The season shows no sign of slowing down for Lincoln City this weekend as they make the long trip down to Buckinghamshire to take on an unbeaten Wycombe Wanderers side.
The Chairboys are sat fifth in Sky Bet League One having won three and drawn three of their opening six games of the season. We sat down with Wycombe supporter Jamie Cameron to discuss the top six clash at Adams Park.
What were the expectations for the Chairboys at the start of the season?
Going into the summer, expectations were low after we narrowly survived relegation last season and were struggling for money, with several long-serving players having to be released after budget cuts. Most fans would’ve bitten your hand off for 20th place in June, but the tables have well and truly turned over the last couple of months. Investment from American businessman Rob Couhig, which should become a majority shareholding, has inspired a feel-good factor around the place and has allowed Gareth Ainsworth to bolster his squad to a size and strength which has rarely been seen in South Buckinghamshire. As a result, I think we’re in with a real chance of a top-half finish, and should stay up comfortably, especially so given our excellent start.
Recruitment seems to be a real strong point for Ainsworth, how do you think this summer’s recruitment has gone?
Yes, recruitment is undoubtedly one of Ainsworth’s big strengths, and we couldn’t have asked for a much better summer really. It started disappointingly, with the likes of Paris Cowan-Hall, Michael Harriman and Nathan Tyson all being released. However, after the investment came in, so did the signings as Alex Pattison was the first to arrive, before a manic period at the end of July where we made eight signings in little more than a week.
Jack Grimmer and David Wheeler were both impressive deals with the pair having plenty of EFL experience, while Paul Smyth and Giles Phillips arrived on loan from QPR and Fred Onyedinma returned for good after a couple of superb loan spells. It went quiet for a while, but the loan deadline this week saw an unbelievable signing with Rolando Aarons somehow becoming a Wanderer until mid-January and Nnamdi Ofoborh also putting pen to paper. However, our goalkeeping department is still relatively weak; Ryan Allsop is a solid if not spectacular ‘keeper at this level while we only have the inexperienced Cameron Yates as back-up. Adam El-Abd also left the club out of the blue, so we may be a little bit short in the centre-back area, especially with injuries.
Wycombe have made a flying start to the season. What is the main aspect that has changed from the relegation scrap from last year?
Although we are unbeaten after six games, a fantastic start with a 100% winning record at home, two of those in typically dramatic circumstances, the manner of results hasn’t been too dissimilar to last year. We still struggle to blow teams away and have to rely on late rallies to get wins. Three solid points away from home have helped our cause significantly though, after a season where we were the 22nd best side on the road. Last year, we found ourselves in the lower reaches of the table at this point, before an excellent run during the winter propelled us to the top half only to win three games from February onwards to narrowly survive.
The obvious differences are the higher quality of player, so much quality in the forward areas has helped us to create more chances than most, and Scott Kashket’s finishing against Southend got us out of trouble there. Old faces Joe Jacobson and Dominic Gape have started well, in addition to excellent starts from new signings Alex Pattison and Jack Grimmer, while greater depth allows us to rotate for midweek games and still have a very strong eleven that can go toe-to-toe with anyone in League One.
Fleetwood are the only team we’ve played who I expect to be up there, so the fixture list was kind to us in August and has helped us to get off to this start. Last year we had similar games but lost to Bristol Rovers and Southend at home early on, so that is another difference. We’re playing yourselves, Portsmouth, Peterborough and Sunderland relatively soon so the table should start to take proper shape once we’ve played more promotion contenders.
4)What is your perception of the Imps as a football club?
It’s always great to see a historic club like Lincoln doing so well and in the hunt for a third promotion in quick succession. Obviously, the big question is how long Danny Cowley wants to stay with rumours linking him and his brother to Championship clubs seemingly appearing every couple of weeks. In terms of the current squad, it’s got plenty of experience in there with the likes of John Akinde, Jason Shackell and Michael Bostwick but also some young talent in top scorer Tyler Walker.
Jack Payne has started the season well from what I’ve gathered and seems to be influencing a slightly more fluid style of play, similarly to Wycombe. Both clubs have recognised that they’re not in League Two anymore and probably need to adapt their styles to succeed, and both are doing very well at that so far so Saturday should be a great game. Sincil Bank is a great ground as well, steeped in history, so I’m hoping to get there for the reverse fixture.
How can you see the game panning out? Score prediction?
Our home record in the last twelve months or so has been up and down, but we’ve won our last five in the league at Adams Park. I think that’ll come under threat on Saturday, and expect Lincoln to score, Akinde and Bruno Andrade will be hoping to impress against their old club as well. I reckon it’ll be an open game with plenty of chances, and I’ll go for the same scoreline as the last time we met at Adams Park, 2-2.
Lincoln and Wycombe are tied together through Gareth Ainsworth. How has the football club changed since his appointment as manager?
The transformation at the club has been immeasurable since Ainsworth completed his transition from player to manager. The early stages didn’t go too well, and we had to rely on a final-day win at Torquay coupled with other results to avoid going into non-league, which may have signalled administration and probably Ainsworth losing his job.
However, that day in Devon was a turning point for the Chairboys, after a run to the play-off final to following season led to a succession of promotion challenges, culminating in 2017 with a joint-record points total helping us to League One for the first time since 2012. A couple of FA Cup runs in that time also helped the finances no end, and Ainsworth’s recruitment consistently kept the squad fresh with very effective utilisation of the loan market.
He’s helped us to gain a reputation as one of the best places for young players to develop on loan, and that has to be a factor in Rolando Aarons’ decision to move to the Chilterns. We’ve always been excited to see what Ainsworth would’ve been able to do with anything more than a shoestring budget, and he certainly hasn’t disappointed of late with some the signings that he’s got through the door. I think he’ll inevitably manage at a higher level; Barnsley and QPR have already been linked with him in the last couple of years, but who knows, the way we’re going, he could be managing in the Championship at Adams Park. Whatever happens from now, Ainsworth will go down as one of our greatest ever managers, only rivalled for the greatest by Martin O’Neill, and he remains second only to Jim Bentley in the list of the longest-serving EFL managers.