Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Coppa Italia 2011

Inter 3-1 Palermo
I was naturally very happy to see Inter prevail in the big cup final this weekend. You see football can be good sometimes.
I didn't bother with the "other cup" final at Wembley on Saturday night. By the sounds i didn't miss a great deal did i? I do hope Barcelona look after the Champions league trophy. It would be a terrible shame if it came back to the blue side of Milan next season damaged. Good as Barca are arnt we going a tad over the top about how good they are? Yes they would probably just about see off Lincoln but they did manage to lose at Arsenal this season, And Inter ambushed them in the semi finals last season. For me the best side i have ever seen was Louis Van Gaals Ajax side between 1995-97. So there.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Tentative pre season plans

The Imps have released details of our first pre season matches. So far six have been arranged so we may see a couple of additions in the coming days or weeks. The first one at Ilkeston Town has been switched from the first date published so its worth keeping an eye on the clubs website to check if any others change.

Sat 16th July Ilkeston Town (A)
Tues 19th July Barton Town old boys (A)
Wed 20th July Brigg Town (A)
Sun 24th July Scunthorpe United* (H)
Tues 26th July Gainsborough Trinity (A)
Sat 6th August Boston United (A)

* Lincolnshire senior cup semi final. Its also the Imps community open day so we could well unveil our shinny new Nike kits that day.

So it looks as if we wont have to travel to far get our first look at the new Imps.We should be going to most of the games mentioned although none of us are to bothered about going to Boston so we could well take in another game on that date. Its also worth remembering that should we somehow beat Scunthrope United we will face Grimsby Town in the final at a date to be arranged.
I have had a quick look around other local clubs to see whos playing who. Retford United have announced their first friendlies with The home match with Rainworth Miners Welfare on the 23th of July a good fall back If we can't find anything else. On August the 3rd(A Wednesday evening) they make the short trip to Sandy Lane Worksop to play Parramore Sports or whatever they will be calling themselves next season. Failing doing the Retford game on the 23rd Sheffield Wednesday v Leeds United looks quite appealing and would my choice of game. Barnsley v Feyernoord could also be quite interesting.
Watch this space as they say...

Friday, 27 May 2011

Fans Forum reaction

Last night i had the pleasure of attending the fan's forum at Lincoln City. It dragged on for over 2 and a half hours. Some of it was interesting some wasn't.
I am going to give huge credit to the board and Chairman and Bob Dorrian(BD) for putting something like this on. Its easy to run an event of this type when everything is going well and fans are happy but its an entirely different kettle of fish when the club that you run has been relegated out of the football league and are facing tough budget cuts. In my view they answered most of the questions head on and didn't duck any of them even when some of the questions were put in a very provocative way.

The event was due to start at 7.30pm. We arrived at about 7.10 to find the room pretty much full so we took a perch at the back of the room. We learnt quite a few things last night and the first thing we learnt was that wherever you go there is always some prat that will spend £2 on a glass of coke and then go and spill half of it all over the table of which some of it will end up on my jacket top.

The chairman started by giving the reasons for letting Peter Jackson go, citing poor pre season signings and a lack of focus on the job.
Then for me came the most interesting section of the whole evening. The Chris Sutton era.

