Monday, 28 August 2017

Wycombe Wanderers 2-2 Lincoln City

Cat fact of the day: the longest tail on a domestic cat measured in at 16.34 inches and belonged to a Maine Coon by the name of Stewie of Reno, Nevada.

After 6 long and sometimes grueling seasons, the Imps are finally back in the Football League. The fixture computer had thrown up a trip to Wycombe first up for the Imps; a ground that my goons and I hadn't visited with the Imps since 1998. The Imps got thrashed 4-1 that day in a miserable (from our point of view at least) League One clash. The result left the Imps rock bottom of the table while propelling the hosts to the lofty heights of second from bottom. Apart from being one of the worst performances of any Lincoln game I have ever seen that match sticks out for two reasons. Firstly it was the final game the Bruce Grobbelaar played for the Imps and secondly the wonderfully named Jermaine McSporran hit a hat-trick for the home side. What was the cost of watching League One football at Wycombe back in 1998? 13 of your finest English pounds. Today's admission by contrast for this League Two game was £20 (which seems to be the going rate for this league it has to be said)

One of the brighter spots from Lincoln's time in the National League were some very enjoyable and relaxed away days. I was concerned that things on this front would change but if today was anything to go by, then we are looking at some great days out in League 2 this upcoming season. I always prefer to be away on the opening day and this was one of the most enjoyable ones in my 24 years watching the Imps.

We set off on our way at just after 9 after a hearty breakfast sandwich, and for the first time since Ipswich  we had a full compliment of Retford Imps. We may have changed leagues but some things will never change . Early on in the journey I had managed to spill sauce on my shorts and Lee "Walnut bladder" Housman was true to form and needed additional pee-pee stops. Admittedly after a few beers I make regular trips to shake the snake as it were but only after one or two pints. On this front Lee really sets a new standard. We had planned on one stop en-route to Wycombe but due to bladder issues for LH meant an extra stop was needed.

Apart from that, the journey was pretty uneventful with the normal chatter about football, kebabs and cats (in that order) being the main topic of conversation. Upon arrival we parked up a short walk from the stadium which set us back £5, which isn't bad when shared between a car full but it was noted how the passenger riding shotgun developed short arm syndrome while we were coughing up the cash to park the motor.....

Wycombe's Adams Park is located at the edge of an industrial estate and as such there isn't a whole lot of things to do around the stadium itself, However since Lincoln have been away from the football league "Fanzones" seem to have sprung up in greater numbers than teams Felice has soft spots for. Fanzones are basically outside beer tents with and a burger stall or two where both sets of fans can mingle before the game. It may sound basic but I really enjoy them and long may they continue to grow.

However as good as this was it was the appearance of the huge badge stall that really took the eye (I am easily pleased it has to be said) As many of you know I am a keen badge collector having started my collection over 24 years ago when I was still at school. I have no idea how many I have but they cover 3 scarves and this season I have started on a 4th. When I started out I just collected any badges but I have a little more structure to it all now.
When it comes to English ones I stick to grounds that I have visited. Over time for one reason or another I have missed a few badges so stalls like this are a great chance to fill the blanks as it were. Too that end I was able to pick up a Matlock Town one as well as the latest Maltby Main design. It was also good to get a Sutton United one finally. Felice was in charge of getting them at the back end of last season but alas they eluded him in much the same way the Champions League title has eluded Juventus. Fair play to the lad though he did buy them as he said him would.
20 plus years of collecting right here

We still had a decent amount of time before the game so we sunk a couple of beers and soaked up the atmosphere. At about 2.15 a chap in a suit came round and gave us a team sheet and welcomed us back to the league. A nice touch and another reminder that the Imps were back in the big time.

The Imps away games are all ticket these days (still seems weird saying that) this means that for some games we wont all be sat together. However with a few empty seats in the away end it did mean that we were able to all meet up and all sit together for the second half.

As you would expect the backing from the fans for the Imps first game back in the league was first class. However the Imps were under pressure in the early exchanges as the gap between the National League and League Two quickly became apparent. Lincoln did take the lead however when Matt Green finished off a good move from just outside the box, all seemed well. However the game changed in a crazy 7 minutes when Wycombe first equalised following a corner (in which the Imps marking left a lot to be desired). It then got worse as a couple of minutes later the hosts took the lead when a free kick was covered from just outside the box. It was hard and low and completely took the Imps defence off guard. What made this all the more annoying was the fact that Lincoln had scored a few like this last season so you would have thought they would have been a little more aware of this kind of set piece. Apparently not. It wasn't all bad news in the first half though as I had a rather tasty burger. Felice on the other hand had a crappy half cooked hot dog. It's the small victories in life.

In the second half our entourage was back together as Felice and myself made our way to join Lee, Baz, Josh, and Amer (who has lots of cats).

Within minutes of the restart the Imps were level thanks to on loan Burnley winger Josh Ginnelly's cool finish. After looking like a team of nervous kittens for much of the first half the Imps were the cool cats of the second half and looked much more at home. The fact that Wycombe had a corner in injury time and instead of going for the winner, decided to play tappy-tappy in the corner was a sign of how well Lincoln had played.

Its always good to get in the car after an away day when you haven't lost and reflect on the game. One thing that has helped us do this in recent years is a visit to McDonalds, normally just for a shake but today it was more of a full blown pig out. It seemed quite a few others has the same idea as the queue was one of the longest I have seen and even had Lee shaking like a shitting dog in fear, as he was worried that he would be late home and receive an ear full from his better half. Thankfully it was all ok even though Felice didn't get his favorite Fillet O Fish.

