Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Stockport County 3-4 Lincoln City

For me this game was shit or bust. A win and the Imps were 2 points behind Stockport with 5 games in hand. Lose and we were pretty much adrift. The three points were very very welcome and made raiding the piggy bank more than worth it.

I like Stockport's Edgely park. Well three sides of it anyway. Its one of the few traditional grounds left in England. Its sad to think that in say ten years grounds like this could well be no more and all we will be left with is soulless Lego brick dumps on the outskirts of town like Doncaster, MK Dons, Shrewsbury, Scunthorpe etc complete with "Customers" instead of fans. The ground is in the centre of town and has a real football feel it.
The only downside to it is the fact that the away end is uncovered seating behind the goal. At the opposite end is one of the best home "ends" outside of the premiership which totally dominates the ground. The stands to the left and right are quite dated but more than adequate for this level. As Sale Sharks Rugby Union side also play at the ground the pitch isn't the greatest, but is a hell of alot better than it was last season.
After getting in to the ground at about 2.30 first port of call was as ever the snap counter and for once I actually bought something which,to my surprise, didn't taste like shit as is the norm inside football league grounds in England. The meat and potato pie, mushy peas and gravy went down a treat and was worth every bit of the £4.50. If I am being super critical the only let down was the fact there was no mint sauce but you can't have everything can you?
This was very much a new look Lincoln side with Trevor Carson on loan from Sunderland starting in goal and Steven Hunt from Notts County starting in defence. The side was again led by Delroy Facey and he really seems to be growing into the role. The Imps drew blood in the 5th minute when Grimes scored with a great lob that left the keeper stranded. Tackles were flying in from both sides and the game became littered with free kicks and it was from one such free kick that Stockport equalised when Carson beat out the shot only for County to fire in from the rebound. At half time i over heard some fans saying Carson should have tipped it round the post. My own view is that the defence should have reacted to the rebound much better. So there! City took the lead again in first half stoppage time when City worked a free kick well which lead to Adam Watts getting his first goal for City.
Lincoln went further ahead in the 60th minute when McCallum unselfishly rolled the ball across the six yard box for Grimes to notch his second of the game. The Imps now had some breathing space but this being Lincoln you just knew it would go arse about tit, and so it proved as Stockport got the back in the game just three minutes later but to fair it was a well taken goal.
Grimes completed his hat-trick on 65mins only for Stockport to get back into it again with a freak own goal from Adam Watts (meaning this was a very rare instance of an Imps player scoring at both ends). I must admit i thought we would go on to balls it up and get a draw; we not only hung on, but played the better football and could have added to our lead in stoppage time when Delroy held off the last defender but shot just wide of the post.
I am not stupid enough to think that this win means that we will stay up but it has put us back in the pack and with upto 5 games in hand on sides around us, our fate is very much in our hands. Infact we are still one game short of the halfway point in out season. Food for thought if you will.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Midweek matches

After what seems like an eternity due to night shifts/bad weather/Christmas/Not being arsed, i managed to take in a couple of non league matches this week. First up a short trip just over the Lincolnshire border for a second trip of the season to Gainsborough Trinity.

Gainsbrough Trinity 1-2 Nuneaton Town

Tonight's opponents for the Blues were promotion chasing Nuneaton Town. Nuneaton have proved to be a right pain in the arse when they came to Lincoln in the first round of the FA Cup earlier in the season and played with 10 men behind the ball for the entire match. Quite why they were afraid to attack a crappy defence like the Imps was beyond me. A 90th min goal saw the Imps home that day. On my previous trip to Gainsborough they were quite frankly, awful and got tanked 0-5 at home by AFC Telford. An away win was my thought before we set off. And so it was.

Over the past three seasons i must have seen Trinity about 12 times or so and i can only count one decent performance from them in that time. There are however, quite a few positives about taking in a match here.
1) Its a decent enough ground.
2) The bar is quite smart and reasonably priced.
3) The chips are some of the best i have come across in a football ground.
4) You can be back in Retford for 10 pm after a match.
5) There's always goals.