When the board were looking for a new manager following the dismissal of Peter Jackson they said they were looking for something fresh and to quote the chairman "Not a manager who had been round the block and hadn't achieved a great deal" Chris Sutton interviewed very well and impressed the board with his range of contacts and had spent two years shadowing both Martin O'Neil at Aston Villa and Roy Hodgson at Fulham. Further more, the Chairman received a phone call from Martin O'Neil say that he believed that Chris Sutton would make an excellent manager and go on to manage at a level far higher than League Two. O'Neil also said he would be giving Chris all the help he could by sending some players down on loan who could do a very good job for Lincoln. On this O'Neil was true to his word as we received the likes of Chris Ward, Nathan Baker and Eric Lichaj. Chris Sutton kept us in the league in 2009/10 mainly due to the goals of loanee Davide Somma. The Chairman revealed that Sommma was signed on a tip off and that Sutton hadn't even seen Somma play before the was signed. Sutton had shown great coaching skills because before he came to Lincoln, Somma was a left winger but Sutton changed him into a centre forward and got him to score us the goals that kept us up.
Sutton also had some pretty strong views on how we should do things off the field. One of his ideas was that the club needed to have its own accommodation for players that it signed. So the club wanting to back Sutton to the hilt bought a House and a couple of flats. The Board now admit that this was a mistake and an expense the club is cutting. Last seasons budget was pretty much spent by the time the season started. On top of this Sutton was adamant that he wanted Ben Hutchinson on loan from Celtic for the season. Neil Lennon had also said he would be perfect for League Two, so the Chairman and vice Chairman paid his wages from their own pockets (Celtic also paid a portion). He scored 4 goals last season.
After keeping us in the league the board were fully behind CS and expected him to mount a challenge to get us out of League Two (Cue lots of sniggering from fans in the room when BD made this remark) The night after the Burton Albion home match (0-0) BD went to have his normal post match chat with CS and it was than that he dropped the bombshell that he was leaving the club. The reason CS gave for leaving was that he felt that the fans and some people inside the club were very negative towards him and his ideas. No other reasons were given.
BD then went on to say how this would have major ramifications for the football club. Both Chris Sutton and his number two Ian Pearce were on low wadges for League Two as they were cutting their teeth so to speak. Any incoming manager would command a bigger wage packet, and this added with the fact that CS had spend all the budget, meant that the club was in for a double financial whammy when the new man wanted to bring in his own players. The board backed Steve as much as they could and only turned down one of his requests for a player as the funds just weren't there.

In Steve Tilson it was said we have a manager that is very pro active in the community and it was said that it is vital that the club try to rebuild the links with the fans. The Supporters trust got a fair bit of stick from the floor through out the evening and was asked if it would sell its shares if a single large investor wanted to buy the club lock stock and barrel; the answer being it would ballot its members if such a case arose. The chairman of the trust recognised that lines of communication needed to be improved and this would be worked on.

The lack of team spirit was also brought up. BD said that one reason for this was that in some cases up to four players lived in one house (back to the Chris Sutton housing plan again). If for example two players were in the team and two weren't, then the two that weren't would get into the heads of the two that were and spread the negativity about the current manager and club in that way. It was said that for all the work ST did to try to get the team spirit right it couldn't overcome this and cliques formed. This was another reason why the club housing will only be used for loan signings from now on and not contracted players.

Onto next seasons budget. It was said that the six players who are contracted for next season but are on the transfer list would take up about 30% of the playing budget. Which seeing how we aim to have a squad of 18 contracted pros is something we could live with. Reading between the lines, loan players don't count towards contracted players so i would think that any season long loans would be on top of the squad of 18 as their wages are mainly paid by the parent club. On the squad it was also stated that is was unlikely that Joe Anyon and Muzzy will be with us next season. In my humble view i can see most of the six leaving but we will have to see on that one.
One area that has received substantial investment is the youth set up. It is one area that a lot of clubs cut back on when relegated but thanks to investment the Youth structure at Lincoln will remain at the same level that it was.

The board said that they had learnt lessons and answered an array of questions from the floor ranging from the catering side of things to the players wages. One interesting question asked of the board centred on whether the board would tell the manager to sign players from BSP and BSN clubs. The chairman's reply was that it wasn't the boards place to tell the manager where to sign players from but he had recommended that we look at signing players from local sides, he Sheffield clubs, Leeds etc As well as scouting the non league scene.

To be honest the questions were starting to get a tad boring and on many cases the same question was asked several times in different ways. There was a great speech made by Chris Ashton about how now is the time to stop the bitching and all pull together and get on with it. This drew the largest round of applause from the floor.

