Impressive Rise from Non-League - Notes for Lincoln City
Friday, 17th Sep 2021 15:00 by TomTheWriter
Ahead of Ipswich Town’s first away trip for over a month to Lincoln City, TomTheWriter assesses the mood in the opposition camp.
With the pressure rising on the backroom staff at Portman Road, Ipswich Town travel to the LNER Stadium still looking for their first three points of the season.
Their opponents, Lincoln City, have been recovering from their 2-1 play-off final defeat to Blackpool last season and have started the season slower than they would have liked.
Off the back of the trip to Wembley, the Imps have picked up two wins so far this season, alongside two draws and three defeats. They find themselves sitting in 15th place in the league, four points and six places above Town.
Anthony Scully was imperious in front of goal last season, Tom Hopper offered strength and stability as the lone striker with Lewis Montsma providing a surprise goal threat from the centre of defence.
“[Michael] Appleton will turn it around, eventually”, “I think Appleton deserves massive credit. Not only for operating on a small budget but for also having the contacts to bring in quality loans which presumably allows us to operate on a small budget”, “Mr Appleton has worked a football miracle to get us here, but he has to take the flak for that total non-performance [against Blackpool.]”
Appleton was appointed as manager of the Imps in September of 2019 after the departure of the Cowley brothers to Huddersfield Town. Appleton had been the assistant manager to Craig Shakespeare at Leicester City having previously had spells in charge of West Brom (caretaker), Portsmouth, Blackpool, Blackburn and Oxford.
“I think Appleton would agree his tactics were off the mark to begin with”, “Appleton doesn't use wingers but his wide forwards he likes them to play on the opposite side and cut in allowing the full backs to provide the width”, “I would've liked [Appleton] to go at them with pace and trickery.”
Appleton’s Lincoln side performed above expectations last season. His long list of contacts within the Premier League allowed him to utilise the loan market to his advantage and he looks to be doing the same last season.
Fall at the Last
“I'd hoped for a good performance - the wrong result was never going to disappoint me after the wonderful season we have enjoyed but it was a shame to end on a low-level show, particularly compared with what has gone before”, “In summary, we are a work in progress and, depending on summer recruitment, could well be up there again next year. well done to the players”, “We are a young team we will get better take the rough with the smooth.”
At the beginning of the 2020/21 season, Lincoln City were expected to improve upon their mid-table finish the season before, but not to the level that they did. Appleton took the Imps all the way to Wembley, to face a Blackpool side in red-hot form.
“Today was one hell of an experience and worth every penny”, “Blackpool fans sang constantly, but hardly heard a peep out of our lot”, “Frustrated if anything, Blackpool was the better side today, our main players just didn’t show up”.
The side from Lincolnshire were unable to capitalise on an early lead in the final and eventually fell to a 2-1 defeat and have to face another season in League One. Appleton gave the Lincoln fans one of their best seasons in recent memory and he will look to repeat that feat this year.
Lincoln City have a history of big turnovers when it comes to player incomings and departures. Last season saw 19 players arrived at the LNER Stadium and 21 players head the other way. This season, Appleton went for fewer comings and goings.
“He has improved dramatically and deserves a go in the Championship.” Versatile option Tayo Edun, who spent the first half of 2018/19 on loan with the Blues, was snapped up by Blackburn Rovers this summer with penalty specialist Jorge Grant moving on to Peterborough United.
Key members of last season’s play-off-chasing team Alex Palmer, Brennan Johnson, Callum Morton and Morgan Rogers all returned to their parent sides.
Harry Anderson departed for Bristol Rovers in League Two with midfielder Jamie Jones jumping aboard the new project down at Wrexham in the National League.
From the squad that ended the 2020/21 season at Wembley, six of the starting XI remain with five of the substitutes also with the club.
Strength-wise, Lincoln have lost a lot of temporary talent from last season but have doubled up their midfield options. “Lincoln's midfield this season is faster and more dynamic individually and as a unit”, “We have some classy midfielders and it depends what we're comparing”, “Midfield looks tidy and composed.”
However, as was the case last season, there does seem to be a sense of worry about the small squad that Appleton likes to work with. “Recent fitness and injury issues have highlighted how vulnerable we are up front”, “I think as a squad it looks weaker than the second half of last season”, “We have no defensive qualities at all in midfield except for [Liam] Bridcutt.”
Lincoln City 1-1 Rotherham United
“Poor defending at times from both defence and midfield not picking up players and allowing them to run at us”, “Touch and passing from almost every player was terrible, we couldn't hold possession for five seconds”, “A very useful Rotherham side should have won by a country mile.”
