It’s been 21 long years since the Imps last played in the third tier of English football and it’s fair to say my life and that of the Caterday club founder members has changed quite a bit since then. Lincoln opened up the 1998/99 season with a long trip to Bournemouth and thus we made a weekend of it. It was the first game i ever did with Baz and Felice and thus the start of two fantastic friendships that have seen us travel all over the country (and northern Germany) watching the Imps. Time flies as they say.
When we went to Bournemouth we had no plan. No digs booked (in peak holiday season in August) no real idea of where the ground was or even the best way to get there. All we had was a change of clothes for the night out and something to wear the next day. No phones or sat
navs no research into the area, nothing. In the end we found some digs (after asking at about 40 B&B, s) After we checked in we had a belly load of beer at various pubs along the beach then back to hotel to freshen up then back out on the piss and ending up in the Opera House nightclub. On the pitch Lincoln were soundly beaten 2-0 and were eventually relegated.
Fast forward to today and there was to be no all day drinking/any drinking on the Friday and certainly no night clubbing by any of us. One thing that has withstood the test of time over the past 21years has been Felice’s inability to organise himself. The plan at 9.30 was to catch the 11.10 train to Lincoln however no sooner had i purchased my ticket the call came through saying he would be getting the later train.
Pre-game was spent in our favourite “Up hill” Lincoln pub the William Foster watching the Ashes. Until some fool switched the TV over to watch Salford v Stevenage which was met with a round of boos and the cricket put on the smaller screen, not great but we could at least see England’s tail wag to get a 90 run lead in the first innings. The pub much like much of the city centre was full of Imps shirts and there seemed a genuine buzz around the city. The opening of a new Imps shop in the centre has been a welcome addition and both times i have been in it has been quite busy and with a great range of merchandise in stock it’s not hard to understand why. I genuinely think it’s the best we have had since i have been going to the Bank and long may it continue.
After a quick stop at the chippy it was off the ground to see the Imps take on Accrington. Although as a fan i normally prefer to be away on the opening day of the season i felt in this case started out in a new league it was important to be at home on the first day and thus get a better chance of the Imps getting three points. There are no easy games (cliché ahoy) in this league but a home game against probably the smallest club in the league is as good a fixture as you can hope for.
One curious thing in the build up to the game was what the crowd was going to be. For this game all of the Stacey West was available to the home fans with Accrington being placed in the bike shed stands at the other end of the ground. As kick off approached it became apparent that there was going to be quite a few empty seats in the Stacey West. In the end the crowd was 8,668 which is very respectable and the 3rd highest in League One on the day. Now you will never find me moaning about “Only” getting 8668 through the gate but after three years of crowds growing it does make you wonder if as a club we have reached our limit. Obviously when the bigger clubs come to town and take all the Stacey West then tickets for the home sections will be much harder to obtain and sell outs will occur. Home ticket sales v smaller/less well supported clubs are defiantly something to keep an eye on as the club still wrestles with plans of moving to a new stadium or re-developing Sincil Bank for the long term.
Accrington are always held up as a prime example of what a club can do with a canny management team even if they have a low budget. John Coleman was even described in the programme as “The Alex Ferguson” on lower league football. That may be pushing it slightly but there is no denying the bloke has done a first class job at Accrington. They always give you a hard game especially at home. However that being said it was a game that on paper Lincoln were favourites to win. (in my eyes anyway)
The surprising team news was that last year’s top scorer John Akindie was on the bench. This was huge news and signaled a change in approach for the Imps. Last season Akindie was the first name on the team-sheet teams knew what they were in for and this change of tact seemed to surprise Accrington as they struggled to contain the Imps slick passing game plan.
As ever i never go into in-depth match reports on here, there are plenty of other places for that. This blog merely serves to give my overall views on the game. The Imps new signings of Morrel, Payne and Walker all impressed as did the whole Imps side. The first goals for the Imps game courtesy of a header from Micheal o’Conner on 35 minutes. The Imps never really looked in trouble at the other end but as we all know football has a wonderful way of kicking you up the arse when you least expect it and given how dominate Lincoln had been in the first half i did wonder if the Imps would pay for all the missed chances.
However i needn’t have worried as the second half followed the same pattern as the first. The Imps wrapped up the points on 82 when Akindie slotted home a trademark penalty to wrap up the points.
First day results can often bare little relevance to how the rest of the season is going to pan out but the signs today were positive. For me the big take away was the fact that the Imps now look to have two systems that can be used making them much less predictable. For much of the game City were very open and while that is pleasant to see at home i would think they will revert to a much more conservative style away from Sincil Bank.
So all in all a great start to the season with the Imps gaining three well deserved and impressive points. Good beer, nice pre game chips and a good performance. If only all games were as pleasant as this.