After a quick break the club set out various commercial plans it has in place. I must say i was impressed with the levels of sponsorship we have in place for next season already and it does seem as if we have a great team behind the scenes. Other plans and schemes were also mapped out so if you want any more information then just check out the clubs website.

Overall i felt it was a positive meeting. Again full credit to the board for answering all the questions that were put to them and for ackowledgeing the mistakes that were made last season. There will always be certain people who don't believe a word they say but that's life. And while i would love the Rooney family buy the club (The Pittsburgh Steelers owners not the fat granny shagger that plays for Manchester United) I realise that now we all have to pull together for the sake of the club. It may take a while but lets just enjoy it. In fact i may even purchase some shares myself (50p per share!) Just need to get some cash together...

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Lincoln United legends 1-0 Lincoln City Legends

Well its been a while since i was able to say this but i really enjoyed myself at football today. Well in truth not only at football but the whole day; another rarity. I had noticed in the local rag that one of the flower shops in town had managed to hire a replica of the European Cup (Or Champions League trophy if you like) for a week and for a donation to a local charity you could have your picture taken with "old big ears" and as a supporter of current European champion's(Well we are for another week anyway) Internazionale of Milan i popped along, complete with Inter away shirt on, to get my pic taken.

FC Internazinale of Milan Champion's of Europe 1963/64,1964/65 and 2009/10

Inter's run of 5 successive championships was ended this season by Milan's 2nd team AC Milan. Inter are however in the final of the Coppa Italia, they've also won the Italian super cup (Italy's answer to the community shield). This season Inter have also won the World Club Championship, finished 2nd in the league and made the last eight of the Champions league. So it's not been too bad a season has it? When i started following the Nerazzurri in the mid ninties they were lucky to finish in the top 5 let alone win the league so any success is to be well received. Quite often when people ask me if i follow a "big" team as well as Lincoln they look gone out when i say Inter. But like i point out, I have been to as many Inter home games over the years as 95% of Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal fans in Retford (i.e none) but hopefully that will change soon...

I have been looking forward to today's game for quite a while. After watching the drivel that the Imps have served up this season it was going to be great to ee some Imps of yesteryear who wore the shirt with pride and passion. Two things that have been in very short supply in from the 2010/11 Imps it has to be said. The bulk of City's team were the core of players who formed the 1997/98 promotion squad; stars such as Steve Holmes, Jon Witney, Dean Walling and the now Lincoln United player/manager Terry Flemming. I had got into the retro spirit of the day by wearing my 1995/96 away shirt. Its a good fit now so it must have buried me when i first got it as i am sure i have put on weight since then. We got to Lincoln United's Ashby Avenue stadium at about 1.45 and headed straight for the bar. As it was a sunny day we took our drinks outside to sit in the sun and take in a spot of cricket on the pitch next door.

Programmes were on sale for £1 on the other side of the turnstile. Gaz was making a guest appearance as a steward for the day so I gave him the cash for the programmes and he very kindly passed them through for us. As we sat supping and discussing yet another championship for Glasgow Rangers the players started to arrive and i must admit i felt like a star struck 15 year old kid again. The likes of Gavin Gordan, Dave Barnett, Steve Holmes, Alan Marriot, John Finnigan, and Jamie Forrester all looked in great shape and were happy to stop and chat to fans and sign stuff. Again such a huge contrast to what we have had since Jacko left the club. When Terry arrived I plucked up the courage to ask the great man to pose for a picture with me and he was only too happy to(Thanks to David Del Colle Bellamy for taking the picture). Today i had my picture taken with the European cup and a true Lincoln City legend. What could be better? Only needed a picture of myself with Sophie for the full set but as Meatloaf once famously sung, two out of three ain't bad.