Number six would have been the fact that you always get a teamsheet, alas we couldn't find any last night. The programme i am afraid to report, continues to disappoint. Having only marginally more interesting articles to read than a week's worth of the Tory loving trash that is the Daily Mail
Nuneaton knew that a win would take them to the top of the table. They had brought a respectable number of supporters with them and they were rewarded with a two goal lead at half time. The second goal was particularly well worked. The closest Trinity came was when an inswinging corner hit the top of the bar.
The blues did get back into it in the second half when they got one back with a neat half volley, but although they had a fair amount of the ball they failed to create many chances. Nuneaton should have wrapped it up in injury time when a cross from the right was played along the six yard box, but managed to elude the oncoming forwards. Brian Little has had the best part of two seasons at Trinity now but i must be honest and say i can't see much/any progress at all. They wont go down but they will be nowhere near the playoff places either. A crowd of just over 420 with a good number of travelling fans is also a cause of concern. Alfreton are still odds on favourites to win this league but having seen them twice, Nuneaton could well be the side to beat in the playoffs.


Didn't go to any games. But some good news from Adam's sports world; Inter continued their revival, after Rafa Benetiz sacked himself, by recording their 4th win on the spin under new boss Leonardo with a 3-2 win over Catania. Inter are now back in the Champion's League places and still have a game in hand over the shower of shite that sits at the top of Seria A, and we still have to play them. Game on as they say.
The Nottingham Panthers gained a very good 3-3 draw away to the Cardiff Devils in the Challenge cup. Not only did this mean we won the group, but the Sheffield Steelers got knocked out at the same time.
Panthers now line up against the Newcastle vipers in the semi final. Tickets for the 2nd leg in Nottingham have been secured and i will be taking in the game in the company of BBC radio Leicestershire's Gavin Brown. Belfast or Cardiff await the winners in the final.
The only downside was that "Mind of an Imp" favourate Jelena Jankovic crashed out of the Australian open tennis championship.

Game off. Bah. At least we got a scenic view of Worksop and Sheffield at night.

Monday, 17 January 2011

The pride of New York heads for Pittsburgh

Well guys and girls its crunch time in the NFL Playoffs. After a first round bye and then disposing of the Ratbirds of Baltimore, the only team from New York city to make the playoffs;The New York Football Jets, are all that stands between the Steelers and a third superbowl appearance since 2006.

In a way i do feel a tad smug about this as i tipped the Jets to do well before the season started. Its no fluke they are there. They got to the AFC Championship game last season (and lost) and now they are back. Lets hope its another loss for them at the weekend!!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The case for Stability

Yesterday the Imps slumped to the bottom of the table. Not only the bottom of the table but the entire football league. Out of 92 professional clubs Lincoln sit in 92nd place and are firmly looking relegation in the face. Being booted out of the league isn't as bad as it was. The Blue square league is full time now and half the clubs in there are former league clubs. None the less, waking up with a hangover and seeing your team at the bottom of the league isn't one of life's most uplifting experiences.
Were the Imps dreadful yesterday? No not really we didn't take our chances, Wycombe did and that was that. We need a new keeper ASAP. Anyon let in another soft goal just after we had taken the lead. His confidence has been shot to bits (as would most keepers' playing behind our back line) Another centre back to play alongside Watts when he is fit is also needed.
Even if we do stay up there are bigger problems.
Last night after the game i fed the Guinea pigs and headed straight the pub. With only the bottom of my pint glass for company, i tried to work out the reason why the club has gone from perennial play off contenders to odds on relegation candidates.

In order to see why a club is failing you need to look at successful clubs to see what they are doing and what your club isn't. To get a broader view you need to look not only at football but across the world of sport.
Glasgow Rangers are the most successful football club in the world. The Pittsburgh Steelers have more Superbowl titles than any other NFL team. The New York Yankees are by far and away the most successful baseball club in the world. Manchester United and Arsenal have dominated English football for the last 20 years. In F1. (The pinnacle of world motor sport) Ferrari and Maclaren have always been there or there abouts.

