Underestimate Lincoln City At Your Peril – Notes for Lincoln
Friday, 6th Jan 2017 11:00 by HarryFromBath
HarryfromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup third round tie at Portman Road by delving into their forums.
“We could not have asked for a better set of results this weekend”, “A great set of results and back to the summit of non-league football”, “Times like this make it worthwhile”, “I remember standing on a terrace at Carshalton in the FA Trophy several years back. I could only dream of Ipswich.”
“It has been a great run, one to be proud and grateful for.” Lincoln go into Saturday’s third round FA Cup tie quietly confident of pulling off an upset. They currently lead the National League, sitting two points clear of nearest rivals Tranmere with a game in hand and they are joint-top scorers in the division.
Sunday’s home win over Guiseley avenged an unlikely Boxing Day loss to the same opponents, a first defeat after 17 games unbeaten in all competitions. The Imps’ undefeated run included a 3-2 victory over Oldham in the FA Cup second round and a hard-fought 2-1 triumph over Tranmere just before Christmas.
“What a team we have, absolute men of steel”, “This team has provided us with great entertainment and restored pride into the hearts of us Imps”, “They have a much stronger mentality to those of previous years. Things are looking extremely promising”, “Top of the league and all that jazz.”
“Mr Cowley need not be nervous. He has our full support”, “He has brought a huge feel-good factor to the club and supporters which we haven’t felt for years”, “It has been a fantastic appointment, I am really pleased for him and the club”, “We have found the right man, now back him to the hilt.”
The 37-year-old led Concord Rangers to three successive promotions before taking Braintree Town to a third-place finish the National League play-offs last season where they lost to Grimsby Town. He combined his job as Iron manager with work as a PE teacher before taking over at Lincoln last May.
“We can really go places together.” Danny is assisted by his brother Nicky who worked with him at Braintree. Imps have praised the balance of the sides they have selected, their ability to get across their thinking to players and fans, and the clever tactical changes they have made during games.
“Listening to Danny reminds me of how Graham Taylor was in his Lincoln days. He is always quite open about explain on tactic and players”, “He is intelligent and articulate, and often gives a point of view or information I would never have thought about”, “I never get tired of listening to him.”
“What a management team we have”, “Danny sees a problem and fixes it”, “Credit to him for getting substitutions and tactical changes spot on”, “He has brought in excellent players and appears to be a man who doesn’t panic under any circumstances”, “Hang on to them both for as long as possible.”
“We have a good balance of decent football and, more importantly, effective football that produces results”, “We can play pretty and stylish football but we can win ugly when we need to”, “With our players cup-tied and youngsters on loan, we probably won’t be able to fill the bench at Ipswich.”
“I think we need reinforcements.” With a tiny squad to choose from, Saturday’s line-up is likely to be similar to the starting XI (above) which kicked-off on Sunday at home to Guiseley. Cowley has set his teams out in a 4-4-2 shape, only very occasionally switching to a three-man midfield late in games.
Goalkeeper Paul Farman has conceded goals recently when failing to deal properly with high balls but otherwise has been consistent. Captain Luke Waterfall and 6ft 5in tall Sean Raggett are regarded as a solid central defensive pair and they have also scored 11 goals between them this season.
Bradley Wood is the more adventurous full-back but some of his tackling has made Imps nervous at times. Wood and winger Terry Hawkridge have been targeted more on the right by opponents. Sam Habergham is a good foil for City’s most dangerous wide threat, 10-goal left winger Nathan Arnold.
“I don’t think Alan Power and Alex Woodward work especially well in central midfield. They don’t have enough pace and are two essentially defensive players.” Power is praised for his industry and work-rate while Woodyard can dictate a game with his passing if given time and space on the ball.
City’s top scorer is 6ft 5in target man Matt Rhead and he has also been praised for his wider play. His partner Theo Robinson brings energy and running and has struggled for form although he came good against Oldham when scoring twice. Adam Marriott is a tricky and very dangerous bench option.
