Southport appoint old enemy Preece

Southport have today announced their third manager of season, and it’s our old nemesis Andy Preece who will be in charge until the end of the season.

Preece is no friend of Lincoln City, nor of this blogger. He was always highly critical of Keith Alexander’s Imps when in charge at Bury, and an incident on August 25th 2003 saw Bury snatch a late win from the Imps in controversial circumstances.

It was Preece who, as player manager, netted a stoppage time penalty to condemn City to a fourth defeat in five games. Ben Futcher was adjudged to have handled the ball in the area, the referee Kevin Friend waved play on, but his assistant flagged and a grateful Preece gobbled up the goal

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In later life Preece rocked up at Northwich Victoria, and he was in charge for our 2009 FA Cup 2nd Round match, screened live on the BBC. It took place during the ill-fated reign of Chris Sutton, but on the day Northwich were well beaten by three goals to one. However, an incident prior to the game left a sour taste in my mouth, as Preece physical assaulted me as Poacher. You can read about it in my upcoming book!

Preece had a decent playing career scoring regularly for Stockport, Bury and Blackpool before moving into management. More recently he’s been director of football at Airbus UK Broughton, which sounds prestigious in itself.

I can’t say I’m delighted to see him back in football, and with James Caton and Callum Howe no longer at Southport I don’t even feel the need to wish them well! Having been there a couple of times the staff and people are very friendly, but I fear that may not be the case in April now Andy Preece is in charge.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caton: Ginnelly will do well at Lincoln

Former Imps player James Caton believes new loan signing Josh Ginnelly has what it takes to make a significant impact at Sincil Bank.

Ginnelly signed on loan until the end of the season from Burnley, and he chose the Imps despite interest from several other teams. It is rumoured that former Shrewsbury manager Micky Mellon was keen on taking his one-time protégé to Prenton Park.

However, Caton advised his friend to sign for Lincoln, having sampled the potential himself. He tweeted his congratulations on the move, and when I spoke to him he confirmed he advised the former Aston Villa youth to come to Lincoln.

“I was telling Josh to go to Lincoln over the other clubs. I’m sure he will do very well! What a season you are having. It’s amazing to see nearly 10k fans at the games. Brilliant.”

Caton recently opted to leave Southport after 27 games and three goals for the National League strugglers, and he was effusive in his praise for our new acquisition.

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Caton: Ginnelly has what it takes

“Josh is a talented player, that was proven when he went to Altrincham last year. He showed he could play in a physical league. He is very good at dead ball situations, can take a player on, has pace and can provide assist and goals for sure.”

It isn’t just what Ginnelly can offer City though, James believes he will be a nice fit with what Danny and Nicky are trying to achieve.

“He will do very well at Lincoln as I know the way the manager wants to play from being there all pre-season, so he should slot right in!”

Danny and Nicky like their wide men, and James Caton was unlucky himself not to end up in red and white. His immediate future will be revealed over the next few days. He was rumoured to be in talks with a League Two team before a managerial change scuppered the move, but it is unlikely a player of his talent will be without a club for long.

As for Josh Ginnelly, the signs are very encouraging indeed. He was once rated by Micky Mellon as a ‘six figure sum’ player, and he signed for Burnley for an undisclosed fee thought to be very close to that in 2015. If he can live up to the hype then he’ll add some extra depth to our options on the flank, keeping pressure on Nathan Arnold, Terry Hawkridge and fellow loan player Joe Ward.

Despite the arrival of Ward, City have still looked light out wide in recent weeks, hopefully Ginnelly can have the same impact as Harry Anderson, who was a revelation before his return to Peterborough.

Ginnelly is cup-tied in the FA Cup, but will be expected to feature against Welling in the FA Trophy.

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Ginnelly

Beating Dover, the best result of the week

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.

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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.

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Number nine is Miller, for those wondering which one he was He’d look better in red and white.

 

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.

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WE ARE STACEY WEST, WE ARE STACEY WEST!

 

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.

