Saturday, 26 May 2012

The Mind of an Imp Guide to Lincoln Citys pre season games

A couple of days ago Lincoln City released their pre season schedule. As normal, most of the matches are away from home at fairly local locations. I had the pleasure of visiting all but one of them in the last few seasons so i thought i would give you my views and pass on what knowledge i have of the clubs we will face and the grounds that they play at. Bare in mind a couple of these visits were a season or two ago so it may well be worth rechecking public transport time tables etc.
As has happened in other recent seasons, two dates see the Lincoln squad split in two with two games arranged on the same night. This means that everybody gets more minutes under their belts and eliminates the need for endless substitutions. In addition to these away matches we have the Lincolnshire cup final at Sincil Bank (Its our turn for the bye to the final this year) A game with Championship Leicester City and an unnamed opponent at home on the community day.*stop press its against Gainsborough Trinity*

  18th July Worksop Town/ Grantham Town both away

The first matches of the pre season campaign see the squad take on two sides that will be competing in the Evo Stick Premier division next season.(which is two leagues below City)

With Worksop being a mere 7 miles from  Mind of an Imp HQ its a safe bet that we will end up there. Despite its locally i have only visited the ground once before and that was during the season just gone because it was free. Worksop play at their old Sandy Lane ground but are now tenants to the grounds owners Worksop Parramore FC. Incidentally the ground was opened against the Imps in 1992.
The ground is decent enough with plenty of covering in case the great British summer weather takes a turn for the worse. There is a two storey clubhouse in the corner of the ground but the nearby pubs may be a better bet for a pre match drink. They had a decent enough club shop selling the normal old tat ie old programmes and stuff (so Lee will be on cloud nine). As for food i would head into town after the match to the excellent Topkapi kebab house. Trust me its worth it just for the spicy potatoes.
On the pitch Worksop had a disappointing time of it last time after all the hype following their return to the town after three seasons in exile. They have a couple of ex Imp connections at the moment as they are led by former Lincoln coach and caretaker manager Simon Clarke. On the field former Imps Owain Warlow plyed his trade for the Tigers last season. Admission for league matches was £10 which is a tad steep for that division but they did have rent to play i suppose. Strangely enough they attracted larger crowds when they were ground sharing at Retford United.

Worksop Town website.

The other game that evening sees the Imps take on Evo stick south champions Grantham Town. Again only one visit for me to this one a couple of seasons ago and i wasn't too impressed. The ground is on the outskirts of town and is basically an athletics stadium with one main stand and not alot else bar a small covered standing area on the opposite side to the main stand. Grantham had a great season last time out winning the Evo stick south division. Again they had a former Imp on there books in the form of Lincoln's joint most expensive player Tony Battersby.

21st July Eastwood Town  

This for me the the highpoint of the pre season. I have always enjoyed away days in Nottingham and they are sadly missed since Notts County and the Imps went there separate ways. Last pre season we had a jolly  good drinking session in our beloved county city before the pre season match at Ilkeston so i am delighted to see that we are heading back to Nottingham.

This has a jolly boys day on the train written all over it. I have had a look at it and come up with a cunning plan pre game. As for after the game,well anything can happen so its best not to plan anything.

7.03 train from Retford to Worksop
Cup of tea at Worksop station
7.38 train from Worksop to Nottingham
8.45 arrive Nottingham
9.00 Eight/ten item breakfast at Debenhams in Nottingham
9.45-1.30 Drinks in Nottingham city centre.
1.30 Bus out to Eastwood followed by drinks.
2.15 enter ground and drinks in clubhouse.

If arriving by train the best way to head out to Eastwood is to take a stroll to the Broadmarsh bus station. and get the free city bus link to Nottingham victoria centre (it leaves from the last bay every ten minutes or so) From Victoria you need to get a bus to Eastwood. You need to alight at the Man in Space pub. I was here a couple of years ago and the pub was open but i have heard that the pub has now shut. Heres my blog from my last visit to Eastwood to give you more of an idea of what to expect.

Newark Town/Skegness United
Seated area at Newark Town FC

The second double header of the pre season sees Lincoln take a short trip to Collingham to face CML side Newark Town. As you would expect for a step seven club the ground is pretty basic with just a railed off pitch and a small covered stand next to the clubhouse. The clubhouse is decent enough and on our last visit they were serving hot beef rolls upstairs. The only downside about the clubhouse is the framed Boston United shirt they have hanging on one of the walls. Collingham is a quick 5 minutes drive from Newark Town centre and i can recommend that you call in at the Bodrum Kebab house on Castle gate. You wont be dissapointed. Here is a blog a wrote from Newark a couple of months ago.
Newark Town clubhouse

As for Skegness United,well i am afraid that i can't tell you anything about the ground or the club as i have never been there. I have been past the ground of Skegness Town before but thats about it. Looking at pictures of the ground on the internet the ground looks very basic. Sorry i can't be of much use on this one. 

