Another late winner keeps the Imps clear at the top. Now it’s time for a trip to Whaddon Road. Here are some things to look out for:
1) The foul count
Last season, Lincoln developed a reputation for being tough and not afraid of a challenge. We were undeniably physical and that was reflected in the fouls and cards accumulated. This season has so far surprised me on that front. Our opponents have committed 158 fouls so far against the Imps with the worst offenders being Macclesfield with 17 while the impressive Blackburn committed just 9. The Imps themselves have committed 143 with the highest count coming against Port Vale where we accumulated 18 (Vale managed 16).
The distinction is even clearer when it comes to bookings. The opposition have collected 20 more bookings already this season averaging 2.6 per game (we average 0.9). In fact, 3 opponents already (Mansfield, Crawley and MK Dons) have accrued more than 5 yellows against us. By contrast, the Imps are yet to pick up more than 2 in a game.
I think perhaps this reflects the development in our squad this campaign, last season we battled our way to playoff position through grit. Now, we are the favourites and the team that opponents must rough up to try and get a result. So far, we’re looking like we can handle it.
2) Shot efficiency
While Andrade adds some much-needed flair to proceedings, the real hallmark of Lincoln’s attacking threat is efficiency. We’ve actually faced more shots than we’ve taken. However, we’re far more clinical when looking at the numbers. 46% of our efforts test the ‘keeper and 23% result in a goal. This efficiency was at its best in our 4-0 drubbing of Port Vale and the 3-1 win over County. Against Port Vale, 88% of our shots were on target and 50% went in. At home to County, 80% were on target and 60% went in.
These numbers are fantastic in comparison to those of our opposition. They average 35% on target (Vale managed just 9%) and just 10% go in. That obviously means that when we shoot, we are more than twice as likely to score than our opponents when they shoot; a significant advantage. Perhaps most surprising is that none of our opponents so far have managed to score more than a quarter of their shots, a testament to our defence and goalkeepers.
3) Attacking threat
Akinde and Green have been tremendously important this season. Matt is averaging a goal or an assist every 87 minutes he plays, a brilliant record, and John is not far behind as he either scores or creates a goal every 89 minutes – equally impressive given that he’s played nearly twice as many minutes. That’s a genuinely terrifying threat for our opponents. The impact Green has on our attacking potency is clear, when he’s on the pitch, we’re averaging a goal every 39 minutes. Big John isn’t far behind either, we score a goal every half on average when plays.
Someone else I want to mention is Jason Shackell. I was very surprised when we managed to get him in and he’s deservedly cemented his place in the team (playing 82% of the minutes since he signed), causing a real headache with Wharton returning to fitness. He’s also proven himself a real asset in the opposition box. What I want to highlight is the importance of his goals. He currently leads the way in terms of points gained from goals scored by the player (I include cup results as points like league games for this metric). His goals have led to 3 wins for the Imps, fast filling the gap left from the absence of Waterfall and Raggett who could previously be relied upon to pop up with winners. Let’s have another one to celebrate your 35th birthday eh, Jason?