Saturday sees the Imps back in league action against the Valiants for our first trip to Vale Park since that fateful relegation season when we lost 2-1 there during that eleven-game run without a win which eventually saw us submit to Aldershot on the final day, dropping a second time into the Conference. That game was played on Saturday 29 March in front of 4,636 including a healthy contingent of away fans who watched with glee as Gavin McCallum gave us a very early lead (3rd minute) which remained the score until the 59th minute when Marc Richards pounced to equalise. Eleven minutes later and Doug Loft scored what turned out to be the winner for Port Vale leaving us Imps feeling very deflated, although still in 17th place. Earlier this season, we beat them 3-1 at Sincil Bank; goals from Matt Green, Michael Bostwick and Luke Waterfall were cheered by the vast majority of the 7,562 fans in attendance. That win brought about parity with Vale in terms of numbers of wins each has had against the other; 31 with 22 draws in all competitions.
This time, we see a very different Imps set up; fresh from a glorious first ever appearance at Wembley in front of some 27,000 Lincoln City fans, by far the biggest ever number of Imps fans at a single game in the entire history of the club. I’d like to think that at least 10% of that figure will be present on Saturday as City continue their promotion efforts. Current form puts us second only to Accrington Stanley who have won all their last six games, with City having won four and drawing two (not including the game Vs Shrewsbury) whilst Port Vale have won one, drawn three and lost two of their last six. We sit pretty in 6th place in the table, three points ahead of 8th and 9th placed Mansfield Town and Swindon Town and with TWO games in hand. A win at Vale Park will go a long way to securing a decent playoff spot, even more so if Mansfield and Swindon slip up at Newport County and Yeovil Town respectively.
Time to look, then, at the teams above us. Notts County are away to Colchester United and they could very easily slip up there as the home side try hard to break into the playoffs themselves. Come 5pm Saturday and we could be level on points with County with still two games in hand! Moving on to Exeter City, they have a very tough-looking game at leaders Accrington with third-placed Wycombe Wanderers away to Yeovil. It could be a very interesting-looking table come tea time; Tuesday’s game at home to Wycombe then becomes a massive fixture and suddenly, automatic promotion doesn’t look so unlikely after all, does it?
What line-up might we expect? Well, Danny Cowley has been very reluctant to change his recent starting eleven and I see no reason to change that. Elliott Whitehouse’s lengthy run in the side paid real dividends last Sunday as he became the hero of the hour scoring the only goal of the game in the 16th minute. He had an excellent game so fully deserves his chance. I also thought Lee Frecklington had probably his best game since his return to the fold; there’s still plenty more to come from him I feel.
The referee for Saturday’s game is John Busby.
My prediction: A ‘valiant’ away win for Lincoln City who will put yet more pressure on the three teams above them, Port Vale 0 Lincoln City 2.
Thank you to Graham Burrell and Lincoln City for the photographs!
— Vital Lincoln City (@VitalLincoln) April 12, 2018