Caprice not expecting much from Imps clash

Former Imps defender Jake Caprice has declared that Saturday’s opponents Woking are too good to go down, even if they suffer defeat against the promotion chasing sides such as Lincoln.

Speaking to the Non League Paper this week, Caprice made a rod for his own back by claiming the regardless of the result on Saturday he feels that the Cards are too good to go down.

“We’ve got too many good players to be relegted to be honest. As a team we’ve got a lot going for us and a good manager too.”

That might be the case, but Woking are having a wretched season by their standards. They’re currently 19th in the National League, just appoint ahead of Maidstone in the fourth relegation spot. They’ve won just twice in ten matches, and most recently were comprehensively thrashed by Tranmere by three goals to nil. Caprice admits that Woking will lose games, but it’s how they respond against their relegation rivals that will determine their fate.

2ca7527c-62c6-4d1e-9144-864e40b75d50

“When we lose games, which we will, we can’t afford to let it get to us. Tuesday (against Tranmere) we didn’t play too badly and we’ve got to keep telling ourselves that there’s bigger games to come.”

Despite their lowly position Woking do have a psychological advantage over the Imps having never lost at Sincil Bank in a competitive game. Our opening day 3-1 victory was our first ever win over them, but they’ll hope to put that behind them and grind out some sort of result against in-form City.

City have lost three of the last four clashes at Sincil Bank, with a solitary 2-2 draw in January 2014 the only positive result on an otherwise abysmal record. Caprice himself lined up for City twice against them, losing 2-0 at home and 3-1 away in the 2014/15 season. Last season they managed to do the duble over us with Caprice in their ranks, 3-2 at Sincil Bank and 3-1 at Kingfield.

This season though has seen a major reversal of fortunes for the two sides. City have look resplendent under Danny Cowley and hopes are high for a positive result against the ailing Surrey side. Caprice doesn’t even fancy his sides chances of continuing their run of good results on Lincoln soil.

“Nobody is expecting much when we play the big clubs, but that’s not to say we can’t beat the sides up there.”

Caprice was signed by manager Gary Simpson after impressing in a pre-season trial, and after the departure of Tom Miller earned himself a first team place. He played 38 times for City before being released by Chris Moyses in the summer of 2015, and thus far he has racked up over 70 appearances in the red and white of Woking. This season he earned himself an England C call up when City’s Sam Habergham dropped out of the side through injury.

REMEMBER WE’VE MOVED – WWW.STACEYWEST.NET

Advertisements

All change for The Stacey West

Over the next 24 hours or so you’ll notice some significant changes to your favourite Lincoln City blog.

There’s a new look coming, and I’ve made the menu system far easier to navigate as well. I’m hoping the move will allow me to include a few new features like galleries and polls. I’m not a man renowned for my good taste, but even I think the new site looks pretty good!

For those techy-minded amongst you I have been operating on wordpress.com, and I shall be migrating over to wordpress.org. For those of you who don’t care too much, it means I have more control over how my site looks.

I’ve spent my time recently shifting all of my articles over to the new site, and over the next few hours I’ll be migrating subscribers as well. I’m not an IT type, so please do bear with me if you experience any problems. You shouldn’t have to do anything, one day you’ll log in and it will all looks different. I’ll have two domain names as well, http://www.staceywest.co.uk, and http://www.staceywest.net.

There’s a slight name change as well, I’m dropping the ‘blog’ from the title. You know what it is now, so from here on in I am just known as The Stacey West.

preview

This does mean that in the coming weeks I will be looking at putting some adverts on my site. When I received the nomination for the Blogging Awards, a couple of companies came forward and wanted to ‘work with me’. At the time it didn’t suit me, I always wanted to keep the site advert free. My concern always was my independence as a writer, and various marketing people wanted to put me on news now which would affect the way I write. By doing what I am currently doing it means I still retain absolute freedom over what I publish, so in that respect nothing changes.

Fortunately you lovely people keep reading, and if I’m to continue with my average of three articles a day then I can’t hold off a bit of advertising any longer. I will ensure that the site isn’t ruined by adverts like some other Imps related sites. I’m willing to chat to individuals and companies in the Lincoln area about advertising if you’re interested, drop me a line gazhutch78@gmail.com. It’s not a hard sell, but if you want to reach a lot of people then I might be able to offer that. To give you some idea of how many people read every month: in July 2016 I had 3,000 article views. In January 2017 I had 47,000.