“Excellent, cool finish for [Lewis Fiorini’s] goal and was our most attack-minded midfielder after he came on”, “Glad to see Fiorini make no mistake with the goal as those sorts of chances have been missed before”, “Fiorini took his goal well.”
Lincoln’s midweek home game against Rotherham United saw them make three changes from their 5-1 dismantling of Cambridge United last weekend with Adam Jackson, Chris Maguire and Lasse Sorensen all starting from the off.
Cambridge United 1-5 Lincoln City
“Looks like the break has done us the world of good with a very strong line-up and what looks like a very assured performance as a result”, “A confident performance and numerous attempts on target by the sound of things”, “Terrific to a man. I haven't checked the stats for goal efforts today but there seemed to be an incredible number from both teams.”
“I hope we are doing our due diligence on a striker for January, we may need one if that Scully fella carries on scoring those type of goals and assists”, “Scully really showing how much he has improved this season - and he was good last season”, “Scully will be our first £1 million man.”
Prior to their victory over Cambridge, the Imps had beaten Bradford City 3-0 win over Bradford City in the Papa John’s Trophy. Appleton made three changes from that fixture, bringing in Josh Griffiths, Conor McGrandles and Jamie Robson.
“Griffiths was badly positioned on his line and awfully slow getting down to it”, “What a performance, otherwise it was a cricket score with a combination of great saves and poor finishing”, “Excellent goalkeeping display which earned us the point.”
Another keeper out of the West Brom academy, Griffiths has taken the gloves from Alex Palmer after the latter’s excellent season with the Imps last season on loan from the Championship side. Outstanding with Cheltenham Town in League Two, he will hope to help Lincoln up another division this season.
“[Sam] Long, based on two games (!), has a real future”, “Sam Long had a really good debut, well done boy”, “Didn't actually need to make a meaningful contribution until the 62nd minute. Not much of a test on his debut.”
Young goalkeeper Sam Long was pencilled in to leave on loan this summer, but a struggle to find another goalkeeper sees the shot stopper staying with the first team this season. Will be behind Griffiths in the pecking order, but offers a good back-up option.
“[Joe] Walsh is unreliable in an unfortunate way”, “Walsh and Jackson are the strongest centre-back pairing at the club in my opinion because they tick three boxes - experience, good on the ball, aggressive”, “If Walsh is fit he should be first-choice centre-back.”
Welsh centre-half Walsh will be looking to improve on last season’s injury-hit campaign, but looks to have carried a small injury over for this season and hasn’t featured for the Imps yet.
“[TJ Eyoma] gave the ball away three times in dangerous positions but settled as the game progressed”, “Poor distribution in first half but steady defensively”, “Started off very poorly. Improved after that, but still doesn't quite look match sharp.”
The only loanee-turned-permanent signing, Eyoma has returned to the LNER Stadium after a successful spell from Tottenham last season. Able to cover across the back four, Eyoma will be looking to usurp Adam Jackson and Montsma in defence.
“Best defender once again.” Signed from Hibernian back in 2020, Jackson was Lincoln’s number two centre-back for the majority of last season and looks to have continued that form into this year.
“Was in the side as a deliberate attempt to counter Rotherham's aerial threat but it didn't really work”, “Only one of the defence who stood up to the physical challenge.”
“[Sean Roughan] seemed to disappear off the radar after a very solid start”, “I read that he's currently another in the sick bay as a result of an injury picked up with the Irish U21s”, “Anyone know what’s happened to Roughan he who played about 10 games at the start of last season and then was banished?”
Young Irish defender Roughan burst onto the scene last season, attracting interest from Chelsea and Southampton this summer. Hasn’t featured this year and looks to be dealing with an injury.
“Think [Jamie Robson] will be one of the signings of the season. Solid defensively and looking to overlap at every opportunity”, “He was given a bit of a roasting tonight and he will work hard to respond as the season progresses”, “Had a tough time against their speedy right winger but kept to the task.”
Summer signing Robson replaced the outgoing Edun and looks to be one of the bargains of the League One transfer window. An aggressive left-back capable of both flying forward and defending well, Robson has made the transition from Scotland, where he played for Dundee United, look seamless.
“Why would you play [Cohen] Bramall, who can't defend, at left-back?”, “Bramall has to be disappointed not to start after recent form, but he’s one of a strong bench who can mix things up when Michael wants to”, “Bramall is developing as a left winger with every game and could work well with Robson.”
Ex-Colchester United full back Bramall joined Lincoln in January of 2021, and has been plying his trade at both left-back and left wing this season. A versatile option off the bench for the Imps.
“Dominant player, both defensively and going forward”, “Never really got forward because he was so busy defending”, “We now have two Championship standard full-backs I reckon as [Regan] Poole is showing his ability as well.”