Skegness United Website

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Lincoln ladies 3-3 Arsenal Ladies

After last week's barnstormer of a game between these two sides i had this one down as a tight game, maybe a 1-0 either way. But what do i know? It didn't quite live up to last week's drama but it was pretty damn close. Again we had pretty much everything. Good goals, great saves, dodgy defending, and good hard challenges with no quarter asked and none given. Just a normal day in the WSL at Ashby Avenue then.
The WSL is being covered by ESPN this season and they had chosen this fixture as the main match for their highlights show. I don't have Sky/ESPN so i can't comment on the show or its content. But in a week WPS women's league in America kicked the bucket, its great to see media interest in the women's game here growing and a broadcaster giving it valuable airtime which should help the game grow. From small acorns great oak trees grow and all that.
 The show appears to be fronted by Jacqui Oatley of BBC Radio 5 live fame who, looking at her twitter feed, didn't seem too happy with the toll fee on Dunham bridge (36p for any away fans reading this). Never the less it was good to see her and her team here today and i trust they left with positive impressions of both Lincoln Ladies football club and Lincoln United.
As expected both sides made a couple of changes. For Lincoln Captain Casey Stoney came into defence in place of Meaghan Sargeant. It was tough on Meaghan who had a good game against the Gunners last week but it just shows the strength in this Lincoln squad at the moment. Obviously  i am not as familiar with the Arsenal squad and i didn't hear the sides announced, but i could work out that they had replaced Sophie Harris in goal with Emma Byrne and Jayne Ludlow had come in and taken the Captain's armband. Alex Scott, after her tough afternoon against Jess Clarke last time out, had dropped to the bench.  There may have been more changes but they were the ones that stood out to me. Arsenal had brought a decent number of supporters with them today and most of them seemed to be carrying a rucksack. It must be a London thing. I mean how much stuff do you need to take into a football ground with you?
Both sides created early chances in the opening minutes of the match. Casey Stoney came to the Imps rescue early on when she cleared a dangerous looking Arsenal attack. At the other end Lincoln earned an early corner. One of the features of last weeks match was Lucy Staniforth's delivery from set pieces but her first effort today was well cleared by the Arsenal defence.  The game was starting to settle down with neither side really on top in the first 15 minutes or so. Then on 22 minutes Arsenal created the first bit of quality in the match.
A Lincoln corner was well cleared by Arsenal and hit out to Rachel Yankee who got the better of Sophie Barker and unleashed a great shot into the corner which Hobbs managed to get a hand to but was unable to keep the ball out. Devastating football from Arsenal and a glimpse of just why they have been the dominant side in women's football over the past ten years or so.
Minutes later it could have been two nil. Lincoln were still a little punch drunk after the goal but thankfully Remi Allen came to the rescue with a great goal line clearance.
This did seem to wake Lincoln up and we finally managed to get the front two of Jess Clarke and Precious Hamilton into the game; and they both had a hand in Lincoln's equaliser.
Hamilton unleashed a fierce shot that the Arsenal keeper parried out to her left. Gunners centre back Gilly Flaherty, who had spent much of last weeks game moaning about everything and everything, attempted to shepherd the ball out of play as Jess Clarke pressured her. Jess is the quickest player in the Imps squad and her pace took the defender totally by surprise as she nipped in to de-posses her. A lesser player would have took a shot herself but Jess took a moment, looked up, and played the ball back to the edge of the box. Hamilton stepped over it leaving it for the on rushing Collette Mccallum to unleash an unstoppable shot into the top of the Arsenal goal for 1-1. It was a super finish from the Australian international but i am not too sure that Flaherty will be looking forward to seeing her role in the goal on the highlight show later in the week.
In the previous two matches between the two sides i have written about Arsenal's weakness at defending set pieces. Now obviously i am not coach or expert on the coaching side of the game but if i was the Arsenal manager i would have thought that the first thing that i would have had the players doing at the next training session following the game was to practise attacking the ball and make sure that everybody knew who they were meant to be marking at set plays.
 Not so it would seem, as Lincoln's second goal was quite similar to our second goal last week.

Lincoln won a free kick about halfway inside the Arsenal half on the right hand side as we looked at it. Over came Lucy Staniforth to send over one of her first class deliveries. The Gunners defence dropped off and allowed Megan Harris to head home from 3 yards out unchallenged to give Lincoln the lead in the 39th minute. I would have thought that the Keeper would have been the best person to deal with the ball, but whoever was meant to clear it must have the Arsenal manager tearing her hair out on the sidelines.
Again the game came alive with Hamilton getting booked for an over enthusiastic challenge. Both sides were putting in some strong but fair challenges and the game was well set up for the second half.
HT 2-1

Although i have been to all the side's home matches I have, until today, yet to try the food on offer so just before halftime i broke that duck today. I went for the cheeseburger option at £3.50 and i am very pleased to report that it was delicious with the burger relish really topping it off. A very impressive 9/10 rating. certainly the best burger i have had inside a football ground for a long time.
If Lincoln had slightly shaded the first half then the second half belonged to the Gunners. Arsenal rarely lose back to back games and came out for the second half all guns blazing. Nicola Hobbs in the Lincoln goal pulled off a great save with her legs to deny the Gunners an equaliser about 10 minutes into the second half. Lincoln were playing high up the pitch in a bid to try and catch the Gunners offside and were at times living dangerously.
Lincoln then suffered a set back when Jess Clarke took a knock and was replaced with striker Carla Cantrell. Carla hadn't been on the pitch long when she had a great chance to extend the lead, but Byrne smothered her effort well. On 66 minutes Arsenal did level it up when Lincoln's offside trap was sprung and Little repeated her goal of a week ago when she rounded Hobbs and coolly slotted home.
With Jess off, Lincoln had a big problem as she is Lincoln's ball carrier and the side's best outlet. Sides also respect her pace and do tend to defend deeper when she is on the pitch. With the Jess threat removed Arsenal were able to push further up the pitch and force the Imps to drop deep.
Just when it looked that Arsenal were starting to get on top in the game Lincoln took the lead in the 73rd minute and again it came from a free kick. This time Collette Mccallum took the free kick from the right of the Arsenal goal. It was sent to the back stick and was headed by Rachel Daly. Byrne parried the effort against the post but Daly reacted quickest to bury the rebound in the roof of the net. After notching that she fell to the ground and received the customary pile on from her teammates in much the same fashion that Megan Harris had last week. 3-2 with 20 minutes to go.
It was however a long twenty minutes for the Imps as Arsenal threw pretty much everything they had at Lincoln in a bid to salvage a point. The Imps made another substitution bringing on Meaghan Sargeant for Collette Mccallum in a bid to stop the wave after wave of Arsenal pressure. Hobbs in the Lincoln goal made a couple of top draw saves and it started to look that by hook or by crook Lincoln would somehow hold on then, with 5 minutes left to play Kim Little got between two defenders and looped a shot over Hobbs to level the scores up. This was as they say in football was squeaky bum time.
Arsenal sensed that the momentum was with them and moment later thought they had a penalty kick with the ref turned down much to the annoyance of both their players and fans. Without wanting to go all "Arsene Wenger" i was stood down at the other end of the ground at pitch level so my view of it was one of the worst in the house, so i am unable to say whether it was or wasn't, but the ref didn't give it so that's good enough for me. Yankee who was the stand out player for Arsenal wasn't done yet however and when the Gunners were awarded a free kick deep into added on time she stepped up to take it and i feared the worst. Thankfully she was unable to do a Megan Harris and her shot clipped the top of the crossbar. Moments later the whistle blew and the Imps had claimed a most valuable point. The first points that Arsenal had dropped in the league this season.