I hope you understand that with my desire to provide you up to date news, views and analysis of all things Lincoln City, this is a necessary step. They won’t appear straight away though, but I wanted to be up front and tell you that they are coming.

I am open to suggestions for the new site as well. I’d like to write about other football stuff on there, but why not tell me what you want to read? Does more National League news interest you? Would you want to read more of the features on other teams, events and situations from the past? Do you want more of something I already write about? Let me know.

In the meantime please bear with me. I hope you like the new site, and thank you for reading. It flatters me every day to see how many people take an interest in what I write.

Thanks again.

Gary

 

Fixtures pile up in end of season backlog

Talk of a fixture pile up has been rumbling away for a couple of weeks, but the severity of the situation could see us cramming an awful lot of games into April.

Our postponed match with Sutton has been rearranged for March 28th, just three days after we play FGR on TV. March will almost certainly see us play Saturday and Tuesday every week, and even then we may still have games to fit in.

Our penultimate month kicks off away at Aldershot on 4th, followed by a Tuesday night trip to Braintree on the 7th. On the 11th Chester visit the Bank, and thus far we have no game on Tuesday 14th; neither do Dagenham and I suspect our match scheduled for FA Trophy quarter final day will take place then.

Saturday 18th sees us visit Maidstone United, and we are back down south three days later to visit Boreham Wood. Saturday 25th is the FGR clash, and now the following Tuesday we’re away at Sutton. I make that seven games, without factoring in the FA Trophy.

If we progress in the Trophy then the games against Chester and Maidstone will have to make way as the two-legged semi-finals take place on the 11th and 18th. That would leave us entering April with two games still to factor in.

imps-v-guiseley-2016-17-110

Terry demonstrates how many more games  than everyone else we have to play

We’re currently free on Tuesday April 4th which could accommodate one game, but Tuesday 11th is the same week as Good Friday.  We play Good Friday and Easter Monday, so possibly we could have another rearranged fixture on April 11th, just 7 hours ahead of Torquay’s visit. If not, we’ll find ourselves with an extra games to play going into the final week.

For all the excitement about Macclesfield at home or Southport away, there is a distinct possibility that we could host Chester on April 25th, in a move that would echo our previous Conference campaign. Originally the 1987/88 fixture list did not have us playing Wycombe on May 2nd, fixture congestion caused a change for the whole league. Is there a possibility that an unforeseen fixture could suddenly become a pivotal day in our history?

All of this speculation doesn’t take into account the FA Cup either. If we manage a draw at Turf Moor the replay would likely clash with York at home on February 28th, meaning another home game to try and crowbar in sometime in April. Even if we somehow win our trip to Turf Moor first time out, then the quarter finals would take place on the weekend of March 11th, meaning our home trip to Chester would be again be in doubt, as would any potential FA Trophy semi-final as well.

Essentially my advice is this: if you’re a Chester fan don’t buy a train ticket just yet, because there is only a one in three chance the game will even go ahead. If you’re a Lincoln fan, don’t make too many plans for April either – it could be a monumental month of football.

Lincoln City a non-league team? Absolutely.

I read an article in the Non-League Paper this weekend that got my creative juices flowing. A reader had messaged the paper to claim that Lincoln City were ‘not a non-league club’, as we are full time with big support and a decent budget. As much as I’d like to agree him I can’t, because he’s wrong.

Usually I will try and debate any positive angle I can when Lincoln City is the subject, but I’m afraid that isn’t possible here. To claim Lincoln City are not a non-league club based on the fact we’re full time with a big ground and a growing fan base is crazy. Those things do not make a league club, the one pertinent thing that is being forgotten is that we currently play outside of the Football League.

The non-league scene of today is very different from when we first experienced it back in 1987/88. That was my second season as a young fan, and the atmosphere was horrible. We were hated by everyone we came across, bar perhaps Fisher Athletic. We were punched, kicked and abused by clubs up and down the country: don’t get me wrong we gave as good as we got. Those were proper non-league teams though, all part time and making up with aggression what they gave up in facilities and finesse.

Fast forward 30 years and the National League is a very different place. Nowadays we’re as likely to meet a team whom we have played in League Football as we are a new face. The top seven or eight sides in the National League would comfortably hold their own in League Two, and some of the budgets wouldn’t look out of place in League One. Some teams still have dubious game plans (no surprise to see Sutton near the foot of the fair play league), but by and large they are all decent teams. A large majority are full time, and we are by no means the ‘biggest’ in terms of potential crowds.

wp-1484995895957.jpg

Fifth tier support

It doesn’t matter that our fixture list includes games against Tranmere, York and Wrexham. They may have been staples of our fixture list for many years, but they are now non-league sides as well. The description of ‘non-league’ doesn’t just apply to part timers, those with artificial grass and teams you’ve never heard of: it applies to anyone playing below the Football League. If we weren’t here we’d be competing for three promotion spots and a further four play-off spots. We’d e virtually assured our place in the end of season lottery already. We’re not.

