Two Up Top – The Future For Skubala’s Imps?

Credit Graham Burrell

Jamie Forrester and Mark Stallard. Percy Freeman and John Ward. Strike partnerships for Lincoln City that brought goals.

Let’s be honest; we all love a duo up top, feeding off each other, creating chances, and making defenders think twice about runs and movement. Should they drop deep on the runner or go to the man with the ball? If one is taking up a position in the eighteen-yard box, where is the other? In the modern game, two up top is often seen as a luxury a team can ill afford.

It’s certainly something we haven’t been able to do this season because, aside from August, we have barely had two to play up top. When we have, they’ve been wingers like Haks, players not expected to have time to strike up a relationship. Until now.

In his pre-match interview this afternoon, Imps head coach Michael Skubala has hinted at a strike partnership for the Imps – one with a combined age five years younger than me! Joe Taylor arrived from Luton Town on Tuesday, with Freddie Draper having returned to the squad last week.

Credit LCFC / Chris Vaughan

“Joe’s still 21, and Freddie is 19,” said Michael when chatting about the new faces in the squad. “They’re still young, but they bring a physical presence. Freddie has been brilliant in training; you can see how he could cause real issues for defenders.

“He’s one of our own, isn’t he? I think that’s important, but Jack’s been brilliant as well. I think both of them have come in and hit it off together, like a little partnership, which is nice to see”

What a teasing little hint that is that two up top could be employed by the Imps as we move into 2024. When questioned further, Michael gave a little away without actually giving anything away.

“I think if we’ve got that personnel in the building, I need to look at it (two up top), and the staff are looking at it. How we do that and when we do that will depend on the tactics of the opposition.

“But I think at times you’ll see two up top, and it could be those two.”

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Of course, that means sacrifices elsewhere on the field, but it’s something City fans have been hoping to see for a while – a presence in the box when chances are created. However, the start of a good partnership is chance creation, something not lost on our head coach.

“We need to create more chances,” he added. “We know that; we’re working hard on creating chances and working hard on trying to get up the pitch, and hopefully adding Joe and Freddie to the lineup is going to add some front power.”

It’s odd that this interview dropped just minutes after I released an article earlier saying how I’d like to see two up top, and those two would be Draper and Taylor. It’s almost as if I knew what was said, but hand on heart, I didn’t. I just think it is a no-brainer when you bring 20+ goals into the team in the form of Taylor and Draper; you get those boys out on the pitch and see what they can do.

Credit Graham Burrell

Of course, we won’t be two up top every game, but even Joe admitted in his pre-match interview he prefers playing alongside another player. He was asked by BBC Radio Lincolnshire’s Michael Hortin whether he preferred playing in a two.

I’m not really that bothered,” replied the 21-year-old. “I think I’m at my best when I’m in a two, but I enjoy playing in a front three.

“I’m not a massive fan of playing as an isolated nine, but if required, I can do the job. But I’d say more in a front two, big man, little man, or definitely a front three.”

There you have it. We’ll wait eagerly for 2 pm on Saturday for the teamsheet, but with several players being given a clean bill of health, it is a case of waiting to see who is picked and where, rather than who isn’t and who has to fill in.

I’ll drink to that.