Chris Kinnear laments Lincoln budget

Dover manager Chris Kinnear, one of my favourite managers, has been talking to Kent Online today, and he believes Lincoln City are one of the bigger spenders in the division.

Despite only paying a transfer fee for two players this season (Whitehouse and Raggett), the controversial manager feels we are still buying success, as opposed to little old Dover, battling with the big boys.

“It’s a big game and being on TV adds an extra edge. They are big spenders in this league and expected to be up there. The top 11 or 12 sides are either the big spenders or former Football League clubs. We are the smallest club in there with them but we’re holding our own.”

One thing that seems to slip his mind is that our budget is reflective of our large crowds and increased income through the FA Cup run, whereas his plucky little Dover side are reliant on the money filtered down by the owner and another good friend of the blog, Jim Parmenter. With an average attendance of just over 1,200 I fail to see how they can afford four quality forwards such as Ross Lafayette, Rocky Miller, Ricky Modeste and Ricky Miller.

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Despite billing his side as the smallest club in the promotion race, he’s still hopeful of getting a result against the resplendent Imps.

“We’ve been to Lincoln and won there before. We deservedly beat them at home and they didn’t have much in the way of shots.”

He also feels that our FA Cup heroics may not be the disadvantage that some might think, with his own side having played league and cup games in quick succession this season.

“It’s hard to say what kind of an impact it will make – whether it will play into our hands or not. We had extra-time against Cambridge in the FA Cup on a Thursday night and thought that would kill us but two days later we came out and beat Guiseley 2-0.”

He then finished on the factually incorrect statement:

“You can’t predict anything, we won’t know until the game kicks-off.”

I can predict a couple of things, and I’ll give it a go here. I predict the away following will be less than the number of hits this blog gets in the first hour, and I predict the home attendance will be larger than several of the teams playing in League One 24 hours later. I’m fairly confident saying that before kick off.

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Using Google this tweet translates to ‘come and get me’ in football language

 

Dover have won just once in their last eight games, and that was the 2-0 win over Guiseley. In recent weeks their promotion assault has faltered significantly, with a draw at hapless York and a defeat at Macclesfield on their record. They almost certainly need a result to have any chance of catching City in the title hunt.

As yet top scorer and ‘man of the moment’ Ricky Miller hasn’t got his transfer away from the club, but perhaps the hint at our budget is a reflection on our ability to bid for players such as Miller, rather than the actual money we have spent.

Our league position hasn’t been bought, it has been earned. Our increased spending power hasn’t been handed to us on a plate, it has been just reward for battling performances and increased crowds. To put us in the same bracket as FGR and Eastleigh is just plain wrong: either Kinnear doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or he is trying to create a ‘plucky underdog’ mentality ahead of their visit to a proper football ground.

There’s special praise for anyone spotting the two blatant uses of sarcasm in this blog.

All is not rosy at the New Lawn

Forest Green may have registered a win in the FA Trophy on Saturday, but Mark Cooper gave us an indication that all is not well as he announced that two key players would be leaving in the January sales.

Their 2-0 win at Chester gave us an indication that they may be close to finding some sort of form, although I’m sure they would rather have picked up that result when the sides meet on the 14th of April in the National League.

The Villagers currently sit second in the league, two points behind us but having played two more games. Now the will have to recover from the news that two of their players are on the move.

Firstly striker Kiefer Moore has moved to Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich. He has scored seven times for FGR in thirty or so appearances this season, and doubtless the impetus will now be on replacing him using more of Dale Vince’s hard earned cash.

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Perhaps much more of a blow is the news that winger Elliott Frear has stated he no longer wants to play for the club. Exeter-born Frear has been a key player for FGR this season, and is one player who impressed me when we met in November. Frear has played over 100 games and scored 13 times at the New Lawn, but earlier in the season he was linked with Cheltenham Town. That deal fell through, but despite his first goal of the season against Bromley it looks like he won’t feature again for FGR.