The term non-league has not changed, but the level of football it describes has. Now, more than ever, the fifth tier is a competitive league where often the sides competing are as good as their lower Football League counterparts. Even below us sides like AFC Fylde are ambitious, craving a stab at the Football League and fully set up to become the next Morecambe, the next Burton Albion or the next Fleetwood. The level of ability, the financial means of the participants and the exposure nationally may well have changed since 1988, but the fact this division is not Football League remains the same.

As for us, we just want our so-called ‘proper’ place in the Football League back, the place we feel our history justifies. History doesn’t impact the current situation though, so until we get back to where we ‘belong’ it is disrespectful to teams such as Maidstone and North Ferriby to try and label us as anything other than non-league. Sadly, we earned our place in this league, and those teams rightfully earned there spot too, and that’s why were exactly the same as they are, a non-league team.

Looking Back: Scunthorpe 1996

What a time 1996 was. I remember it well, I chucked in my A Levels and decided to go out into the world to find my fame and fortune. I left school in February 1996, and by March I still hadn’t found a job. Not that I cared very much, the Mighty Imps had been taken over by John Beck, the European Championships were just around the corner and personally I liked getting up at noon with just football and beer to worry about.

The 1995/96 season had been far from a classic though. David Puttnam and Dean West had given us an opening day win against eventual league winners Preston North End, but just a few months later manager Sam Ellis was sacked and both players (both favourites of mine) were gone. A few weeks after Ellis was sacked, his successor Steve Wicks, was also sacked. In came John Beck, the manager who had taken Cambridge up through the leagues. He made us robust, tough to beat and just a little bit ugly. We were like the modern day Barrow: nobody liked us and we didn’t care, because we started to get results. After all when you’re bottom of the league, nobody cares how you win, you just have to win.

Despite our new found resilience, we were still flawed. February 17th saw us lose 7-1 away at Bury to remain in the bottom four, but on March 2nd we completed a double over Fulham, winning 2-1. That brought us into our derby match against Scunthorpe, three games unbeaten.

Early in the season we’d drawn 2-2 with them at the Bank, courtesy of goals from Udo ‘Boom Boom Boom’ Onwere (penalty) and former Iron hero Tony Daws. Onwere was still in the side, but Daws was long gone, as were most of the side that opened with a win at Deepdale.

City were still in the mire, although Torquay were a long way adrift and heading for the only relegation spot. The Fulham win had put some space between us and those grasping to stay above The Gulls, but an away trip to mid table Scunthorpe looked tricky, and defeat could see us dragged back into the struggle.

wp-1486329988959.jpg

A youthful Ainsworth

 

The Imps lined up as follows: Barry Richardson, Terry Fleming, Jon Whitney, Colin Alcide, John Robertson, Grant Brown, Gareth Ainsworth, Jason Barnett, David Johnson, Udo Onwere and Matt Carbon. On the bench for City was Phil Daley, Steve Brown and Alan Johnson

City fans had been used to seeing inconsistent football, and Scunthorpe fans hadn’t had it much better. There was just 2411 in the ground to witness the Lincolnshire derby, but they were treated to a real spectacle.

City dominated the first half, taking a deserved lead after Gareth Ainsworth seized on a weak back pass and beat Iron keeper Mark Samways. From there City threatened to add more goals to their tally, and keep the unbeaten streak going. Jason Barnett hit the post after good work from Magic Johnson. The 7-1 defeat at Layer Road seemed years away as the direct football brought us chance after chance. At half time City were still 1-0 up and Scunthorpe were lucky to have nil.

Less than 20 minutes into the second half the Iron had turned it around. John Eyres scored a smart volley just six minutes after the teams came out, and 13 minutes later Phil Clarkson thundered a 20 yard drive past a despairing Richardson. 2-1 down, The Imps needed a response.

