Tonight we finally get to play our controversial FA Trophy tie with Nantwich, but after the result on Saturday how much priority can be placed on a gruelling trip to the North West? What effect may a run in this competition have on the rest of our season?
Firstly off I think we know without a shadow of a doubt that Danny and Nicky will make sure we go there to win, and we do the same in any subsequent rounds we get into. I’ve spoken to some Grimsby fans recently (the coherent ones who know a few six letter words), and they’ve told me they feel their promotion chase was derailed twice by FA Trophy runs before they finally secured league football. Maybe they were just looking for excuses, but in this league the schedule is punishing enough, without a further distraction, surely?
That said, this is a golden chance to get to Wembley of course, and I’m sure the management team would love to be known as the first to take Lincoln City to play at our national stadium. The fact we’ve never been is a little embarrassing for a club with such a long and proud history as we’ve got, and let’s face it we’re not too keen on seeing it via the play-offs. We may have taken top five at the beginning of the season, but the way we play our football I think we’ll be keeping an eye on the top prize. So is the FA Trophy a viable route to the national stadium?
Yes, of course it is. Any footballer worth his salt will want an opportunity to play on that stage, and any fan of Lincoln City would feel a trip to London would be just reward for a decade of hurt, despair and (at times) really awful football. The trick is balancing the promotion push with a cup run or two.
Listening to Danny’s press conference yesterday I get the impression we may see at least one new face over the next few weeks, even though we are not bound by the constraints of a transfer window I think generally the merry-go-round will involve league clubs and therefore probably won’t really kick in until January, even for us. The focus at the minute will be how to use the squad strategically to ensure safe passage to play Gateshead, as well as six points from the Guiseley trips.
It’s universally accepted that Danny won’t play a weakened side, but with our squad what constitutes a weakened side? My own gut feeling is perhaps there will be a couple of changes for the match tonight, but there was a change on Saturday too, and that wasn’t a weakened side now, was it?
Across the defence changes are not easy to make anyway. We don’t have back-up full backs as such, but we do have three Football League quality centre halves to help get us through a packed fixture list. I think Callum Howe will feature regularly in any FA Trophy run, with Sean Raggett taking the spot for league and FA Cup games.
In midfield there are lots of options, and it is here more than anywhere else on the pitch I expect to see different personnel tonight. . I wonder if perhaps (and it’s only perhaps) Alex Woodyard might get a break tonight with Alan Power dropping in. Woodyard has been outstanding all season and hasn’t missed a single minute of football, but he is a driving force in midfield and he took a battering on Saturday from Maynard in particular. Six points from Guiseley are crucial and maybe he might get an evening off. I suspect Elliot Whitehouse will feature prominently as well.
I have it on good authority that Taylor Miles is cup tied, a point I missed when first writing the blog. My apologies for the inaccuracy.
I’ve also been wondering why Harry Anderson has been out of the team. My own theory is that with his return date approaching we are preparing for life without Harry, which is why Terry has been getting a couple of starts. If that is the case I’d expect Terry to start again tonight. There is a train of thought that suggests Harry hasn’t been playing so that his name is kept out of the headlines, and Peterborough might be a bit more reluctant to take him back if he can’t break into our team. That’s pure speculation of course, but I fully expect him to play some part tonight.
I think Matt Rhead will play, he’s fairly integral to everything that we do, but perhaps Theo will get a rest? Jack Muldoon offers the same direct and pacey option up top, but Adam Marriott’s goal has put him right back in contention as well, and he could benefit from 90 minutes against someone, Nantwich, Guiseley or whoever.
Whatever DC chooses to do I don’t think any of those options can be classed as playing an ‘understrength’ side. If we rocked up to Dover or Barrow without Woodyard in the side I think perhaps that would be fielding a weakened side, but with the greatest respect to Nantwich, any of the players I’ve mentioned should be more than capable of doing a job against them.
Of course under estimating them would be very dangerous, and we know that our team will approach the game in a professional and organised manner. Rheady used to play for Nantwich, so they’ll be aware of the threat he poses, and last season they got to the semi-finals in this competition which proves they are no fools either. They beat Dover in the quarter final stage, and we know that getting a result against Dover *spits* is never straight forward.
They have some very good players too. Although one of the best known will be former Crewe and Burnley striker Steve Jones, City will need to be aware of three lesser known names. Joe Mwasile is a recent signing, he started out at Morecambe before an impressive spell at Marine. He’s relatively new to the Dabbers line up, but he has pace to burn as well as an eye for both an assist and a goal.
I’m informed Theo Stair has the potential to be a real handful too. He’s scored six times for them this season having jumped up three levels in the summer. Along with powerful Osebi Abadaki they offer a dual threat of both speed and a physical presence.
I’m sure having got their second chance in the competition they won’t want to let it go, and a visit from Lincoln City gives them a chance to pit themselves against the best the non-league scene has to offer. As for us, to go from a 7,000+ and a 6,000+ crowd to a cold night in Nantwich in front of a few hundred might be a bit of a rude awakening. The good times are in full effect at Sincil Bank, but when you’re at this level you still have to be prepared for those less attractive games.
I certainly wouldn’t be looking at train tickets to Gateshead just yet, and I think we can be thankful that the game has to be decided on the night. Danny identified this as one of our toughest tests yet, not necessarily simply because of the opposition, but I suspect because of the type of challenge it brings. The FA Trophy hasn’t been particularly friendly to us in recent years (North Ferriby, Carshalton etc), and a result tonight would be yet another indication of the minerals this set of players have.
I’d like to finish by sparing a thought for Shaw Lane, a side I believe were treated very harshly and should have at least got a chance of a replay with the Dabbers before the winner faced us. Hopefully the FA can learn from the incident and update the antiquated system that caused this farcical chain of events.