I am always the optimist when it comes to football and i view this as definitely a point gained as oppose to two points dropped for the Imps. Lots of sides would have buckled under the kind of pressure that Lincoln faced in the latter stages of the game but the Imps never gave up and made Arsenal fight for every inch. One pleasing aspect for me is the fact that the goals have been shared around the side and we are not reliant on one player for the goals. At the other end i am sure that once we get a settled centre back pairing i think we will look alot more solid at the back. All of the players who have played at the back have done well but i am sure the manager would like to get a settled back four in the not to distant future.
While i am writing about the defence i must mention Rachel Daly who had quite an eventful afternoon. Not only did she grab the third goal and deservedly won the lady of the match award, but she also managed to sustain a black eye in the process.  She has been one of the most consistent players this season and is a very effective attacking full back. She has also had a few unfortunate incidents so far, as she sustained a nasty head injury away at Chelsea earlier in the season. Hopefully today's injury isn't too serious and we wish her a speedy recovery (and hope she doesn't collect any more injurys this season!)

So now that the dust has settled on this little Lincoln v Arsenal mini seires i think it is pretty clear that Lincoln can compete with the very best in this division. Each side has gained a win and the third game has been drawn. I am looking foward to the away game at their place in September and we shall be having a "Jolly boys" away day on the train. Lets hope the Imps play as well down there as they have in these three matches.

The next match for the Lady Imps is at home on Wednesday week when rock bottom Doncaster are in town for the local derby and i for one can't wait. Although i do have a decision to make for that game. I was going to go to the chippy just down the road from the ground for pre match nourishment but after the fantastic burger i had at the game today i am not so sure now. Decisions decisions...

Thanks for reading


Friday, 18 May 2012

Lady Imp highlights

Here's the highlights from the Lady Imp's fantastic win over Arsenal at the weekend. If you notice a goon stood to the left of the goal (as the camera views it) clapping above his head  like a muppet wearing an England test match cricket shirt when Lincoln score their first two goals, that's me! I need to have a word with myself i think. Enjoy the goals. Especially the winner.

 Take a bow Megan Harris!


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Jeremy Goss and all that.

As most people know this weekend sees the climax of the European football season with the final of the Champions League. I will be watching the final at home with a couple of legends of the old Jenkins five-a-side football team. The cans are in the fridge and all preparations for the night are going well. If Chelsea are to win the Champions League they will have to do something only one other English club has done; beat Bayern Munich in their own ground. And that club? Manchester United? Liverpool? Nottingham Forest maybe?
 Nope the Mighty Norwich City back in 1993
Norwich City's exploits in the 1993/94 UEFA cup was the start of my interest in football. So it is with great joy that I have dugout the highlights of that famous night in Munich. Starring Jeremy Goss; a future Lincoln City manager, and those shirts. Enjoy guys.


 Norwich Citys UEFA Cup run 1993/94 

 1st round 1st leg Norwich City 3-0 Vitesse Arnhem 
 1st round 2nd leg Vitesse Arnhem 0-0 Norwich City 
2nd Round 1st Leg Bayern Munich 1-2 Norwich City
 2nd round 2nd Leg Norwich City 1-1 Bayern Munich
 3rd round 1st leg Norwich City 0-1 Internazionale
 3rd round 2nd leg Internazionale 1-0 Norwich City

The following season i went to my first Lincoln City game and that was that. I was an Imp. The strange thing is that although i don't look for Norwich City's results anymore. (I like to see them do well that's about it.) It was their match with Inter and the crowd and atmosphere at the San Siro that attracted me to support Inter and that has stuck with me ever since. In fact i have been a Inter fan longer than i have been a Lincoln fan. Strange eh?

Monday, 14 May 2012

Lincoln Ladies 4-3 Arsenal ladies

Continental cup group stage matchday two

Every football club has matches that are remembered as defining moments in its history. Manchester United's win over Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup which saved Sir Alex Ferguson from the sack. Liverpool's win in the 2005 Champions League final, our very own Lincoln City's 2-0 over Wycombe which gave us the GMVC championship and promotion back to the Football League.
 In my view Lincoln Ladies football club will remember this day in much the same way as the other matches mentioned are remembered by their fans. The day that the rest of women's football sat up and took note. Arsenal have been the bench mark in women's football for the past 15 years and the Lady Imps have never got the better of them. Then ran them close in the FA Cup game at the start of the season but didn't really create many chances. Today they went one better and gained the win.

