I’m going to write some words about form, past meetings and Chester’s squad in a moment, but in truth there probably isn’t a lot of point.
It isn’t that I won’t enjoy writing it, I will. It isn’t that a lot of you won’t read it, hopefully you will. It is just that at this stage of the season none of that stuff really matters. Form goes out of the window, in a league where anyone can beat anyone it isn’t always a good guide anyway, but as we close down the business end of the season it becomes less relevant. Case point, North Ferriby beating Forest Green last week.
Past meetings never really mean much, it is always fun to see how you do against a certain club, or what sort of run the two of you have had against each other recently, but again it doesn’t really matter. Tomorrow I couldn’t give two shits whether we’re unbeaten against Chester in three years, or whether they edge us out on wins over the past six decades. It matters even less than it ever will, because the only thing that matters is going out and winning the game. Once we’ve done that, the only other thing that matters is Forest Green beating Tranmere.
For someone who spends an awful lot of time writing about Lincoln City and researching articles it is probably a bad thing for me to say. It is true though, never before as an Imps fan have we had so much to play for at this stage of the season, certainly not in my 30 odd years supporting City. To escape from this league as champions would be a monumental achievement, and whether we beat Chester in 2008 makes no difference whatsoever.
Anyway, here comes the usual stuff, I hope you do read it despite me doing my very best to put you off.
Chester are on a stinking run of form, and with very little to play for it would appear to be one of those matches that we should simply take in our stride. If Chester at home pops up in February or November it would almost be called a home banker. They’ve lost ten of their last fourteen matches, and two of the three they have won were against relegation haunted Torquay and Southport. They’ve just lost 2-0 at home to York and their manager Jon McCarthy said “That performance wasn’t good enough. I take full responsibility for it, the lads are naturally in for a dressing down”. They’re on their arses, although they’re not quite as low as ‘9-0’ just yet.
They don’t fit the script of cannon fodder as neatly as you might imagine though. Their last three away games all ended in victories for them, and they haven’t conceded a goal on their travels since the day we beat Burnley in the FA Cup. They certainly won’t just play the part of victims in our Championship push, and anyone under estimating them will so at their peril. It took two late goals to steal a defeat from the jaws of victory against Tranmere at the beginning of March, and they’ve thrashed Dover (5-0) and Dagenham (3-0) in a topsy-turvy season.
James Alabi is their main danger man, the former Scunthorpe and Grimsby player has netted 15 times for the mid-table side this season. Ryan Astles is another player we have to watch carefully, he loves to score against sides in the top two. He scored in both their matches against Tranmere and in the 5-2 Imps victory back in October. Oddly he hasn’t scored in any other matches this season!
It goes without saying that a fully prepared and on-method Lincoln City should be able to secure three points on what could prove to be a pivotal night in the National League. For the first time ever we’ll be willing Mark Cooper and FGR to victory as they travel to Prenton Park, but fans at Sincil Bank would be advised to keep their phones in their pockets and their voices directed at cheering on the Imps. All we need to do is keep winning games of football, the so-called Super White Army can win 9-0 as much as they like, if we win all our remaining games 1-0 then it really doesn’t matter at all.
Chester are a familiar side with whom we have tussled on many occasions in recent times. They last won at Sincil Bank on a thoroughly unromantic Valentine’s Day in 2015 thanks to a Sean McConville goal, and before that it was a 1-0 victory in 2007 that represented their last win at Lincoln. That was Peter Jackson’s first game in charge, and a disputed Tony Dinning penalty gave them the points. The game kicked off late due to them being stuck in traffic and if memory serves it felt like we played into the small hours!
In May 2007 it was Chester we beat in the final game of the season to secure a play-off place, which was scant consolation for John Schofield’s side as we should have gone up automatically. Mark Stallard opened the scoring and Jamie Forrester added a last-minute penalty, but it was all downhill from there for both the Imps and for Schoey.
Lincoln and Chester do seem to produce a lot of goals too, our history is littered with 5-2’s, 4-1’s, and other unusually high score lines. In case you’re interested our current record against Chester is played 91, won 37, drawn 22 and lost 32. It really doesn’t matter at all, the only thing that matters is three points and us taking one more step towards the Football League.
Thank you for staying until the end, I’m sure my lack of interest in the facts and figures is purely down to that nervous excitement we’re all feeling as the season reaches its thrilling climax. It’s wonderful, exhilarating and bloody terrifying all rolled in to one. Who’d be a football fan? Then again, what other ‘hobby’ (or way of life) can produce such a melting pot of contrasting emotions? There’s nothing quite like football, and this season we’re experiencing the very best of it. Enjoy the game, if you can.
All pictures taken by me during our 2-1 victory against Chester on April 9th 2016. One year on and the same result would do nicely, thank you.