Cooper told the media this weekend;

“He has decided he wants to move on and he is not exactly keen on going forward with Forest Green Rovers. He has said he doesn’t want to play for the club any more and we have to move on. There has been now interest as far as I know and we need players that want to be with us going forward.”

Frear disputed his managers version of the facts on Twitter, pointing out he hadn’t refused to play and that he was currently injured.

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Whatever the truth there isn’t the sense of togetherness and team spirit that we seem to have at Sincil Bank, and that will only work in our favour as we push into the final few months of the season. It does seem that in order to sustain a challenge even more of Mr Vince’s ethically earned environmentally friendly money is going to have to be burned needlessly on a club that don’t seem to have the fans, nor the structure for League football.

 

In our league tonight

We may have a couple of extra curricular activities to take care of over the coming weeks, but it was business as usual tonight in the National League.

The big result of the night came as rivals Forest Green slipped up away at Eastleigh. They originally led through Christian Doidge, but an equaliser ten minutes after from former Dagenham defender Ayo Obileye meant FGR missed a good chance to gain real ground on us.

Since losing to us in November they’ve only registered a single win, the emphatic 5-1 victory over Bromley at the weekend. Martin Allen’s Eastleigh side were always going to be a tough prospect, but the result leaves them two points behind us having played twice more.

They know their match at Sincil Bank is crucial, but they need to find some form from somewhere, quickly. They may have leapfrogged Tranmere, but only on goal difference and they’ve have played an extra game. The two meet on February 28th in a win / win game for the Imps. We’re at home to York that day.

Dover were the nights big losers. They went down 2-1 at Macclesfield and that leaves them six points behind us having played two games more. Jamie Grimes had put them ahead, and they led for over an hour before a Chris Holroyd double ensured three points stayed in Cheshire. Dover now need a win at the Bank next Friday to have any real chance of catching up the top three teams. A City win would give us a nine point and two game lead over my least favourite club.

With Dover now needing a result I imagine they’re going to come and have to try and play. They do favour a more defensive approach, happy to try and soak up pressure and hit you on the break with quick and able strikers. We know Lincoln wouldn’t play for a draw at home, but if Dover have to come out and attack us then it plays straight into our hands They’ve had some heavy thumpings this season. (4-1 Boreham Wood and Tranmere, 5-0 Chester, 4-2 Gateshead), so they are susceptible to being attacked themselves. If you don’t get Ipswich tickets for any reason, I think you will still be able to catch a festival of open football at Sincil Bank four days later.

The final result was a big surprise as Southport beat Barrow 1-0 at Holker Street. Barrow might have had a long unbeaten run, but they’ve failed to register a win since December 4th, and the games in hand they boasted have dried up as well. They’ve gone from being an outside bet for the Championship to mere play-off hopefuls, and now have nine points less than City having played the same amount of games. They’re another team facing a must win game against the Imps, in another chance to see us on the television.

In recent weeks almost all of our rivals have been on the decline, aside from Tranmere and they now must feel they are closing in on a two-horse climax to the season. We need to grab three points from our game in hand, and then four from six against Barrow and Dover. If those three results come in I think we’ll be incredibly hard to catch as we move in February.

If someone offered me that scenario in exchange for elimination from both trophies in the next seven days, I would almost certainly take it.

 

January: It’s not all about the sales

The transfer window is open, and we’re already talking about losing out in the race for Akinola, and losing pace in the battle for Ricky Miller. Players don’t necessarily mean points though, it is minutes on the pitch that will get you promoted and the next 30 days will be absolutely crucial in our race to the title. There’s some humdinger games coming up, not only involving us but also our title rivals.

I’ve decided to look at all of the top six and assess their games in the league over the next four weeks. There is little doubt that come February 1st, although nothing will be decided, we’ll have a much clearer picture of the team that has the credentials to go all the way, no matter who they sign.

TRANMERE ROVERS

The Super White Army really dropped the ball in December. After hauling themselves back into the title race they slipped up at Sincil Bank, and then on New Years Day they faltered going down 4-2 to Macclesfield.