On 78 minutes John Beck went made a change. He hauled off  Udo Onwere, and brought on forward  Steve Brown. Brown had three goals to his name, and wasn’t a renowned game changer, but City had to do something. Brown was a ‘tryer’ if you like, a man that would run through brick walls, but occasionally would just bounce off them. Like an enthusiastic puppy he’d just get back up and charge at the wall again. Everyone likes a tryer.

wp-1486330086947.jpg

Steve Brown

 

Steve Brown’s first touch led to a City equaliser. He’d been on the pitch a matter of seconds when he delivered a teasing cross into the box. Samways faltered  and the clinical boot of Gareth Ainsworth lifted the ball into the air, over the marooned keeper and into the back of the net. City had (at least) rescued a point.

Beck then sent on the target man Daley at the expense of winger David Johnson. Daley wasn’t a complicated player, he’d had a good spell in the early part of 1994/95, but had been a bit part player in the current campaign. Injury and poor form had restricted him to a handful of appearances, and it appeared as if he were heading for the door in May.

That may have been the case, but he intended to write his name in the history books, and with just four minutes on the clock he did just that. A trademark long throw from Jason Barnett was met first time by the head of Daley, and it crept past the keeper to give City a 3-2 lead, a lead they defended resolutely until the final whistle. I can’t remember the final few minutes of the game, my floppy 90’s curtains dangled in my eyes as I desperately celebrated as if we’d won the cup. Even today I struggle to remember anything if we’re hanging on to a lead. as it was we did hang on. Within weeks The Prodigy hit number one with Firestarter, and the floppy curtains were gone. By the time they hit the top of the charts with Breathe, Phil Daley was gone too.

He only played one more game for City before being given a free transfer at the end of the season, along with David Johnson. The arrival of a big Dutchman called Gijsbert Bos pretty much put paid to Phil Daley’s hopes of remaining at the club.

wp-1486330091091.jpg

Phil Daley: All 90’s haircut and classic Imps shirt

 

City stumbled their way to safety, eventually finishing 18th on 53 points, 24 points clear of the relegation spots. John Beck began a remodelling campaign that ultimately led to our 1998 promotion. As for Scunthorpe, they finished just seven points ahead of us and our battle resumed the following season, where without Phil Daley to perform last-minute heroics they gained revenge at Glumford, beating us 2-0.

As for me, I found a job in June of 1996 and enjoyed the halcyon summer drinking, working and watching England ultimately lose at football. Britpop was in full flow and my football team were gaining some pride, even if the style didn’t really give us the dignity to match. Every new number one seemed to bring a new style or haircut as I lived out the dream of youth.

That wonderful summer promised so much, if only I’d known what I had to look forward to as I was on the way back from Glumford Park that night. If I had, I wouldn’t have been sick out of my bedroom window after we lost to Germany, and I most certainly would not have tried to blame it on the dog.

 

 

 

Looking back – Cambridge 1989

Having written about Malcolm Dunkley and the 3-0 over Cambridge 28 years ago, it got me thinking about another great Imps v Cambridge match I witnessed. It was still 1989, but this was Boxing Day of the following season.

Malcolm Dunkley had gone by then, but Lincoln still had two of the most exciting forwards I care to remember on the books, Paul Smith and Gordon Hobson. Hobson in particular was a favourite of mine. He had spent most of the early part of the 1989/90 season injured, and just a couple of weeks prior to the Boxing Day clash he’d presented my granddad with a signed football for his birthday. That was ahead of a 3-1 home reverse to Gillingham, and without Hobson, City looked a little toothless.

Paul Smith had also been injured for the early part of the year, and Lincoln were relying on Mark Sertori and new signing Matt Carmichael for goals. Carmichael had netted two in two at the start of the season, but after taking six wins from seven, City started to struggle for goals. We’d only hit more than two on one occasion in the first part of the season, an away win at Torquay. We’d failed to score seven times, and scored just once on another seven occasions.

wp-1486318102811.jpg

Imps 1989/90

 

We still sat 7th on Boxing day, just three points ahead of Cambridge in 13th. They came with a collection of players who would go on to achieve good things in football, including Dion Dulin, Lee Philpott and Alan Kimble. This was the fledgling side that John Beck built, and he was assistant manager to Chris Turner.

It wasn’t a classic Imps line up that day, but a few names stood out from the rest. The team sheet read: Andy Gorton, John Schofield, Dave Clarke, Mark Cook, Steve Thompson, Darren Davis, Alan Roberts, Graham Bressington, Gordon Hobson, Paul Smith, and Matt Carmichael. The one substitutes were Phil Brown and Mark Sertori.

