2017/18 Top Performers – a guest article by Kyle Kennealey

Lincoln may have fallen short of the ultimate prize of promotion, but they enjoyed a considerable amount of success and that is down to the performances of their players. Here I rank Lincoln’s top three players this season with their performances in the League and Cups based on my opinion…

Joint 3rd- Matt Green and Alex Woodyard

Lincoln’s talisman and midfield maestro cannot be split by me and both finish in third spot for two completely different reasons after successful campaigns from both a personal and team perspective.

Matt Green arrived from rivals Mansfield with a bunch of experience inside and out of the EFL and his goal-scoring record was half decent as well as his work ethic. His impact was imminent inside the first period at Wycombe where he scored Lincolns first EFL goal in six years. Green struck the equalizer against Bentley’s Morecambe side, but Lincoln’s almost perfect performance couldn’t end with a winner, the Imps couldn’t finish a host of chances that fell their way. The Stags were the opponents in the first Checkatrade Trophy match of the season and Green was on form to haunt his former side in added time. That was to be his last goal for almost three months in a period where he was also dismissed at Stevenage. In a spell that lasted for two months, Matt didn’t have more than one game without netting, including vital goals against Stevenage and Notts County in the League and against Peterborough in the Checkatrade Trophy quarter-finals. Derby delight  followed on Easter Weekend, one of the defining moments of the season, with two cleverly worked free-kicks dispatched by Matt either side of Easter Sunday securing two massive wins that cannot be underestimated. Green’s final goal of the season was the end of the line for Lincoln as Exeter beat the former by three goals to one.

Matt scored 17 goals in all competitions, but it was his work rate was absolutely phenomenal and was one of the reasons why was a fan favourite despite playing in the channels for large parts of the season rather than his preferred position of a centre-forward.

Alex began the season with heaps of expectation on his shoulders after winning the Imps player of the season and had a host of EFL interest but opted against it all to stay at the Imps. His goal-scoring has slightly hindered his progress and is a factor why he isn’t playing in the Championship as he does possess that quality. It’s all the more frustrating when he pops up with the odd strike. When Carlisle were the visitors, moments of magic had been hard to come by and three points yet to be achieved, that was about to change. When the ball fell to Woodyard in a possible shooting position, you’d been forgiven to think that he would pass up the opportunity and spread the ball out wide, to recycle the play. Well, in the game against Carlisle, that opportunity was not to be passed up as he drove an unstoppable effort from around 25-yards out. He added a second when a pinpoint ball fell to the former Braintree playmaker in the area and he calmly dinked the keeper to put the result beyond doubt. He may not have enjoyed the wonders of the previous campaign, but he has improved massively as a player and would be a huge loss if he was to depart in the summer. That is something that will not be underestimated.

2- Michael Bostwick

Peterborough fans were under the impression that Bostwick would be a huge influence at the club for many years to come and over the five years he spent their they certainly weren’t left disappointed by his force. So, they were left distraught when he departed to Lincoln in the summer of 2017 and was a major coup as much as it was a risk for the experienced Bostwick to take, this was Lincoln’s first season back in the EFL for six years. In his first season at the club, Bostwick appeared fifty-one times for the Imps playing as a central-midfielder until after Christmas when Dickie and Raggett departed and the Imps were left short of options. Although they did bring in Wharton, defensive options weren’t at a massive supply as injuries meant that Wharton was drafted in either side of centre-backs Bostwick and Waterfall. The changes in the back four did not deter Bostwick and he continued his fantastic season into the run-in where Lincoln secured their play-off spot and Wembley success in the Checkatrade Trophy. The first leg against Exeter saw Bostwick feature in the midfield as Lincoln created much going forward and were resolute at the back, a large part of that can be credited to Bostwick. In the second leg, the former Posh man had to revert back into defence and Lincoln missed his closing down from midfield and that is where two of the three Exeter goals came from. He recently signed a new deal at the club that will keep his services until 2020 and no doubt with the right recruitment, Lincoln will have another shot at promotion.

1- Neal Eardley

No doubt the Imps standout performer and it’s hard to believe that the then 28 year-old, reaching the peak of his career, was not playing at Championship level. He has been capped by his country, Wales, before and has plenty of Football League experience with Oldham and Northampton as well as Premier League time with Blackpool, before joining Lincoln in the summer 2017. The Welsh right-back received all the right plaudits from gaffer Danny Cowley, with the Imps manager having this to say: “Technically and tactically you can see he’s played in the Premier League and will be a good role model. He’s one of those that makes everyone around him 5% better.” He backed up his manager, fitting in well to the opening day draw at Wycombe and would go onto cement his place in the Imps starting XI for the whole season ahead. His position at right-back transformed into a right-winger when Lincoln were in the attacking third of situations, helping himself to a number of assists, the most by an Imps player. He also popped up with a rocket of a goal when Lincoln were short in the midfield, smashing one in from 25-yards out against Cheltenham which turned out to be the winner. His versatility and crossing ability meant that there was no end of quality balls fired into the box and on the four occasions he didn’t feature for City, he was missed massively. Signing a new contract has and could be the Imps biggest coup in the summer, but it remains to be seen how long he will be seen in red and white before a higher league club comes in with an offer. He is perhaps the most talented player that has ever worn a red and white shirt, a true definition of a living legend!