“Time to start looking at how the front two are made up as it’s not offering enough with the current pair starting every week”, “Our front two don’t seem to be hitting the net lately. I fully accept the part they play in providing space for others but they need to contribute a few more goals as well.”
Imps have praised the way the team can play stylish passing football but also mix things up and are able to be more conservative if required. They would like to see more goals from their front two but a season’s haul of 64 goals in all competitions highlights the contribution the team as a whole has been making.
Lincoln 3 – 1 Guiseley (New Year’s Day)
“Two words, joy and relief”, “A fantastic result, a massive moment in the season”, “The result was great but we struggled for an hour”, “The worst-case scenario happened with us conceding early. It allowed Guiseley to park the bus in the first half and we couldn’t convert possession into chances.”
“Well, that was a rubbish first half”, “There is no pace to our game and we are creating nothing”, “The Ipswich scout must be grinning.” The visitors went ahead on 12 minutes when Habergham miskicked a Guiseley cross into his own net. “All the possession but no intent going forward.”
“Adam Marriott comes on to replace Robinson and wins a penalty straight away.” Imps at half-time were worried but the introduction of Marriott on 55 minutes changed the game. Adam Power put the Imps level with a spot-kick which the substitute won two minutes after arriving on the pitch.
“This is entertainment”, “It has all kicked-off.” A dramatic finale saw Guiseley’s Adam Boyes given a second yellow card on 80 minutes. Sean Raggett headed City in front from a corner on 87, Guiseley’s Danny Lowe was then sent off on 88 and Nathan Arnold added a third for City on 90 to secure a win.
“Blimey, Guiseley have had two players and their manager sent off”, “All hell broke loose in the last 10 minutes. After their first red card, it was a bombardment”, “Well, that was harder than it needed to be but ultimately it was incredibly satisfying”, “Talk about a game of two halves.”
Guiseley 2 – 1 Lincoln (Boxing Day)
“A bad day at the office”, “That game had a draw written all over it but Guiseley got a freekick which they proceeded to pump into our goalmouth. In the driving wind, it was a lottery they won”, “We only looked good for the last 20 minutes of the first half when we had Guiseley on the ropes.”
“We need to get a hold of this”, “We are really under pressure here.” Guiseley’s Will Hatfield opened the scoring for the Lions on 12 minutes when he fired home after a move down the Imps’ right flank, but Luke Waterfall levelled for Lincoln on 26 with “a powerful header” from a Nathan Arnold corner.
Guiseley’s striker Michael Rankine and City’s Elliott Whitehouse were dismissed for second yellow cards in the last 10 minutes before Paul Farman fumbled Hatfield’s freekick in the 90th minute and allowed the ball to spill over the line in the driving wind. “Conditions were far from normal.”
“Guiseley won every second ball and seemed to want it more. Our deliveries were poor through the game”, “We were defending in the second half with a 40mph gale blowing straight at us”, “When on a winning run, complacency is always there in the background silently riding on your shoulder.”
Lincoln 2 – 1 Tranmere
“It’s a red and white Christmas”, “Sincil Bank is rocking”, “Imps top at Christmas, a brilliant result today and I am made up for Marriott”, “Tranmere looked a good outfit and played some decent stuff without much cutting edge”, “A draw would have been a fair result but we probably just edged it.”
Nathan Arnold nodded City in front on three minutes after Matt Rhead flicked on a Sam Habergham long throw but the visitors equalised with a Jeff Hughes penalty on 29 after City’s Callum Howe was adjudged to have caught Andy Mangan. “Tranmere have been better but it was never a penalty.”
The winning goal in this top-of-the-table clash came on 81 minutes when Nathan Arnold and Matt Rhead combined to allow substitute Adam Marriott to rifle home the winner. “The second goal was just a superb move and finish and exemplified the difference between Marriott and Theo Robinson.”
Lincoln 3 – 2 Oldham (FA Cup Second Round)
“Can’t sleep, need sleep”, “Phew, take a bow, the mighty Imps. We did it the hard way”, “What a night, to a man they were all heroes out there. We’re a lot more streetwise than we used to be”, “We are more dangerous when we play away from home”, “I’m going for a little lie down.”
