A disappointing draw but still unbeaten, bar Everton, in 2019; I guess it depends on your perspective. Next up is a fixture at fortress Sincil Bank, at home to Northampton Town, perhaps Danny and Nicky can ask them for hotel recommendations for League One opposition? Here are some things to look out for:
1) The Cobblers (All Northampton Town stats are League only)
The visitors have had an indifferent season in their return to the bottom tier of the Football League, exiting the FA and League Cups at the first hurdle alongside uninspiring League form. They’re on their second manager in Keith Curle but, despite a new-manager bounce through October, improvements have been pretty meagre on the results front. This is perhaps best illustrated by their run of 6 draws in the last 8 games of 2018.
In fact, alongside Mansfield, they’re the division’s draw specialists, leading the way with 13. This, however, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re dull. They’ve only had 2 0-0s this season and both of those have come at home. The Imps haven’t had any in all competitions so we should at least expect some sort of action. This is further supported by the fact that Northampton lead the division in terms of frequency of games featuring 2 or more goals. This has happened in 81% of their matches so far with Lincoln’s record standing at 77%. That being said, we might have to wait until after half-time. 10 of the Cobblers matches have been 0-0 at the break, we’ve had 9.
We should be pretty familiar with Northampton by now, having played them at the dawn of both our 2018/19 League Two and FA Cup campaigns (it’s nice that our FA Cup run covers 2 calendar years isn’t it?). In both of the previous matchups, the Imps have run out narrow winners with a 1-0 victory in August and a 3-2 victory at Sincil Bank in the Cup. Those of you with long enough memories to recall our first match will remember we were greatly indebted to Josh Vickers for keeping an impressive clean sheet. The Cobblers managed to test him 8 times with no luck while Matt Green pounced on a rare opportunity at the other end from a Neal Eardley cross. I’d hoped we’d see that type of goal more often but Greeny was to score just once more in League Two and Eardley didn’t register another assist for 36 more games until teeing up Danny Rowe at Yeovil.
While Northampton fans still smarting from a result they no doubt deemed unjust will be relieved at a lack of Green from our side now, Imps fans will have to go without booing pantomime villain Kevin van Veen. Well I mean you might be able to if you’re Brian Blessed, he’s only 23 miles away in Scunthorpe. While those hoping for a Lincoln man to leave a tough tackle on him will be disappointed, take comfort in the fact that he’s a real loss to their side. He was an influential player for them. He had notched 8 goals (10 in all competitions) and 5 assists and his departure may have left a gap in their squad.
2) A Barça style of play
Okay, that might be pushing it. However, Bruno’s equaliser at County drew plaudits from far and wide online which led many of those familiar with Lincoln City to suggest that the perception of the Imps as a long-ball team may be a little outdated. Make no mistake, we’re still direct and thrive of dead ball situations but we are evolving. We’ve not mastered it obviously and we can be guilty of a lack of nous sometimes but we often field a midfield tasked with, and that thrives off a more considered approach. We’ve seen it on occasion and we’re improving at it all the time. The likes of Andrade, McCartan and Rowe, in particular, are adept at finding pockets of space and either driving at defenders or sharp interplay.
A really simple way of demonstrating how we’ve diversified our attacking tactics is by looking at the number of goals scored with the head. An oversimplification obviously but I feel the disparity does at least indicate some change. Last season, 20% of our goals came from headers while this season, the figure has dropped dramatically to 11%. You could argue that this is showing that we’ve got weaker in that area but we’re far stronger going forwards overall than we were. Last season, we averaged 1.4 goals scored a game, this time out so far we’re at 1.8. It’s also difficult to argue that we’re less effective at set pieces, last season by my records we notched 29 from all set plays while we’re at 30 this campaign.