The Continental Cup is a competition for the 8 sides in the FA Womens Super league. The sides are split into two groups of four teams with the top two sides in each group going through to the semi final stage. Lincoln had been drawn alongside Liverpool, Chelsea, and the holders Arsenal; each side plays the others once. Lincoln had a bit of fortune with the draw as we get to play two home matches (Arsenal and Liverpool) and one away (Chelsea). After the draw its fair to say that most people expected Arsenal to win the group and the other three to fight over the second spot. In matchday one Lincoln scored a good 1-2 away win at Chelsea and Arsenal beat Liverpool away 3-0. All that meant that if Lincoln (or Arsenal) could win today they would claim a semi final spot, so the stakes were high.
I was a bit concerned that the gate for this game could well be a little on the low side. Quite a lot of City fans watch the Lady Imps and quite a few of them had got much sought after tickets for Gainsborough Trinity's promotion playoff final down the road. It was also the climax of the Premiership season and we all know that Lincoln has a high percentage of armchair Premiership fans who rarely go and watch any of the football clubs the City has to offer. In the end the crowd was excellent (helped by a promotion in the local paper) and will live long in the memory of every Lincoln supporter. Arsenal are (as normal) top of the league but (by their very high standards) having a bit of a wobble. They were recently knocked out the Champions League by Frankfurt and lost in the Women's FA Cup semi finals to Chelsea. The Lady Imps have played three league games and recorded a win, a loss, and a draw.

There were a couple of reunions on the pitch today. In goal for Arsenal was former Imps keeper Sophie Harris. Lincoln centre back Meaghan Sergeant was signed from Arsenal in the summer. Imps Captain Casey Stoney has also spent time at Arsenal during her career. Casey, who was celebrating her 30th birthday today, was on the bench today so i can only assume that she was carrying a slight knock. In her absence Sophie Walton took the armband and did a great job at captaining the side. I am not sure this Gunners line up had many changes from normal in it, apart from the goalkeeper, but any side that has the quality such as England international Rachel Yankee and Alex Scott in it is going to cause you problems. Arsenal have quality in all departments and a quality squad through out. In short you never get an easy game against them in any competition.
The Gunners were quick out of the blocks and forced the Lady Imps onto the back foot. They had already  blazed a chance over the bar in the first few minutes before they were awarded a penalty on six minutes when Gemma Davison weaved her way into the box and was bundled over thus giving the Gunners a penalty. Nicola Hobbs in the Lincoln goal guessed right and saved the penalty only for Kim Little to fire in the rebound.
This seemed to wake Lincoln up as we began to attack alot more. In the FA cup match between the sides Lincoln caused the Gunners problems with their set pieces and aerial threat.When Jess Clarke is on form there are very few players in the league that can deal with her and she made several great runs down the Lincoln right. Arsenal then adopted the same tactic as Birmingham did when playing against her. i.e just foul her. Lincoln caused a few problems from the free kicks and corners that she won and it soon became clear that Harris in the Gunners goal wasn't very confident about claiming the ball.
Lincoln looked like they had a decent shout for a penalty of their own when Megan Harris was bundled over in the box when going for a high ball but the ref was unmoved. I thought it was a spot kick but then i would do wouldn't i?
Following another foul on Jess Clarke, Lucy Staniforth sent a killer free kick towards a crowded area which Harris did well to parry out for a corner. From the resulting corner Staniforth again put in a first class delivery which Meaghan Sargeant met with a bullet header from about two yards out to get the Imps back on level terms. The Arsenal keeper ended up in the back of the net along with several other players and appeared to have taken a knock. As she lay on the ground receiving treatment several of the Arsenal players had surrounded the ref and were complaining about the goal and saying it should have been disallowed. Personally i think their skipper Gilly Flaherty took the protest too far and was lucky not to receive a card for dissent (Mouthing off in other words). I think we can deduce that the Arsenal ladies skipper looks to the men's side for advice on how to approach referees.
Goal! 1-1 and no amount of moaning will change it!
 Arsenal were clearly rattled now and had no answer to the set plays of Lincoln, or to Precious Hamilton and Jess Clarke's pace.
Even England international full back Alex Smith was struggling against Clarke, and after yet another foul was booked, and not before time if i am honest. From the resulting free kick Staniforth sent the ball in hard and low towards the near post. The ball took a touch off somebody and ended up in the back of the net. My initial reaction was that Rachel Daly got the last touch but it seems to have been given as an own goal. Either way it was 2-1 to Lincoln and the game had turned on its head in 9 minutes.
It was now Arsenal's time to roll up their sleeves and dig in. Although they had been under the cosh for the last twenty minutes or so they didn't panic and showed why they are the benchmark in the women's game. On 36 minutes Arsenal's Steph Houghton picked up a ball from the right, split the Lincoln centre backs, and drilled a low finish past Hobbs in the Lincoln goal. A cool finish under pressure and game on again. That goal seemed to calm the game down a bit as both sides seemed to be content to sit back till halftime. I felt sorry for Nic Hobbs in the Lincoln goal as all she had had to do was save a penalty, take a few goal kicks and pick the ball out of the net twice.

HT 2-2 We made our journey round the the clubhouse end of the ground which Lincoln would be attacking in the second half. Lincoln were out a good 5 minutes or so before Arsenal were and were put through a series of running exercises by the Imps fitness coach.

The second half struggled to live up to the first with Arsenal keeping the Imps at arms length but the Imps back line held firm against the Gunners. Hamiliton had a couple of good chances and runs, but chances were few and far between. Arsenal then took the lead when Kim Little latched onto a through ball, rounded Hobbs on her left hand side, and slid the ball home to give the Arsenal the lead for the second time in the afternoon. Big test coming up for Lincoln here me thinks.

