So, as the professionals say (presumably due to some sort of industry-standard contract clause), ‘we go again’ (sorry Gary). It’s a third C’ United in a row, hopefully, 3rd time lucky. Here are some things to look out for:
1) The U’s (All Colchester United stats are League only)
The Imps travel to the Colchester Community Stadium this weekend in search of a win to put to bed the couple of previous disappointments. Colchester will be hoping not to feel the brunt of a Lincoln City which will surely to be eager to put some things straight.
However, the hosts are no easy task and sit in the playoff spots, just 4 points off the automatic places. They too had a midweek setback losing at Blundell Park despite having more possession. The U’s managed 20 shots against Jolley’s men but could only manage 2 on target. By contrast, the clinical Cods had just 7 shots, 3 on target; crucially, 1 of them went in.
The shot count and League position do, however, mean it’s less likely to be a visit to a team playing for the 0-0 against the title favourites. They have ambitions of their own and are the 2nd highest scorers in the division after the Imps. Their games don’t lack goals either with an average of 3 per match (the 3rd highest in League Two). They had a 0-0 on the opening weekend and decided they didn’t much care for it. So they’re unlikely to try to shut up shop and, if they did try, they might not be capable of it. Their impressive goal difference (+13) is down to their aforementioned attack while their defence is far more average based on goals conceded.
The sooner the captain is back, the better. While I’ve not really been a critic of Lee, I will admit I’ve often overlooked his contribution to the side. I think we’ve felt it when he’s been out. He provides a crucial role in stabilising the midfield and provides a threat going forward. In a post-Woodyard Lincoln City team, that’s vital. Going forward, he’s averaging a goal or an assist every 223 minutes with those contributions coming at crucial times as well, to be expected as we’re only really likely to push him too far up the pitch if we’re searching for a goal. He has gained City 2 wins with goals and another victory with an assist. This is the best record in the squad alongside the also-missed Jason Shackell.
That defensive stability and structure are important too. In the 892 minutes Freck has played, we’ve conceded just 6 goals. That’s a goal conceded every 149 minutes, the best record in the squad.
3) Eardley or a replacement?
There’s been talk about Eardley not having the same impact as he did last campaign. I can see where people are coming from, he got 11 assists last campaign but has only managed 1 so far this season. We’ve certainly seen less of the buccaneering overlapping run that became his trademark last season. However, a player must fit into a system and Lincoln City have adapted. Many were crying out for a more offensive style of play with Woodyard’s departure and that has been managed by having a more attack-minded midfield as well as wingers pushing right up the field.
This puts far more defensive responsibility on the full-backs with Anderson further up and the lack of 2 defensive midfielders plugging any gaps. Defensively, we’re still yet to concede a goal this season where the assist comes from the attacking side’s left wing. I hope he has a speedy recovery.