It is that time in the season when owners, fans and indeed managers start to take stock of how they have started the new campaign. Dominic Picksley, one of our Lincoln City Correspondents, gives you his take on the start the Imps have made on their return to the Football League…
While all Lincoln City fans would love to be striding away at the top of the table and unbeaten upon their return to League Two, the reality of a 12th-placed position after 10 games is actually not too disappointing.
It has been a tough induction back into the Football League, with the Imps having already played six of the top 10 sides and a return of 15 points is not too shabby at this juncture, although that figure could have been higher if we had enjoyed some better fortune in front of goal, while City haven’t enjoyed much rub of the green when it comes to match officialdom – Billy Knott’s shocking red card at Notts County as a prime example – with critics suggesting our forceful style of play is not helping in the eyes of referees.
Wins over Carlisle, Stevenage, Forest Green and Barnet show what Lincoln are capable of, but back-to-back derby defeats against Mansfield and Notts County had sprinkled a small amount of doubt into the minds of a few fans, concerned with a lack of cutting edge up front, allied to a small squad of just 19.
Personally, I would much rather have a smaller squad packed with quality, rather than flesh out the set-up with mediocrity, and pretty much every one of those 19 players could easily be considered worthy of a starting berth in Danny Cowley’s side – with the addition of another quality striker in the January transfer window, I still expect Lincoln to be up there challenging for promotion as there is nothing in this division that we should be fearful of.
Who has been the Imps’ best player so far?
Two of the stars of last season’s heroes Sean Raggett and Alex Woodyard have impressed again, with the former the star of the show so far.
Raggett clinched a move to Norwich in the middle of August, but was immediately loaned back by the Canaries and there has been no decline in his performances since becoming a loan star’. He will be a huge loss once he finally heads off to Carrow Road, but in the meantime we will simply enjoy the displays of a truly great Lincoln City defender, who is now mentioned in the same breath as legendary centre-backs Trevor Peake and Gareth McAuley.
Michael Bostwick has looked class, at times, in the centre of midfield, while Matt Green has shown glimpses up front of what a terrific striker he could be for the Imps.
Who has been the Imps’ most surprising player?
Neal Eardley. The former Premier League defender has struggled with injuries over the latter stages of his career and was picked up by City on a free following his departure from Northampton. It took a trial spell for him to win over Cowley, but he has proved an excellent acquisition.
You never really know what you are going to get with freebie ‘cast-offs’, but he has started every League game this season and has shown great versatility by playing his first few matches in an unfamiliar left-back role, until finally switching to his more favoured right-back position. He has proved a steady figure at the back and his experience has undoubtedly helped with some of the younger players in the squad.
An honourable mention also to Raggett lookalike Rob Dickie, who has looked a very impressive signing from Reading and who has even kept skipper Luke Waterfall out of the side.
A surprising player for the wrong reasons is Jordan Maguire-Drew, who started five of the first six games, but has not featured at all this month yet as he seems to have struggled to adapt to League Two football. He was a revelation for Dagenham in the National League last season and his arrival excited Imps fans, but it just hasn’t happened yet, although we do have high hopes he will finally come good.
How have we done against my expectation?
It is so far so good for City and as I have already said, with a little more luck we could be sat in a healthier position, but such is the tightness of League Two, that a couple of wins could propel you right into the mix, so there is nothing to worry about at present.
Cowley has always stressed that the team will get stronger as the season progresses and with a fair few of the ‘lesser’ sides to play in the next few weeks, we could find ourselves in a much stronger position over the course of the next 10 games.
I fully expected us to carry on the momentum of last season into this and clinch promotion and a had a few quid on us to win the title at 14-1. While winning the division looks a little beyond us at the moment, I still feel we have the squad capable of mounting a promotion challenge and definitely so if we get that top-class striker in, in January.
We have one of the best squads seen at Sincil Bank for many a year, the best manager since Colin Murphy, and with huge backing from the resurgent home faithful, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic.