Half term report: Imps struggle at the bottom

After two consecutive mid-table finishes, the objective of Lincoln City’s season was simple- a push for the League Two playoffs. But The Imps’ twelfth consecutive season in the fourth tier of English football has not gone at all to plan, with the club just four points above the relegation zone.

An inconsistent first month saw City win two and lose four of their opening six matches and, after a miserly defeat away to struggling Darlington in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, Peter Jackson was sacked as manager.

First-team coach Simon Clark and head of youth Tom Spall were placed in temporary charge of first team affairs, but could only collect three points from their four games in charge. Chairman Steff Wright took his time to sift through more than 70 applicants for the job and the majority of fans were surprised by the man he chose to take the reins at Sincil Bank.

Former Blackburn and Celtic striker Chris Sutton was given the nod in what was seen by many onlookers as a high-risk appointment considering his lack of managerial experience. The decision looked to have been justified when October saw the new manager win his first two games in charge against Aldershot and Macclesfield.

Sincil Bank is yet to witness any football so far this year. | Photo: Lincoln City

But that proved to be a false dawn as the Imps then went on a run of nine league games without a victory, including disappointing home draws against fellow strugglers Cheltenham and Grimsby. Sutton had brought in many fresh faces, including the loan signings of Anthony Pulis and Eric Lichaj from Southampton and Aston Villa respectively.

Short term deals for Bermudan international Khano Smith and former England Under-15 winger Michael Gordon were also secured, and it seemed that these new players were still learning to play together which was affecting the Imps’ form.That dismal run was eventually ended on Boxing Day as playoff hopefuls Chesterfield were seen off by Ciaran Hughton and Delroy Facey goals in a 2-1 win.

Despite that poor sequence of results, City were making good progress in the FA Cup- victory over AFC Telford gave the club a trip to Northwich Victoria in the Second Round. The game was shown live on ITV with the broadcasters anticipating a possible FA Cup shock, but the Imps dealt with the pressure well as they ran out 3-1 victors to secure a place in the potentially money-spinning Third Round.

The Imps were drawn away to Premier League strugglers Bolton Wanderers and, despite their poor league form, were hoping to claim an unlikely scalp. After matching the managerless Trotters for over 45 minutes, an unfortunate Moses Swaibu own goal opened the floodgates as the brave Imps were eventually trounced 4-0.

Now attention will shift back to the league- City have two games in hand over current relegation zone occupants Grimsby Town and there is a comfortable, if not ideal, four point gap between the clubs. Grimsby are unlikely to resign themselves to non-league obscurity, which could mean a feisty battle for the Imps at Blundell Park on 20th February.

But there are still plenty of games to be played and with teams like Cheltenham likely to get pulled into the relegation battle, a good run of results could mean Lincoln find themselves in mid-table safety by the end of the season rather than non-league football.

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