City started the brightest of the two sides. Scoring goals may have been a problem, but creating chances was not and in just the second minute a Gordon Hobson cross was deflected past John Vaughan by a despairing Colin Bailie. One nil City.

Cambridge were level on the half hour mark. Phil Chapple stuck a hopeful shot towards goal, and after a wicked deflection it beat Andy Gorton in the Imps goal. Gorton had missed three games after being dropped in favour of veteran Mark Wallington, but despite two clean sheets in three games by Wallington, the eccentric keeper from Oldham got his place back.

Gorton made just 20 appearances for City, and this game was his 17th. Young defender Mark Cook made just seven, and this was his sixth. After 51 minutes he handballed in the area, and Alan Kimble netted for Cambridge to put them 2-1 up. City hadn’t scored two in a game since late October, and it looked like the writing was on the wall.

The Imps lost full back Dave Clarke to injury, and that meant a Phil Brown, who hadn’t been seen all season.

wp-1486318108068.jpg

Alan Roberts whips in a cross

 

Moments after the Cambridge penalty the energetic Hobson made in 2-2. He was held down in the area by Kimble whilst challenging for the ball, and the ref duly evened things up with another spot kick. As a young child I was delighted to see my families favourite player net from the spot to level things up.

My joy was short lived. Matt Carmichael managed to rasp a fantastic drive past the keeper, but unfortunately it was Gorton that was beaten and not Vaughan. My young eyes couldn’t believe what they were seeing, especially not after such a stellar display from City. I hadn’t bore witness to many own goals in my time, and that was one right out of the top drawer! Aside from Hobson both Carmichael and Paul Smith had been brilliant, and whilst the game hadn’t been one for the purists, it was exciting for a spectator.

City hadn’t scored more than two at home since April the season before, but the goal starved spectators finally got what they craved just four minutes from time. It was Carmichael who made amends for his earlier own goal, poking in after a goalmouth scramble. Alan Roberts had gone close too, Roberts was a club record signing from Sheffield United at the time, and much was made of his potential threat.

As the minutes ticked away I remembered being almost satisfied that we’d grabbed a draw, but Lincoln City weren’t. Mark Cook hit the bar, as did the GMVC hero Phil Brown. Deep into injury time it was another player from the Vauxhall Conference days, Paul Smith, that made it a Merry Christmas in our household. Wave after wave of Imps attacks were thwarted, but in the very last minute a cross landed on the ginger bonce of the former Poet Vale man, and I had a new hero. 4-3 City, and suddenly I was proud to have ginger hair.

wp-1486318098674.jpg

With his ginger mullet, Paul Smith might not have been a style icon for many: he was for me.

 

Unfortunately it was not the catalyst for a City surge up the table in the second half of the season. Our next three points Came on February 3rd against Wrexham, a debutant Tony Lormor with the goal. Alan Roberts had suffered a career ending injury on New Years Day, Mark Cook suffering the same fate in the same match. Colin Murphy looked to bolster his squad and signed not just Lormor but also David Puttnam. In April Paul Smith dropped back into the full back position, and at the end of the season Hobson left, as did Murphy. City had finished 10th, just three points outside the play-off race. The end of season lottery was more than within our grasp, but just one win in our last seven games saw us slide away from contention. The season ended with a shocking 5-1 home defeat by Exeter, a result that no doubt decided the fate of Colin Murphy.

As for Cambridge, they lost manager Chris Turner a few weeks after being beaten by Lincoln, and the assistant manager John Beck stepped up. A 2-1 win against the Imps in April saw them make a late push into the play-offs, which they went on to win. It wasn’t long before his brand of ‘football’ had won him many plaudits but few friends.

Away again in the Trophy

The Imps have been drawn away at either Boreham Wood or Sutton in the Quarter Finals of the FA Trophy.

In a season of history making, this will be the first appearance at this stage of the competition since 1987/88, where we ended up being knocked out by Enfield.

The Imps have been unlucky with the draw once again, bagging a fourth consecutive away draw after wins against Nantwich, Gateshead and most recently Welling. If we were to negotiate this round we would at least be guaranteed one home match, the semi-finals are a two-legged affair.

We have yet to play at Gander Green Lane this season, the last time we visited Sutton was also the GMVC season of 1987/88 where we succumbed to a devastating 4-1 defeat. We are due to visit there in the league, but due to both teams FA Cup heroics that game hasn’t yet been given a date.

We’ve been to Boreham Wood just once, grabbing a 1-1 draw thanks to Matt Rhead last season. We’re still sue there this season as well, on March 17th.