Rangers Ibrox park
Now lets look how they are managed. Sir Alex has been at United for 20 plus years. Arsene Wenger has been at Arsenal since 1996. The Steelers have only had 4 head coach's since 1966. Only four different men have sat in the Rangers dugout since 1990 and only 5 coaches have been at the Yankees in the same time. Of course these teams haven't had it all there own way. The Red Sox have won a world title. Chelsea have nabbed a couple of Premiership titles, and Celtic have given Rangers a run for their money since 2000 but they have been one off sucesses built on a huge injection of cash instead of careful long term planning.
There were years when Man Utd won nothing. Did they panic? Did they sack the manager was the club put up for sale? Nope, nothing of the sort. Arsenal have had a barren time in recent seasons but now have no debt, a cracking stadium, and a healthy balance sheet and the best youth set up in England. Rangers have taken a long term view by letting Ally McCoist serve his apprenticeship under Walter Smith thus to ensure a smooth handover at the end of the season. When the Yankee's missed out on the playoffs they refocussed and won the world series the next year. In Mike Tomlin's first season the Steelers bombed out in the wild card round. The next season the Superbowl was won.
So all the evidence points to the fact that if you stick with you manager and give him time you will reap the rewards. In the 2009-10 season Lincoln were going through a sticky patch with Jacko at the helm. We weren't adrift but the board pulled the trigger. A year later after wrecking the club Chris Sutton (who had about as much of an idea about league two as John W Henry knows about football managers) walked out. Had the board stuck with Jacko and backed him i firmly believe we wouldn't be in the shit that we are in at the moment. In Steve Tilson we have somebody who knows the lower leagues inside out and has had success at this level. A bit like Peter Jackson really.

Jacko and myself
Looking at the wider picture it becomes clearer. Everton have stuck by David Moyes and you will struggle to find a club that is better run. In league two Accrington Stanley continue to punch above their weight with John Coleman at the helm for 10 years plus. This season we have seen many pointless sackings; Chris Houghtons reward for getting Newcastle back into the Premiership and getting them into the top half with great wins at Arsenal and Chelsea along the way was... the sack. Newcastle's reward? A 3-1 kicking at league two Stevenage in the FA Cup. Aston Villa had been building nicely under Martin O'Neil until they replaced him and are now hovering above the drop zone.
For me the worst sacking of the year was without a doubt Roy Hodgson at Liverpool. After the "Yanks out" campaign the owners were replaced with ermm more yanks! Who in my view are just as bad as the other ones. They haven't managed to overturn the Yankees domination of Baseball despite being there for ten years and their NASCAR team can't overtake Jimmy Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports team for love nor money.

I must admit i am a big Hodgson fan. He took Inter from the bottom of the table to the UFEA Cup final in the late 90's and playing some cracking football along the way. Inter President Massimo Moratti speaks very highly of him and has said there will always be a job for him in some capacity at Inter. I for one would welcome him back to Inter with open arms. Most Liverpool fans say that what was acceptable at Fulham wasn't acceptable at Liverpool. So they wouldn't "accept" a seventh place finish and a Europa league final appearance this season?
To add to the mess Liverpool have now put footballing dinosaur Kenny Dalglish in charge till the end of the year. The same man who quit on them last time and oversaw the Jolly John Barnes era at Celtic. The results so far? Defeats at Man Utd and Blackpool.
Are there two worse run sides in the country than Liverpool and Lincoln? Is it fair to sack a manager after six months? The two chairmen at Lincoln and Liverpool seem to think so.

Monday, 10 January 2011

R.I.P Richard Butcher

Very sad news today. Former Lincoln City midfielder Richard Butcher died today at the age of 29.
R.i.p form all from the "Mind of an Imp" Blog and the Retford Imps.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Bad things always comes in threes

You can make all the plans in the world,think that you have thought of everything and then Bam a turtle eats your mash! (I believe that is the latest hot saying for things going tits up.)
As a Birthday treat i had been given tickets to watch the Nottingham Panthers take on the Cardiff devils in Nottingham on Saturday night. This being me, the day was to begin with a drinking session and the Hockey was to be followed by more beer and a curry at the Mongal e azam, Nottingham's finest curry house where the likes of Cannon and Ball, Bill Bailey, Gavin Brown, Steve Davis and a drunkard who serves ham in a bag have all eaten over the years. Obviously when embarking on a day like this one needs to fuel ones body sufficiently to get it through the challenge ahead so a Wetherspoons full English breakfast was planned to start the day off.

(Warning not all English breakfast look as nice as this)

But as they say things often go tits up and in this case it was tits up on a massive scale.
Over the past couple of days i have had some sort of cold and being Asthmatic it has gone straight to my chest. The result being that my chest has been getting tighter and tighter and it got to the point on Saturday morning where i couldn't walk upstairs without being out of breath for ten minutes, and was unable to get a sentence out without gasping like a twat. I had to admit defeat and instead of chilling out watching channel four's horse racing tips show The morning line and then stuffing down a Wetherspoons breakfast, Bassetlaw Hospital was on my radar.

