It has been a quiet couple of weeks and I’m not going to lie, I’ve made the most of it and spent a bit of time away from Vital Lincoln City. When I decided to come back on the site a few days ago, I decided to ask the members what three things they have learned from the season so far.
Here’s what Scotimp said:
1. That luck can play a huge part in how a season unravels.
The injuries we have suffered have been both to key players and of a longer-term nature. Our captain has not kicked a ball in a league match all season and is now injured again; our Player of the Season has not played since early September; the leader in this season’s Player of the Season has played only five times during that same period; the player who came third in Player of the Season has started one league match and been a disastrous substitute in one other; and now we have lost another one – the sought-after Bruno Andrade is out for three months. That is one of the worst runs of injuries I have seen in 49 seasons.
Additionally, we have regularly lost the influential Joe Morrell and the promising Aaron Lewis to international duty – great for them, but who would have seen that coming at the start of the season? And don’t forget that we are not allowed to postpone a league game for that – we are (typically) one player short of qualifying for postponement.
The fixture list has presented some ludicrous challenges. The demise of Bury and the shenanigans at Bolton have meant that Lincoln have regularly faced teams that had enjoyed a week or more off prior to playing us (Rotherham, MK Dons and Doncaster come to mind). Those factors have also created a ridiculous situation of having just one home league game in 72 days, including a run of four successive aways over an extended period: it is very difficult to end a poor run when you do not have a home game for two and a half months.
Cup draws have produced the group of death in the EFL Trophy, the highest-ranked team in the League Cup in both rounds (one of them away), and the highest-ranked team in the FA Cup (away).
And now the big one: there is no doubt that Cowley’s departure has knocked the club sideways. It was inevitable that he would leave before too much longer, and we should not begrudge him that, but the timing was crippling. Regardless of what they say publicly, players are always unsettled when the manager leaves, especially one like Cowley. Some summer signings probably signed for the club because of him, and the motivation of the squad must surely have been affected. Cowley is an almost impossible act to follow, and in Michael Appleton, I believe we have an excellent replacement. But the damage caused to our season has been immense, and it remains to be seen what the second half holds.
Did someone smash a mirror in July, or run over a black cat?
2. That the step up from League Two to League One is a large one.
Two years ago, I asked Alex Woodyard how big the step-ups really were between each division, and he said the gap gets wider the higher you go. Despite our table-topping start, and also allowing for the factors discussed above, I think that has become increasingly evident as the season has progressed. One mistake at the back is all it takes to lose a game because the finishing is much better than in League Two, and you are really made to pay for missing chances. We were practically unbeatable in League Two, but cannot buy a win a few months later. We all like to believe we have great players, especially after another record-breaking season, but there is a stark truth: our current 11 is not good enough to make a dent in League One, and reinforcements are sorely needed.
3. That momentum is very hard to create but very easy to lose.
We find ourselves at an important juncture. This season has not been kind to us in a number of important ways, and the johnny-come-lately element of City’s support is growing restless. Good riddance if they want to run away crying, but it does highlight the fickle nature of a new found support base: the only thing that can convert those people to lifelong supporters is sustained success. Crowds have held up very well despite harder times, but it is vital that we start winning games sooner, rather than later. A good second half of the season should ensure good season ticket renewals, and the momentum continues into another year; but a relegation battle – even a successful one – could prove terminal to the club’s relationship with the more fickle element of the fanbase.
Will The Imps win, lose or draw against Burton Albion?
And here’s what sedgleyimp said:
1. The EFL’s inability to get to grips with the issues at Bury and Bolton has made this quite a frustrating season to get into. We are not the only team in the division to have been affected by both debacles but for any team to not have a home game for almost two months, accepting the weather postponement of the Bolton game, leads to an unbalanced schedule and league table. We seemed to have often played teams rested from a week off ( both Doncaster and MK Dons matches come to mind). If the EFL had dealt with both issues in a timely manner other teams wouldn’t have had their free hits early season against Bolton and possibly arrangements could have been in place for a 24 team league which would have allowed the league to be far less staggered than it has been.
2. In those 17 games, we have conceded 22 goals. 6 of them have been in the one game and other than that game against Oxford and the away game against Wycombe where we conceded 3 poor goals, in the other 15 games we have conceded on average less than a goal a game. In 7 home games, we have kept 5 clean sheets. Defensively we are very solid bar the occasional lapse.
3. The converse to point 2 is that in this league you have to be clinical in front of goal as we have lost many games by the odd goal. Chances need to be taken. Last season we could afford to miss opportunities as we were making many during the course of a match. Not so this and chances made need to be converted otherwise games are lost by very small margins. Ignoring the Oxford match which was a strange anomaly of a game, we have been competitive without having that clinical finishing required of a higher division. I do feel we have shown that we are not too far off in matches played already and with an improvement in the goals scored column wins will come sooner than later.
— Vital Lincoln City (@VitalLincoln) December 4, 2019