Fan’s View 23/24 – No.16: Lincoln away

Article by Paul Beasley Wednesday, November 1st, 2023  



There are some towns and cities that we travel to year after year that I develop a soft spot for. Lincoln very much falls into that category and there’s family reasons for this too. No two places are quite the same and Lincoln certainly has a unique character.

The ground resides alongside Sincil Dyke with streets of terraced houses on the north. Get there early enough and you can park less than a minute’s walk from the away entrance – which we did.

With the clocks having been put back at the weekend it was dark on arrival which made the youngsters in Halloween masks look slightly more sinister than they would have done in the daylight. On closer inspection some of the kids looked quite tall and at least one Scream disguise was spotted. Trick or treat with the trick being a mugging with guaranteed anonymity on the night as no questions asked as it was 31 October? No, no problems.

To have a good look round the place on foot one needs to be very fit to be able to traverse the very steep incline up to the Cathedral Quarter. The impressiveness of this Minster is only highlighted by being lit up at night. You can’t help but see it from so many vantage points. That it was Halloween seemed appropriate even though these celebrations have in recent years become a celebration of the supernatural and macabre. Not so back in the day I understand.

Lincoln had greatly embraced these celebrations. All three pubs visited had gone for varying degrees of decoration and when we came down Steep Hill and then on to the High Street there was more than one sizeable gathering of folks who looked like they were about to embark on a ghost walk. All this and not a Lincoln City shirt in sight or hint that a League One match was to take place in under an hour.

First beer of the day was in the Birdcage, a street corner pub that used to be called the Crown. Google maps actually shows it as both, depending on which street you choose to look at it from. Doombar at £2 a pint “until it was gone” was ignored. Prices with a CAMRA discount were still very cheap by southern standards. The ale was okay but what would entice me if I were a local would be the bands and the poetry and comedy nights.

Next was the Morning Star, closer to the cathedral and therefore more expensive. The beer here matched the earlier pint but the top drink of the evening was in the Cardinal’s Hat, my favourite Lincoln pub. The barmaid was rightly extolling the merits of her city when we got chatting and at last we had communication with a home fan. So there is a football match on.

Two nil to us he said to his mates. Tim B interjected. It was always going to be a friendly conversation. It’s that sort of pub. We’ve not been playing so well in the last few games I told him. “We have” he replied and then added “may the best team win”. Following up by way of banter, “Hope not. I want us to win”. In fact the best team did win and it was us.

Lincoln parted company with Head Coach Mark Kennedy on October 18th after just one win in six league games but there was a lot more to it with public criticism of midfielder Danny Mandroiu being one of a number of factors. Assistant Danny Butterfield went too.

Since Tom Shaw became Interim Head Coach the Imps had won two and drawn one and if they’d beaten us would have gone up to seventh. Yet I don’t detect the belief amongst their fan base that had rapidly built under the Cowleys still being there. National league Champions in 2016/17. Two years later winners of L2. After a season of consolidation, then making it to the play-off final in 2020/21 under Michael Appleton, they’ve stalled finishing 17th and 11th in the last two campaigns.

Crowds are down at Sincil Bank. There were 7114 present for this of whom 446 were ours. Their average attendance thus far is 7642, ours is 8994.

In 21/22 their average was 8773, ours 8463. Last season theirs 8486, ours 8393.

It goes in cycles.

When asked to sum up this game “we bossed it from start to finish” just about did it but that would be ignoring the first 10 minutes when we could be forgiven for thinking that it wasn’t going to be our night. This all revolved around Sam Long’s injury the likes of which I can’t ever recall having seen in a football match before.

2 mins 56 secs in Long went down injured apparently having committed a foul. It didn’t look much of a foul to me. He immediately put his hand up signalling that he was in trouble.

Amy Cranston was then waved on.

5:30 – Long gets to his feet.

5:53 – Long limps off and sits down at the side of the pitch.

The Lincoln fans were giving him a bit of stick. Totally unjustified. He’s not a feigner of injury and why would he be wasting time in the third minute when we want all three points?

6:07 – Lincoln finally took the free-kick.

We’re a man down.

7:40 – Stan Mills eventually came on as Long’s replacement. Why the delay? Weren’t we ready or was the fourth official dicking about with the board?

11:11 – Long is on crutches brought to him by our kit man apparently. Why no stretcher? Didn’t we want one? Were crutches the better option? If so why such a wait?

12:21 – Long is moving slowly in front of our fans on his way to the changing room. Many of our lot are looking at him and not the action. I look back up ready to see Cameron Brannagan’s corner met by Ciaran Brown before the ball has reached the near post. It’s accurately sent towards the top corner of the goal. Keeper Lukas Jensen gets a hand to it but can’t keep it out.

That was the first time we’d got anywhere near their goal. The night had suddenly got a whole lot better. I no longer cared about the chicken balti pie I’d dropped having only consumed a quarter of it. I began reasoning that if it guaranteed goals and points I’d buy a pie every game and hurl it to the ground.

If I understand correctly what happened shape wise we went to a back four.

From here on in we did dominate. The possession stats and passing stats were about even but the difference was in “attack” where we had 19 shots of which nine were on target to their eight and three. Lincoln tried to play football but we just about negated everything they attempted. If we made a mistake we immediately rectified it.

One such error came not long after we’d taken the lead. From another corner, Mandroiu nicked the ball that Brown tried to play to Marcus McGuane. He set off for our goal but had a long way to travel. None of his team mates went with him but in contrast McGuane, Fin Stevens and Tyler Goodrham gave chase and got back. Mandroiu never convinced and the save James Beadle made was a very easy one.

For the rest of the half we were playing our football, being particularly threatening down the right where Mills was influential but once again we lacked that clinical edge. We had the ability to hit the outside of the side netting but not the back of the net.

In the second half the mist came down but it wasn’t a peasouper and we could see clearly enough that we were still the superior outfit.

A second goal was needed though to calm what little nerves there were and that arrived courtesy of Jensen who in the 63rd minute fumbled a routine chest high cross from Mills into his own net.

We saw out the rest of the game with little alarm although Beadle did have to dive to his left to push away a shot that had been fired in following a corner played to the edge of the box. He also had to be helped out by Mills when he seemed to try to punch but failed. Much more good stuff than poor from our young custodian though.

We could have had a third when Jensen tipped over a McGuane effort.

Very satisfying to get three points and get back on track here with a much improved showing. We had many players who could merit particular praise.

Elliott Moore was as solid as a rock.

It’s no coincidence in my book that with Brannagan’s return we were back to winning ways.

A clean sheet is always a bonus.

If I’ve got to be honestly critical it would be that the forward line are not scoring goals. Billy Bodin was the last, four games before this one against Bristol Rovers. Here it was a defender and an own goal. Obviously we take what comes.

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