The Imps didn't let their heads drop and upped their game once again. Midfield enforcer Remi Allen burst into the box and was dragged down thus winning a penalty. She dusted herself down and took the penalty and sent Harris the wrong way to level up the scores on 77 minutes. The game was turning into a classic and you couldn't pick a winner. Then in the 90th minute cometh the hour cometh the Imp.
didnt get the zoom to work in time. Doh
Lincoln digital ambassador Megan Harris who has been at the club for the last 9 years or so said in a recent Q&A on facebook that she really wanted to add some goals to her game but i am not sure that even she envisaged getting a goal like this. In the last minutes the ball fell to her 30 yards out Megan then met it on the volley and struck it sweetly into the top of the net giving the keeper no chance at all I have seen 90 games this season and i am sure that i haven't seen a better goal than that. It was a sublime strike that no amount of description for me can do justice to. The goal brought the house down and you could tell how much the goal meant to the Lincoln players as they did a mass pile on on top of Harris. Even Nic Hobbs ran 3/4 the length of the pitch to join in!
As normal in a situation like this he added on time seemed to drag but eventually the ref blew up for time and the Lady Imps had done it. They had beaten Arsenal, and thanks to Chelsea's 2-1 win over Liverpool, had booked their place in the semi final.
Pile on!!
In a performance like this is is really tough to pick out a lady of the match. Everybody had a great game and worked their socks off, you don't get a result against Arsenal unless you have all eleven players on top form. Despite Megan's wonder goal i would give the award to Lucy Staniforth. Her set pieces were top draw all afternoon. She took all the free kicks and the corners (from both sides of the pitch)  Arsenal never looked comfortable at defending them and they were the main difference between the sides.

The upshot of all this is that Lincoln now have 6 points, Arsenal and Chelsea each have 3, with Liverpool on 0, rock bottom of the group and eliminated for the tournament. If Lincoln gain a point at home to Liverpool in the final round of games they will win the group. Arsenal take on Chelsea in a winner takes all clash. However Arsenal do have the better goal difference.

Now that all the men's football has finished there isnt any excuse for not getting yourself down to Ashby Avenue to suport the Lady Imps. Next Sunday they are at home again this time back in League action. The opponents?...Yep you guessed it, good old Arsenal again. Something tells me they will be out for revenge...

Bring it on!!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Euro 2012 sticker collection

I have been collecting these for a few weeks now and have a fair few swaps. To view the list just click the Euro 2012 tab on the top of this blog. If you can swap any just get in touch by either leaving a comment or "Tweet me"
Happy collecting.

Monday, 7 May 2012

The best and worst of Lincoln City 2011/12

Yes folks its that time of year when i look back at the highs and lows of Lincoln City's season and pick out my favourite moments of the last nine months

Player of the season . Joe Anyon
Improved player of the season Tyrone Thompson
Underated player of the season Nicky Nicolau

Best Home performance. 

1st Lincoln City 2-0 Southport
2nd Lincoln City 4-0 Tamworth
3rd Lincoln City 1-1 Mansfield Town

Although towards the back end of the season Lincoln's home form picked up and the goals started to flow against poor sides like Tamworth and Darlington I enjoyed the evening match against Southport more. On that night we pretty much dominated a side that spent all season in and around the playoff area and made them look ordinary.  I have put the Tamworth one in there because it came at a time when the sides around us were all picking up points and it was looking like the relegation battle was going to be a lot closer than it ended up being. The local derby against the stags is in there due to the fact we were in a state of limbo on the coaching front yet came away with a point against one of the best sides in the division. It was also in my view Joe Anyon's finest game in a City shirt. I am told we played well in the 1-1 draw with  Luton and the 1-0 win over then league leaders Gateshead but i wasn't there so i can not include them.
Worst Home performance

Lincoln City 0-0 Carshalton Athletic
Lincoln City 0-2 Kettering Town
Lincoln City 0-1 Alfreton Town

City did put in some truly dire performances at the Bank this season. (I seem to write that every season) so once again there was plenty of contenders for this award. However the FA Trophy 2nd round match at home to Carshalton Athletic takes the award hands down. This match saw City fail to create one decent chance at home against a side three leagues below them. Its not as if Carshalton were having a good season either as they went on to finish in lower midtable in the Ryman Premier division but they comfortably held City in this match.
Second up on the hall of shame came the 0-2 defeat to Kettering Town way back in September. The Poppies had a dreadful season in the BSP last time round finished bottom of the division after shipping in 100 goals and finishing up with a goal difference of -60 and had plenty of off field financial problems that lead to them having 3 points docked. However despite all this they did manage to take 6 points from Lincoln City and keeping two clean sheets in the process. In the game at Lincoln the Imps did start the game well and missed a couple of decent chances however when Kettering took the lead in the second half City just simply curled up and died. What made it worse for me was that i had a friend at the game who had flown the best part of 4,000 miles to watch this crap. This was one of Kettering's three away wins all season.
In third place is the Alfreton game when City were crap from the first whistle to the last and barely created a chance of note. This game was also responsible  for one of my worst hangovers of the season.
All smiles before the Kettering Town Home game

Best away performance 

1st Hayes and Yeading 1-2 Lincoln City
2nd Fleetwod Town 2-2 Lincoln City
3rd Alfreton Town 1-3 Lincoln City

It may seem strange to place a win against a side that finished 4th bottom above a game that City pushed the run Champions so closely. The reason that i have done so is because of the circumstances going into the game. Before the match City and were only separated from Hayes in the last relegation spot by goal difference. It was simply a game that Lincoln couldn't afford to lose. Early in the 2nd half City were really under the cosh but weathered the storm to take a vital three points. Relive the drama here. The point at Fleetwood was on paper the most impressive result that City gained in the 2011/12 season and one of our best performances in the last few seasons. Again relive the glory here. In third place came the 3-1 win at Alfreton which was the first game after the club parted company with Steve Tilson. Despite the dreadful weather and stadium City played some great football and the atmosphere in the City end was fantastic. You could tell by the City players reaction at the final whistle how much the three points meant and how glad most were that messers Tilson and Brush had been removed. 