Initial social media reaction to the draw was mixed, many fans were critical of the fact we were away yet again. In terms of progression in the competition it could have been much worse, Barrow or Macclesfield for instance. It certainly gives those fringe players another opportunity to test themselves against National League opposition, and not one of the sides challenging at the top.

I think it would disappointing if we weren’t welcoming in a two-legged semi-final by the end of this month.

Elsewhere Tranmere travel to Barrow for their quarter final tie, which clears at least one significant threat from the semi-finals, should we progress.

The Two Who Deserve It Most

All this ‘success’ of sorts is long overdue at Lincoln City. Even if we failed to get promoted this season (and we might), the cup run and financial rewards are enough to celebrate. Long suffering fans deserve these moments in the sun, as do the players and staff. I can’t help but feel two players perhaps deserve it more than any.

Alan Power has been with us since we came down into this god-forsaken league. He’d been Rushden’s Player of the Year previous to signing for us, and the first match I saw him in was a county cup tie against Scunthorpe. He looked every inch the class act he still is today.

Managers have come and gone, most have liked Power in one way or another. He’s been tucked in behind a front man, sometimes dropped further back into midfield but he has always given committed and passionate displays. His frustration has sometimes got the better of him, and under Gary Simpson it was evident he felt his endeavour was not being matched by some of his team mates. He isn’t always consistent, if he was he wouldn’t have spent five years in the National League, but on his day he is every bit a League Two footballer.

kidderminster-h-19-03-80

Captain McGregor (photo by Graham Burrell)

 

He is now well over 200 appearances for Lincoln, weighing in with more than 30 goals. He has the air of a proper footballer when he’s on the ball, always keen to spread play or pick out a pass, and he’s worn the captain’s armband for a majority of his stint in the red and white. He’s shown passion and commitment signing new deals and has offered a sort of stability since we’ve been in the non league.

This season he struggled to force his way into the team, but injury to Lee Beevers created an opening which he has seized with both hands. His two most recent penalties against Guiseley and Brighton have taken courage to score, and both will prove to be pivotal moments in the season. I took great pleasure in his penalty against Brighton, not just because it got us back into the game, but because it was just rewards for a loyal and honest player who just gets his head down and works hard.

Nobody will deserve promotion this season as much as Power. Undoubtedly a player who has so often been better than most of those around him, and yet a player who has remained at Lincoln City. Had he left without a cup run or a good season under his belt, he would have fallen into the ‘John Finnigan’ trap of being remembered as a decent player in a shoddy team. However, if DC and NC do guide us to promotion I’m delighted that Alan Power will be remembered for the right reasons.

farms1

Pretty in pink (photo by Me)

 

Similarly I’m happy for enigmatic keeper Paul Farman as well. Farms has had a season less at Lincoln, but nonetheless his attitude still epitomises everything good in football. After signing on loan and then permanent he has found himself stood behind some really bad banks of defenders. An unprotected keeper can be as good as any, but he’ll always concede goals and therefore look bad. I was gutted when Farms was pushed out to Boston, but his focus remained and he outlasted the manager who wanted him gone (Simpson) and came back stronger than ever.

These days Paul Farman is one of the better keepers in the National League. He doesn’t always command his box as well as you’d like, but if he was the complete keeper he would have left a long while ago for league football. What he is though is a good shot stopper and a passionate and committed player. To talk to Farms is like talking to a fan on the terraces, his one ambition in football is to win a Football League place with Lincoln City.

It’s hard not to respect players like Farms and Power, no matter what your opinion of their performances have been. Personally I’ve always liked both players, they’ve always given everything for our club. They’re not born and bred Imps fans remember, they’re guys trying to earn a crust and put a roof over their heads. They were here before Danny and Nicky, before Big Matt Rhead and before 70% of the crowd that came out for the Brighton game. When we talk about how much the fans deserve this success, make sure you acknowledge how much these two Lincoln City legends deserve to be remembered in the right way. Now, thanks to Danny and Nicky, they might just be recalled as promotion heroes, not two players who fought valiantly against the clubs sad decline.

One more face in?

Listening to DC on the radio last night, he insinuated he was relatively happy with his squad at present. After acquiring Dayle Southwell, Josh Ginnelly and Billy Knott he has every right to be. However, one name won’t go away and a set of circumstances have developed that make it look more likely that we might see one more new face, or more specifically one more old face.