They won’t be getting a chance to pack the league games in either. Due to FA Cup commitments of rivals, they only play twice more in January in league competition. They have to wait until January 21st to get a chance to reclaim the top spot, and they’ll only do that if we don’t get a result at Dover. Their opponents are faltering Woking, and I suspect they’ll grab three points there. The following week they have a massive clash with Dagenham, another of our title rivals. Do they have what it takes to take six points and try to at least stay in touch with Lincoln? I think four from six is a realistic haul for arguably the biggest side in our league.

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Mangan of Tranmere. Diver.

 

FOREST GREEN ROVERS

From nine points clear to six points behind in just a month and a half. It’s fair to say things have gone a little pear shaped for our ‘friend’ Mark Cooper over at FGR, and I have to confess it couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke. It’s well documented I despise everything that club stands for at present, be it all-wooden stadiums, falafel at half time or overspending on underachievers, everything about them is just wrong.

They’ve got four games to try and reduce our lead starting with a trip to Bromley on January 7th. We’ll be in Ipswich that day but I suspect a few of the 5,000 travelling fans will be watching their phones to see how the Villagers are getting on. Bromley are a tough prospect as we found out, and FGR cannot find form at the minute, although they are finding goals. I can see them winning to get themselves back on track.

They have a midweek game on 10th of January and a nine goal swing could see them topple us at the summit of the table. They travel to Eastleigh, and I can’t see either a lot of goals, nor a win for them. Martin Allen hasn’t had the best of starts on the south coast, but the longer he has with those players the more of a unit they’ll become. Expect a draw.

After a routine three points from Braintree on January 21st it is back to the tough games as they visit Barrow on the 28th, FA Cup allowing. We know that will be a battle royal, and I’m not sure they have what it takes to cope with Barrow’s robust and direct style, especially not at home. I can see FGR ending January with seven points from four games, simply not enough to see them welcome February with title aspirations.

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One on the up, the other on the way down.

 

DOVER

From one of my favourite teams to another. All the Dover talk is about the destination of Ricky Miller, but in reality they have enough with Moses Emmanuel and Ross Lafayette. One player doesn’t make a team, and (I’ll use this again as it went down well t’other day) the Rabble from Crabble have enough to cope without their talisman should he hop it.

They open with a home tie against York City which I can only see going one way. York are terrible at the minute and Dover are usually solid on home soil, so they’ll grab three points. Three days later they travel to Macclesfield and a win would see them close the gap on us to one point. Macc proved yesterday though they’re not going to rollover for anyone, and Dover don’t travel all that well. Expect a draw, meaning by the time we meet on the 20th we’ll be three points ahead of Dover with two games in hand.

Will we beat them? I hate predicting Lincoln results, but by then I imagine we might have strengthened and we’ll have an FA Cup fourth round tie to look forward to (!!!) so we’ll be on a high. The TV has been kind to us this season with three wins from three, but I think we’ll end up coming away with shared spoils on our fourth televised outing.

Dover finish with a visit from Chester on January 28th, and knowing their title aspirations have been hit I suspect they’ll end up bringing back just one point. They’ll be in the play off mix, but I can’t see them troubling the top spot.

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Peterborough bound, but Dover have enough to cover him leaving

 

BARROW

The bubble was always going to burst, an unbeaten run is there to be taken away from you and it happened in style on New Years Eve, a 4-1 mauling at the hands of Gateshead signalled the end of that air of invincibility Barrow carried around with them. They’ve got some tough matches coming up too, January is as tough for them as for anyone else.

It starts inauspiciously enough with a visit from Southport and a chance to get back to winning ways. How a team reacts to defeat can tell you a lot about their character and resilience, as we proved yesterday. Do Barrow have what it takes to immediately put their heavy defeat behind them? I think so, and I think they’ll be back to winning ways in time for a trip to York on January 21st.

I believe Barrow really will have an FA Cup 4th round tie to look forward too as they face Rochdale at home in the third round, and that could begin to derail their promotion push. I can see them dropping points at York, at some point the Minstermen have got to get some points on the board, and the top teams will not always beat he bottom teams. We’ll travel to Barrow on January 24th still well ahead of them in the league, and a draw will be a good result for us, which is what I expect us to achieve.