“This is too easy.” Robinson headed City in front on 22, Hawkridge pounced on an error to score two minutes later and Robinson chipped in a third on 47 to set the Imps up for a comfortable shock win, but Peter Clarke and Billy McKay replied for Oldham on 70 and 73 to set up an anxious finale.
“We sat back too much and needed to step it up again near the end”, “We went off the boil. We did not tire but back-pedalled”, “Three-up and delirium but we switched off for a few minutes and it was squeaky bum stuff. There was never any thought of caving in. We dug in and grafted to the end.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Paul Farman had a reassuring performance against Oldham, especially when they piled the pressure on at the end.” The 27-year-old ex-Gateshead keeper “didn’t panic when it came to back passes for a change. His decision making was good and he was impressive dealing with one-vs-one situations.”
“Farman’s weakness is so obvious and has not been cured. Any ball in the air and he often flaps”, “He seems to have serious problems in the air and fails embarrassingly to catch the ball”, “Any team in the National League will be aware that he is weak in the air and pepper him with high balls.”
Farman failed to control a Guiseley high ball having made a similar error in City’s recent FA Trophy win over Nantwich (at 3:45 in the above video). “Farman’s blunder was inexcusable but hopefully he has used up his season’s quota”, “I have often said he’s a good shot stopper but a constant flapper.”
“Bradley Wood plays with 100 per cent commitment but needs to calm down a bit.” The 25-year-old former Alfreton right-back “is all action”, “Wood defends with tenacity and gives us a good outlet on the right flank”, “His passing can be loose but he makes important biting and thunderous tackles.”
“Wood gave us energy and drive at Guiseley when others were flat”, “He is tenacious and hard but lacks quality at times on the ball”, “Against Oldham he put in some crunching tackles again. The lad really would run through brick walls for us”, “It was a typical tough-nut and rugged performance.”
“Sam Habergham quietly goes about his business and never seems to panic.” The 24-year-old former Braintree left-back “couldn’t sort his feet out for his own goal against Guiseley but he is very clever at using space in the final third to deliver his crosses”, “Sam has a lovely composure about him.”
“Almost every Oldham attack came down Habergham’s flank but he coped well”, “He is good going forward with some decent crosses but does drift inside. Teams take advantage of the width offered”, “Sam is much better when he gets wider and further forward. He can impose himself on the game.”
“Jamie McCombe was a complete rock in defence given his injury problems.” The 33-year-old former Huddersfield and Stevenage centre-half is a bench option but played for the suspended Sean Raggett against Oldham. “Jamie got his head on most things and his experience was huge on a big night.”
“Play your best side if fit and that means playing Sean Raggett.” The 23-year-old summer addition from Dover “is our best centre-half. His left foot also offers balance to our team and he can score goals”, “Signing him this summer was a ridiculously impressive bit of business”, “A 6ft 5in tall monster.”
“Raggett defended with his usual panache against Guiseley on Sunday but he was unusually hesitant at times”, “He looked like Bambi on ice when trying to do the basics with the ball”, “He has a habit of following through in tackles and accentuating nudges into pushes. Both habits need to be curbed.”
“Luke’s better defensively than Raggett.” The 26-year-old former Wrexham centre-back “is decent at the back and can win the ball well in either box”, “He’s a real leader and very solid at the heart of the defence. He has grown into the captain’s role”, “He is consistently excellent. Not a lot gets past him.”
“Captain Marvel”, “Waterfall had a good game against Guiseley on Sunday, making several crucial interceptions”, “He was rock solid and very vocal throughout the Oldham game although he lost his man for their first goal”, “Luke is very strong in the air and is the rock at the heart of our defence.”
“Alan Power is unspectacular but he adds some muscle and guile in midfield”, “He always gives 100 percent and is an asset to our midfield especially in big games. He never stops running and tackling.” The 28-year-old ex-Rushden and Diamonds man “wins lots of tackles and keeps the ball moving.”