Any odds on a Giant killing or Toon in the third round of the FA cup John?

A lot of people slate the health service but for me the treatment i received was nothing short of first class. I cant fault a thing after phoning ahead i was only sat waiting for about 5 mins before i was straight in and placed on the nebuliser and on the way back to something approaching normal. I could breathe normally for the first time in a three days as oppose to sounding like Darth Vader in his final moments aboard the second Death Star, and boy did it feel good. My ribs were still sore from all the coughing but i felt a hell of alot better. This is an appropriate moment to thank my own Luke Skywalker for helping me out, being my Chauffeur and translating my shortened sentences to the people on the phone and the Doctor. The Guinea Pigs need thanking as well and deserve huge credit for not panicking and remaining calm throughout.

As luck would have it we still managed to get the train we had originally planned to get to Nottingham at 12.03, which after a brief change at Worksop got us to Nottingham at about 1.45pm. After checking into the hotel, we were soon drinking in the Bell pub at about 2.15pm ahead of the big face off at 7.00pm. As the beer and conversations flowed freely, good news came in from Sincil Bank; not only had the Imps taken a 2-1 lead against Hereford United in the FA Cup, but the scorer was none other than sir Delroy of Facey. So i am 2 up in the bet now and looking good. I will post details of Oxford United's ticket prices so whom it may concern has plenty of time to save his pennies up for the Imps last away game (and it could be our last football league away game if things dont look up)
As normally happens on longish drinking sessions with my cousin, the conversation varied depending on the amount of drink consumed. Topics ranged form the Barlow's important contribution to the war effort, to the effect on the economic situation on Nottingham's massage parlours(Not that i have ever been to one myself i hasten to add) Semi normal things like how to get good deals on car insurance were also discussed.
As we moved on to different pubs my drinking pace quickened with the news that the Imps had bowed out of the FA Cup 3-4 at home. "Bollocks" was my reaction. Oh well more beer. At 6.00pm we made our way to the Nottingham Ice arena. The Old Trafford of British Ice Hockey.

I must say that i have really enjoyed watching the GMB Nottingham Panthers this season. I am very much a newbie to all the rules and stuff but learn i little more on each visit. This was my 5th game and i hope to get a few more in before the season ends. Its cheaper than watching league two football, you always get goals and being as the Panthers are the biggest club in the country a good atmosphere is usually guarenteed. We tried out the Lace Market chip shop pre game; the lamb meat and chips went down very well and i will be partaking again. The service was also fantastic although there was only one chap serving and a large queue waiting, the guy did a sterling job. I tip my hat to you sir.

Today the Elite league's form team the Cardiff Devils were in town. Their 18 game winning streak was almost as hot as my lamb kebab. They were well supported but chatting to a few Notts fans they seem to be very much a bandwagon club who normally bring about 20 to Nottingham at best. As this is my first season i cant say if this is correct or not. One thing i like about the Elite league is that it is the only pro sport in Britain that brings together teams for all four countries of the United Kingdom with one Welsh team, one side from Northern Ireland, three from Scotland and five from England making up the league. Being sat just across the row from the Cardiff fans (although we all mixed freely on the concourse and in the Arena) led to a great atmosphere.

The Panthers played well but were defeated 5-6. Of the few Ice Hockey games we have been to, this was by far the best game we have seen. Cardiff were out of the blocks quickly getting a two goal lead within 6 minutes, only for the Panthers to fightback and take a 4-2 lead. The Devils drew it level only for Notts to take the lead from the following faceoff. Again Cardiff drew level and took the lead with a couple of minutes left to play. The Panthers then committed a daft penalty by having too many men on the ice thus gifting Cardiff the power play for the remainder of the game and that was that. For my money both teams gave it there all and served up a great treat for the fans. The only down side being the news that the "Penforcer" will be leaving the club. All the best for the future. As my Ice Hockey education continues the match reports will be a little more detailed. My next mission is to fully understand the Ice Hockey offside rule.

After the game a swift pint was in order before a curry to round of my Birthday celebrations. Nottinghams top totty/Slappers were out in forced and dressed up to the nines. Thus making my Ice hockey/jeans and trainers combo look a tad out of place. The Bouncer on the door told me that not football shirts were allowed, I did tell him it was an ice hockey jersey, but alas the same rule applied so i took it off and was allowed into the pub. He failed to spot i had my Lincoln City jumper on underneath. Bouncer 0 Darth Adam 1. I wonder if the "No Sports shirts" rule is enforced before/after Forest games? Somehow i can't quite see it.

