Monday, 31 December 2012

December in Impdom

I haven’t written a blog about City since the away trip to Dartford. There are a few reasons for this; the main one being Christmas, but I have also been working on articles and projects for the New Year. Although I can’t go into detail about these hopefully all will be revealed in January and yes they are football related.
After the great win at Dartford, City made the short trip to Mansfield for the FA Cup second round replay, the game was live on ESPN. Nothing to do with the appeal of the game itself, it was more about the prize to the winner; a home tie with Liverpool.

Well as you pretty much all know by now, Mansfield won 2-1. However despite the result I still managed to enjoy the night. For a start it felt like a proper football match. The Imps were backed by just under 1400 supporters who created the best atmosphere at an Imps away match since the playoff years. It also felt strange to be packed in together. Normally at away games over the past few years in this league you are never short of a seat but not on this night. Even when the Imps went 1-0 down thanks to a gaff from Paul Farman in the Lincoln goal the fans never stopped chanting.
Although Farman was at fault for the Stags goal, he made up for it by pulling off a great double save to keep Lincoln in the tie. The stags were slightly the better side and created the better chances but Lincoln held on. Just before halftime Lincoln grabbed an equalizer when Adam Smith sprung the offside trap and produced a great finish to draw the Imps level. His first goal for the club and all the sweeter for him as it was against his former club. In the second half City started like a house on fire and really took the game to their hosts, but unfortunately we failed to capitalise, and the Stags forced their way back into the game and took the lead about ten minutes before the end of the game. At 1-1 the next goal was always going to settle it and that, as they say, was that.

Although Lincoln had come up short the tie was very closely fought. As my good friend Mr Rob Waite wrote, the stags shaded the match something like 53/47. The main difference being that they had a little bit more pace up front than us.  We have faced the Stags three times this season and all three have been close with score lines of 0-0 3-3 and 2-1. Last season Mansfield were far better than Lincoln and totally outplayed us in both games. This season though, at the moment at least, the gap has narrowed somewhat. Whether that’s down to an Imps improvement or a Stags decline is open to debate; personally I think it’s a bit of both.  So good luck to the Stags v Liverpool, although the game is live on TV I won’t be watching. Sheffield United Ladies have an FA Cup 2nd round game v Durham Wildcats at Retford United’s Cannon park so I will be attending and writing that one up 1.00pm kick off if anybody is interested in joining me.

Anyway swiftly moving on; the Imps were without a game the following weekend as torrential rain meant that the Imps game at Macclesfield was called off. The game has been rescheduled for the 5th March. So hopefully the weather will be much better by then and we can enjoy the delights of the Hollingworth Kebab house on the way home.
The next stop for the Imps was a Boxing Day bout with local rivals Grimsby Town at Sincil Bank. Again I missed out on this one. Myself and my friends have a long standing tradition called the boxing day massacre which basically involves going out at 2pm and staying out till no more beer can be consumed. Although a close friend was unable to be with us as he has recently moved to Hereford thus making it tough to get back. He did however receive a drunken phone call just for old times’ sake. I am fully convinced that distance was the key issue here and not the fact then he owed me £10 for the Pittsburgh Steelers victory over the New York Giants. See you in February mate ;-)

 As usual a fun time was had by all, but in my case the first part of the afternoon was rather shit due to the Imps defence leaking goals, this did however speed up my drinking pace. Lincoln City Football Club, driving men to drink since 1884, if you haven’t heard the score then Google it. I am sure as hell not writing it on here. Bloody Codheads.

After the dreadful cod defeat, a few days of Twitter spats between various fans and players erupted; all very entertaining but not particularly helpful to anybody.  One thing however shone through; everybody was jolly pissed off and the players were desperate to put things right in the next home match v Gateshead.
It’s looking like this game could well be my only football of the holiday period (can’t say that I have missed it though). For this game my regular cohorts were unable to attend due to showing a poor level of fiscal budgetary control over the festive period. Pre game was spent chowing down on Fish and Chips at £4 (very nice they were to, may I add) and sinking a few pints in the City Vaults public house before making the short walk to the stadium.  And given the days weather I am glad that it was a short walk. Several games had already fallen victim to water logged pitches but thankfully the Sincil Bank pitch held firm. It had been drizzly all day and it was another one of those days that made me so glad that I packed in stewarding.
The Imps have made several team changes to the starting eleven. Keeper David Preece replaced Farman in goal (who had had a nightmare v Grimsby by all accounts), leading striker Jamie Taylor was on the bench and a surprise inclusion for me was the choice of Paul Robson at right back. When I texted Felice this piece of information he replied with one word; “Shit”. Not a huge fan of Mr Robson is Del.

Although all of this was quite interesting, it wasn’t top of Mr Barlow seniors mind as he had just had the good news that he would soon be able to gain entrance for the concession rate at Sincil Bank; a trick for Baz to try maybe? It definitely felt like the match was a case of ‘after the Lord Mayor’ show’. Over 4,000 Imps fans attended the Boxing day game. Today the crowd was less than 2,000.
The performance on the pitch reflected that of the weather conditions; dull and dreary, the Imps unable to get into any sort of rhythm with moves of more than three passes hard to come by. In Lincoln’s defence however, they did lose two players to injury in the first half. First Peter Gilbert left the field of play with a groin injury, this lead to Lincoln reshuffling the backline with Scott Garner coming on and going to centre back alongside Andrew Boyce, Tom Miller going to left back and Paul Robson shifting to his more natural left back role. Soon after this Gateshead should have taken the lead when a great through ball split the Lincoln defence and was picked up by Jamie Chandler who rounded David Preece in the Imps goal. Fortunately for the Imps however he took a touch too many which gave Andrew Boyce time to get back and produced probably the best goal line clearance that I have ever seen. The only one than comes close to it was Paul Morgan’s effort away at Mansfield in the 2001/02 season. Gateshead looked good in possession of the ball but failed to create any real chances and work the keeper, other  than the previous one described. The Imps created very little and were in my view lucky to get to halftime goalless. The second Imps player laid low in the first half was Imps’ skipper Gary Mills, who picked up a bad knee ligament injury; this lead to the Imps making a second change with Connor Robinson replacing him.  The latest I have heard is that Mills could be out for up to 5 weeks. We of course wish him all the best for a speedy recovery.

The second half didn’t really get much better. Gateshead opened the scoring when Carl Magney was tripped in the box for a penalty. The striker was going away from goal but drew the foul smartly. The resulting spot kick was despatched with ease by Josh Gilles right into the top corner. You won’t see many penalties better and he gave the keeper no chance at all; 61 minutes gone and 0-1 to the “Heed”.
The is an old saying in football, (well actually there are loads of bollocks old sayings in football) that a team is at its most vulnerable when they have scored. Thankfully on this occasion this turned out to be true as just two minutes later the Imps were back on level terms as Connor Robinson latched onto a loose ball to fire a low shot through a Gateshead defenders legs and into the bottom corner. This lead to the best period of the game for Lincoln as we mounted a 10 minute period of pressure; but the closest we came to taking the lead was a Jake Sheridan header. As the game petered out it looked like both sides would settle for a point which is exactly what they got.
I must admit to being a tad disappointed with not gaining the three points but on reflection with so many players unavailable and the injuries taken in the game a point isn’t the end of the world. We now need to dust ourselves down for the return match with Grimsby and see what reinforcements arrive in the January transfer window.
As this is the last blog of 2012 I would like to wish all the readers out there a happy and successful New Year. I hope to have some great Lincoln Ladies, Lincoln City, and Nottingham Panthers victories to share with you all in 2013. Hopefully it will be one hell of a ride.

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