A classic Lincoln City away 1-0 last time out just to remind League Two we’re still after the title as well as the FA Cup. Next up are the perennial thorn in many a League Two team’s side: Morecambe. I’ve got a feeling this game won’t be pretty either but, with MK Dons facing the tricky trip to Newport, a win could put us clear with a game in hand. A slightly different approach in this one where I do a little more focus on the opposition and mix in some Lincoln numbers meaning the other 2 sections are a bit shorter; after all, you don’t need me to tell you how good Bruno is again, eh? Here are some things to look out for:
1) The Shrimps (All Morecambe stats are League only)
Morecambe currently sit 19th, although they could drop to a perilous 21st if teams below them win games in hand. Surprisingly, a key weakness for Jim Bentley’s men has been keeping clean sheets – they have only managed to keep out their opponents in 14% of games, the 3rd worst record in League Two. Perhaps even more frustrating for their fans, they have failed to find the net in 43% of League Two games, the joint 2nd worst record.
Their early season form was particularly worrying, losing 7 out of 8 but the ship has steadied somewhat and they actually come into Saturday with just 1 defeat in their last 6. Here are some stats that might wash that down for you though: they’ve conceded 34 goals in League Two (twice as many as us); they’ve only managed 1 point in 6 games against sides in the top 7; 24% of their goals conceded have come after 80 minutes. That last number, in particular, might make Danny and Nicky’s eyes light up, City have already scored 15 goals in the last 6th of games.
Amongst a few familiar names in Morecambe’s squad is the evergreen Kevin Ellison who, when he’s been free from tweeting EA Sports about his speed rating in FIFA, has continued to play for the visitors. However, he’s only managed 2 goals this campaign and the real threat comes from AJ Leitch-Smith. The striker (real name A-Jay) has had an interesting career spanning such exotic locales as an island off Iceland and Port Vale. After a dry spell at Shrewsbury, he’s found his shooting boots again and has 6 in 19 – respectable for a struggling side (29% of Morecambe’s total in the League). Other attackers worth noting are Vadaine Oliver and Liam Mandeville (born in Lincoln and has 2 goals and 5 assists so far).
You might well remember this fixture last campaign as an exercise in frustration. It was an early season game and the freshly promoted Imps hoped to stamp their credentials against a side continually in the lower echelons of the division. It didn’t quite pan out that way though. City peppered the Morecambe goal with 26 shots and 10 on target but just a solitary goal resulting in a draw.
The upside is that we’re far more clinical now. Little has changed in terms of testing the ‘keeper with last season’s shots on target score at 40% and this campaign’s being 41%. However, these are now significantly more dangerous efforts. Last season, our goals from shots score was just 13% (a minimal 2% better than our opposition). This is clearly something that’s been addressed in the close season and we now have a record of 20% – 9% better than our opposition who have stayed consistent on 11%.
2) Experimental 361
My second favourite EFL site (after The Stacey West of course) Experimental 361 recently published their latest update of the state of League Two on a variety of metrics. I know xG isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but I do think they can be valuable to compare our performances with the rest of the division. The data correlates with what I’ve been collecting and it’s always nice to see a more neutral source sharing my views on our efficiency.
Where we really shine it seems, is our clinical nature and limited good chances. I’ve already spoken about our fantastic conversion rate and these numbers back it up with the Imps well ahead of the pack and needing less than half the amount of shots to get a goal as the division’s weakest finishers. We’re also out in front of letting the opposition have good chances, while we obviously concede shots, these are often from less threatening positions and over the course of the season that will bear itself out. At this level, strikes like McConville’s last season are rare and it can often be more sensible to maintain a solid shape and allow opponents to shoot from range rather than break ranks and risk a killer passing lane.
3) Youth and experience
Something I’ve not yet touched on in these articles is squad age. The average age of players who’ve made an appearance for the Imps this season is just below 27; when you weight this with the number of appearances made it takes the number to just over 27. This reflects the real blend in the squad, something touched on in Lee Frecklington’s comments on the dressing room culture in the Football League Paper recently.
While there’s obviously some experienced campaigners in there, we’ve placed a lot of responsibility on some young shoulders. I feel it’s common amongst fans of all clubs to be far less mindful of a players lack of experience when they aren’t products of the club’s own youth system. I often forget that the likes of Anderson, Toffolo and Vickers are still young in their positions. In fact, 5 players 25 or under have already made 15 or more appearances this season with the likes of Chapman and Wharton not far off.
The sight of promising talent in red and white looks only set to continue with the successes of the youth teams and City continuing to be linked with pretty much every ‘next Jamie Vardy’ the lower divisions can churn out.