A Tale of Two (Part) Seasons

Courtesy Graham Burrell

“For months now, we’ve barely been able to buy a goal and all of a sudden five come along at once.”

That’s what I wrote here following the 5 – 3 beating of Ipswich Town around the turn of last year and I was reminded of this having listened to Gary Hutchinson’s latest dog walk chat, writes Richard Godson.

He was saying that until the Wigan game we hadn’t scored more than once in a league game for some time. Indeed, the last time we did it was against Plymouth on 20 October. What better excuse, then to trawl through my trusty spreadsheet to compare where we were then and where we are now as we approach the first Saturday of December.

This time last year we were about to visit Burton Albion after an enforced 17 day lay off due to the loss of the Bury game and a blank Saturday for the FA Cup second round. In fact, our previous league game was a 1 – 0 defeat at Fat Boy Thick’s Gillingham. Prior to Burton we had played 17 in the league and stood in 18th place with 18 points.

This time around, with the delayed start to the season we have 29 points from 14 games so whereas we were averaging 1.05 points per game this time last year, we are currently averaging pretty much double that.

And that’s not all. By this time last year, after a prolific first three games in which we scored 8 goals, we only managed a further 10 in the next 14 league games, meaning we were averaging just over a goal a game. Moreover, after kicking off the league season with 3 clean sheets, in the next fourteen we shipped 22. So, at this point last season we had a goal difference of minus 4.

Compare that with this season and in the 14 games played we have scored 18 and conceded 10 meaning our goal difference is 12 better than on this date a year ago.

As far as clean sheets are concerned, we had racked up six in those 17 games last term, with one of those a goalless draw. This time around we have managed 8 out of 14 with two no-score draws.

Finally, as far as this comparison is concerned, let’s have a look at our league positions this season and last. In 2019 you could say the zenith of our season was when, on 17 August and having put four unanswered goals past Southend United, we all too briefly topped the table. One week and two defeats later we were out of the top six and although we briefly hit second on the last day of August, by mid-September we were out of the play off places, never to return.

Until this season that is when by contrast sixth has been the lowest we have sunk so far. By the time you read this, things may have changed but as I write, we currently lie second but then you already know that.

A few seasons ago, I happened upon a website called Football Web Pages. For anyone who is not familiar with this site, it provides scores and tables for the Premier League and EFL as well as Steps 1 – 4 in England as well as various leagues in Europe plus Scotland and the growing Women’s game. One of its features is predictions for the end of the season and the forecast scores that give rise to this. At the moment they are predicting that the Imps will be promoted as Champions with 100 points. (It was 105 when I looked immediately after the Wigan game but Peterborough have kicked off and are drawing 0 – 0 and were are down 5 points as a result!) All total nonsense, of course, but a bit of harmless fun nonetheless. In the spirit of a bit of fun, I keep a note of what they think our scores will be and needless to say, they don’t often get them right. So far, they have correctly predicted two scores for us, the games against Accrington and Swindon. They weren’t far out with Wigan, forecasting a 1 – 0 home win but I wouldn’t bet my house on their forecasts, that’s for sure.

Interestingly though, at this stage last year they were predicting we would end up in 16th place. Remind me, where did we end up?

So, what else has changed? Last season our top scorer was on loan to us from Nottingham Forest. Our current top scorer was sold to us by the City Ground club. By the beginning of December, Tyler Walker had scored 7 league goals, the remaining seven coming between now and his mid-January recall. Grant too has bagged 7 in the league and from fewer games – 14 against Tyler’s 17. Oh, and Walker scored penalties too.

Looking ahead briefly, over Christmas last season we took six points out of twelve. If we can better that, we could be on our way.