Their third game in seven days would be the clash with FGR on 28th January which I suspect might be moved because of the cup, but I’ll go with it for now. If it goes ahead it will mean they’re no longer in the cup, and for that reason I think they’ll do us a favour of sorts and give FGR no reason to celebrate the end of the month.

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Will the ‘Wheels’ come off the ‘Barrow’ promotion chase? Genuinely I crack myself up sometimes. Besides this is far more attractive to look at than the style of football Barrow play.

 

DAGENHAM

The Daggers have slipped away a bit recently, and they have Braintree today which I suspect will bring them three points and put them back into the play-off spots. Whether they can maintain that pressure is another question.

They travel to North Ferriby on 7th and I expect they’ll go home with another three points, following that clash they welcome Bromley on 21st. As well as Bromley do at home I’m not convinced they have enough to do Dagenham on their own ground, but a share of the spoils is possible.

The 28th is another big clash in the race for promotion, Dagenham travel to Tranmere and as I’ve mentioned already will probably result in a draw which both teams will find inadequate in their respective fights for positions.

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He’s big, he’s bad and he’s not as good as Rheady. Oliver Hawkins, Dagenham.

 

LINCOLN CITY

Always save the best until last, we move on to our own beloved table toppers. Our focus isn’t on the league for the next 19 days, we’ve got a big away cup tie against Gateshead to worry about, and some other game on Saturday.

By the time we do get back to league action I suspect we’ll still be on top, and that gives us something to fight for. I have already stated I can see us getting two points from two games against Dover and Barrow, both would be regarded as good points in my opinion. The trick is now not to lose to our rivals, and keep beating the teams that are well below us, and later in the month Braintree and Solihull Moors are our hosts. Solihull have had a good Christmas, but we do owe them one after the 0-0 draw at the Bank, and I’m afraid as much as we are fond of Braintree these days for the Cowley Brothers, we should have enough to end January eight points better off than we are now.

I’m not being deliberately pessimistic with eight points from four games, but if that is our haul, whichever way it comes to pass it will be sufficient reward for a month that comes with cup distractions as well.

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Nathan Arnold is an Imp, but he’s also a massive asset in our title hunt

 

CONCLUSION

Team Played Points
Lincoln 30 63
Tranmere 29 57
Forest Green 30 56
Dover 30 54
Barrow 29 54
Dagenham 30 54

It’s a bold statement I know, but I’m thinking that we can now see a month out without slipping off the top of the table. The fixtures are kind to us in terms of who plays and when but not so kind knowing that Dover and Barrow come up in back to back games. We can afford to draw both games and still maintain a title challenge, and I’ve perhaps been a little cautious by predicting two draws. The key will be to ensure we remain focussed despite the cup distractions, and hopefully irrespective of Ipswich and Gateshead we can excel in the league.

In my mind we’ve achieved our FA Cup goals, a win over Ipswich would be fantastic for everyone connected with the club, but it would also distract from the main objective which is progression to the Football League. There’s a lot of football to be played between now and April 29th, many points to be won and lost. If we can stay ahead of the chasing pack, games in hand or not then psychologically we will always hold the advantage.

Go on, admit it: You didn’t ever think we’d be in this position twelve months ago did you? Nope. Me either.

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Thanks to Amazon’s bloody awful ‘author supplies’ chain, there is still just one way to buy ‘Who’s who of Lincoln City 1993-2016’:

If you want to buy direct from Amazon then click here

Bouncing back with a little bit of luck

A few weeks ago I blogged about Lincoln City not having used any luck in their ascent to the top of the league. This afternoon at Sincil Bank, as we hit the peak for the fourth time this season I think there may have been a little slice of it tipped in our favour, although it had to be combined with hard work and Alan Power’s massive balls in order to achieve the win.

