Danny Cowley admitted this afternoon that his side for Saturday was going to feature some changes of personnel. With such a punishing schedule still ahead of us, key players have some time off with their partners and that spells good news for some of the fringe players.
Such is the depth of the squad at the moment that we can probably afford to make up to eight changes from the side that beat Solihull on Tuesday. It will be an exciting match from Lincoln’s perspective, a couple of new faces welcoming in Part Two of our big season: the run in.
Here’s my starting eleven for the match on Saturday.
GK – Paul Farman
I can’t see Paul being rested, he does the least amount of running of the first team squad and is really the only viable option we have. That isn’t derogatory, but when it comes to squad rotation due to fatigue, the keeper doesn’t really qualify. Danny is not rotating for the sake of it, it is a planned science and therefore, having our first choice keeper in the team is almost a certainty.
RB – Sean Long
It sounds like his move has the potential to be made permanent, so he’ll be looking to impress in an inevitable appearance at full back. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet, he looked a little uncomfortable at left back after coming in at last minute at Barrow. I think there’s much more to come from Sean, and he’ll certainly feature against Welling.
LB – Sam Habergham
I suspect Sam will play, he missed a game through injury and was fortunate to feature against Brighton. In an ideal world Danny would rest him, but who else would he play here? Sean Long could play, but that would put Brad in at right back. They’re not going to bring a youth player in I don’t think; the game is too important to them at this stage of the competition. to risk blooding a youngster.
CB – Callum Howe
He would play in 95% of other National League defence, and as a so-called reserve I don’t think we have much better. I’m past lauding him as the captain of Southport, he’s come back and showed he can do it here whenever called upon. Whilst Sean Raggett was out, Callum look every inch as assured and composed as both his peers, and he’ll slot into the defence as if he never went away. I was impressed to see him come second in the Jimmy Bullard challenge last week, I know it was a bit of fun but it show’s he has a bit about him.
CB- Sean Raggett
I might be wide of the mark here, but I wonder if Sean hasn’t got sany time off like the others. His spell suspended may have given him a chance to recuperate, so he probably hasn’t had to have to same time off his team mates have. There’s a strong chance Jamie might play, but given that DC and NC would like to get to Wembley, I think Sean will start the game.
CM – Alan Power
With Billy Knott unavailable until February 11th (I found this out later by the way, part time fans eh?) I suspect it will be Alan Power that carries the mantle in midfield. I’m afraid to say I Alan will soon find himself as part of the ‘second string’ again, especially once Knott is available.
CM – Elliott Whitehouse
Elliott has had a handful of strong outings in a City shirt, and he’ll be hoping to add to his goal against Gateshead. He’s always done well when he has come into the squad, and I see him occupying the ‘Alan Power’ role. I wonder if we might see Elliott used further forward at some point, his England C strike last year came from the centre forward position. He’s always likely to grab a goal and again would grace a good portion of other National League Team’s first team squads.
RW – Joe Ward
We’ve not seen an awful lot of the youngster from Brighton, although he did have a good outing on his debut against Gateshead. I can see both Arnold and Hawkridge being rested, and DC hasn’t brought players in to sit on the bench, so Ward should feature. I liked him and Long linking up against Gateshead and if they’ve worked on that promising combination it could be a viable route to goal.
LW – Josh Ginnelly
Almost certain to start, Josh is another player who really shouldn’t be here. He was highly rated at Shrewsbury, and it’s no mean feat to secure a contract with a top flight club. He’s going to be quick and direct, and I imagine he’ll thrill fans taking a player on now and again. I have high hopes for Ginnelly and Billy Knott, I think they’re both excellent signings.
CF – Jack Muldoon
Absolutely nailed on to start the game. If he doesn’t I won’t just be shocked, I’ll be speechless. He scored a good goal on Tuesday and he’ll want another chance to impress in the first team, and show Danny that an extra striker isn’t as pressing as we all think 9although I suspect we’ll get one anyway). I like Jack and to see him being let off the leash is great.
CF – Adam Marriott
Marriott is such a skilful and tricky player, at the moment I don’t think his goal ratio reflects his effort. He will score more goals when he’s played for more minutes, and I think he’ll thrive if the ball is on the floor a bit more. Ward and Ginnelly are both pacey, and Danny once said to start with Marriott you needed speedy players on the flanks. I think he’s a constant threat, he offers something different to both Rheady and the departed Theo Robinson, and his fledgling partnership with Muldoon showed early signs of promise in the last round.
This is working on the assumption that we do not sign anyone ahead of Saturday’s match. Even if we do I suspect any new face would start from the bench, especially if they haven’t playedfirst team football for a few months.
I can’t begin to try and argue that we are playing a weak side, due to the demands on our squad we’re much changed, but it isn’t a team of youngsters and it has experience throughout. The midfield looks particularly exciting for me, and after the Welling match I’m really excited for Billy Knott. He will be much like Michael O’Connor a few years ago. He’s just that type of player, and O’Connor was incredibly popular for his superb displays: in fact he almost lit up that dour season Peter Jackson was manager. If Knott has a similar impact but in a successful Lincoln side, it spells trouble for the rest of the league.
As for Elliott Whitehouse, he’s now growing into the player Danny and Nicky want him to be. He’s been drip fed into the first team, given time to adapt and learn and now I think he’s almost at boiling point. If he can get forward then he always poses a goal threat.
I think we’ll have a bit too much for Welling, and although more games in the schedule may not sound that attractive, it is a viable route to Wembley, and a great day out in London. Those players who play at Welling know that if City progress to the final it will be them and not Arnold, Woodyard and Waterfall walking out onto the hallowed turf. It would be Lincoln’s first ever appearance at The FA’s showpiece arena, and our so-called reserve team have a chance to write their names into our history as more than squad players in the Championship winning side.