Worse away performances. 

1st Grimsby Town 3-1 Lincoln City
2nd Braintree Town 1-0 Lincoln City
3rd York City 2-0 Lincoln City

In a way i was slightly lucky here. It is widely regarded amongst the City faithful that the three worst Lincoln away performances were the 3-1 defeat at Carshalton, the 4-0 drubbing at Tamworth and the 2-1 defeat at Bath City. All of which i missed (Although Baz did have the honour of seeing the first two) So again i can not include them. We were awful in the derby on New Years day. Its never nice losing to Grimsby but to lose to the twats twice in a week is just too much. We never really looked like getting anything and were outplayed from start to finish. At Braintree we never got stuck in and Braintree just wanted it more. It was as if the players just couldn't wait to get back on the bus and get home. The match at York was pretty much over as a contest after about 5 minutes when York scored. 

Best jolly boys away trip 

1st  Colywn Bay 
2nd Braintree away (Blue square hop day)
3rd  Barrow 

With this award i look at the whole away day experience. The journey, the banter, the beer and food, and the game. When Baz picked me up i was already buzzing from the night before and getting to the ground nearly two hours before kick off gave us plenty of time to drink and top up from the night previous. So when you add together the factors of a City win, lots of beer, and a Hollingworth Kebab on the way home you get the perfect away day. This was also one of the most controversial away days as Felice keeps changing his story as to why he missed the game. First it was because he was at work; which was denied by a fellow worker, then it was because he was watching his lad play in the morning (that game was called of at 9.00am a full hour and a half before we left Retford) The truth is out there but alas may never be uncovered.
This is Colwyn!!
In second spot came out jaunt on the Blue square groundhop. Three games in a day. The first two matches were very enjoyable and we met some interesting characters along the way. Once again only Lincoln's performance (If you can call it that) put the dampener on the day. On the plus side we did all get free T shirts.
When the fixture list came out one game really stood out. Barrow away on a Tuesday night in September. It was immediately marked down as a "Must do" We set off at just gone 1 and arrived at just gone 6. Again it had all the perfect ingredients, decent pubs, a great kebab, and a real old school ground. The only downside was the piss poor performance from City.

Best place for a pre match drink

1) Barrow Clubhouse
2) Colywn Bay clubhouse
3) The Woking Snooker club.

Really hard to separate the top two. In the end i went for Barrow as it was a tad bigger but there really wasn't much between them at all. I could quite happily spend a couple couple of hours drinking in either of them without a care in the world. It is yet another lesson to clubs like Braintree, Hayes, and Fleetwood etc that if you let away fans in the clubhouse we will behave and put some cash into there club via the bar. We wont bite promise. On the whole most places were quite friendly to us in 2011/12 but i must say that Barrow were the friendliest and the only one that didn't bother with segregation and fair play to them. Another plus is that Barrow sell teamsheets in their clubhouse for a mere 20p.

Best chip shop

1st Regal fish bar- Lincoln

We ceased eating in football grounds a while ago preferring to find out local chippys to pig out pre game. Over the course of the season we have tried a few chippys but none can compare to our very own one in Lincoln that we use for home games. The one at Alfreton was decent but the wait was to long even though there was only about 3 people in the queue in front of us.
Although Grimsby had the better of Lincoln on the pitch in the chip shop battle we reigned supreme. The fish and chips we had there were by far the worst of the season. The fish was ok but the chips were truly dreadful.

Kebab of the season

 1st Sultan Kebab shop (Woking)
 2nd Hollingworth Kebab (Way back from a couple of games)
3rd Mr Kebab (Braintree)

This is the category we most enjoy judging. Due to the amount of evening games we did in the BSP this season we got to judge plenty. I am happy to say that we didn't really have a bad one all season. I have gone for the one we had in Woking before the Hayes and Yeading game was it was a very traditional type and cooked fresh. Nothing fancy just good honest cooking at a great price. Third place goes to Mr Kebab in Braintree. The only Kebab shop we visited that sold bottled beers in the shop.

Best Grounds visited.

 1st Fleetwood Town
 2nd Southport 
3rd Barrow

Fleetwood have spent quite a bit of cash on Highbury and you can not help but be impressed by it. How many other lower league grounds have Sky Sports on a flat screen TV in the home end toilets? At the other end of the spectrum but in a way just as nice was Southport and Barrow. Both old school proper football grounds and great places to visit.
Main stand at Southport

Worst Ground visited

1st Alfreton Town

Only going to name one here as it was by far and way the worst ground we went to this season. And thanks to the great god of cup draws we got to visit there not once in 2011/12 but twice within a matter of weeks. I never like to slate clubs especially a team that is playing at this level for the first time but its really hard not to. For our first match there we were penned in a corner of the ground with no cover as it pissed it down all evening. The shallow rake of the standing guarantees  to give you a poor view of the match wherever you stand and the metal fencing separating the pens just makes this problem worse. The annoying thing about all this is that given the home sides average attendance they could easily just give the whole of that end to the away fans and alot of the problems would be solved. There is a bit of cover at that end and fans could spread out a bit more. We were given an extra pen for our FA Cup game but it was only opened when it became obvious that we it was overcrowded in the section we were allocated. You would hope that the club will be a bit more prepared for their second season in the BSP but i wont hold my breath. Quite a few City fans didn't rate Braintee very highly  but at least we had the choice of  watching the game from either the side of the pitch or behind the goal and there was plenty of covering so i can't complain too much.
Braintree Towns main stand