Dayle Southwell had a strong debut for Lincoln, and after all of the speculation in the summer it was nice to finally see him in a Lincoln City shirt, albeit the green away kit. He took his goal well and had a solid 60 minutes of action. As we know he’s here on a one month loan at present, and that may not be enough for us.

The run-in is going to be gruelling, and although four forwards looks sufficient to carry us through, if we were to lose Dayle in a month it would leave us light again. I’m told the deal for Dayle should have gone through the day before, but Gareth Ainsworth only wanted a month deal whilst we wanted longer. If Wycombe pick up any injuries between now and four weeks time I suspect he’ll be on his way back down south.

If that does happen it would leave us one short up top again, and signing a player at the beginning of March might not be an ideal situation. If only there were a centre forward who had scored goals at this level not playing regular football. Ideally he’d be based in the county, and familiar with Danny and Nicky. I suppose in an ideal world Football League rules would dictate the only team this ‘perfect’ player could feasibly sign for would be us. If only, eh Jonny Margetts?

mm

I hope he bought a return ticket

 

The Margetts situation has baffled us all ever since news broke of his shock deadline day move to Scunthorpe United in August. Every man and his dog could see he wouldn’t get in their side, my old man works with a Scunny fan and even he says he wouldn’t get a game. The odd outing he has managed worked against him last week when a loan move to Crewe broke down. Football League rules state you can only play for two club in a season, and Mr Margetts has played for us and Scunny. If The Iron want him to get game time, the only place he can do it is Sincil Bank.

He was a player heavily linked with a move back to City last week, and I suspect Scunthorpe were reluctant to loan him back to us having shelled out for him earlier in the season. There must be an element of embarrassment at Glumford Park over the situation, they buy a striker they don’t need and barely play him. Then they loan him out to Crewe and throw in some barbed comments about non-league sides wanting him, only for it to all fall through. Now they have a decision to make, do they let him rot away in the reserves on principle, or (if we call them) do they let him come back to a club that actually wanted him in the first place?

In an ideal world Sir Gareth of Ainsworth will let Dayle Southwell stay until the end of the season, which negates the need to even pick up the phone and speak to Scunthorpe. No disrespect to Jonny of course, but Scunthorpe should never have signed him. It almost felt like they were posturing as the ‘biggest club in Lincolnshire’ by buying him from us without any real need. Now they’ve got egg on their faces and are still around £50k light.

Decadent? Perhaps. Ill thought out? Absolutely.

Coming up in February

Each month I’ve been doing a prediction of league standings, and today I bring you my view of February. First though, let’s look at home I got on last time out.

Below is my prediction and the actual standings as of last night. I wouldn’t have included Aldershot and Dagenham ‘s games yesterday in my predictions. One thing is constant: Lincoln City are still top of the league.

jan-predcitpredict2

Despite our slip at Barrow, they’re the obvious losers in the January chase, I suspected they’d be seven points behind us instead of a mammoth twelve. The big ‘winners’ are Dagenham and Redbridge, and without a cup competition to focus on they’re increasingly looking like dangerous challengers in the title race. Who is coming up for the sides at the top though, and what does it mean for City?

Dagenham And Redbridge

Southport (A), Guisely (H), Bromley (H), Maidstone (H)

They’ve been on good form, and they still have to come to Sincil Bank which will doubtless give them hope of catching us in the title race. I know we have a game in hand, and therefore they need to keep the pressure on by winning games of football. Will they manage it?

Recently they grabbed a 4-0 win at North Ferriby, which was followed by a super 2-0 victory over Tranmere before yesterday’s last gasp win at home to Chester. They travel to Southport on Saturday 11th where they’ll bring home three points, before doing the same against Guiseley on 18th. By that point they’re going to be within touching distance of us, but I can see the inconsistency slipping in and there is scope for a draw at home to  Bromley on Tuesday 21st. Our clash with them on the 25th will be moved until later in the season, so I suspect they’ll round up February with ten points from twelve by beating Maidstone at home. The fixture list looks very kind to the Daggers this month, but they’d best not get too comfy as March is set to be a shocker.

hawkins

Oliver Hawkins – Crucial to Dagenham

 

Forest Green Rovers

Boreham Wood (H), Gateshead (A), Woking (H), Tranmere (A)

The significant financial losses announced by Forest Green didn’t go unnoticed by me this week, but I’ve tried to stop having stabs at out opponents and concentrate on the good things we are doing instead. Still, £2.5m down and still trailing the Mighty Imps? Must be enough to make Mr Vince choke on his falafel and tofu roast.

