It took two articles of three pages each to do both the midfielders and the defenders, but this article is going to feature three players. For a whole season, Lincoln City had three out and out strikers on the books.
I refuse to talk about last season as being anything other than a success, top seven in our first season back as well as an EFL Trophy win cannot be viewed as anything else. However, what might have been achieved if we had a fourth option from the bench? What might have happened if we’d successfully brought in Ollie Hawkins, Simeon Akinola, Ade Azeez or any of the other strikers we were linked with in both the summer and the winter window?
It wasn’t through lack of trying though and to be fair to the three we did have, they all have their strengths to which they work. I think I’ll get widespread agreement though when I say we need to bring in at least two more forward players for the 2018/19 season
This isn’t a look ahead though, it is a look back at the three strikers we did have on our books, starting with one of my favourite players in recent times.
We desperately needed a 20-goal a season striker apparently, one who could fire us into the top three. How close were we then with 17-goal Matt Green?
I never buy into this mythical ‘proven goal scorer’, nor do I believe there’s such a thing as a ’20-goal a season’ striker. Some fans cried out for Ricky Miller in pre-season and in January, he ended the campaign with a couple of goals, if that. Even looking in the Championship, £10m of Jordan Rhodes couldn’t guarantee Sheffield Wednesday goals, yet he was a so-called proven scorer.
No, there’s no such thing. Ten other players make a 20-goal a season striker and Matt Green is one of those players who would comfortably create goals for another striker. What we lacked all season was another Matt Green, a player the mirror image of him to partner him up front. You see, Green can work the channels, hold up the ball and get crosses in, but he can’t be on the end to finish them as well. When he played as part of a 4-3-3 the goals slowed down, but that’s natural as he was being asked to do the running off.
I acknowledge there was a goal drought that hampered him in autumn, 16 games without a goal was an awful run for him. As a result, the team faltered, but when he started scoring at Christmas, we started winning games. Now, if Matt Green was such a bad player, how come we relied on him so much? He might have been one of three centre forwards we had, but that means there was still two more.
Matt missed a few chances, just like he put a few away. He’s not a ‘natural goal scorer’ in my eyes, not like Liam Hearn for instance, a player who could score from anywhere at any time. Matt Green has to work for his chances, he has to work endlessly and tirelessly and often he does. I know the goal was of little consequence, but that fourth against Peterborough underlined how much work he put in, 90 minutes on the clock and he still outpaced players for a goal.
In the play-offs against Exeter, there was only Matt Green that looked like scoring, both in the first leg and the second. I hear that other players hit the bar, but in truth Matt Green was the only player to strike shots at goal with the ball leaving his foot and us look like scoring. In my mind, he was pivotal to our success in both competitions and the third best player this season. I know there will be people disagreeing with me, I expect that and to a degree welcome it, but if in our 4-4-2 we had ‘Matt Green’ partnered by ‘Matt Green’, we’d be a League One club now.
A cult hero is defined as; a writer, musician, artist, or other public figure who is greatly admired by a relatively small audience or is influential despite limited commercial success. In my mind, Ollie Palmer became the ultimate cult hero. After all, who else could win a Player of the Month award for the entire league having barely played an hour and a half of football?
Ollie scored 11 goals from just 15 starts, but came off the bench a whopping 42 times. He desperately wanted to shed the tag of super-sub,but with stats like that I don’t think it’s possible.
It’s well-known by those who read me regularly that I had issues with Ollie early doors. Because of his often maverick approach to the game, his ‘get my head down and think later’ style, I felt he was costing us chances. He certainly didn’t help Matt Green’s goal drought with a selfish display against Chesterfield where he was taking shots from silly positions despite having his partner better placed.
Colchester away was the nadir of Palmer’s Lincoln career, he started and was terrible as we went 1-0 down. When he came off we looked marginally better and I felt we’d perhaps seen the last of him. He was without a goal in 13 too, going through a similar drought to Green and leaving us short of goals.
After that a complete turnaround happened. He didn’t get starts, but he did win us the tie against Rochdale, claiming afterwards he was settled in Lincoln and going nowhere. He seemed to get more direction on the pitch, we stopped looking for his head when he came on and gave it to feet and that confused the opposition. It’s been said a million times, but how could anyone defend against Ollie Palmer when even he didn’t know what he was going to do next?
Mansfield, Chesterfield, Exeter and Coventry (twice) all felt the full power of Ollie Palmer in full effect and, as the games drifted away and the season came to a close, he’d forced his way into the starting XI as part of the 4-3-3 attack. I suppose Danny threw caution to the wind, thinking that he had nothing to lose by playing all three. I’m not actually convinced it worked, but it has left Ollie with a few more starts than he felt he might get.
Continued – more on Palmer and of course, the big man