Admission today was a bargain £5 so after parting with our cash we ambled over to have a ferret about in the club shop. As with many non league clubs it is a treasure chest of old football programmes from clubs of all shapes and sizes and most of them cost a mere 20p. Lee really was in his element here and came out with a bag full and picked up a couple of real bargains. Meanwhile Felice had sprinted into the canteen at the speed of light to check out the food on offer and returned with a cheeseburger.

Programmes? or...

Double cheeseburger? tough choice my friends

We decided to stand behind the far goal for the first part of the match. The Lincoln United legends were out warming up but City's players didn't show till about 2.50. It was great to see the likes of Jason Minett, Paul Miller, Grant Brown, Ian Wilkins and John Schofield in the red and white stripes again. Felice's hero Ben Dixon was also playing today even though we didn't recognise him at first. Nobody seemed to recognise the keeper for the Imps but the rest of the line up was very familiar. As is the norm with these types of matches it was a case of rolling subs. After watching the first 10 minutes or so behind the far goal we ambled round the ground to get some pics and also so we could be in a position to view Ben Dixon in his finest form on the left hand side. In all fairness not only did he play the full 90 minutes but he linked up very well with his full back Jon Whitney aka "Psycho" who is now Walsall's physio for the first team.

United were having the lion's share of the ball but neither side were able to carve out many chances. John Schofield was running the show in the Imps midfield but nothing was happening up front. Halfway through the first half we paid a visit to the canteen(Mine and Lee's first, and Felice's 2nd). I went for the Cheeseburger and chips for £3. You can't even get a burger at City for that. The food got mixed reviews. Felice gave the burger a standard 7, Gaz only gave the chips and cheese a 6/10 due to the fact the cheese wasn't freshly grated. I however was more than happy with my fodder and marked it with a 8/10. All in all a solid day on the food front.

As we were getting our food United took the lead i didnt see it so i can't tell you chaps about it but there you go. The score stayed the same until half time and United were deserving of the lead although neither side had really looked like adding to the scoring.

City stepped it up in the second half as we brought on Colin Alcide up front. Colin was one of those players who looked quite ungainly to watch but was a nightmare to play against,and he hasn't changed. From 1995-97 Lincoln had a very effective attack which went like this. Flemming long throw, Alcide flick on which was normally then buried by Gareth Ainsworth arriving at the back post. If we didn't use that trick, then it was headed home by Steve Holmes arriving late in the box. Although Ainsworth wasn't here today just seeing big Colin bully the back line brought back all the memories. At the back Grant Brown and Steve Holmes took it in turns to go up for corners and free kicks etc etc. Jason Minett had a few decent efforts for city as they pushed for a goal but quite often the final ball or some great defending denied them. Alcide had the best chances with a couple of headers and a "one on one" but it wasn't his or City's day. The game was played in the right spirit through out and everybody involved was a credit to the two clubs and the city of Lincoln. The only disappointing feature for me was the fact that more people didn't turn up to see the match. Oh and the fact that nobody did the old AAALLLLCCCIIDDDEEEEEE!!!! shout when big Colin had a chance.
I really enjoyed the game and seeing all the old faces return shows that they remember their various times at Lincoln fondly. I really dont think that we will see much of the class of 2010/11 playing in this kind of game in 2020.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Coming up

Seeing how we will be in a different division with some new grounds to visit next season i have decided we need a new look blog. Hope you all like the new look Mind of an Imp blog I will add a few more pictures and stuff to the side bar over the next few days or so. If i could draw fellow Imps to the link to the conference ground guides in the websites section. I think we will all find it useful.

