It is fair to say that 2017 has been a good year for Lincoln fans, promotion, titles, cup runs and the evolution of a squad that currently looks as good as any we’ve had in my lifetime. However, all good things must come to an end and tomorrow we embark on the first trip of 2018.
Will it be another year of success? It’s highly likely given how we’ve been playing recently and how well we’re expected to recruit in the transfer window. Tomorrow at Kenilworth Road will be the calm before the storm, the class of 2017 pitting themselves against the very best that League Two has to offer.
It’s almost like an ‘end of year final’ and a ‘beginning of 2018 barometer’ rolled into one. Luton Town are arguably the best team at this level, a big club on their way back after years in the doldrums. We’re also on our way back and tomorrow’s game will show us how far we’ve come sine promotion a few short months ago.
Of course, after the game Danny Rowe will join up with us as will a host of other new faces. 2018 will truly start once the game has finished, giving this match a true occasion feel. How can our red and white heroes better what they’ve done in 2018? Danny Cowley says the most important match is the next one, so forget Arsenal, Burnley, Macclesfield or any of those: Luton Town away is where it is at.
On paper, we shouldn’t stand a chance. In Danny Hylton and James Collins they’ve got at least £250k of striker prowling the area. Think Christian Doidge times two. Luke Berry fills the midfield void, a fantastic player whom Cambridge were gutted to lose. In goal, Marek Stech is a monster, a former top-flight keeper who doesn’t want to be in the fourth tier long. They’re the finished article, moulded from a season or two in League Two spent understanding what is required. We’re the usurper, the fresh new faces who don’t know what our limitations are nor where our so-called rightful place is.
Luton have hammered teams this season. Yeovil (8-2), Stevenage (7-1) and Swindon (5-0 away) all spring to mind. If they smell blood they will devour you, they’ll maul you like a cat with a mouse before tucking in and finishing you off. They’re a side to be feared and revered in equal measure. The most likely result, based on a probability model from footstas.co.uk, is a 1-0 win to them and in some quarters that would be classed as a good result. After all, stop Luton scoring three or more at home and you’ve done a good job.
Statistics don’t tell you the full story though and on the last six games, it should be them scared of us. We’re top of the current form guide, having won five and drawn one of our last six. They’ve won five and lost one, putting us down as the in-form team. Both sides have scored twelve goals, impressive considering they rattled five past Swindon and we’re still level with them. As for conceding, they’ve let in four in six games, City have conceded twice. We’re tight at the back and all good teams start with a solid defence.
As you know, I normally like a stat or two here, but after the packed Christmas schedule, what use are they? In truth, form goes out of the window, it affects the players state of minds but fatigue and mentality will determined the overall winner. Who wants it more tomorrow? Who can drag their tired bodies back from the brink to pit their wits against the best the league has to offer? Make no mistake, Luton Town will be looking at this fixture and billing it as a real test of their credentials. Beat Lincoln City, a tough and organised unit with a threat at one end and a brick wall at the other, and the league is ours. We’re going into it the underdogs, but they won’t be believing we’re lambs to the slaughter, not one bit.
Our 0-0 draw earlier in the season (pictured top) has set the bar, Luton will know how resilient we were that day. This is a top of the table clash, something few of us expected to be involved in after just five month of League football. We’re exceeding expectation, confounding the critics and surprising our own fans. Lincoln City, third in League Two with a half-finished squad. What can happen as we grow and progress?
So that concludes your preview of tomorrow’s game. Once normal service is resumed we can analyse transfer window sales, current form and the like, but New Year’s Day 2018 transcends any of those methods of looking at a match. Tomorrow it is about desire, belief, will and a degree of sports science, which is handy given that our manager is a sports scientist.
One thing is for certain, Luton Town won’t be attacking fans, gesturing from a team bus or anything like that. They’re a proper club, the sort we’ve scrapped and battled to earn the right to play against. A favourable result tomorrow and we do our chances of playing them again next season the world of good.
Believe, anything is possible.