It is little surprise that Michael Bostwick’s return to the starting 11 coincided with a clean sheet for Lincoln City, writes Lewis Kelly.
That was only the second clean sheet in 15, with the 31-year old putting in a man of the match display as the Imps gained a valuable point against a Gillingham side now unbeaten in 15. Regan Charles-Cook may not feel as delighted with Bostwick’s return, with the forward feeling the full force of a typical Bostwick crunching tackle in the closing stages, which Steve Evans blabbered had “no place in football”, a misguided comment, but that’s Evans.
With the bottom three all losing as well, it was a good day all-round at the LNER stadium as the Imps now have a week off before welcoming Burton Albion on March 7th. City are currently sitting in 15th on 39 points with ten to play. Of course, the league position is somewhat misleading given the games in hand other teams have but City will look forward to March with largely ‘winnable’ fixtures as the elusive 50-point mark remains the target. If we’re being honest, survival will likely be more like 45 points this season with the obvious Bury situation and generally poor quality amongst the bottom teams.
The return of Bostwick could not have come at a better time for City who have won just twice since the turn of year, although the menacing centre-back has featured just four times in that time. The importance of Bostwick to City cannot be understated with the Imps winning 47% of games the centre half has played in this season compared with a win percentage of just 21% without him. If we flip this on its head, Lincoln also lose a higher percentage of games without Bostwick – this showing that he is crucial for City picking up any points in games. Furthermore, when we analyse the goals conceded by Lincoln this year, City have conceded 17 with Bostwick on the pitch compared with 27 when he’s absent – a rise of 59%. It is not surprising, then, that fans are crying out for a contract extension, with his current deal due to expire in the summer.
Lincoln signed the part-man, part-bear from Peterborough United following promotion back to the Football League in 2017, in a deal that also included Harry Anderson. Since then, Bostwick has sported a range of head and facial hair and has become a fan favourite and icon, helping the club to EFL Trophy success in 2018 and the League Two title last season, making 124 appearances along the way. Another string to his bow is his ability to play either as a holding midfielder or in the heart of defence. During his first season for the club, Bostwick was deployed alongside Alex Woodyard in the midfield, battering anything that got in his way. Following that season and play-off heartbreak for Lincoln (making it six unsuccessful attempts to get out of League Two that way), Bostwick moved back into defence and formed a partnership with Jason Shackell that saw the Imps concede the second-fewest goals in League Two.
Not only has the number 16 proven himself as a defensive colossus, but he is also on double figures (just) for goals for the Imps, albeit 60% of those came when he was in the midfield. Nonetheless, it was Bostwick that sent 5000 imps into raptures at Goodison Park last season, tapping in from two-yards after Jordan Pickford (unsurprisingly) couldn’t hold onto a Shackell header. Whilst Everton were victorious on the day, the goal and performance from the big man cemented another great memory for the imps faithful.
It is surely just a matter of time before the big centre-half is offered a new deal and commits his future to the club. With manager Michael Appleton keen to promote youth prospects and develop younger players, there would be no better professional to look up to as a young player learning your trade than Michael Bostwick. Despite turning 32 before the end of the season, the big man will still play a pivotal role for the club moving forward. He may not be a young, ball-playing centre half, but the experience and no-nonsense approach is sometimes needed, and he has that in abundance. Perhaps a coaching role may be on the cards in the future too, but one thing is certain for city fans: Michael Bostwick must be a Lincoln City player next season.
So, here’s to you Michael Bostwick, the Imps will love you more than you ever know.