Despite this week seeing us progress to the FA Cup 4th round for only the third time in our history, and having a strong away win in the FA Trophy against a full strength Gateshead side, it might not seem strange to announce last night’s win over Dover as the best result of the week. Personally it is one of the most satisfactory results of the last five seasons.
I’m about to let you in on a not-so secret, I hate Dover. My partner’s father always said to never say you ‘hate’ anything, it is such a strong and negative word, but I can’t help it for that lot. In footballing terms, I despite them with a passion. A large portion of their fans are arrogant and have a jacket potato on their shoulder instead of a chip. Their manager is an easily despised figure, labelling us as big spenders without actually consulting the facts, and judging by the fact yesterdays article was my most viewed EVER, I figure you lot feel the same. Their chairman, he’s another arrogant and aloof individual who operates under the delusion that he is better than every living thing on this planet, and that every one is out to get his plucky little under dogs.
Losing there in September really hurt me as a City fan. At the time our form was play-off perhaps, nothing more. Since then we’ve only lost once, but this game was one I’d seen coming up and felt nothing but apprehension and fear. If anyone could beat us, Dover could. They have a frightening front three (four if you count Modeste who was injured), they’re direct and they like to rough you up. They will be in and around the top five come April, and that pains me. It would pain me more if they took six points from us.
Before the game I had the pleasure of meeting a few of their fans. I don’t use the word pleasure sarcastically there either, these boys were proper football supporters. They’d travelled up for a Friday night game and were honest and open about their club. They thought Modeste was crap, they thought Parmenter was an arrogant ****, and they admitted they were just enjoying the ride in the National League. It did open my eyes a bit, I’d assumed all Dover fans had a problem with us, but these guys said they didn’t hate Lincoln at all. They hated Danny Cowley though, and they weren’t too keen on Sean Raggett either. We agreed to disagree on those points.
I still feared for City, Thommo likes to use the phrase ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ on the radio a bit (not the only phrase he likes to use anyomore, eh Thommo?) and I wondered if maybe our heroics of the past six days might affect our performance.
You can read my brief match report here, but overall I didn’t think we looked that good last night. I’m not sure we were playing badly, I think we were adjusting our game to try and counteract Dover. It didn’t lead to pretty football, their style of play rarely does. Our back four were immense, but in midfield I felt we lacked the man at the top of the diamond. Whitehouse worked hard but I still maintain he is a centre forward, not the man to replace someone like Alan Power.
The opening goal was fortunate, and although we did show flashes of the neat football that beat Ipswich I didn’t think we really settled. Dover had a game plan and they executed it almost superbly. The one thing they didn’t get was a goal, unless you count the one Tyrone Sterling scored for us! Chris Kinnear said at half time he felt they we still in it as they could alays score a goal, insinuating we couldn’t. My anger levels went through the ceiling.
Once Rheady went off I feared for us, and until we grabbed the second goal I could envisage a late equaliser from the Crabble Rabble. However, our team has that ability to grab a goal out of nothing despite what the vile Kinnear thinks, and the man of the moment duly came up trumps for the second time in a week.
I’ve been banging out about Terry for a few blogs now, but the change in him since Harry Anderson left has been immense. Right now he would be one of the first names on the team sheet for me, and he proved why again last night. His link up play with Sam was excellent against Gateshead, excellent against Ipswich and excellent last night. If we were going to get a second goal, it was going to come from that man.
Champions win ugly as well as winning pretty. Champions get slices of luck, and perhaps that Ricky Miller free kick clipping the post was a moment of fortune for us. That leads me nicely into Mr Miller.
I’ve seen an awful lot on social media about him being anonymous, not required at City, overrated and all sorts of other slurs. I’ve seen a missing poster mocked up, suggesting he wasn’t even at the game. I’m not sure Imps fans saw the same game I did.
Miller might not have been on the score sheet, but his quality was there for all to see. He won the free kick he nearly scored with, and his self made effort at the end of the first half could have put Dover level. DC admitted our defenders had tried to isolate Lafayette by pushing Miller and Emmanuel further out wide, and that did dampen their impact. Every time Miller got on the ball though, I thought he looked dangerous. Anonymous? Not a chance.
The Dover fans I spoke to prior to the game think Parmenter will accept nothing less than £750,000, a ridiculous amount for a National League player. They reasoned they’d got him for nothing, his wages weren’t astounding and if he goes on a free after earning them league football then it would be a calculated risk. I can see their point to a degree, with Parmenter propping up those sub 1,300 attendances, I don’t suppose he really needs to cash in on his biggest asset. That said I guess his business acumen will be questioned if they don’t go up, and Miller walks away for nothing. They think he owes them his career, but will he genuinely risk staying in the non-league out of misplaced loyalty? I don’t think Kinnear fosters the sort of togetherness and team spirit that Danny and Nicky do, and Miller doesn’t strike me as a player willing to risk his second chance at the Football League.
At the final whistle I felt more elation than I can possibly express in words. The two cups are a nice distraction, but the real prize is the Football League, and by winning last night we sent a clear message out to those in and around us: we’ve got the bottle for this fight. With Barrow coming up on Tuesday we have another opportunity to sound a warning to league clubs, and yet again we’re on TV as well. I remember turning on the TV once and Lincoln City weren’t on it, although that seems a long time ago.
I wasn’t just delighted at the result, I was delighted at seeing my spiritual home of the Stacey West packed full of home fans. I love that end of the ground, I spent many days of my childhood watching substandard players kick lumps out of each other, almost all of my twenties watching Keith Alexander restore our pride and most of my early thirties watching Jackson, Sutton and Tilson flushing our pride down the toilet. To finally see it full of Imps faithful once again brought a lump to my throat, and my only regret was I wasn’t in there to feel it.
I was in the executive Club with my friend Chris Judson. His company are Imps sponsors, they provide all the club’s water and vending machines for free as well as sponsoring City. He’d offered me a space with him, and I thought I should experience the library as well as catch up with an old friend. It may be quiet in the stand, but it was awesome seeing two sides of the ground packed (6,500 you say?) and driving our boys on to success. I even met Clive Nates, and here’s the killer: he recognised me and said hello first! I couldn’t have been more star struck if Robert De Niro had emerged from the crowd and revealed a tattoo of my face across his back.
I hope the boys from Dover got home safely, it was nice to meet a couple of guys from their club that weren’t (for want of a better word) pricks. I won’t say anything bad about proper, honest football fans, especially not those willing to travel hundreds of miles on a cold and foggy night when they could just sit at home and watch the game on TV. I am delighted we beat them, it has left me feeling warm, fuzzy and slightly smug. They came to kick the City slickers off the park, and instead they ended up with egg on their face. Along with the chips on their shoulder, they’ve just about got dinner sorted.