It’s fair to say it’s been a decent summer for Imps fans. We got new managers in who seem to know what they’re on with, we brought a few players in who can play a bit and we’ve handed out a couple of sound beatings, most recently to a side who you’d expect to be in amongst the top ten by the end of the season. It’s been our very own summer of optimism right here in 2016.
However as the leaves turn brown and the Christmas adverts start to appear on TV we have traditionally failed to keep ourselves in touch with the pace setters in our division. We are really only one dodgy ref away from being clear in second, but even third is nothing to be sniffed at. We’re third not by chance, not by a quirk of the fixture list but purely and simply by merit. The bank holiday weekend showed us to be what we’ve all felt we are for a while now: contenders. Not many teams will go and win at Macc, especially not if they go 1-0 down. Similarly very few teams will keep a clean sheet against Gateshead and if they do I doubt very much it will be accompanied by three goals in the ‘for’ column.
So what of our chances of maintaining this fine run of form, and who will remain up there with us if we do? Tranmere are the obvious early pace setters and I don’t think there will be a fan inn the land who is surprised at their start. I heard them being accused of ‘not having played anyone yet’, and although they have had a kind start lets not forget they have beaten Eastleigh, albeit before the manager change. The surprise draw against Southport proved they are far from all conquering though and their game against Guiseley led many Imps fans to feel that we could squeeze something from our clash with them in a couple of weeks.
They’ve got quite a tough looking September. As well as our visit they’ve got to go to Aldershot who are quietly going about their business, but more on them shortly. Tranmere also have trips to York and to Sutton this month, and I’d be very surprised if they avoided defeat all the way through September. The smart money would be on us beating them, but the really shrewd money would be on an Aldershot win on Saturday. They” wrap up September with a win though as Woking are the visitors on September 24th.
Forest Green are looking very tasty in second place but they’ve got a couple of tests on the horizon. They should triumph in a trip to Chester on Saturday, but another away game at Dover on September 10th looks tricky. Dover are down in 12th at the moment but you’d expect them to start picking up a few points despite the loss of key players in the summer. Tuesday 13th sees Eastleigh visit the Villagers, and the outcome of those two games in close proximity will be a good barometer of FGR’s title credentials. I did say title credentials because on Tranmere’s performance on Saturday I’m not convinced they’ll be runaway leaders. They finish September with a trip to Braintree in a game that will no doubt be attended by under 1,000 people. Exciting.
Dagenham have a comfortable looking September with Boreham Wood, Bromley, North Ferriby and Solihull on the fixture list. Dover do visit on Tuesday 13th but that’s as tough as it gets for John Stills side. I’d wager they’ll stay tucked in just behind the leaders and as they’re unlikely to drop points their challenge will be sustained deep into autumn. Like us they’ll not only be looking to stay in contention, but they’ll have one eye on taking the top spot and there’s no reason why they won’t be top as we welcome in October.
So who else do I see as creeping onwards and upwards? I really like the look of Aldershot and my sources tell me they’re playing some neat football too. The win away at Dover this weekend cemented them in my view as potential dark horses, although they did lose 2-0 at Braintree earlier in August which is the sort of result that makes you question the sustainability of their challenge. However after Tranmere on Saturday they face Chester, Boreham Wood and North Ferriby before ending the month at home to Gateshead, and looking at that you can see them picking up a few more points. They weren’t amongst anyone’s tips for the play offs but as we know there’s always one team that surprises and Aldershot have a chance to stake a claim this month.
Barrow will probably string a couple of wins together before they visit us on the 17th. Home ties with Bromley an Boreham Wood set them up for a trip to Southport and they could feasibly come to Sincil Bank on the back of five wins, having already won their last two. They’ve spent a lot of money and expectations are high, but they’ll need to be on their game facing the Imps at present.
Enough of everyone else: we need to talk about Lincoln City. I’m not going to wax lyrical about Monday’s performance for two reasons. One I was extremely drunk for the duration of the win, and two everyone else has really beaten me to it. While I slept in my clothes at 7.30pm to the bemusement of my other half the internet was alive with talk of our convincing and complete display against The Heed. Is it going to continue though?
Well September gives us plenty more opportunities to see how far along the group of players are, and after our visit to the English Riviera comes the first real big test, Tranmere away. We acquitted ourselves well at Dagenham and were desperately unlucky not to come away with a point, and I expect something similar when we travel to the North West. Tranmere may be pace setters but they’ve yet to be tested and I’m confident that we can take at least a draw there, if not all three points. We look much better against teams that try to play us at football and Tranmere will try and play the game in the way god intended, on the deck. It’s dangerous for teams to come at us in that way though because I haven’t seen a side play football like we have this season in an awful long time.
After Tranmere, Solihull Moors visit the bank for their first ever competitive fixture against us and although there’s a danger of ‘doing a Sutton’ we should have too much for them if everyone stays fit. I can’t see the Cowley brothers letting us become complacent against any opposition and if we’re serious about the play offs it should be a routine win.
Up after that are Barrow at home and we all know this will be a tasty fixture. As I’ve mentioned they’ve spent the cash and Paul Cox isn’t a liked man here in Lincoln. If results have gone our way we could be looking at a 4,000 crowd for this clash and with 3,850 or so home fans this promises to be quite an occasion. Money doesn’t buy fans and it doesn’t buy class and September 17th is very much Class v Crass, and of all the game we have on the horizon this is one I’d love to see us win resoundingly. Paul Cox tempted Liam Hearn last season and tried to lure Matt Rhead away as well and I hope he gets his just desserts at the Bank.
We wrap up September with a trip to Dover which hasn’t provided us with happy memories over the last couple of seasons and it concludes a tricky September for the Imps. We have been gifted a decent start and coupled with the two wins this weekend we’ve made the most of it, but if we’re to stay in touch with the leaders then we have to get points at places like Dover. Can we do it? There’s no reason why not. Last time I wrote a piece full of optimism we lost two on the bounce in four days so I’m trying to keep my feet on the ground. In a months time the league will begin to take shape, but once again it appears that there will be a glut of teams from sixth to fourteenth all tightly packed in with little to separate them. The trick for City is to make sure we’re not dragged into that pack. When it’s time to wake up Green Day we should still be tucked in ahead of that chasing pack, looking forward to a great October.