So whats coming up?
Next Thursday there is an open forum with the Lincoln directors at Sincil Bank so we will be attending to see what there plans are for the clubs future. I haven't posted my thaughs on relegation and who is to blame for a couple of reasons.Mainly because i want a few weeks to reflect and to give the relevant parties the change to give there sides of the story and secondly i am sick of being asked about it. For me next Thursday is watershed day. Lets get it all off our chests than roll up our selves and get on with it and look foward not backwards. The club needs rebuilding and it may well take a while but looking back and bitching wont get us anywhere.
The season is all but over but we do have one more match to take it. That being the Lincoln United legends v Lincoln City legends match this Saturaday. Last weekend was spend in various hosltirs in Retford drowing my sorrows and playing Donkey
Heres a few pics. Thanks for the great weekend guys :-)

Monday, 9 May 2011

Well thats it then

Lincoln City's Goose is cooked

Well that's that. We have been relegated. Yes its a shitter to say the least and the inquests will rage on for a few weeks or so. Changes and cuts will be made and we will move on. Can we get back? Of course we can. It may take a few years and yes we may well get stuffed at Braintree and the likes along the way, but hey that's life as they say. I am not going to rant and rave on here i shall leave that for others. No one man or moment has lead to our deserved relegation. I will let the dust settle before i deliver my verdict from Cavy Central.
However it would be wrong for me not to thank a few people for events that happened over the past few days.

Firstly an apology.

To put it bluntly i was a bit of a James Blunt over the weekend. I am normally very chilled and relaxed and a definite glass half full type of chap. But a combination of relegation, Lager, Rum and coke, and lack of sleep totally changed all this. For the people who had the unfortunate "pleasure" of being in my company and had the unenviable task of dragging my arse out of the Rum Runner public house at 10.45 i am truly sorry but its not my fault... I didn't get Lincoln City relegated gov, and i am sure some of that rum was tipped down my throat...

Long term effects of supporting Lincoln City are evident

Another fact i can't seem to get into my thick skull is the fact that technology and alcohol don't go to well together, thus i am truly sorry for my twenty minute rant about all things football down the phone at stupid o clock. I really do need to have a word with myself as the saying goes. Beer and technology out!!! It shouldn't be hard to remember should it? And yet it is my friends, yet it is.

And now a couple of thanks

Firstly i need to thank the "captain" for taking time out of watching his team's big day out at Wembley to confirm for me the Imps relegation. Was it not for him then i could have sworn that the pitch invasion, pissed off face,s and angry chants were something to do with Cheryl Cole not being on the judging panel for the X-Factor or something akin to that. I looking forward to welcoming you chaps to Sincil Bank next season and a pint or two in the Clumber to celebrate afterwards should we gain three points :-) Hope you enjoyed your big day out. Its just a shame you forgot to text me the full time score (Must have run out of credit!). Thankfully i got it from a more reliable MTFC source, who i must thank for giving me the low down on the BSP the following day at the CML cup final (Which was a very good day out spent in great company)

Monday, 2 May 2011

Midweek matches.

Monday 2nd May
Quite a nice week of local non league football for me this week. First up CML supreme action between Ollerton Town and Harworth C.I on Bank Holiday Monday with a 3.00pm kick off. Ollerton is a ground i have been wanting to tick off for quite a while as i came here a season or two back but the game was called off minutes before kick off as the floodlights packed in. So although i had a programme and a badge i couldn't count it as i hadn't actually seen a game played there. I had played cricket on the pitch next door a good few years ago though and even remember hitting a four here. One of very few in my cricketing career for the Gentlemen of Lound Hall cricket club.

Watching a match on a Bank Holiday gives you a good enough reason to avoid the dreadful Retford Charter day "Celebrations" I know the people who plan it mean well and they put in alot of unpaid hours but seriously, its the same old stuff year in year out. It was also nice to watch a match without checking my phone every five minutes to see how Barnet are getting on.

Ollerton is about a 15 minute drive from Retford through the wonderful county of Nottinghamshire and it was nice to see a couple of Nottinghamshire CCC caps being worn. I really need to get myself one of those. It was the normal CML league £3 to get in and £1 for a decent enough programme. It was very interesting to read the club's views on the north/south split for next year and the costs the club could incur if they end up being placed in the northern section.

The ground is decent enough for this level; the pitch is totally railed off with hard standing down one side. Behind one goal is a decent enough sized stand that gave us great cover from the biting wind that was about today even though the sun was out and one or two hardy fellows were wearing shorts.

The game had a real end of season feel to it and as both sides were in midtable neither had anything to play for. The swirling wind didn't make football easy as it was impossible to judge the flight of the ball. Ollerton took the lead halfway through the first half when a corner was half cleared but Ollerton's Jamie Senior reacted first and blasted into the top corner. Neither keeper was particularly busy in the first half as shots on target were few and far between. Harworth equalised with a penalty from Gareth Sides and that's how it stayed till halftime.

The second half was a carbon copy of the first. Ollerton took the lead following fine work down the Ollerton right, the ball was hit in from a tight angle, the Harworth keeper couldn't hold on to it and Jordan Villums slotted home. Harworth again equalised from the penalty spot this time through Kevin Shelley. That's how the match finished although Harworth did finish the strongest, Ollerton had the better chances overall. All in all not a bad start to the footballing week.

Tuesday 3rd of May
Nottinghshire senior cup final Eastwood Town 6 - 1 Carlton Town

The Notts cup final is normally played at Notts County's meadow lane but this years final had been moved north to Mansfield town's Field Mill ground which is better for us fans based in North Nottinghamshire. Mansfield was the first away match i ever saw Lincoln at back in 1995 when the Imps won 2-1. Both managers were sent off and the Stags were reduced to 9 men and Lincoln ended with 10. Over the years i have seen the Stags give Lincoln a few kickings and and we've returned the favour several times. I always looked forward to matches with Mansfield and if we go down will look forward to them again. Eastwood Town were the top ranked team in the cup and the defending champions. Their opponents were Carlton Town; who play there football two leagues below Eastwood. Carlton have impressed me on the couple of times i have seen them play this season so i decided to support them tonight. Plus Eastwood always seem to reach the final and more often than not win it so it would be good to see a different club win it for a change.

As we arrived in good time we popped into the supporters club bar for a swift pint which went down well. It did seem as if Mansfield hadn't but a great deal of thought into the planning for tonight as they seemed to be totally unprepared for just about everything. We got into the ground in good time but people arriving later were held up for while as the mass crowd flocked to the only open turnstile. I believe that they did open another one just before kick off but a fair few people still missed the first five minutes or so. We managed to hunt down the programme seller and paid a quid for the programme which was a poor effort form the Notts FA in my view. No food was available on the night which was a tad disappointing but MTFC'S loss was the Retford Charcoal Grills gain.
At 7.30 the teams took to the pitch to contest Nottinghamshire's greatest non league knock out competition. Carlton in yellow shirts and blus shorts and Eastwood in black and white stripes. Please don't be deceived by the below picture i know the Carlton Town kit and the crowd in the stand behind the goal may fool you but this picture was NOT Taken at a stags league game ;-)

Had some great banter while watching the game with Rob, Malc and Kev which more than made up for the one sided game. After being told they couldn't take part in the Blue Square north playoffs after a 19 game unbeaten run you would have thought that Eastwood would be a little pissed and thirsty for blood. In truth Eastwood could have scored more goals and the six they did get. Carlton weren't too bad it was just that Eastwood were too good.
The Carlton fans did their best to enjoy the night and get behind the side by making a great deal of noise and light hearted banter. Carlton can and have played alot better than this, maybe nerves got the better of them and i also feel they gave Eastwood a little too much respect. Hopefully they will have another good run in the Notts cup next year and if they get to the final they will have a bit more of an idea of what to expect.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Oxford United 2-1 Lincoln City

At 4.00pm the feel good factor was back in my life. By 4.55pm it had gone, as the sorry sack of shit that are the players and management of Lincoln City had managed to bring the gloom of the previous 8 months back.

Friday had been a fantastic day as the eyes of the world had descended on Great Britain to watch the Royal Wedding. As a country we have a terrible habit of talking our great nation down but Friday showed just how great we can be when we put our mind to it and how we can still throw the best parties in the world.