Programme of the season

1st Stockport County
2nd Cambridge United
3rd Kiddeminster Harriers

Worse programme
1st Kettering Town
2nd Grimsby Town
3rd Braintree Town

Over the season i have collected most of the programmes from this season both home and away. The only three that i need are the Darlington, Telford, and Ebbsfleet away games. Stockport had a great programme last season in league two and have continued the good work this time around. Even at £3 its great value with plenty to read and a smart design. Pride of place still goes to darts player Tony O'shea's column.
It may be harsh to slate Kettering from their programme given the off field issues the club has gone through but there is no dressing up the fact that its £2 for 20 pages which includes 5 pages of adverts. All the stats and the away section supplied by the away club. All of these leaves very little to read. I have seen better efforts from sides further down the pyramid this season at the same price or as in many cases cheaper. Grimsby take the second place due to the awful CD case size of the programme. As for City's i would like to see us revert to the A5 size favoured by quite a few clubs this season and maybe a bit more content. Certainly a bit more information on the away sides would be nice.

Worst excuse for missing a game this season

1st Valentines day meal at McDonalds (Felice)
2nd A trip to Lego Land in Manchester (Baz)
3rd At work/watching a game that got called off/the cats ill (Felice for the Colywn Bay trip)

Turning point of the season

In my view the main factor in Lincoln City's upturn in fortunes in the final 5th of the season was the signing of centre back Tom Miller. Up until then one of the main weakness of the City side was the soft spot and lack of organisation in the heart of defence.  Although Gowling is a great attacker of the ball and quite often makes great last ditch tackles he isn't really an organiser on the pitch. This is the reason that David Holdsworth made John Nutter the team Captain while keeping Gowling in the club Captain role. While Richard Hinds was with us he and Gowling looked strong at the back but when he left we never looked as good with Rob Williams at the back. Nottingham Forest loanee Karlton Watson looked decent in the few games he played and i can't help but think he would have been a better prospect than Williams. As soon as City recruited Miller we looked alot more solid and he also weighed in with the all important winner at Hayes and Yeading. At the time of writing Miller is still in contract neogations with the club so lets hope we can get him signed up ASAP as i feel that if we hadn't have signed him our fate this season could have been so very much different. 

Lincoln City goal of the season

1st Gavin McCallum v Bath City
2nd Tom Miller v Hayes and Yeading (more for the importance than the goals quality)
3rd Jon Nutter v Newport County

Character of the season

As you would expect we meet quite a few of these on our travels this season. The winner is a guy that went by the name of Gary and took an instant shine to Lee on the Blue Square ground hop. The chap shared Lee's love of football programmes. Although he couldn't quite understand that Lee isn't a West Ham United specialist. I think he got confused with Felice who has a soft spot for the Hammers. Having chatted to him at the first two matches he seemed genuinely disappointed that we were going in the Lincoln end in the last match. knowing that football is quite an unpredictable beast i am sure our paths will cross again at some point. 

Shafting of the season

Felice Decolle v Random Groundhopper (See pic below)
Lincoln City 5-0 Darlington
Lincoln City 4-0 Tamworth
Well thats about it for the Lincoln City awards 2011/12 i hope you have enjoyed it and congratulations to all the winners. Of course there are no prizes on offer. Just the honour of a mention on this blog which had its highest viewing figures ever last month. Many thanks for reading and i hope you enjoy it and continue to do so in the future.


Friday, 4 May 2012

Happy Star Wars day!

Lets celebrate Stars wars day with a video. May the fourth be with you my friends.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Bridllington Town 2-2 Retford United

Quite a mouth watering game here in prospect. The NCEL Premier division title was on the line. At the start of the day Bridlington Town were two points ahead of second place Retford United. Retford did however have a game in hand. So i will just go over the three outcomes and what they would mean.

  • Bridlington Town win. Bridlington Town win the championship.
  • Retford United win. Retford United win the championship.
  • A draw. Retford would have to win their game in hand Tuesday night to win the championship. Anything less than the three points for the Badgers on Tuesday would hand Bridlington the championship (Retford opponents Tuesday are midtable Thackley) 

