Over to you, Mansfield Town: Imps 2-2 Wolves (4-5 pens)

It’s fair to say our Checkatrade Trophy campaign hasn’t been quite as comprehensive as last season.

Three wins from three saw us gain confidence for the ultimate Wembley success, but this season we’ve failed to win any of our three games. The two runs are not comparable at all, the focus this season has clearly been elsewhere rather than this competition, whereas last year with a smaller squad it was hard for first team players not to get a game.

Last night’s team selection proved that where possible, we were taking no risks. Players with no league appearances for us such as Sam Slocombe and Adam Crookes played, as well as the loan players on the fringes such as Mensah and Gordon. 

I’m going to do exactly what the club did last night though, for a start I’m going to focus on something else entirely, the pre-match shirt display organised by Danny Nesbitt which I was kindly invited to be a part of.

Courtesy of Lincoln City Football Club

I’m starting here because it was the highlight of my night, as you’ll find out shortly. Danny has a cracking collection of Wolves shirts, being a fan of both sides, whilst I’ve accumulated a few Lincoln ones in my time as a fan. He suggested putting on a display to show fans what we had and spark some comment and chatter, which the event certainly did.

We had over 40 classic shirts from both clubs, originals from the early 1980s onwards and some replica shirts from 1948 and 1976. Danny also showcased his extensive memorabilia collection, while I added a few little extra bits too. All in all it seemed to go down very well indeed, although one or two people did try to buy the shirts thinking we were selling them off. Not for all the money in your pocket, nor you Mum and Dad’s son. Get gone.

It was great to meet like minded fans, some of whom had worn their classic shirts too. I wore the 1993/94 shirt, one of my all-time favourites with a cool collar, little black pinstripe outside the white and memories of Magic Johnson, Paul Smith, Bolton and Everton in cup competition and of course, Big Keith in the dugout. Classic times, classic memories.

My choice was shared by another of the fans who turned up, whilst a lady had a match worn Jason Barnett away shirt from the late 1990s, the green and white ‘Celtic’ design. It turns out it wasn’t for sale, despite my best efforts!

Danny’s collection was equally as impressive and his brother Steve added his own match-worn GMVC shirt, something I have yet to add to my collection. It was great fun swapping memories and stories and between us, Danny and I have already got the perfect away shirt design for next season in homage to the RAF. Come chat with us Liam, we’ll set you right on kit design.

That was pre-match and for me it was the highlight of the evening. Why? Because I went home.

I might get criticised for this and a part of me ached as I walked away from the ground and heard the (rather muted) cheer for Matt Green’s goal, but I didn’t stay to support the lads and despite what some of you might think, it doesn’t make me less of a fan. I wasn’t boycotting either.

I didn’t stay because I know we’re putting all our effort into the league campaign and deep down, exit from this competition won’t matter. Effectively it is taking a game with the atmosphere of a friendly and imparting friendly levels of importance on to it as well. Throw in an Under 21 team and you have a game of football that barely holds my interest.

Even if the Mansfield game had been played at the same time I might have stayed for the drama, but we knew nothing more at the end of the game than we did at the start. We’ve played all three games and we still don’t know if we’re through or not. At least last season the matches were all played at the same time.

I know some will say the club needs my support, they got it. I was there pre-match, drinking and eating, buying a programme and contributing financially, but I genuinely have better things to do with my time than watch a game of football I believe has little to no importance.

I’ve since seen the highlights and of course, I listened on the radio during my drive home, so instead of the usual analysis, I wanted to do a ‘four things we learned piece, following on from this. It’s on the next page.