We embarked on the two and a half hour trip to Oxford at just gone ten. The normal topics of conversation were thrown about along with, which Blue Square prem grounds we are looking forward to going to should we be relegated, the harsh and totally unjust treatment of both Glasgow Rangers and Jose Mourinho by UFEA this week and of course the Royal Wedding. Retford's very own Big Bopper Mr Barry Oxby had even organised a street party to celebrate the wedding and had brought along a few cakes for us to eat and they were simply delicious.

Oxford's ground is quite a way from anywhere so we searched for a nearby village so we could sink a few pints before kick off. We found a pub within a couple of minutes drive and all piled in. The pub was called the Catherine Wheel and was still decked out in Union Flags from the Royal wedding celebrations. It was quite empty when we got there but soon filled up with Oxford United supporters. The Ruby Mild ale(£2) went down rather well and had a decent kick to it. The Pub was a real country pub with sandwiches and bar snacks available. I was eyeing up the dart board but after telling the guys at various points in the season about my darting exploits in the early 2000s when the side i played for reached not one but two bottom 4 cup semi finals none of the mere mortals felt up to the challenge of playing me. Another item of interest was the information board for the ladies tug of war team.

Even though its in the middle of nowhere Oxford's ground can be a bit of a bitch to get in and out of as there is only one entrance to the parking area and we were directed to the rear end of it.
Oxford's club shop was quite impressive and was another reminder of how far Lincoln have fell behind other clubs in this division. The range was far wider than at Lincoln and was about twice the size. An Oxford fan asked Baz if he was getting the Oxford home shirt as it was in the sale. (Baz was in his Imps shirt) He politely said no he wasn't. Yellow never was his colour.

It was a glorious summer day and the kind of day that you could really enjoy if your league status wasn't in serious danger. Fans were dotted all around the stadium drinking beer, eating, and generally chilling out. Using the age old theory of food outside football grounds being far better than what's inside we headed to a burger stall that was doing a roaring trade. I played it safe and just went for the Cheeseburger and Chips while my three traveling companions went for the double cheeseburger option. The Stacey West stand's chief steward was also indulging in the cuisine and it is to him the honour falls of rating the food. Gary scored it at a very respectable 8/10.

Feeding time at London zoo ain't got nothing on this!

Some Lincoln stewards were working on the visitors section for today's game. Others by all accounts were taking romantic walks along Skegness beach (According to the rumours anyhow) I will let you decide who got the better end of the bargain. After stuffing our faces we had a stroll around the stadium and picked up the programme. Match badges were also available at £3.00 a throw so i picked up one of those. If this was to be Lincolns last away match in league two for a while then i wanted something to remember it by. Plus having got a FREE match ticket i didn't think it would hurt to spend a few quid. The programme looks quite smart but i haven't had time to read it due to the sunny weather and the pubs all being open!

Lincoln had laid on free travel for this match and many fans had taken up the board's great offer. An Imps win coupled with Barnet failing to do so would have seen us safe and the fans definately seemed up for the match. The question as always though was were the players? Well for 60 minutes or so they definately were.

Oxford's Kassam Stadium is certainly one of the better grounds in the lower two divisions and would be a decent enough model for Lincoln to copy, if we ever get round to moving from Sincil Bank. We were given about a third of a stand down the side of the pitch which gave you a cracking view of the action. One touch i liked about the stadium was the advertising boards being used to display pictures of major trophies won by Oxford. This would be a tad difficult to copy at Lincoln unless we can count Lincolnshire cups; then our honours board would rival the likes of those at Anfield and Old Trafford. The only downside to the stadium is that it is still a three sided stadium. We were glad we parked bit away from the ground as i can imagine a few cars have been damaged with wayward shots in the past and given Lincoln's striking problems this season i could see a few more getting damaged today.

