Are Cheltenham playing the same Lincoln City I watch every week?

I’ve been forced to ask myself this question after reading new manager Michael Duff’s interview on Gloucester Live this morning.

We’re now nine games into the season and Lincoln City are proving to be a different beast altogether to last season. The aggression is still there, but we’re a ball playing side now, showing guile and craft as well as an ability to mix it up if we need to. The crucial words there are ‘if we need to’. You’ll not see this Lincoln side putting in a robust reducer in the first minute.

As many sides have found out we’re not all about long ball, barrage of tackles and aggression. We have big players, yes. Tell me though, who are the third-fairest team in the league right now as judged by the disciplinary charts? We are.

Why then, does this rumours persist that ‘we know what to expect from Lincoln’ amongst some managers? It isn’t the Paul Tisdale’s of the world, but the likes of Flitcroft and now Michael Duff.

Image result for michael duff sticker

I was a little disappointed to read the following exchange in the interview with Gloucester Live, which you can read in full on the link above:

Q: Physically how different is the challenge this week against Lincoln?

MD: I think everyone knows you have to stand up against Lincoln and if you are not prepared to fight, they will run over the top of you. That’s one thing the players will be made aware of, that they need to stand up physically and mentally and then have the confidence to get on the ball and play as well.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but it sounds to me as though Cheltenham’s manager is saying we’re going there for a fight and they’ll need to be composed and try to play football. Is that not how it reads? If not, the next exchange will surely prove my theory.

Q: Is it about having a cool enough head to play your game when you do get the ball?
MD: That’s the important part. Sometimes you can get involved in a fight and it’s fight, fight, fight, fight, fight and you forget there is a football involved as well. You need to match all that and it is going to be tough. They are top of the league for a reason and it’s not an accident they are up there as they have been for the last couple of years.

I know there’s an advantage in us being underestimated, but once, just once it would be nice to read a manager who gives us credit for what we do well; fight not in terms of physicality but in terms of dogged determination. Battle not in a niggly scrap, but by winning the ball, finding openings on the ground and exposing weakness. 

Tactically, we’re a shrewd outfit who won’t be bullied (unless it is thuggery of Mansfield proportions), but won’t be outplayed either. I dare say sides will not come and ‘out football’ us, nor will we be over-awed by a passing team like at Luton last season. Why can we not have credit for that? Why is it always ‘we know what to expect’ from Lincoln?

More often than not, it isn’t us doing the fouling – Courtesy of Graham Burrell

To me, it feels like someone constantly slagging off one of my friends. You know the type, you have this mate who’s got a bit of a reputation but you know he, or she, is a decent lad, but just because people have heard he’s a wrong ‘un, they think they know him. That’s us in League Two.

To be fair to Michael Duff he does go on to praise the supporter buy-in at City and of course Danny and Nicky. Duff was part of the Burnley side humbled by us back in February of last year and he does have some nice things to say, unlike you-know-who from Failed Mill.

I have a lot of respect for Cheltenham, they’re one of the sides that people in their fifties might class as ‘new’, but having been supporting since the GMVC years are a staple of our football calendar. They’ve trodden a similar path to us over the years too and with the John Finnigan connections too, they’re a side I like to see do well, although not at our expense, obviously.

It would just be nice, once, to hear us praised for something other than the things people expect.


  1. I wonder whether it’s an attempt at mind games; Play on Lincoln’s “reputation” to try and put ideas in the ref’s mind, or to influence Lincoln’s players to ease off, or to try and gee your own players up. Or possibly it’s getting an excuse in in advance in case things don’t go well.

    Hopefully their planning for the match consisted solely of googling “Lincoln”, and they’ll be surprised when we don’t walk out in Lincoln Green, and expect our Striker to be Tammy Abraham.

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