I’ve been having a bit of a clear out in the office today, and I came across the FourFourTwo predictions magazine for this past season. Given how predictions have caused some consternation amongst Imps fans this summer, I thought I’d look at what the nation’s most popular football magazine thought might happen.
Firstly though, this isn’t me having a go at FourFourTwo in any way. It’s all-too easy to laugh at people who get predictions wrong, but it is inevitable. Nobody can truly tell what will happen in the beautiful game, and the raft of predictions and analysis are done for your enjoyment. Therefore, when they are not correct they shouldn’t be mocked or abused to any serious degree (that’s me covering my arse after my own pre-season analysis is already looking ropey!)
So, what was predicted for City? Interestingly we were only rated as play-off outsiders, despite lifting the league title in May. I don’t think this was a poorly received prediction though, we did seem a long way off Champion material despite the arrival of Danny and Nicky and most fans hoped to be challenging the top six, nothing more. I did note that our key man wasn’t far wrong though, Alex Woodyard was a real driving force last season.
I compare this with the predictions for this season, and it feels as if perhaps this campaign they’ve been a little sloppy. I won’t argue with the final position of 11th, having just come up we’re discovering the quality in the division is significantly higher than we imagined. I feel they allude to Danny and Nicky as one-dimensional, suggesting they need a change of approach against canny tacticians. What sort of managers do they think we had in the National League? Dribbling monkeys trying to explain the offside rule using salt and pepper pots? Our approach is far from one-dimensional and I get a little tired of hearing about ‘long ball Lincoln’ all the time. Even in the fans forum the other night, the first question from one of our own fans was ‘is there a plan B if hoofing it doesn’t work?’ Madness.
A couple of the other National League predictions from 2016 interested me too, not because of how wrong they were, but because of how much was expected of a team that ultimately imploded. York City shouldn’t be in the National League North, not by any stretch of the imagination. They had a terrible start, but by mid March they seemed to have done enough to stay up. FFT (FourFourTwo, I can’t be arsed to type it out anymore so I’ll abbreviate) thought they were better value than we were, calling them for a third placed finish. Yan Klukowski was named as the star man, but he wasn’t quite the talisman that Alex was for us. 25 games and three goals was the sum of his contribution, and as we know instead of involving themselves in the play-offs they’re now enjoying trips to Blyth Spartans and Chorley.
They also called big-spending Eastleigh as champions, and I think we proved that money isn’t the root of all success. They had bought Mikael Mandron from Sunderland and they were attracting all sorts of attention, but ultimately the pressure of that spending weighed heavily on them, and they struggled. I think that is relevant this season as once again many have the money-men down to do well, I’m thinking specifically of the Stags. They’ve not had the best of starts despite the grotesque investment there, and like Eastleigh last year I wonder if the pressure of pre-season favourites, coupled with the expectation could come back to haunt them.
While we’re on spectacular falls from grace, how about the prediction for Orient last season? Like York City FFT called them to finish high up the league, believing they’d be going for automatic promotion. Instead it was collapse and despite finishing on the fringes of the play-offs the season before, it all went badly wrong. I wonder which side in League Two this year will suffer the same fate? There’s always one or two that challenge the top seven one year, get tipped for more success and then fail badly. We should know, in 2007/08 it was us. I still suspect Carlisle will find themselves out of the picture come the festive season, and no matter how down we are about the result at the weekend, they won’t be relishing coming to Sincil Bank.
As fans we must not forget that Lincoln City are an organised and methodical side, and we could quite easily have had six points on the board now rather than two. Last weekend we should have cleaned up by the half hour mark, and a week earlier we were unlucky not to come away with more from Wycombe. As Danny says there is no hard-luck story here though, you score goals and win games, but at least we’re not being blown out of the water every week. We haven’t been outplayed in any games, and we have scored a couple of goals. To anyone who thinks we need a ‘fox in the box’, I say look again. What we need are our wide players to weigh in with one or two, JMD has come close as has Nathan, and Michael Bostwick is advancing enough to maybe offer more of a threat. Now Luke is back alongside Raggs we need to see a contribution from them too. Matt Green is doing what he is paid to do, he’s scored two in three so far this campaign, if he keeps that ratio up he’ll have 25 by the end of the season. We’d take that wouldn’t we? We don’t rely on just one player, we didn’t last season and we’ll get nowhere by doing so this time around.
The signing of Matt Green and his scoring prowess should not be under estimated. Last season he was correctly called as a key man for Mansfield and by rights I think he should be labelled the same for us this time around. I’m actually getting a little agitated at people suggesting we need to sign a striker as if we need someone to start instead of Green. Yes, we need another centre forward, but one who has more impact off the bench than Ollie Palmer. Despite his mobility I still see Palmer as a second ‘Matt Rhead’ option, and what we truly need is a quick and energetic player to come on for the last fifteen or twenty minutes once Green has run himself into the ground.
If there is a ‘problem’ so far this season, and aside from a tough run of matches I don’t think there is, then for me it is the threat of goals from elsewhere on the pitch. We deliver an enormous amount of balls into the box, but they haven’t been coming off at all. We’re missing Sam Habergham, there’s little doubt about that. That isn’t critical of Neal Eardley either, when Sam is back I think Neal may well get a start at right back, but in Sam we have a player that can deliver a wicked ball from the left, and at present JMD hasn’t been able to do that for us. He looks like he needs time to settle, remember he was effective last season at National League level, just as Nathan was, just as Rheady was, etc etc. We’ve stepped up and it is taking those players a little time to adjust. Matt Green however, he was at this level last season, scoring goals and being tipped to be Mansfield’s star man. Along with Neal Eardly and Michael Bostwick they know what the division is all about, unlike FourFourTwo last season!!