We went 1-0 down, you probably know that. I imagine a good portion of you readers were amongst the 5,000 that crammed into the Bank today. The first half, for want of a better word, was lacklustre. Guiseley came with a game plan and Sam Habergham’s cracking volley / unfortunate shinner gave our visitors a scarcely earned 1-0 lead.

The only other real talking point of note was a challenge on Terry Hawkridge that I feel should have been a straight red. It was late, it was from behind and I’m informed it looked two footed. Now I didn’t have my glasses so I can only confirm the first two points, but for me anything from behind after the ball has gone is a straight red. I dropped a C-bomb when the yellow came out, something my delightful other half wasn’t too chuffed with. It was her first game of the season and she prefers I keep the language less coarse in her company.

I still think it was warranted, Boyes took Hawkridge out like he was shooting rats in a barrel.

That really is the first half summed up. We huffed and puffed but we really didn’t get close to blowing a house down, and our visitors were more than happy to sit back and clear their lines time and time again. I felt there might be shades of Solihull Moors in the second half, us trying to break down a resilient and dogged team of battlers. I was wrong.

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Over 5,000 in the Bank again today. Proper support.

 

The change happened fairly quickly. Theo wasn’t having his best game in a Lincoln shirt, and that’s probably being nice. Mt friend Jimmy’s partner (another first time fan this season) summed it up nicely for me: “That number 31 doesn’t ever seem to be where the ball goes”. I’m afraid, for this afternoon only, that sums the former Watford striker up nicely.

Adam Marriott changes games and within seconds of coming on he’d earned us a penalty. I haven’t seen a replay so I may be talking out of turn, but from where I sat I thought it was a penalty won rather than a penalty entirely deserved. Marriott gets into the right positions and when there’s contact, there’s options. Marriott took the option that resulted in a penalty. I might be wrong, I often am but he won us a penalty.

My first words when the ref blew his whistle were ‘please not Rheady’. I love the big man as much as I love curly fries and chicken nuggets, but his penalty record isn’t the best. Anyone picking up that ball and trying to beat Maxted needed to have fire in his belly, and  love eggs made of steel in his shorts. Up stepped Alan Power.

I speak about Power quite a lot, I think he’s the consummate professional and unlucky to keep finding himself warming the bench. When it mattered our former captain and leader did exactly what was needed and despatched a near perfect penalty into the back of the net. That took cahoonas, and not the regular sized ones either, it took cahoonas the size of rugby balls.  1-1, and in an instant everything changed.

Maybe it was Mazza, maybe it was the goal, maybe it was the mercurial Nathan Arnold shifting into the centre to tie up Simon Walton. Whatever it was, something changed. Guiseley allegedly came out and tried to win the game, I didn’t see that. I saw Lincoln start to play with confidence and belief again, and I felt a slight air of frustration lift from some of the fans around me. At 1-1, there was only one winner.

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A late City free kick.

 

With ten minutes to go the Guiseley players made a rare excursion forward, and as luck would have it the referee was on the ball, unlike Adam Boyes. Boyes was on the floor, he felt he’d been bundled there by a Lincoln player, but the ref felt otherwise. He received a red card, 70 minutes after he first deserved it. If you are a Lincoln fan it was justice, if you are a Guiseley fan you might feel hard done by. 1-1, 11 v 10 and just ten minutes still to play. Tranmere were losing by this point, FGR were dropping points and all around me there was a feeling of optimism.

It took a while for my deep rooted belief of a victory to actually come to pass, but when it did it stands to reason that it would be one of free scoring centre backs that grabbed the goal. From what I understand there might be some dispute as to who scored it, Raggett claimed it, Waterfall claimed it and Theo Robinson claimed it too. Sean Raggett has been awarded it, personally I don’t really care one iota. 2-1, game over.

Guiseley lost their head a bit at that point. I wondered if they were looking for a foul in the build up to the goal, maybe they were still seething at the perceived injustice at the earlier red card. Either way their captain Danny Lowe was sent off, presumably for mouthing off,  manager Adam Lockwood went for the same offence and experienced assistant manager Dave Penney was also forced to miss the final three minutes.

We rightly took advantage of the situation and added a quick fire third to put the game beyond doubt. Nathan Arnold was my man of the match and a goal was just rewards for his efforts all afternoon. Game over, 3-1 and to put the icing on the cake those troublesome lot from the Wirral had lost at Macclesfield. I left the ground with a resounding chorus of ‘we are top of the league’ going round my head, top of course for the fourth time this season.

We needed a slice of luck, a lot of hard work and a player with the minerals to take a successful pressure penalty, and luckily for us all three came up trumps. Danny Cowley spoke about now being able to enjoy Ipswich as much as we should, and he was right. Boxing Day wasn’t ideal, but only Solihull Moors got six from six over the Christmas period. We went into the festive time top of the league, and we come out in the same position. I’d say that’s job done. The players have earned the right to go and play at Portman Road in front of 5,000 travelling fans, and they know they’ll go there and start the day top of the league. They’ve earned the right and I sincerely hope they go there and enjoy, what for some will be the biggest match of their careers.

Top at Christmas, top the 1st of January. All we need now is top at the end of April and I’ll be one happy  blogger.

Who is the big bloke stood next to Raggett?

This was the question that was asked of me around lunchtime yesterday. One of my numerous little birds messaged me saying he’d walked past training, and he’d seen an unfamiliar character stood next to Sean Raggett. Apparently he was a ‘bloody big lad’ and was definitely a new face.

The time was 10.59am. At 1.30pm I was hosting yet another get together, this time for my nearest and dearest. I had just two and a half hours to try and uncover the mystery man’s identity.

It’s not always easy for a blogger living so far outside of Lincoln. I couldn’t pop down and look for myself, and I wasn’t likely to get to chat to Danny or Nicky to bring you the news. The Lincolnshire Echo hadn’t broken a story either, so I put on my best Columbo rain jacket (metaphorically) and began asking questions.

Once we’d established ethnicity I offered a few options to my source. It was Akinola, this guy was too tall. I trialled a couple of other players, Morgan Ferrier being one. We’d been linked with him by one of those god-awful ‘click to find out’ website and I thought their might be something in it. I knew the player sounded too tall for Blair Turgott as well.

My first guests arrived and an unconnected little bird was talking to me about Jordan Chiedozie, a striker from we might be interested who who recently returned to Concord Rangers after a spell at Boreham Wood. It wasn’t him either.

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Then 1.30 arrived, my deadline was gone and I was at the mercy of our local media outlet, and they didn’t disappoint. The 6’3 player who’d been spotted was former Standard Liege winger Erwin Senakuku. I’m told he trained well, he looked a little raw and uncut but he has bags of potential. You’d expect that from someone who served his time at a top Belgian club, although he has recently playing for Royal Football Club Seraing, currently of the Belgian third division.

Last season he finished with 7 goals in a poor season for Seraing as they were relegated. The year prior to that he was playing for top flight Charleroi where he scored 20 times for their reserve side. If this doesn’t sound like the modest goal return you’d expect from a winger, you’d be right.

After completing his haul last season he spoke (in French) to website dh.be, and said (roughly translated thanks to google translate) the following:

“It was a personal satisfaction for me to finish top scorer,  but it would have been a lot better to finish the season on a good note. We would have wanted a victory to close our campaign.  I could have done better, this total is not huge amount, but I did not play every game.  I prefer to play in the centre than on the flank.”

So our new winger is far happier in the middle, and not only that but he hit twenty playing for a top Belgian sides reserve team. He clearly has a bit of ability, and he sounds very much like the sort of player you usually expect to surface at a League One or Two club. I know DC said that he has family in Lincoln, but I’d also wager a bet that the degree of success we’re currently experiencing helped in convincing him to approach us for a trial.

It’s not often a team at our level has exotic names such as Senakuku and ter Horst on trial is it? I’m just hoping by the end of January we have another exotic sounding name playing for us, something along the lines of ‘Akinola’.