So all in all a great start to the season. Had I been offered a point at before the game I would have snapped your hand off. The fact that the Imps played pretty well too made it all the better. On to the next one as they say.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Lincoln 2-1 Walsall

Cat fact of the day: A cat can jump between five and seven times its own height in a single jump. 

This was the Imps final preseason game of the year thus making it the last time for 11 months you had the chance to watch the Imps stress free and not giving a rats arse about the result. The Imps opponents today were the crowd pulling west midlands footballing giants of Walsall. Apart from being the final chance for the Imps management to cast an eye over a couple of trialists and fine tune things for the season opener at Wycombe this coming weekend this game was also Lee Beevers testimonial game with funds raised from the game going to the popular Imps (and former) Walsall defender.

And speaking of popular Imps defenders, it would be wrong of me not to mention the man who was in the opposition dugout. Walsall manager Jon Whitney was at part of the great 97/98 promotion team and was a huge figure during the reign of John Beck from 95 to 98. Jon was a hard as nails left back who flattened many a fancy winger during his time at Sincil Bank. The guy was the epitome of the fighting spirit of the Imps in that era. Jon joined the club in October 95 and was a part of the side that kicked and fought  their way to safety that season.
I was in my late teens between 95-98 and at the age when we are most impressionable, and it is that era that remains my favorite as an Imps fan. I (and many other Imps fans) were gutted when Jon was transferred to Hull City halfway through the 98/99 season, a move that still makes no sense almost 20 years on. Its fair to say John Beck has his fair share of critics but several of his players from that time have gone on to make capable managers Jon Whitney at Walsall, Gareth Ainsworth at Wycombe, and Terry Flemming who has worked at a respectable level in non league football. Beck was clearly an inspiration to many of his troops.

Sadly even the presence of Imps legends past and present were not enough to get my fellow Retford based Imps along to the game. This is even more shocking given that the admission was a very reasonable £10 and it was pay on the gate. Oh well, they missed a decent enough game (for a preseason game) and racked up the Part Time Twat Points into the bargain.
My fellow Retford Imps take their seats for the big game.

Its been a while since i saw the Imps. In fact i hadn't seen the first team since the 1st preseason game at Lincoln United. Since then the Imps have been on a tour in Portugal where they lost to Benfica B 1-3 and beat Millwall 1-0. Since arriving back in the UK they have lost 2-3 at home to Peterborough and beaten Nottingham Forest U23s 4-3.  The club also played host to Manchester United's youth team when they took on the Imps youngsters. I missed this game and due to Felice attending earned   my first part time twat points of the season. The fixture has a special place in Felice's heart as he has a soft spot for Manchester United and even wore his vintage Mark Hughes replica away shirt from the year the Red devils won the European Cup Winners Cup. Its a bit snug now though mind.

I always like to attend at least one Imps home preseason game. For me its a chance to get reacquainted with all things Lincoln City before the season starts for real. The routine was pretty much the same as normal. Pre match pints in the Anchor, followed by a visit to the Back of the Net Chippy. It has to be said BOTN is a fantastic chippy and a must visit for a Saturday home game.
Proper Fishcake, chips and peas. Yours for a bargain £2.30

 Although i have been in there plenty of times i didn't know that the owners of the place use to live in Florida. This only came about as they spied my Florida Gators T-Shirt. We chatted briefly about the Gators then a went on my merry way. I was tempted to do the "Gator Chomp" but i thought better of it. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this sporting tradition here is a quick video to help you out.

On to the game. I have to be honest here it wasn't really much to write home about. The main point of interest being the appearance of a couple of trialists for the Imps. This is a tad out of the ordinary as you would expect the final pre season game is the one where you would play much of your first choice 11 ready for the opening match of the season. I do not feel there is any need to panic however. Danny Cowley is renowned for taking his time in getting recruitment right and taking the time to get the right players in.
The first half was pretty much a non event. The Imps managed to contain their league one opponents without really creating anything else at the other end. The high point of the game has come at the end of the game when the two teams formed a guard of honor for Lee Beevers as he walked out and greeted the 2,300 plus who has come to show their respect for a player who has never let the Imps down when wearing an Imps shirt in his two spells at the club.

The game did finally liven up in the second half thankfully. Walsall made a much better start to the second half than their hosts and took the lead after some poor Imps defending. Over the course of the preseason the Imps have been shipping more goals than i would like but hopefully this will all be sorted when the rumored new centre-back arrives this week.
On the hour mark the obligatory raft of changes were made by both sides and after all these the Imps started to look more of a threat going forward. They equalized when Josh Ginnelly crossed for Nathan Arnold to head home.
In a throw back to last season Lincoln hit the winner in added time when Sean Raggett headed home when his header hit the post and went in following a corner. The biggest cheer of the afternoon however came when Lee Beavers was brought on for the last couple of minutes. Beevers is still in rehab following his injury but it was great to see him be able to play a small part in his big day and although you could tell it was painful for him to run he was still quicker than 90% of people reading this blog.

So there you have it. Preseason is over the now the action for real begins. I haven't gone into to much detail on the players performance in this game (or the other friendlies) as i have never felt that preseason is the time to pass judgment. There will be plenty of time for that over the next nine months.
So on to Wycombe and my 23rd season watching Lincoln City. A full complement of Retford Imps is expected at Adams Park for the trip to a ground i haven't visited with Lincoln since 1998 (a 1-4 defeat incidentally).
Coming to a League 2 ground near you during 2017/18

Part time twat league standings after the conclusion of preseason.

Lee   19
Amer 19
Felice 17
Barry 14
Adam 2