The Curry went down better than the Cardiff players after Lepine (A Panthers player) had smacked them. I have been to the curry house a number of times and for the first time best of order was given. I didnt make a twat of myself by ordering a curry that was too hot, no Bombay mix was spilt everywhere, no warm beer spilt and no well known international comedians were heckled. Maybe now that i am in my 32nd year, my associates and i are growing up?....Nah.

Although the Panthers and the Imps both lost high scoring matches, it really didnt bother me. After the mornings fun and games i was just glad to make it to Nottingham at all. I would like to say a HUGE thanks TO those who helped me and convince me that i needed to get my arse to the hospial ASAP and got me there and back :-)Oh and for getting me a shout out over the PA at the Hockey saying that i was 32 years YOUNG. :-)

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

New year same old Sh*t

For the last few months i haven't had the time to blog much due to doing 12 hour night shifts. Now i am back on days i will have much more time to write about my sporting experiences. Although the main question is will there be anything worth writing about regarding my first sporting love.
For the most part i have had a good last few months sport wise. The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a great season going 12-4 and capturing our 20th division title since 1970. We now await one of the wild card round winners in the 2nd round of the playoffs.
The England cricket team have had a fantastic tour down under and now look good not only to retain the Ashes but to win the series outright thus becoming the first England side to win a series in Australia in 24 years. I have started to watch the Nottingham Panthers ice hockey club this season and for the most part have thoroughly enjoyed it. Inter, although a little off the pace in the league, have become world club champions and made the last 16 of the champions league.
Despite saying all that there is one huge white elephant in the room. My main sporting interest of the last 16 years.
Lincoln City FC.

The Imps were undefeated in December. Pretty impressive you would say. Until you realise that we didn't play a single match in that time due to the extreme weather we have had here in the East Midlands for the last few weeks. When we returned to action on Jan the 1st at home to Bradford City it took the Imps a whole two minutes to dig their own grave with some comic defending. Keeper Joe Anyon and centre back Moses Swaibu decided to leave a long through ball for each other neither got it thus giving Bradfords striker one of the easiest goals he will ever get.

Such defending hasn't been seen since the days of the "Up the Field" side or the famous Jenkins five a side teams of the late 90's (Both of which i was between the sticks for). However, people didn't pay to watch us.
We got back into it and made it 1-1 but Bradford took the lead again a few minutes before half time when we let their player just walk past 4 defenders before picking his spot to give them a 2-1 lead. We made plenty of chances in the 2nd half but just couldnt take them.
On Monday we again lost 2-1. This time away at Northampton, the winner coming two minutes from the end. All the reports said that we should have got something from the game (I was at Retford v Stockbridge park steels) But we didnt. When the dust settled it showed ourselves, Hereford, and Barnet all on 19 points with a group of teams a further 4 points ahead. So where do we go from here? On the plus side the Imps do have up to three games in hand on the sides around us which in a way is a good thing, but of course games in hand have to be won other wise the are as meaningful as a pre election CONservative/ Liberal democrat promise. The January transfer window is upon us and we need to wheel and deal if we are to stay up.
Not that getting players in will be easy, after all who wants to come to a side that is up to its neck in doo doo and in the middle of a relegation battle? On the plus side i have great faith in Steve Tilson and Paul Brush. They have been around the lower leagues and know what is required at this level which is something for me that Chris Sutton never got. Needless to say the fans are restless and worried that this is our time to be relegated. Yes we have been dire at times this season but now isn't the time to stick the knives in. The Summer is the time for that. For now we just have to grin and bear it and get our tin hats on. I still belive that there is very little between most sides in league two this season with only Bury and Accrington giving us a good kicking this season. Its FA Cup time this weekend (and maybe the following Tuesday if we win the reply on Saturday) so its all fun fun fun.

If we do go down at least we can enjoy the shepards pie at Kiddiminster Harriers, Fish and chips at Grimsby, and a boys weekend away in London for Hayes and Yeading (I always try to look on the bright side of things) Ironically we have been to most of the blue square league clubs as many are former league two sides. The lesson there is that is often takes clubs a while to come back.

No pressure then boys.

Up the Imps.