Just a couple of weeks ago I remember writing about City having eleven cup finals left to play. The toughest of those eleven were undoubtedly FGR and Dagenham at home, and Eastleigh away. Here we are, nine points from those three games and still in pole position.
Today saw Danny Cowley officially become the first manager to ever take Lincoln beyond the 82 point mark, although in fairness that does only apply to the three points for a win era. Even so whatever points tally we finish on this season will, be the highest we have ever amassed. 85 points and counting. With six games to go, would you bet against us getting to a hundred? If we do I’d virtually guarantee we’d be champions, unless Tranmere play Solihull every week.
If we look solely at us though, it was yet another superb display by the would-be champions. I didn’t get to the game sadly, and so I’m writing these notes having listened on the radio. I kicked every ball whilst painting my shed at home, and I even kicked the shed when Sean Raggett got injured. It sounded like he’d have to go off, but bloodied and battered he came back on and scored the winning goal. I think his story today is reflective of our story of the last month or so. After Boreham Wood and York it seemed as if we were losing the wheels from our promotion loco. After exiting two cups in a week and losing a strong lead in the table we seemed destined for the play-offs.
What we’ve done is bounced back stronger and fitter than we were before, just like Sean today we refused to shy away from the fight. We might have been bruised, we might have lost a metaphorical tooth (the FA Trophy final), but we have refused to lie down and go quietly. As for Sean Raggett, nothing sums up his attitude better than the picture circulating twitter of his bloodied mouth and displaced tooth. With his mouth an absolute mess he came back on and scored the winning goal as well as forming an invaluable part of the defence. He’s an absolute monster that boy, he’ll play higher up the Football League, no doubt at all.
There have been good and bad times to play Eastleigh this season, and I’d say they are currently in a better place than they have been for 80% of the campaign. I speculated which Eastleigh we’d get, and today the side that beat Barrow, Torquay and Chester turned up, and the Mighty Imps still came away victorious. We have once again demonstrated our character and our resilience. This wasn’t the struggling Martin Allen side, devoid of ideas and confidence. Eastleigh are a good team and next season they’ll be back in the top six or so where they belong.
Not for the first time recently we’ve come away with a 1-0 win, but at this stage of the season it is points on the board that matter, not goals. If we continue to win games then our promotion rivals can score three, six or nine every game but it’ll make no difference. You only get three points for a win, and as long as we match the Tranmere result over the next five games then we’ll be home and dry. Don’t forget, we’ve got that game in hand as well, Maidstone just a couple of days before the season finale.
I often hear talk about season-defining moments, and although I haven’t seen it as yet it seems that Paul Farman produced one or two of his own today with what was described on the radio as ‘world-class’ saves. I’ve been doing my candidates for player of the year, and it feels harsh not to have Farms in there. The truth is for many of our games he hasn’t had an awful lot to do, but today he proved that he is one of the best keepers at this level. Danny Cowley might only ever say that is what Farms is paid to do, but as we saw with Graham Stack, keepers don’t always do what they’re paid for. I don’t like to sound harsh but the one game Farms didn’t play in this season, we conceded two goals that I think he would have saved. He might not grab the headlines, but his contribution is every bit as crucial as that of the outfield players. If we win the league then we can look back at his second save today as a moment every bit as crucial as Sean Raggett’s winner.
Analysis of a game is hard when you’ve not actually been, but it is easy to talk about the significance of the result. Obviously Tranmere had a freak result today, Solihull Moors opening themselves up to all sorts of criticism with a pathetic display at Prenton Park. How much of a blow must it be though for Micky Mellon’s side? They win 9-0 at home and they’re still behind us on goal difference. They’ve got just five games left to play, and the next two are Forest Green and Aldershot. Those two matches are tougher on paper than any we have left, and we’ve got one more than them to play as well. We’re in a great position and they must feel that they can’t do anything right. With FGR having an incredibly remote chance of taking the title they’re going to push Tranmere all the way on Tuesday.
The likelihood is that FGR will need to prove they can play in the big games. They’re smarting from the defeat by us, and of course the subsequent loss against North Ferriby. They know they’re going to have a play-off semi final to approach, and they will desperately want a confidence boost going into that end-of-season lottery. What better way than to finally beat a promotion rival in Tranmere Rovers on Tuesday? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I sincerely hope Mark Cooper brings his best eleven and his strongest tactics to give us a helping hand in wrapping the league up early.
As I’ve sad it doesn’t matter as long as we keep winning, and on today’s showing that looks like being the case. It takes real strength of character to stay on method for eighty minutes without a goal, to come through two real scares and to still win a game of football. Those are the sort of performances you need to put in time and time again if you’re going to be champions in three weeks time, methodical and organised with a persistence and depth of squad to stay fresh and on point. We’ve seen it numerous times over this season from Lincoln City, and we’ll see it again in the next six games.
There are no tired legs in our squad, just rotated players all raring to be given an opportunity. There is no needless tinkering, just enough tweeking to ensure everyone remains fit and hungry. That ‘blip’ is nothing more than a distant memory and we’re back to doing what we do best: winning games of football. 1-0, 9-0 it matters not. we’ve got six games left and if we win those, we’ll be back in the Football League.
You know what Danny, I’m actually with you on the whole enjoyment thing. This fairground ride that we got on in August with you is bloody brilliant, and even now as we approach the last gut-wrenching twists and turns, I’m still anticipating what might be around the corner. It really is the best trip we’ve ever been on, and under three points for a win, it’s the most bountiful as well.
On to Tuesday night and the visit of Chester. The most important game of the season.