“If Power loses the ball he generally wins it back”, “He scored a cool penalty and was actually looking to make things happen and take the initiative when we were behind against Guiseley”, “A strong-tackling midfielder and seems to have learned his strengths and limitations alongside Woodyard.”
“Woodyard is the sort of midfielder every side needs as he seems to have so much time on the ball and is never reckless with it.” The 23-year-old summer arrival from Braintree, “is not as imposing or dominating as earlier in the season but he is a competent player and keeps things ticking over”.
“Alex must avoid playing too defensively”, “He struggles when he doesn’t have time to pick his pass. He was very quiet against Oldham. He was outmuscled a few times but was disciplined and effective without ever being his best”, “He looks a class player and is your go-to man in moments of crisis.”
“Jack Muldoon has pace but not the ability.” The 27-year-old ex-Rochdale man has mostly been used as a substitute. “His fresh legs ensured that we kept up the tempo against Oldham albeit on the back foot and he helped us see the game out”, “He has been bit-part but his direct pace is a real asset.”
“Terry Hawkridge was the weak link in the first half against Guiseley on Sunday. He was too narrow and had no attacking intent at all. At times, it looked like he was the full-back.” The 26-year-old ex-Scunthorpe winger “improved in the second half, looking in front of himself rather than behind”.
“Hawkridge is a clever player but if only he had pace he would be perfect for us”, “A good player but he lacks the pace to give us an outlet when we are under pressure”, “Wingers who aren’t particularly quick often come inside because they can’t beat their full-backs”, “A little too anonymous for me.”
“Typical classic Arnold, great footwork and intelligent play.” The 29-year-old former Grimsby man “is one of the best technical players we have had in years, a great footballing mind”, “He’s a constant threat at turnovers and on the break”, “He takes up excellent positions to initiate counter attacks.”
“This chap should be gracing the higher divisions”, “Arnold’s movement drags players out of position and he knows how to finish”, “He offers pace down his flank and is a reassuring presence in the team with his pressing and probing”, “His influence and work rate make him a class player at this level.”
“Adam Marriott has such great feet and balance and he is a natural finisher.” The 25-year-old ex-Stevenage man “had made a phenomenal impact from the bench. His energy turned the Guiseley game on Sunday. He has a nice touch and good vision and some of his link up play is a delight.”
“What an impact”, “Marriott has magic feet and gives us something nobody else has”, “Cowley talks about his intelligence from the bench. Adam watches the match and knows exactly what to do when he comes on”, “He provides class and guile, he controls the ball and controls the play around him.”
“For all of the abuse we get for playing direct to Rhead, why wouldn’t we when he wins pretty much everything?” The 32-year-old ex-Mansfield striker “won every aerial challenge and bullied Oldham’s backline”, “He is a handful for defenders and his link-up play is better than he is given credit for.”
Oli Banks of Oldham Athletic in action with Matt Rhead
“Rhead was well shackled by Guiseley on Sunday but he did produce some lovely touches and flicks”, “Their screening of their back four meant that our diagonals to Matt were less effective than normal”, “Oldham doubled-up on Rhead after the break in the FA Cup game and he was far less effective.”
“Matt keeps defences occupied, assisting goals and passing impressively with his head and his feet”, “He is Mr Reliable, getting stuck in and keeping on his feet most of the time”, “A beast who battles, fights and wins the lion’s share of flick-ons. He is not always helped by Robinson’s performances.”
“How many opportunities is Theo going to get? I hear the same phrases about him time after time in every game. The only time he actually came good was when he was on television against Oldham”, “I am a fan of Robinson’s but his effort levels don’t seem to have been too high in the last few games.”
“On his day, he’s a player we have to play.” The 27-year-old former Huddersfield, Derby and Port Vale man “puts so much pressure on opposition defences. He never gives up lost causes and runs himself into the ground”, “I was worried about his finishing but he left no doubts against Oldham.”
“Theo adds more pace than anyone so if you take him off you have to find it elsewhere”, “He has chipped in with a few goals but his touch and finishing are not great”, “He runs his socks off but is high on effort and low on quality”, “After his Oldham performance, I will let his poor games slide.”
