Today may have been the first pre-season friendly, but it was a game where the result is far less significant than the chance to get some minutes under the belt. For Lincoln United it was also a chance to showcase what they have to offer to the people of Lincoln, hoping to catch some of the Imps support when we don’t have a game.
I’ll come to the match shortly, but first a word about the set up down at the Sunhat Villas stadium, or as we know it Ashby Avenue. I’m going to confess it is the first time I’ve been there, and I was incredibly impressed. It’s a non-league stadium but the facilities were certainly better than North Ferriby, a side that competed in the National League last season.
What really impressed me was the dedication of the volunteers, and their eagerness to show the positive side of their football club. From walking in the gate, through the bar and into the stadium there were smiles everywhere. Perhaps it was the thought of 1700 fans paying into the club’s coffers, but I suspect it was simply how they do things.
The food was better than Double M, without a shadow of a doubt, and I came away feeling regret that I hadn’t been down before. Had I not been in the process of putting together the Lincoln football magazine I may not have gone today, but after the warm reception we got I won’t miss the annual friendly again, and should City not have a game when Lincoln United do, I’ll definitely go along to watch the Whites. In that respect Rob Bradley and his team achieved their mission, because if they caught one ‘floater’ such as me, I’m sure they caught many more. I had the pleasure of chatting to Rob and to Peter Doyle, board member of the Red Imps Trust after the game, and I’ll be putting that together in an article for the magazine.
This is a Lincoln City blog though, and I was also there in my capacity as a City fan. Danny didn’t mess about, the whole squad got minutes with the exception of Callum Howe who I understand was carrying a knock. There was no Adam Marriott which looks to confirm the rumours he has left the club, although again I understand Danny’s philosophy is ‘never say never’. It’s a shame if that is the case, I think Adam still has a lot to offer the squad, if not the first team. His none appearance at training this week does sound ominous though, and if he doesn’t return then he goes with my best wishes, despite being to blame for a broken wrist!
Several trialists did appear for City, James Rowe being the one who most people noticed due to him looking like the love child of Alex Woodyard and Adrian Patulea. Rowe had a decent game in midfield, given it was a low-key friendly on the back of two weeks of high intensity training. The heat was harsh as well, meaning that this wasn’t the best indication of the players strengths and weaknesses, but Rowe grabbed himself a goal and zipped around the place with energy which is what Danny likes.
Of all the trial players I was most impressed with Brandon Ormand Otterway who played a majority of the game at left back. We’re short in the full back areas having only two recognised wide defenders at the club, and if Brandon’s performance is anything to go by he’s certainly worth another look. He provided the cross for City’s first goal, a teasing a delicate ball that Matt Green gobbled up. All afternoon he worked tirelessly, showing flashes of his obvious quality. He played 49 times for Swindon in League One over the past two seasons and he was schooled at Arsenal, so he has the pedigree to succeed.
The other two new faces were both from Norwich City, so I’m told. I really liked the ‘big lump’ at the back, Michee Efete. He came on for the second half and looked strong and assured, and he had already caught my eye in the pre-match warm up. If indeed it is Efete, he spent a portion of last season with Icelandic side Breidablik, and he’s been capped for Democratic Republic of Congo at under 21 level. He had a strong game too, although Lincoln United didn’t offer a great amount going forward and his involvement was limited. I certainly think Danny will want to see more of him though, he appeared to have all the ingredients required to add value to the squad.
I believe the final trialist was also from Norwich City, right back Louis Ramsay. He warmed up alongside Efete which seems to confirm they’re from the same club, and he too had an assured game when he came on. Both players have played regularly for the Canaries development side, and it is unclear whether they’re here with a view to a permanent move, loan move or just for us to run an eye over.
The biggest performance of the signed on players came from Matt Green in so much as he scored, twice. We’ve signed Green to score the goals, and a good striker will score in friendlies, in training and in big matches. Green showed his sharpness and his ruthlessness in front of goal to bag two in a short space of time, as City threatened to run riot. If he shows the same sharpness and application in league matches then we’ll not be short of a goal or twenty from him.
I also thought Elliott Whitehouse looked really lively when he appeared in the second half. He has a big twelve months ahead of him, and with the benefit of a ‘Cowley’ pre-season I think we’ll see a new and improved player. He has battled back into the Football League after the disappointment of sliding out at an early age, and he will have a point to prove. It won’t be easy as he’ll be up against Billy Knott for a starting place, but he has always shown ultimate professionalism and he’ll be up for the challenge. He certainly had the air of a senior professional towards the end of the game, directing he younger players with a confidence that belies his own youth.
It was a pre season friendly, a blisteringly hot day and players were chopped and changed regularly so the game often lacked rhythm or cohesion. I didn’t expect a festival of football so early in July, but it was a good chance to get a first look at our Football League team in action. Lincoln United, with the greatest of respect, barely got a kick as Danny approached this game as he approaches them all, to win. I’m not being cruel to Lincoln United, these are two teams at very different levels and the fact they beat us 2-0 last season perhaps shows how different the mentality is these days. When we went 3-0 up after about twenty minutes I really feared for the Whites, but they worked hard to keep us out, and despite not offering much going forward they made sure it wasn’t all plain sailing for City.
Towards the end a couple of our youth players came on, and on in particular really stood out for me. Sadly I don’t know his name, and in my eagerness to name the trial players I didn’t find out who the kid was. Whoever he turns out to be he showed some lovely touches and a real burst of pace as well. As you’d expect from a young player at this level he looked raw, but hopefully we can see a couple of the youth players at least get around the first team for the EFL Trophy.
Nathan Arnold wrapped up the afternoon with a fourth before the end, slotting past the giant Lincoln United reserve keeper. By then the result wasn’t in doubt and perhaps a sharper and more competitive City could have scored three or four more, but again these games are not so much about the result as the chance to get minutes under their belts, or in City’s case their vests. This season the players are sporting GPS vests in pre-season to monitor the work they put in, another innovation unheard of at Lincoln City.
The two clubs part ways now for very different campaigns, City look to League Two and beyond whilst United will be hoping for a play-off push and a money spinning cup run. However, the Whites will be hoping that their brilliant hospitality and warm reception will not go unnoticed, and should there be a free weekend or evening for Imps fans, they might choose to head on over to Ashby Avenue to watch the City’s second team.