Playing in the Football League will bring many new challenges to Danny Cowley and his team of heroes, but one challenge that remains constant and possibly as urgent as ever is the race to find another striker.
We all hoped to see Ricky Miller sign for City last season, but once the January window passed and he was still in Dover colours it became increasingly unlikely. We were blessed with goals from all over the park last season, imagine just how far out in front we would have been if we’d also had a 20-25 goal forward to call upon. Ricky Miller was the difference between play-off battle and relegation battle for Dover, and whilst I can’t see us in a relegation battle next season, I do think finding someone else up front is a crucial job.
As I understand it a move for Lee Angol is still on the cards, but I still think we need another player to slot in up front. I’ve put together a couple of strikers I’d love to see in City colours, if Santa fancies doing an early visit this year.
Other than Ricky Miller I think Doidge was one of the real stand-out strikers in our league last season. You could tell he has that je ne sais quoi when he was in the 18-yard area, that ever-present potential to muster up a goal from nothing. There was no surprise from me when it was him that opened the scoring for Forest Green in their play-off win yesterday, and he hurt us twice in our league games too. One of those goals he seized on a defensive lapse to head home, the second was a well taken finish after the merest sniff of goal.
Doidge is still young, just 24 years old and that might represent the sort of age that Danny thinks he can still get something fresh from the player. He’s scored regularly wherever he has gone, and he had two seasons in League Two with Dagenham. He wasn’t altogether prolific back then, but this season he has been on fire and I think he has earned another crack at league football.
There would be two obstacles blocking a Lincoln move. The first is his contract, he is on a two-year deal at Forest Green and there is no need for them to sell given their financial situation. The second issue is that they may be playing League Two football themselves as yet, only 90 minutes and Tranmere Rovers stand in their way. I didn’t say at the top of this blog I thought we’d actually sign these players, but if it was possible I believe Doidge would be a great acquisition.
Nathan Arnold, Gary Lund, Jamie Forrester, Bradley Wood… the list of former Grimsby players that have had good spells at Lincoln City afterwards isn’t long but it does include some really good players. This season we’ve embraced Nathan and Bradley as our own, and how much of a surprise would it be to the cods if we picked up their hero from last year, Mr Amond?
Amond has had a decent season in a struggling Hartlepool side, scoring 14 times as the Monkey Hangers slipped out of the Football League. In his first match against Grimsby he netted a brace as well, putting a smile on the faces of Imps fans at the time! He’s a natural goal scorer and a player who has already proven he can score goals in League Two. Will he be happy dropping back down into the National League? If Hartlepool need some money, are they likely to cash in on Amond to fund their transfer kitty?
Danny and Nicky will know all about Padraig, but the question is would they want to spend some of that lovely money on him? He’s on a two-year deal so unless Hartlepool start releasing by mutual consent then he’d be unlikely to come for free. At 29 he isn’t getting any younger, and I suspect that our management duo are looking for younger players looking to prove themselves at a higher level. Nevertheless I would do a little wee in my pants laughing if we did pick up the cods hero.
In a relegated Braintree side it must have been hard to be a stand out performer, but after Mr Akinola left at Christmas it was up to former Cowley protégé Michael Cheek to try to put some spark into their season. Ultimately he didn’t manage to save them, but a respectable 20 goals from 46 outings served as an indication of what he may be able to offer.
In the run up to Christmas he scored in six consecutive matches, and he notched ten goals in 2017 that gave Braintree something of a fighting chance. The lack of Football League experience might count against him though, and he’ll be 26 just after the new season kicks off. Is it too late for a shot at the professional ranks?
Danny Cowley once described Michael Cheek as ‘the best all round centre forward in the Conference South’, and he easily made the step up to the National League with 35 goals inside two seasons. It might work in his favour that he already knows the management duo, and he might not be willing to drop back down a division at this crucial stage of his career. Relegation will cost Braintree an estimated £150,000, maybe we’ll be raiding them for one last time to bring in Cheek, if only as a squad player?
6’2″ tall, 24 years old and 19 goals from 45 outings in a relegation threatened team. If any one striker from the National League looks set for a step back up then it is Mr Ugwu, the monster of a forward from Woking. When they visited Sincil Bank earlier in the season I thought he was a right handful, big and strong but more than capable of finding the back of the net. He’s been in the Football League before as well, spending time at Yeovil, Wycombe, Plymouth and Shrewsbury. Up in Scotland he banged in five from seven starts with Dunfermline as well.
His contract is up this season, and with manager Garry Hill moving on the retained list hasn’t been announced as yet. It wouldn’t surprise me if Ugwu is offered a new deal with the Cards, but whether he would sign it or not is another question, especially if there is the possibility of a step back up to the big time.
I think at this point I need to address the elephant in the room, Matt Rhead. Whilst I think he has been superb this season, I have to wonder if he has a full season of League Two football in him, or whether the load needs to be lightened on him. When Lee Angol came in I heard chatter of his height and how he might be able to fill in for Rheady, but being blunt he can’t. He is a different type of player to our target man, and what we are going to need is a bigger and stronger centre forward to either take up the slack, or perhaps replace long-term. Of all the forwards I’ve touched on, Ugwu would be the one.
I’m back on the free agents, 24-year old McNulty has just been released by Sheffield United, and despite an unspectacular record in terms of goals, I can’t help but feel he might be an asset in League Two.
McNulty isn’t a target man, he’s 5’10 and is just 24. He made his name up in Scotland, released as a youngster by Hibernian before having five seasons at Livingston. After an injury plagued start to his term there he picked up form, and ended up as leading scorer in 2011/12 with 16 goals. That attracted the interest of the Blades, and despite signing a new deal with Livingston he was soon on his way to Bramall Lane for a reported six-figure sum.
Whilst he has never broken into the United first team on a regular basis, he has always looked a threat when out on loan. Last season he scored 12 for Portsmouth in League Two, suggesting he is a threat at this level. He hasn’t had a great 2016/17, just one goal in Bradford colours were his reward from twenty odd appearances, but I still suspect there is enough in his recent past to suggest he could make a difference in League Two. Unlike the other strikers I’ve mentioned he is definitely out of contract and currently looking for a club, and I suspect one way or another he will grace the Sincil Bank turf next season as the logical step from his release is a step down a division.
Obviously it is highly unlikely that any of these strikers will end up at Sincil Bank. Danny has the ability to spring a surprise when it comes to recruitment, and he may feel if he bags Angol to partner Rheady that he can afford to look for youngsters from the top two divisions, as he has with Josh Ginnelly and Joe Ward. This summer is undoubtedly going to be one of the most exciting I can ever recall as a Lincoln fan, and until we hear some solid news I’ll keep throwing out these articles naming random players.