I know most of you will be reading this after the Guiseley match on the 1st, I’m writing it when most celebrations are underway. If I don’t churn it out now though it won’t get done!
The midnight hour of the football calendar, when nothing stirs, not even a mouse.
In the instance of Lincoln City though there were some fairly significant stirrings, none more so than the signing of former Cod head and all-round cracking player. One person who wasn’t so chuffed with Arnold’s arrival was James Caton. He’d spent all summer on trial with the club, and as a deal looked in the offing our favourite hairdresser became available, and Caton left for Southport. The money from the crowd funder would be used to fund the Arnold move, the final totalling coming in at more than £25,000.
Day’s later excitement reached fever pitch as Dover defender Sean Raggett also sgned for City. Rumour has it he was on his way to Barrow and recived a call whilst driving up the A1 to pop in and have a look at our club. He never left. Whether or not we did Barrow or his signature is irrelevant, we certainly kippered Dover and in my eyes that was one of the highlights of the year.
Matt Rhead decided that his future would be spent wearing red and white, not least due to an agreement he could have a warm down day at home once a week. Smart management of our key asset should have given us an indication of the sort of start we might have on the field.
Pre-season went well, but then again who cares. Nobody ever won anything beating an understrength League One side in a practice match did they?
Speaking of practice matches, after a resounding 3-1 win at Woking on the opening day, we threatened to rack up double figures against North Ferriby. After that game an embryonic league table has us top, and by the end of the month we’ve already plundered 15 points from 7 games, with a defeat at Dagenham and a surprise reverse at home to Sutton blotting our copy book.
Parity is restored at Bank Holiday though as early promotion hopefuls Macclesfield and Gateshead are both beaten in the space of just a couple of days. Matt Rhead starts the season with a bang, looking every inch the unplayable lump he was throughout the previous campaign.
Jonny Margetts becomes the first Imps to score four goals in one match since Jamie Forrester as we run riot, beating Southport 4-0. Before August is out he repaid the managements faith in him to the undisclosed tune of around £55k by sealing a move to Scunthorpe United. I thought it was a wind up and posted on social media I couldn’t see it happening, as it happened.
September opened with two wins, one a 2-1 victory over Torquay in front of the TV cameras, and a second a week later courtesy of loanee Macualey Bonne’s winner against fellow play-off hopefuls Tranmere. City hit the top spot for the second time in the season, and fans began to dream of brighter days. Midfielder Tom Champion arrived on loan just in time to upset the rhythm of our winning side, and a 0-0 draw against Solihull Moors followed. Grimsby liked what they saw, they took Solihull’s manager a couple of months later.
Those brighter days looked to fade significantly as September drew to a close, firstly a robust and direct Barrow side came to Sincil Bank and claimed all three points, before that awful crowd from the south coast (Dover) did a good job of nullifying us at Crapple, the Imps going down 2-0.
Tom Champion became everyone’s favourite scapegoat, and our drop in form was laid firmly at his feet.
Harry Anderson arrived from Peterborough on a youth loan, and although his arrival was fairly low key, it soon became apparent he could play a bit.
The month where it all came together. The 1st saw the visit of Danny Cowley’s former charges Braintree, and City ran out comfortable 3-0, not in any small part due to Nathan Arnold’s 3rd minute opener giving us confidence. Tom Champion remained on the bench, further reinforcing the belief it was all his fault.
A win at Wrexham in which Champion appeared can be forgotten because just days after his loose touch led to a goal for Bromely wide man Blair Turgott as we drew 1-1 down in London. The pitchforks came out, and it was more or less the end of the unpopular midfielder.
We progressed in the FA Cup thanks to former Premier League striker Theo Robinson after drawing the first game with Guiseley. Mr Champion went straight back into the Barnet midfield as we captured England C midfielder Elliot Whitehouse. His signature meant we had four players representing their country in Estonia in November.
A credible draw with Eastleigh was followed by a far more credible win over Boreham Wood at the Bank. The game was overshadowed by an injury to resurgent full back Lee Beevers. Despite this set back the month was wrapped up nicely with a 5-2 win away at Chester in a day where defending went out of the window. Matt Rhead starred, but Theo Robinson tried to claim one of the goals.
Apart from a draw with Aldershot we basically bossed November. An early FA Cup 1st round win over Altrincham set up a tasty December clash with League One Oldham Athletic, and from there City were in total control
The draw with Aldershot was fair on balance, but we should and could have had a hatful before half time. The next outing was away at Forest Green, a win for them would see them pull 12 points clear of us. With injury time approaching we were 2-1 down, but when the referee finally pumped on his whistle goals from Sean Ragget and Luke Waterfall had added to Alex Woodyard’s first of the season to ensure we took home a 3-2 win. Could it get any better?
Well, yes it could. 1068 fans travelled to York to watch us dismantled our Minstermen friends by 4-1. Due to Sean Raggett’s booking at FGR, Callum Howe was recalled and he slotted in as if he’d never been away.
Maidstone were dealt with comfortably at the Bank (2-0) followed by Wrexham on a bitter Tuesday night. An early red card saw City play with their backs to the wall for much of the game, but a win ensued and the Lincoln Loco rolled one, and on, and on.
We drew Shaw Lane in the FA Trophy too, a development that had many fan reaching for their non-league guidebooks to see exactly where they were based and what they were all about.
On a foggy night at the Bank over 7,000 people cram in to watch us defeat Oldham from two leagues above, 3-2. The Imps are 3-0 up after 47 minutes and at one point it threatened to get embarrassing.
The game was shown live on TV so the nation got to see out burgeoning potential. Prior to the game we are the second name out of the hat for the draw, immediately after Ipswich Town, our opponents on January 7th.
Shaw Lane are suspended from the FA Cup so we get a free weekend. Eventually they’re disqualified unfairly, but it’s twelve days before Lincoln take to the pitch again, this time over 6,000 pack in to watch us turn over Tranmere Rovers 2-1. City top the league, less than a month after almost going 12 points shy of the leaders. It looks like being a bloody good Christmas.
Nantwich are eventually our FA Trophy opponents and they’re defeated under slightly laboured circumstances by two goals to one. Popular winger Harry Anderson is recalled by Peterborough, and on the back of that we slip to our first defeat since September, going down 2-1 to lowly Guiseley on Boxing Day.
The year ends with us selling out our allocation of 5,000 tickets to the Ipswich game.
You don’t win anything in a calendar year, but everything is still in the Imps hands. Transfer policy will dictate a level of intent over the next few days, although missing out on long-term target Simeon Akinola will doubtless be a blow.
However, with a game in hand of the leaders the title is still ours to lose. We’ll know much more come the end of January as we face a trip to Barrow, a visit of Dover and of course that big tie with Ipswich. We have much more optimism, much more belief and much more potential than this time twelve months ago, and we have a much more united and galvanised club than 24 months ago.
Whatever happens this season is still by far the most enjoyable since we dropped out of the league, and possibly most enjoyable since of last play-off appearance in 2007.
Happy New Year to all of my cracking readers. Whatever 2017 brings you lets hope it includes promotion.