Another January 2021 signing, Poole left fellow League One side MK Dons to join Appleton’s revolution as they aimed for the Championship. First-choice right-back for Lincoln this season, with Eyoma providing cover when needed.
“What I'd love is for Poole to score a goal. I think it would do his confidence the world of good and he'd go on to score quite a few more”, “Had a good game, was able to press higher due to the poor opposition and he made good use of the space”, “Good getting forward, sound in defence.”
Poole has turned himself from a centre-back with the Dons to a very impressive right-back under Michael Appleton and has gone from strength-to-strength since his arrival. Will be an interesting battle between him and our left-winger on Saturday.
“Montsma is the most ‘elegant’ defender I think I’ve seen play for the Imps, especially when he brings the ball out into midfield”, “Settling in again and has found his range with the diagonal passes”, “Looked fitter and more precise with his passing.”
James Jones and Lewis Montsma battle James Norwood
Lincoln’s unlikely goal-threat Montsma made an instant impact after his arrival from Dordrecht last season, scoring eight goals in his first campaign in English football.
“Montsma’s passing was something else”, “Calm in possession. Needs to be a little more accurate with diagonal balls sometimes. Occasionally a little guilty of ball-watching when the ball comes into his area but generally calm, solid and constructive”, “Back to last season’s form. Very assured.”
Montsma was an ever-present alongside Walsh, Jackson and Eyoma last season, and has returned to the side to play the last five games after missing most of August with illness.
“Another solid performance anchoring the whole team in the middle both defensively and creatively from [Bridcutt]”, “Started brightly but once McGrandles went off was swamped in the middle”, “Tried hard, but was swamped down the centre. The only defensive midfielder we had and it showed - partly why the defence had such a hard night.”
Holding midfielder Bridcutt is one of the strongest defensive midfielders in League One this season, showing grit and determination from the base of Lincoln’s midfield. Has his injury issues, but has played in every league game this season.
“[Lasse] Sorensen has a role to play, but probably off the bench”, “Was overrun except for his part in the goal. Seems to have little idea of the defensive side of midfield”, “Sorensen's astute pass started the move for the equaliser, he threatened to look world class for a few minutes afterwards. But then he faded and was anonymous as we clung on.”
A summer signing from Stoke City, Sorensen spent last season out on loan with MK Dons. The Danish midfielder is one of only three players to have featured in all ten of Lincoln’s games so far this season.
“[Max] Sanders is a worrying worst case, seems to come back and get injured immediately”, “So Max Sanders is still injured then”, “When we signed Sanders last year there was also that statistician saying about his metrics on progressive passes and how it was a very Appleton signing. That one hasn't worked out so far but did seem like there was an element of 'Moneyball' about it.”
Young centre midfielder Max Sanders joined Lincoln City from Brighton & Hove Albion last season, but has struggled to make an impact since. Played only once this year, looks to be another out with an injury.
“Some very composed and classy play from this young lad, showing he is ready for a first team role”, “Fiorini scored a pretty good goal when we opened up their defence”, “Must be pushing for a starting place. Clearly a more than adequate replacement for when Bishop misses games”, “Fiorini deserves a start after his performance at Bradford while McGrandles looks short of where he was last season.”
Lincoln were blessed with Johnson in the middle of the park last season, and have replaced him with Manchester City’s Fiorini on a season-long loan. Fiorini spent last season in the Netherlands with NAC Breda and has scored two goals in his last two games.
“Remy Howarth appears to have has changed his name”, “Cracking run there by Remy Howarth”, “The drop-off from Rogers/Johnson to Howarth/[Theo] Archibald is very big.”
The man of many names, Remy Howarth/Longden has been a productive option off the bench since his arrival at the club last season, struggling to nail down a starting spot under Appleton. Looks to be another back-up option this season.
Returning Academy Graduate
“From what I can see [Ipswich] might have been better off keeping Ted Bishop than waving their cheque book at others”, “I thought we really missed Bishop in the middle tonight”, “We always seem to struggle against the big, physical, well-organised sides, but really missed Bishop’s midfield passing.”
Teddy Bishop playing for Town against Lincoln
Teddy Bishop was one of many departures this season from Portman Road, another player who had so much promise but has had his career stunted by injury. On his day a dangerous attacking midfielder, but has seen his time with Lincoln start with a few knocks here and there.
“Obviously an incredible performance - but what's noticeable is that [Scully] seemed to be absolutely everywhere, demanding the ball”, “Plenty of effort without reward. You could see that Rotherham knew that he was going to cut inside to try a right-foot bender”, “Brilliant on Saturday, largely a passenger this time.”
Anthony Scully v Sunderland
One of the standout performers in League One so far, Scully has already scored nine goals in all competitions this season, providing three assists against Cambridge United last weekend.
“Big step up, admittedly, but Scully looks every inch a Liverpool player”, “Get the ball to Anthony Scully as quickly and as often as possible”, “Two superb goals, three assists and a constant threat to Cambridge United.”
Scully was brilliant in front of goal last season, scoring 17 times, and has started this campaign in red-hot form. Scully has been the danger man for the Imps this season and will look to cause our full-backs problems on Saturday.
“Everywhere on the pitch and deserved his goal”, “McGrandles has started slowly this season and, to kick start our season, we need our current best XI starting”, “McGrandles either carrying niggles or noticeably not match-fit.”
McGrandles, like Poole, left MK Dons to join Lincoln City last season. The Scottish midfielder was very impressive for the majority of last season, and with Jones and Grant’s departing will be the main man in the middle this season.
“Just the game that Conor needed to move towards last season's form”, “He was great over the second half of last season, but how long should he get this time around, especially given the form of Fiorini in the few games he has played”, “McGrandles a big loss not least for the goal immediately afterwards.”
McGrandles picked up five goals and three assists last season and has already found the net this season. Featured in every game this season, but did go off injured against Rotherham, and would be a huge loss for the club if he misses the Ipswich game.
“Has plenty of quality and beginning to show it. Just needs to stop contributing to the odd chance/goal for the opposition”, “[Hakeeb] Adelakun on the bench because of a back injury received last season is a new one on me”, “Adelakun is not fit enough to play three times in eight days.”
Wide player Adelakun spent last season with League One champions Hull City and has returned to the third-tier this season. Has had a few knocks so far this season, but has got two goals in his last three games from right wing.
“You can tell he’s got a good touch and wants to be on the ball which is a positive for this side”, “A bonus half-mark for his pass for the goal, but woefully out of touch for the majority of the game. Can only get better and fitter”, “After a rusty start, [Chris] Maguire was looking more effective and most of our best moves seemed to involve him.”
Summer signing Maguire is reunited with the manager he thrived under at Oxford United after leaving Sunderland this summer. Will offer Adelakun and Scully good competition out wide.
“[Dan] Nlundulu is getting back to fitness”, “Nlundulu is likely to be missing if he has a torn hamstring”, “Nlundulu is a specialist centre forward and a replacement for [Tom] Hopper that we did not have - he is a different style of player but looks interesting to me.”
Loan man Nlundulu has joined the Imps from Southampton for the season and looks to provide more competition for Hopper than Callum Morton did last season. A quick option going forward, Nlundulu has been dealing with a knock recently.
“Brilliant game leading the line and some terrific headed clearances from corners”, “We seem to resort to shanking the ball out of play looking for the full-back, or hitting long balls in the direction of Hopper”, “Too many hopeful long balls towards Hopper hoping for him to hold it up. To be fair to Tom he did win quite a fair percentage of them, but support was too far away.”
Main man Hopper was the lone man last season for Lincoln as they found their way to Wembley. Hopper scored eight goals and will be looking to improve on that this season.
“Shows just how much he is missed when injured. We just have nobody who can play that role at anywhere near the standard”, “Ran himself into the ground with little support”, “Ineffective, saw little of the ball. A couple of good defensive headers.”
Lincoln’s main worry from last season was the lack of a replacement for Hopper if he didn’t play because of Morton’s injury issues. Nlundulu will be the man to provide that, but it remains to be seen how much he can replicate Hopper’s ability.
Lincoln City Fans on ITFC
“I suspect Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday will finish top by a large margin ahead of the rest”, “Best recruitment of the summer, manager promotion-proven”, “Incidentally, Ipswich lost again last night - this time at home to West Ham U21 despite fielding a strong side.”
“If we win against Ipswich on Saturday this point will look even better”, “Time for another run-in with the Tractor Boys”, “Ipswich have seemingly been the worst so far somehow! Sure they will get it together but hope them conceding plenty of goals continues into the weekend”, “Ipswich may fail or succeed this season, it’s far too early to make comparisons but will every team with a sizeable squad have a poor season? I doubt it.”
“The strength of League One seems to be growing every season so it’s harder each year to improve on your finish or even repeat your finish”, “Do you think the overachieving of last season/the what-if has raised our expectation and now we’re finding our feet once more it’s deemed underachieving?”
“Unfortunately, as you know, my expectations of this season are bottom half of table but not relegation. We underperformed second half of last season when we were in the best position for automatic promotion to Championship for donkeys’ years, playing the best football I have seen in nigh on 60 years.”
The main forum for Lincoln City fans is the 100% Imps, providing detailed conversations and insights from numerous Lincoln City supporters.
Photo: Action Images
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