Retford were meant to play Thackley on Thursday night but due to the terrible weather we have been having over here, the game was called off at 1.00pm due to a water logged pitch. It would have been nice if it had been played as it would have meant the championship would have been decided today but there was no way it could have been played given the pitch. We travelled to the game in two car loads today. Felice was treating his good lady to a morning's bird watching and paddling on the sea front. The Jolly boys car left a tad later at 11.30am or so. Thankfully the weather was holding out as a midweek replay trip up to Bridd didn't really appeal. Radio 5 live were live at St Marys commentating on Southampton's victory over Coventry which gave them promotion back to the Premiership. This meant that West Ham (A side Felice has a soft spot for) were condemned to the playoffs. I chose not to text him the result but instead asked him what birds he had spotted. He must have been busy because i didn't get a reply to my question asking if he had seen any Parrots, Blackbirds, or Great Tits.
We pulled into the ground at just gone 1.30pm and made our way over to the fish and chip shop just over the road from the ground. Fish and Chips came in at £4.10 and came in a cardboard box. Well everybody else's did, i somehow managed to get mine served up in a tray. Maybe its because i am "special" either way they tasted very nice and if you can't get decent fish and chips at the seaside where can you get them?  Baz rated them with a good 8/10. Quite a few Retford fans had made the trip up and they, like us, were tucking into fish and chips.
We still had  some time to kill before the match so we headed to the clubhouse which is outside the ground. The bar was doing a roaring trade and it was good to see lots of faces from Retford in. The Newcastle Brown ale went down very well, although much to Baz's relief i didn't consume anything like the quantity i did when we went to Colywn Bay (although i was tempted to have a session after the first one went down very well)
Club shop
The admission price for today's championship decider was a mere £6 with the programme coming in at £1.50. The programmes, along with other club merchandise, is available from a small hut to the left of the turnstiles as you enter the ground. It was doing a roaring trade as when we got there, there were only 15 or so programmes left. Plenty of home fans were buying scarves etc but i made do with a pin badge for three quid. The ground is a real old school type of venue. We had the normal stroll round it as we waited for Felice to arrive. The main stand to the right as you enter the stadium is by far the best stand in the ground offering a mixture of both terracing and seating with the directors seating on the halfway line. Its a pretty unique stand which is good to see.
Main Stand.
View from inside the stand.
As you walk behind the far end of the ground you get half the end covered and half uncovered. The ground is on a slight slope with this end being at the bottom of it. So from here you are looking up at the action.
As we make our merry way around the ground we come to the infamous "Bus Shelter" side. This seems to be the place that the more vocal Brid home fans stand to watch their football. The covered stand is situated on the halfway line just behind the two dugouts. The sides either side of the shelter are uncovered.
The final side of the ground is the side that we entered the ground on. There is no covering on this side just a few porter cabins, the food hut, and an entrance into the clubhouse. Again the foot hut seemed to have quite a few customers although the queue seemed quite slow moving.
I hope you enjoyed the pictorial tour of Bridlington's stadium. I don't normally take that many pictures of the grounds that we visit so seeing how i did for once take quite a few, i felt it was only right that i share them with you. Felice, Mrs Felice and Felice Junior arrived and debriefed us on there birdwatching exploits. Although  Felice's good lady didn't seem overly excited about the days exploits; saying something along the lines of if that was a first date then he wouldn't get a second one. So that's one to remember all you men out there if you are planning to take a lady out for the first time then a day out in Bridlington bird watching on a windy day followed by a NCEL match may not be the way to her heart. Not to sure if they saw any Tits on there birdwatching trip but he was good enough to bring me some tits that he bought from the sea front. I enjoyed sucking on these Sunday afternoon.
As for the match, Retford were awful for the first twenty minutes or so and barely strung 2 passes together. After all the rain we have had it was no surprise that the pitch was rather heavy. The grass had also been left quite long which meant that it was hard to pass the ball accurately over long distances. Bridlington looked more comfortable on the ball and looked good in the air. This was causing Retford plenty of problems. I have seen Retford quite a bit this season and although they are an excellent football side and create (and take) plenty of chances, they do tend to struggle at times in the air as they arent really a physical side. Brid took the lead on 15 minutes though Craig Hog when he rose unchallenged from a corner to head home. Understandably there was a large crowd in and with all that was hanging on the game it wasn't a huge surprise that the game didn't quite live up to its billing. Just when it was starting to look like Retford were going to get over run they equalised on 30 minutes when Carl Snowden fired home from the edge of the box following some nice build up play. The travelling Retford support went barmy and even prompted a one man chant of "Brett Marshall's Black and White army!" The rest of the half was pretty even as that Retford goal took the wind out of Brid's players (and supporters) sails.

We went round to the other end of the ground (towards the goal that Retford were attacking for the first half) Quite a few Badgers fans were packed behind the goal and were roaring their heroes on. Retford took the lead on 65 minutes when Karl Slack latched onto a through ball, rounded the keeper, and coolly rolled the ball into the back of the net. As it stood Retford had the championship in their grasp and the fans got ready to party. Retford had a golden chance to wrap up the game, the championship, and promotion when substitute Carl Haslam tried to lob the keeper but saw his effort float wide. Its on moments like this that games are won and lost and all too often incidents like this come back to bite you on the arse. Retford were dominating the game now as Brid struggled to close them down. Retford thought they had scored a third when they bundled the ball home from a corner but it was (rightly) chalked off for handball.
Then came the sickening blow. In the 90th minute Brid forced a corner and yep you guessed it they scored.   This was followed by 6 minutes added on time of which the homeside totally dominated, thankfully the ref blew time and called an end to proceedings.
At the end of the match Retford manager Brett Marshall lead the players over to the Retford fans, who had backed their team brilliantly all afternoon and applauded them.  Likewise the fans returned the applause to the players. Who have played some great football over the season in difficult circumstances.
Donning my Retford hat i was quite happy with the result. Although some may have been a tad disappointed not to have wrapped up the Championship today, the main thing in my view was not to lose it today. Brid have the best home form in the division so a draw here was a decent result. Although Retford still have to win Tuesday night it is still in their own hands. Had you offered anybody at the club the scenario of needing to win the last home game of the season to win the championship i am sure they would have bitten your hand off. With the title on the line it should be a good attendance at Cannon Park on Tuesday night so if you arent doing anything that night then get yourself down. Although after all the rain we have had Sunday lets hope the game is able to go ahead.
Elsewhere in the football world..
Lincoln City's disappointing 2011/12 campaign ended on a high note with a 3-2 away win at Ebbsfleet United. Gainsborough Trinity confirmed their place in the Blue Square North playoffs and will face FC Halifax Town over two legs. Good luck to them.

Next season we will welcome old friends Maccelsfield Town into the BSP following their relegation from League Two. So thats another decent away trip for next season. All we need now is for Barnet to join them although is looking more like it will be Hereford United who take the drop. Never mind though thats another new ground that i need to do. :-)