FGR are now out of all cup competitions as well, and they too have a big visit to Sincil Bank to negotiate if they’re to have any chance of stopping City. That comes in March though, first they have to get through a tricky February.

They were real losers in the January window with several key players moving on, and I suspect the defeat at Macclesfield yesterday might be a precursor to another dip in form. Since we beat them (somewhat fortuitously) in November they’ve been stumbling, and I suspect our meeting in March will be more a case of them rescuing some pride than running us all the way for the title.

They have a tough match on Saturday against Boreham Wood, a team once notoriously difficult to play at home, and that is followed by a trip to Gateshead the week after. The Wood have been in shocking form since early November, winning just three times in thirteen matches, but form is temporary.  Neither match is going to be straightforward and I’m going to predict that FGR take four points from six. The betting man in me would have them beating Boreham Wood and drawing at Gateshead.

They then face Woking at home which should yield three points, before a massive trip to Tranmere on Tuesday 28th. By then I think Tranmere will have a bit of momentum behind them, and I expect them to put a nail in the FGR title dream by grabbing all three points.

mangan

I wonder if Andy Mangan will try his diving tricks again this month?

 

Tranmere

Sutton (H), Bromley (H), Eastleigh (A), Boreham Wood (H), Forest Green (H)

Tranmere have five games coming up in February, starting with a home tie against FA Cup heroes Sutton United. We know Sutton are no mugs from past experience, but you have to wonder if the cup games will eventually affect their league form, especially with a far smaller squad than ours. I’ll have the ‘Super White Army’ down to win that. The week after Bromley, on the fringes of the play-off race visit Prenton Park, and I can see that game being a draw. Bromley have won five of their last eight, including a 2-1 victory at Macclesfield that proves, on their day, they are a match for anyone.

Tranmere then have three games, away at Eastleigh before finishing with winnable home ties with Boreham Wood and FGR. I’ve already said I think they’ll snatch a win against Forest Green, and I think the faltering Boreham Wood will struggle as well. I can see another draw away at Eastleigh, they’ve spent big and their position of 14th is a reflection on the amount of managerial changes they’ve made, not the quality available to them. It’s interesting that aside from their clash with FGR, non of the top four sides are due to play each other this month. That leaves Tranmere finishing with twelve points from a possible fifteen, enough to keep them in the hunt.

wp-1486040268271.jpg

Can this man keep up his goal-a-game ratio in National League competition?

 

Lincoln City

Woking (H), North Ferriby (A), York (H)

Ah, the Mighty Imps. One might be forgiven for losing sight of the league chase, but cup runs aside this is the real bread and butter, It feels as if the league has been on the back burner a bit recently, we played four cup games and four league games in January. At present it looks like being three league and two cup in February too. Our three league games are all winnable, Woking at home should be a banker as should North Ferriby away. The one I would be concerned about is York City at home on February 28th. By then there is the potential that we could be knocked off the top of the league by virtue of playing less games. Gary Mills has toughened York up and got them playing much more direct, Jon Parkin and Vadaine Oliver in particular will provide a ‘Barrow’ style threat. If York have also sorted that abysmal defence I think we’ll draw that game, leaving us with seven from nine.

We are due to play Dagenham at home on February 25th, but I suspect we’ll see that game moved for the FA Trophy. We already have six games scheduled for March and April, with Sutton to rearrange as well. The games are certainly going to come thick and fast, and I suspect that we will be in a situation whereby we are looking up at someone on the summit, with games in hand that need winning.

I’m not being disrespectful to Dover, Barrow and Aldershot by not including them, but this is really looking at the chase for the title, not the play off spots. My final prediction looks like this:

P W D L PTS
Lincoln City 32 21 5 6 68
Dagenham 34 21 5 8 68
Tranmere 34 20 7 7 67
Forest Green 34 18 10 6 64

I grossly over estimated the form of the other three sides chasing the title last moth, and hopefully I’ve done the same again. It looks set to be one of the closest run-ins in recent years, although all three of our challengers have been inconsistent over the past few weeks.

The two big clashes for City will be Forest Green and Dagenham, in particular that Dagenham clash set to be rearranged for next month. March could pose a significant issue for the Daggers though, as not only will they have to try and fit a match against us in, but they also face play-off chasing Aldershot, brutal Barrow and fellow title hopefuls FGR. There is still a lot of football to be played in our quest for a return to the Football League.

At this stage I still wouldn’t bet against Lincoln City.