The line-up for League One has taken shape this weekend, with Port Vale becoming the final team to make up the roster of 24.
For Imps fans who do not know, alongside ourselves in League One will be Accrington Stanley, Barnsley, Bolton Wanderers, Bristol Rovers, Burton Albion, Cambridge United, Charlton Athletic, Cheltenham Town, Derby County, Exeter City, Fleetwood Town, Forest Green Rovers, Ipswich Town, Milton Keynes Dons, Morecambe, Oxford United, Peterborough United, Plymouth Argyle, Portsmouth, Port Vale, Sheffield Wednesday, Shrewsbury Town and Wycombe Wanderers. That means renewing some old acquaintances and making a few new ‘friends’ along the way.
The two big new names are Derby County and Barnsley. Neither are strangers in modern times; we have played Derby twice since the turn of the century, beating them in the League Cup 3-1 at the Bank in 2004/05, but losing 3-1 at their place in the same competition in 2008 after going to extra time. Our last league meetings with them were not a success; they came in 1985/86 as we were relegated from the Third Division, losing 1-0 at the Bank and 7-0 at the Baseball Ground.
We have played Barnsley this century, just once, and again in the League Cup. They eliminated us in 2009/10, not long before Peter Jackson left the club. Daniel Bogdanovic got the only goal of the game, and prior to that we played them in a two-legged tie in the same competition; we lost 4-2 at the Bank against a Tykes team featuring Adie Moses, Nicky Eaden and Kevin Austin, before drawing 2-2 at Oakwell. Our last league meetings with the South Yorkshire side came in 1975/76, where we won 2-1 at the Bank and 1-0 at their place on our way to winning Division Four.
In terms of grounds, they’re certainly getting bigger by the season. 13 of the 23 grounds we are set to visit are bigger than ours this season, with the introduction of Bristol Rovers, Port Vale, Derby, Peterborough and Barnsley. Eight of the grounds we’ll visit hold more than 20,000, including Pride Park, which sits just behind Hillsborough as the second-biggest ground we’ll visit. The smallest grounds we’ll see are Accrington (5,057), Forest Green (5147), Fleetwood (5327) and Morecambe (6476).
If Imps fans were to do every league game away from home this season, the collective miles (there and back) would be 6155. That includes a whopping 589 mile round trip to Plymouth, 505 to Exeter, 424 to Portsmouth and 355 to Bristol; give or take a couple of miles. That’s assuming you set off from Sincil Bank and take the route Google determined is best for you.
Our closest trips are all big ones; Debry is supposedly 52 miles away, Barnsley is 55 and Sheffield Wednesday 57. They all promise to be massive away days, with two big new grounds and, of course, that trip to Sheffield. Burton Albion (63), Peterborough (64), Port Vale (92) and Cambridge (98) are the others under 100 miles away.
Our average trip will be 133 miles, which makes Oxford (132.7) the most average trip we’ll make. Given how we’ve lost there two years in a row, both times with a depleted squad (once through Covid, the other without a striker), I’d settle for average this season!