Saturday, 12 January 2013

Lincoln City 2-4 Newport County

Something a bit different today. Not lots of words and i will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Today the Imps hosted high flying Newport County and after the 4-2 kicking we received at Southport manager David Holdsworth promised the fans a reaction.

Felice couldnt make it today as his automobile had damaged its suspension. So off he went to the garage.

No Barry either as his good lady had told him that there was plenty of jobs that needed doing around the house; D.I.Y being the main one.
All this meant that i had to watch this shit-fest myself. Oh well never mind.

Things didn't start very well for Lincoln as Lincoln keeper Paul Farman was beaten from 25 yards out at his near post. A poor piece of goalkeeping on 22 minutes and the Imps were behind.
On 37 minutes Newport doubled their lead when City full Back Paul Robson messed up a back pass by playing it straight to Newport striker Aaron O'Conner who ran half the length of the pitch and finished well. 0-2

Worse was to come however. On 37 minutes it was 0-3 due to some more crappy defending from Lincoln.
On 44 minutes however we saw a chink of light as the Imps pulled one back through a smart header thanks to Vadaine Oliver. So was the fightback on? NO. Newport made it 1-4 just a moment later which was the signal for me to head for the..
So there we have it. The first time i have ever left Sincil Bank at half time. I am sorry but if the players can't be bothered to do the basics of football then i am afraid that i can't be bothered to sit in the cold and watch them. The Imps did make it 2-4 in the second half but who cares? Maybe Newport showed us mercy?

Friday, 11 January 2013

Dunkirk 3-1 Tiverdale

It’s safe to say that the 2012/13 season won’t be a vintage one for non league football in Nottinghamshire. Eastwood Town; who for so long have been by far the strongest of the traditional non league sides in the county, have been rooted to the bottom of the Evo stick premier division(step 3) all season following their comprehensive relegation from the BSN last time around. You would have to be a brave man not to beat on them achieving (if that’s the right word) a second relegation on the trot this time around. A league below we find Hucknall Town(step 4) anchored to the bottom of the Evo stick division one south. Life is never dull at Watnall Road; the club is on it’s third management team of the season amidst a backdrop of boardroom chaos. The club have been forced into signing a group of step 7 players with a recent result being a 13-0 defeat at Loughborough Dynamo when only 8 players turned out for the club; again relegation is looking the most likely outcome. It’s a far cry from the summer when we visited with the Imps in pre season and everything looked bright for the club. Rainworth and Carlton also play their football in this league however neither is really setting the world alight this season. Down to Step 5 in the Northern Counties East league, and we find Arnold Town in the bottom third of the table and on their second manager of the campaign. Champions Retford United are also having a much tougher time of it this time around being in a midtable position. I haven’t seen much of Retford this season so I can’t comment on what’s going right/wrong but looking at the local press player turnover does seem a tad on the high side.
Into step six and the EMCL, and we find 4 of the 5 Nottinghamshire sides in the bottom half of the table. On the plus side though in this division Basford United are continuing their rise up the pyramid and currently sit top of the league. Down at step 7 it’s a mixed bag as we have Newark and AFC Mansfield top of the CML South and North respectively, with Harworth in the mix in the North as well. However, to balance it out both divisions also have Nottinghamshire sides at the bottom with Blidworth propping up the south division and Welbeck the North. One of the sides doing reasonably well this season is Dunkirk of the Midland Football Alliance (step 5) before today’s round of matches they sat in 6th position in the league. I decided to do a game in Nottingham today and then attend the Nottingham Panthers v Coventry Blaze match in the evening. It never a hard decision to visit Dunkirk. It’s easy to reach via bus from the City centre, there is a decent little clubhouse at the ground, and the standard of the football in this division is generally quite decent from what I have seen. The train into Nottingham was full with a good number of Forest fans who were all looking forward to their FA Cup match at home to league one Oldham. Forest had dropped the ticket prices down to £12 and most fans seemed very confident of victory (chortle chortle). As I had some time on my hands before I needed to head out to Dunkirk I nipped into Walkabout in the town centre and caught some of the Brighton v Newcastle FA Cup game on the big screen. I have been laid low with a virus since Wednesday and didn’t really feel like drinking, so a mere coke was the order of the day for me. Any Newcastle fans watching would have needed something a little stronger though I fancy. If you are planning to visit Dunkirk FC (and you should be if you haven’t been) then you need the 48 dark blue bus for Clifton and alight at Clifton Bridge North. The follow the subway down, turn left then when you come to the roundabout take the exit than says Lenton Lane (also got signs for the golf course). Follow this round past Greenwood Meadows FC and a posh looking restaurant and you will find the ground.
Given the amount of rain that we have had recently the players were warming up on the pitch outside the ground. The clubhouse is outside the ground so I piled in there for a decent cup of tea (£1) and caught the final few stages of the Newcastle game. The clubhouse was doing a decent trade with the Tiverdale committee and a handful of fans in there along with a couple of non league wags. The star item in the clubhouse is current Lincoln City midfielder Jake Sheridan’s Notts County shirt which is framed. Jake came through the famous youth system at Dunkirk many moons ago along with Wes Morgan of Nottingham Forest. Given Forest’s result today in the FA cup they may be back to Dunkirk ASAP to see if there is any more talent there that they can snap up. The entrance fee to today’s encounter was a mere £5 with a fantastic programme costing £1. Although the programme may not be full of pretty pictures, fancy graphics of crappy quizzes it does have more stuff to read in that than you can shake a bag of ferrets at. It has league tables, results and round ups from step 3 right down to the Notts’ senior league plus a large amount on the visitors and of course the home side. There is also a decent section on the Nottinghamshire senior cup, the biggest prize in semi professional football in Nottinghamshire.
As you would expect given the large amount of rain that we have had recently the pitch was quite heavy. This of course made passing football a little tricky but both sides did try to keep it on the deck as much as possible. It was however quite a physical game and early on there was a lengthy stoppage while the Dunkirk centre half received some treatment. I was stood to the left hand side of the Dunkirk dugout and it was interesting listening to their views on the game. It was refreshing to see coaches coach and encourage their players instead of just bawling and shouting at the officials all game.
On 31 minutes the games first controversial moment happened as Tiverdale were reduced to ten men, after Adam Hill was sent from the field of play for kicking out at a home player. The player didn’t seem to complain too much as he trudged off but I must admit that I didn’t see the incident as clearly as I would have liked to. This did lead to lots of niggley fouls from both sides but there were two challenges from Tiverdale players that in my humble view could have been straight reds. The Dunkirk management team seemed of the view that those challenges were worse than the sending off incident. On 41 minutes Dunkirk took the lead. A long range shot was sent in, only for the Tiverdale keeper to spill the ball into the path of Kieran Wells who buried the ball from close range. Dunkirk’s joy though was short lived though. From the kick off Tiverdale put a smart passing move together which ended in a tame shot from Mathew Jukes which somehow squirmed under the homeside goal keeper. Both goals were keeping errors and it would have been interesting to have had Felice’s view on them as he made plenty of goofs like these in his career and would have known what they did wrong. Today however he was ground hopping at Rainworth Miners Welfare. No game for Barry Oxby however as he was working followed by chilling out at home listening to a bit of Billy Ray Cyrus. He likes a bit if Bill Ray does Barry.

 HT 1-1
 It was getting a tad chilly so I retreated to the clubhouse for the halftime break. The Imps were losing 1-0 at HT. Glad we didn’t go to Ebbsfleet then. The clubhouse was quite full , however the sound of complaining Birmingham accents was the prominent noise that one could hear; and it’s not a nice sound believe me. Second half and Dunkirk really got hold of the game by the scruff of the neck and made their extra man count. They re-took the lead on 57 minutes when a long range shot took a wicked deflection to totally wrong foot the Tiverdale keeper. For much of the second half I was amused by the constant complaining and moaning by a Tiverdale director who only seemed to be able to spot the mistakes of the officials and missed the mistakes/fouls of his own side. It was a bit of a poor show on his part I felt and if the biggest thing that you can moan about is the number of the home dugout staff that are standing then you maybe need to readdress your priorities. Dunkirk added a third deep into stoppage time to seal three very deserved points. All’s well that ends well. Even Lincoln scrambled a point with the last kick of the game. In the evening we watched the title chasing Nottingham Panthers grind out a tight 1-0 home win over the Coventry Blaze. All in all I have had worse day’s sports wise. Now if I could just shake of this sodding cold everything would be looking up.

Friday, 4 January 2013

The Lady Imps head back to the Bank

 Since the end of last season there have been plenty of discussion and rumours flying around amongst Lady Imps fans as to where Lincoln Ladies will be playing their football in the 2013 season. Today it was announced that the club will be hosting league matches at Lincoln City’s Sincil Bank Stadium. A venue that hosted some of the club’s matches in the 2011 inaugural FA WSL season and in my view the best stadium in Lincolnshire. Personally I think that it is a great opportunity for the club and I am quite excited by the prospect.

 Before I go on to the reasons why I think this could be a great springboard for the club it would be wrong of me not to thank Lincoln United for all they have done for the Lady Imps over the past few seasons and all the hard work the ground staff and committee at United have put in to providing a suitable arena for the Ladies to play at. It must be hard to produce a pitch that is going to be in use pretty much all year round but I think by and large they can be very proud of their efforts. I have always enjoyed games at Ashby Avenue (Both United and Lady Imp games) and wish them all the best for the future

 As for the future I can see two major advantages of playing at Sincil Bank for the club. The first one being location, for people reading this that haven’t been to the Bank before it is a mere 10 minutes walk from the town centre, railway and bus stations. The high street is packed with pubs aplenty and there is also a good number of places to get something to eat on the approach to the stadium. Although personally I hope that the club retains the services of the people who ran the catering team last season. Being central does make it easier for fans to attend matches and for the club to run promotions as more people in the city know where Sincil Bank is. Secondly is the Stadium itself; at the risk of jumping the gun I would imagine that the club will open the Main Stand (Echo Stand) up for the matches. This has a capacity of roughly 1600 which should be ample for us. This stand also houses a recently refurbished bar and hospitality areas which will give the club an area for entertaining sponsors and offering them hospitality thus opening up new revenue streams that the club didn’t have access to before. There is also a padded seating area in the stand so guests of the club will be able to watch the game in comfort from the best view in the house. The rest of the stand also offers a great view of the action and with the fans all in one place we should be able to get some atmosphere going and get behind the girls.

 There are also plenty of other benefits. From a players point of view the upgrade in changing facilities will be most welcome I would imagine and with City employing a full time ground staff team the pitch will be better thus allowing the Lady Imps their natural passing game which at times was held back last season due to the pitch. It could also be a powerful tool in player recruitment. As I would imagine it would be hard for a player to not want to play in a stadium like this. Another interesting angle is that playing at Sincil Bank would give us a much better chance of being selected for a live game on ESPN. We missed out last season but we must be strong contenders for a game now given our new surroundings and supplying 5 players to the recent England national team training camp. Of course the big test will be if the move gets more punters through the gate. Although there are no guarantees that attendances will rise, a quick look back at Lady Imp recent history points to some encouraging facts. In the 2011 season when home matches were split between Sincil Bank and Ashby Avenue the club averaged over 500 a game with last year’s average being somewhere in the region of 350. Going back a little further in January 2002 the Lady Imps (who were working their way up the footballing pyramid at the time) faced Everton at home in the 5th round of the FA Cup The tie was staged at Sincil Bank and drew a crowd of over 1,500 for the game. Lincoln may have lost 2-7 after taking the lead but it showed that there was an appetite for women’s football within the City. Fast forward a few years to the 2007/08 season and The Lady Imps found themselves in an FA cup semi final against Arsenal. Again the match was staged at Sincil Bank and was watched by over 3,000 fans. Now I am not saying that we will attract crowds like those last two matches I mentioned, but it does go to show what could be achieved and the potential that is out there.

 As always, change is a little daunting for some people and I can understand if some fans have concerns about the ground move especially those that haven’t been to Sincil Bank before. I hope the reasons I have listed above and eased your concerns a little and we can all look forward to an even brighter future for the Lady Imps in our new home.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

My sporting hopes for 2013

 Five Things I want to see happen in 2013

Seeing how i am not at the Lincolnshire derby and public transport is nonexistent on New Year’s Day I thought I would write about some things I would like to see happen in 2013 in the sporting world. Knowing my luck none of them will come to fruition but I can dream can’t me.

Lincoln City to continue their steady improvement.

Over the past couple of months there has been a steady improvement from the team on the pitch, the financial side off the field (due to the cup run) and the mood amongst the fans. After a shaky start to the season the Imps steadied and have spent much of the last couple of the months in mid table. Now although being mid table in the 5th tier of English Football may not sound very impressive at least  the club feels as stable as it did before Peter Jackson left. We must however be on our guard. This season the league is much closer than last time around; last year you had Fleetwood and Wrexham who broke away at the top of the table, and at the other end Bath, Kettering, and Darlington who were cut adrift. No such breakaways have happened yet this season which means that a bad run could easily put a mid table side back into the relegation scrap. On the other hand it means that a side can go into any game and feel it has got a good chance of getting the three points. Lincoln have recorded a couple of great away wins at top six sides like Dartford and Wrexham but have dropped points at home to sides like Ebbsfleet. As a developing young side I would expect this kind of pattern of results to continue. At the halfway point in the season we have collected 30 points. Should we match that in the second half we should be comfortably mid table.
On the topic of the Imps It has been refreshing to see the fans get off the managers back. David Holdsworth is never going to be everybody’s cup of tea as a manager, however I do feel he deserves some credit for this season.  Going back to pre season he was vilified for re-signing Jake Sheridan and Nicky Nicolau. Fast forward and Sheridan has had a much better season than last and many fans are asking why Nicolau isn’t in the side. Funny how football can change isn’t it? I am not saying the guy hasn’t made mistakes, he has, but the “tinkering” that he was famous for last season hasn’t been half as bad as it was last time out. Credit must also go to Grant Brown and Chris Moyes who have been instrumental in the Imps improvement. I do however think that we can’t go down the “If we win its Grant’s hard work and if we lose its DH’s fault”. Win as a team and lose as a team and all that. Attendances have also slowly risen recently so let’s hope that this also continues into the New Year.

Lincoln Ladies compete for a Champion’s League place.

European football was the aim for the club in 2012 and for the reasons I wrote about in their season review they didn’t make it. Since the season ended the club have really rolled their sleeves up and shown their intent. Keith Bonas a hugely respected manager in the women’s game has been brought in to manage the side on a three year contract, a move that has certainly raised a few eyebrows amongst followers of the women’s game. Many see him as a future England manager and has a great record in women’s football, with his time in charge at Charlton being one of the rare times that Arsenal’s dominance at the top of the English game was challenged.
As if that wasn’t enough the club really put a cat amongst the pigeons by signing England’s first choice goalkeeper Karen Bardsley. They have also added back up in the goalkeeping area by signing England U23 keeper Ashley Baker. This brings the number of Lady Imp players in the latest England squad to five. There are still areas of that side that need work. The left hand side being the main one, but with all of last season’s key players signed up again (bar one) the club is in a good place at the moment, and with Birmingham at this point in time looking weaker than last time out it could be Lincoln’s time. With the club really making an effort I hope than the Lincolnshire public really get behind the club and a few more fans flock through the gate.  This is the club’s 3rd FA WSL season and its third manager. So with that in mind I hope we see some continuity in the manager’s chair.

Internazionale return to the Champion’s League.

2011/12 was a nightmare for Inter. Due to Italian sides’ poor shows in the Champions League over recent years Italy now only receives three Champions league spots. Last season Inter failed to get in the top three and so missed out; condemning them to the Europa League. Like so many clubs Inter don’t have the finances that they once had with the big time spending of the late 90’s long gone. This has hailed a new outlook from the club putting youth at its centre. Inter’s youth system is one of the top ones in Europe and the clubs victory in the 2011/12 Next Generation series backs this point up. Inter have had some great victories this season under visionary young coach Andrea Stramaccioni. Earlier in the season Inter triumphed over Milan in the derby and smashed Juventus’ 49 unbeaten run by beating them 3-1 in their own stadium. However the side has been inconsistent as results like a 2-2 home draw with Genoa has shown. At the winter break stage Inter sit in 4th place in the Championship level on points with Fiorentina in 3rd. The table is incredibly tight with four points separating 2nd to 6th. Although I don’t expect Inter to win the championship, entrance to the Champions League is essential for both financial reasons and the clubs standing in Europe. It is getting harder and harder for clubs not in the Champions League to attract players. You only have to look at Liverpool to see that. 
England retains the Ashes.

In 2012 Cricket really took a back seat in the sporting world as the Olympics and the European football championships took centre stage. This year Cricket once again provides the sporting highlight of the summer as the Aussies are in town for the biggest series in world cricket. Although both sides are in transition I feel England are still stronger and have enough to retain their crown. It won’t be as one sided as the last series though so expect some fireworks and I will go for a 2-1 England win. The series begins in Nottingham on 10th of July. This is a huge honour for Nottingham and firmly places Trent Bridge as the second best and respected cricket ground in the country after Lords.

Panthers Smash the 1956 "Jinx"

At the time of writing the Panthers sit top of the league and have been in devastating form. In recent games they have put 6 goals past Belfast, 8 past Dundee, and slammed 8 in away at Coventry without reply. They were however brought down to earth with a 9-4 beating away in Sheffield on the 27th of December. January will tell us a lot; all the league fixtures are against sides in the Panthers’ conference (by far the stronger of the two conferences). Should they remain top of the standings on the 4th of February then club has a very real chance of finally bringing home the holy grail of a League Championship.

And five that are tongue in cheek and a little more unlikely to happen.

1)      Lee Houseman attends three consecutive Lincoln City Games.
2)      Barry Oxby to attend a Ladies football match.
3)      Felice to use the phrase “If I remember rightly” and be proved correct.
4)      Lee Houseman to smash the 30 games for the season barrier.
5)      For us all to be healthy wealthy and wise in 2013 (2nd two very unlikely).