On Saturday we are involved in our second ‘1st v 2nd’ game in as many months, only this time it’s in our own backyard.
We performed heroics in deepest, darkest Nailsworth a few weeks ago, but we’ll need to be on our mettle once again when Tranmere visit. People often say stats don’t lie, and if that is the case then the side from the North West have plenty to worry about.
Lincoln have played teams in the top half on eleven occasions this season, and unsurprisingly we have the best head to head record in these fixtures. Three of the four games we’ve lost have been against teams in the top half at the time (Dover, Barrow and Dagenham), and home draws with Aldershot and Eastleigh are the only other times we’ve failed to win in these fixtures.
Perhaps worryingly the other two teams who do well in these fixtures are Barrow (whom we have already lost to), and Tranmere. We’ve lost the same amount of top half v top half games as they have, kept as many clean sheets but crucially scored five more goals. Tranmere have won five clashes against teams in the top half of the table, andas you’ll see from my second graphic (below), all of these have been on their travels.
In another tasty fixture on Saturday Dover take on Forest Green, and the boys from Crabble do not have a great record against teams around them. They’ve lost seven against teams in the top half, only one less than Solihull Moors who have the worst record. I suspect that Dover will fall away over Christmas, leaving five teams battling for the championship.
One area of concern is the form of Tranmere when playing the top teams away.
Tranmere are unbeaten against sides in the top half when playing away this season, and they’ve only conceded three goals. I think they’ll offer the most significant threat we’ve had at Sincil Bank all season, and that includes the threat derived from the direct approach that Barrow took.
Tranmere may have a good record but the truth is they haven’t travelled to Sincil Bank this season, and whilst both teams are riding high we are likely to hae similar records against sides in the top half.
It is easy to get carried away with the last few weeks, but any defeats at this stage of the season will be detrimental to us claiming that precious top spot. I think the top five are set to form their own mini breakaway league, and therefore it is crucial that coming out of the Christmas period we get as many points as possible from the nine on offer.
Personally (and don’t shoot me for being negative) I’d take a draw on Saturday as long as we get wins home and away against Guiseley. A look at their record against teams in the top half (played 12, lost nine) does suggest we might be able to bring home six points. With that in mind a draw against in-form Tranmere wouldn’t be such a bad result.