It was a dream start for Lincoln. On four minutes City had the lead when a deep cross from the right was turned in by Cian Houghton, the City support who had been very noisy even in the warm up were even happier when news filtered through that Barnet were losing at Accrington. If it stayed like that, City would be safe and we could all sleep easily. Alas it didn't. City actually looked fairly comfortable. Oxford didn't really cause us too many problems although Parish in the Imps goal looked his normal nervous self. City could have doubled their lead when a Luke Howell piledriver from about 30 yards smacked against the bar with the Keeper well beaten. When you are in Lincoln's position you need these to go in, but they never do. One area of concern was that both Lincoln's centrebacks Danny Hone and Adam Watts both picked up bookings. Parish was also booked as he charged out of his goal, tripping an Oxford player in the process. This lead to Lincoln facing a free kick in added on time at the end of the first half, thankfully it was cleared and the Imps went in at half time 1-0 up. Although Barnet had equalised at this point Lincoln were safe.

Lincoln again took the game to Oxford for the first ten minutes or so in the second half. News came through that Barnet were losing so things were looking good. Ali Fuseini then hit the post after beating a couple of defenders and it was at that point that i knew things were going to go wrong just like at Fulham in the league cup a few years ago, when we hit the post with the score 4-4 you just knew what was coming next and it wasn't good.
There is an unwritten rule in football that if you don't take your chances when you are on top then you are in big trouble. After we hit the post Oxford decided to turn up and start playing. We were forced onto the back foot and didn't create a great deal for the remainder of the match. Defending set plays has been our problem all season and it was from a corner that Oxford scored; Parish flapped at it, got nowhere near the sodding thing, and allowed Asa Hall to score from close range. Oxford upped their game even more and with both our centrehalfs on bookings it made Lincoln's life even harder. At this point Lincoln would have needed a point from the last game to be safe. Lincoln couldn't hold out and when a great finish from Craddock gave the hosts the lead with 15 to go, it looked curtains for Lincoln. Even so the fans really got behind the team and gave some of the best backing since that match at Craven Cottage. Soon after this Danny Hone received a second yellow for a clumsy challenge just to make Lincoln's task that bit harder. Even though we had nothing to lose we never threw the kitchen sink at Oxford which i must blame the manager for. Before Hone was sent off were going to bring a couple of strikers on but that all changed when Hone was shown red. The match ended with Clarke Keltie blasting a free kick into car park behind the open end. The players came over to acknowledge the support at the end then we all trudged out. I must say that compared to recent performaces the players gave us a much better showing and i can't fault the effort. Ability yes, effort no. If they had shown this amount of effort in the previous eight or so games who knows?

A couple of Oxford fans wished us well for next week as we sat in the warm car waiting to get out of the car park and as Baz munched his way through a ham sandwich the reality hit home. We have let a 12 point gap slip to a two point gap to the drop zone with one match to play. Due to our goal difference being garbage, we need to beat Aldershot next week to stop up. If Barnet dont beat Port Vale then we will be safe regardless of what we do, but it's in our own hands. If we can't beat lower midtable Aldershot then we dont deserve to be in league two simple as that.

One the way back we stopped at a service station just south of Leicester. As most people know everything is stupidly over priced at these types of places but i managed to find a bargin. While a couple of us were filling up on over priced coffee i invested in a pack of playing cards for the sum of £1.25! You can't even get a bottle of drink for that let alone something to eat.

The game we played is simply called "Donkey" there will be a special post all about this new smash hit game to follow in due course, needless to say it gave us a good few laughs and the rest of the journey flew by. The aim is not to be the player holding the Donkey card at the end of the game. The Honour of winning the first game of Donkey fell to Lee. Donkey will feature heavily in next season's blog and the cards will be with us at all games so if you too fancy a game of Donkey at half time at any Lincoln game just search us out and you are more than welcome to join in!
Next up though we have to watch a group of asses try to save our league status. If not then Mansfield and Grimsby fans reading are more than welcome to have a round or two of Donkey next season.