

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