Imps’ Views on ITFC and the Game at The Time of the Draw
“Bloody Ipswich, imagine if it was a Manchester United tie”, “An awful draw”, “We shouldn’t fear Ipswich. We will be massive underdogs. We can play with freedom and just see what happens”, “Whatever happens, let’s just enjoy the day and the chance to take on a Championship side.”
“They deserve a good reward for that, what they get is bloody Ipswich away. It’s a shame.” Amid the euphoria of their win over Oldham on the night the draw was made, there were grumbles over an unglamorous trip to Portman Road. “Never mind, it’s a bit disappointing but we could get a result.”
“I live not far from Ipswich and the locals are not impressed with them. There is a lack of confidence and quality about them and they will not look forward to us turning up”, “Ipswich are not having a good season and I have heard a fan or two having a go. A draw and then a winnable replay.”
Imps’ Wider Thoughts on ITFC and the Game
“The mood on the Ipswich forum is pretty bad”, “Their main forum is very upset about Mick and the way the season is heading”, “Ipswich lost at home to Stevenage in the EFL Cup earlier this season and many of us would say that Lincoln are a better side than struggling Stevenage.”
Having overcome their initial disappointment, most Imps are keenly anticipating Saturday’s game. Their forecast poll has been getting more optimistic as the week has progressed, with 26 per cent of Imps now predicting an away win and 46 per cent a Town victory. Many expect a high-scoring game.
“Some interesting observations from one of the Ipswich forums. Most think they, incredibly for fans of a Championship team, will struggle to beat us. They could select a seriously weakened side to face us as they reckon boss Mick McCarthy doesn't 'do' cup competitions and not many will be going.”
“McCarthy on the upcoming cup tie: ‘I haven't given it too much thought’. That's our team talk done then Mick, nice one”, “He usually rests key players for cup games so we should be able to give them a decent game”, “He says he hasn't given the match much thought. Oldham did the same thing.”
“I just watched the QPR v Ipswich game. I actually think Theo Robinson should start. The Ipswich back four didn't look to me to enjoy players pressurising them and I think he could terrorise them if he gets about them”, “Josh Emmanuel is pacy and Sam Habergham could have his hands full.”
“Adam Webster is their Sean Raggett although he got caught out with a ball over the top for the QPR winner”, “They looked vulnerable to the long throw and Rhead’s flick-ons could be a vital weapon if team mates can get onto them”, “I was not overly impressed with their strikers’ movement.”
“McGoldrick looks to be their danger man. He moves around well making things happen. He can get into dangerous positions in and around the box. Lawrence is on loan from Leicester and is a promising young player. His dead ball kicks were excellent and he scored a peach of a goal from 25 yards.”
“It should be fun with Raggett and Waterfall at set pieces”, “Can you imagine a teenage centre-half [sic] trying to mark Rhead?”, “I can't see that any of their centre-backs will be looking forward to playing Rhead or will any of the Ipswich forwards be keen to face one of Bradley Wood's ‘special’ tackles?”
“Portman Road is an impressive place to visit, knowledgeable fans who like good football too. They are suffering a bit under McCarthy. The Cowleys will know all about Ipswich. Lots of people in their part of Essex support Ipswich. We need to keep their [owner] away from them after the match.”
“It's grim at Ipswich at the moment. McCarthy should have gone this time last season at the latest. We have a lot more than a very slim chance. The Cowleys will have a plan, we will be organised and competitive and you just know we will give them one hell of a game and could well win the tie.”
“This is the sort of stuff that as an Imp you think only happens to other teams but it's happening to us now. Believe it mate we have a real chance”, “Underestimate Lincoln at your peril. They may be fifth tier but there is nothing non-league about the way they play or many of their players.”
The busiest Lincoln City forum is the friendly and well-informed Vital Lincoln.
PS One small footnote to add is that the highlights clips above contain some traditionally partisan local commentating.
Photo: Action Images
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