When I was a child, my Dad used to be going about his business around the house signing a song that went along the lines of ‘Jingle bells …. oh what fun it is to see, Lincoln win away’. Of course, we never seemed to actually win away at Christmas. For many years, we never seemed to win.
My Dad has a habit of singing inappropriate songs, I’m not talking about German bombers or whatever else we think is wrong these days, but he could be found chanting ‘we are top of the league’ away at Crewe last season when we were in fact eighth. It means little to my Dad, actual league position, he’s been watching City since the late sixties and has seen his fair share of crap. If we’re top ten, then we’re top in his book.
Only we’re not just top ten now, are we? We are top. We’re also away on Boxing Day so hopefully, my Dad gets to roll out both of his favourite songs and for once, they’ll both be relevant. Events elsewhere meant that whatever we did against Newport, we’d be top at Christmas, but thanks to our endeavour, resilience and a little bit of luck, we’ll be top after the Boxing Day fixtures as well.
Thankfully it wasn’t as cold as last week and thanks to a few people being missing, I had two seats to myself in the stand. It meant for the first time this season I couldn’t feel the person next to me shuffle when his phone vibrated. Last week being unusually close to another man was life-saving, yesterday I enjoyed the leg room.
I was concerned going into the game. Bruno being missing is a big blow and whilst I like Tom Pett a lot, he isn’t the same threat out wide that the former Woking man is. That’s not to say I would drop Pett, he’s been exceptional recently and when we need that little bit of quality, he can bring it.
Other than that it was ‘as you were’, with the line up taking on a familiar feel. It’s odd that we’ve settled into a favoured XI so easily when at the start of the season we tried three or four formations and different combinations. The only notable absence was, or course, Matt Green. He’s still on our header image though, I guess we’ll need to rectify that soon.
I often joke about playing Danny Cowley bingo, bankers being the phrases ‘start with intensity’ or ‘start with a real purpose’. What he means, in technical speak, is get at them early and let them know they’re at the bank. Get in their effing faces and hit them early. That’s what the old school coaches would say, but however you choose to articulate it, that is what we did.
What better way to get in their faces than by grabbing an early opener? A corner from the right found Tom Pett on the left, he took his time to deliver a cross and John Akinde went into double figures for the season with a scruffy finish. Still, penalty, superb strike or scrambled effort, they all count and despite his header not getting anywhere, he was alert enough to hook the ball home via a heavy deflection. With that early goal came a spell of football from Lincoln that should have been gift-wrapped and put under every fan’s tree on Tuesday.
For twenty minutes I was convinced I was watching the future Champions of League Two, we were that good. Our passing was excellent, neat little triangles were exchanged as willing runners found gaps in behind. Harry Anderson impressed me most in the opening few minutes, as Danny keeps saying he is only a young boy despite having played 79 times for City already. In all of his matches for the club he might not have scored a better individual effort than the second on the seven minute mark. He pressed down the right hand flank, dropping a shoulder and then dropping the other to try to get past his defender. When he couldn’t do that he angled an effort across goal and into the bottom left hand corner of the Newport goal.
At 2-0, most football fans would have glanced at the scores and gone ‘Lincoln are winning again’, but that’s not how it works when you’re the Lincoln fan. After getting two my reaction was ‘we need three to be sure’, but I laughed it off. Last weekend against Morecambe two first-half goals would have been enough to win us the game, so I tried to remain comfortable with the fact we’d be fine at 2-0. Keep it tight, nick one late on.
There was a flash point I didn’t particularly like, a clash of heads led to one of our players going down and what looked like an elbow then flattened one of our lads. I didn’t have my glasses but I think, possibly, it was Toffolo. Maybe the lack of glasses had me asking for a red card prematurely, certainly some people around me thought it warranted one. Mind you, a female voice behind me claimed at one point that ‘Matt Rhead would have run for that’ after John Akinde opted not to chase down a lost cause. I’m not sure she’s been before.
Once our spell wore off, once the two goals and neat passes had been soaked up by Newport, they came back into the game. I chuckled at their manager’s post-match reaction that they were the better team, but they’re certainly a side with lots to offer going forward. Antoine Semenyo is a Bristol City youngster on loan at Rodney Parade and he looked to have a bit about him, megging Neal Eardley like the skilful kid in the playground used to do to me, before pulling a good save from Grant Smith. Smith was called into action a few minutes later to make a finger-tipped save from a Robbie Wilmott drive. It might have been 2-0, but the next goal was crucial. If we got a third, we’d be secure but if they got back into it, we’d all be wishing the game was over.
Just before half time, the latter happened. We’ve been solid enough at the back all season, but have a habit of letting in sloppy goals and this was no different. It was a simple goal from a corner, one perhaps the keeper might have wanted to do better from, but one that the bigger lads might have wanted to get clear too. Up until that point I didn’t think we’d put a foot wrong, but as Padraig ‘bloody’ Amond slammed the ball into the back of the net you just knew the game wasn’t over.
Next page – Top at Christmas