Opinion: where it all went wrong for Lincoln City

In November 2012, David Holdsworth’s Lincoln City side were sitting pretty in ninth place in the Blue Square Premier League.

They’d pulled off an upset away from home at Walsall in the FA Cup to set up a second round tie with Mansfield and the chance of a lucrative third round tie was the glimmer in every Imps fans’ eye.

Lincoln City's good run of form at the end of 2012 came to an end because of injuries to key players. Photo: Tom Larken.

After the draw with Mansfield at The 12th Imp Sincil Bank Stadium and the despair at the Stags late equaliser, eyes turned to the draw the next day. Low and behold, “biggest club in the world” Liverpool (by Daniel Sturridge’s reckoning) were drawn, and the reality that a win against Mansfield at Fieldmill could sort the Imps’ finances for the next year became actuality.

Eleven days later, the replay against Paul Cox’s Mansfield came and, with a whimper and a volley of long ball football, Mansfield emerged victorious to seal a tie with Liverpool. The Stags ended up losing to a rather suspect finish, from everyone’s favourite panto villain Luis Suarez. But that’s a topic for another day.

Now fast forward to Saturday, January 26th, 2013. The Imps are back where they began; 16th in the league and three points clear of the drop zone.

So what happened to the fantastic run Holdsworth was putting together, which saw star striker Jamie Taylor linked with Football League clubs galore and Holdsworth win the Manager of the Month award for November?

The Imps, for a time, looked like a solid unit. The 4-4-1-1 formation saw Alan Power in a more forward role flourish, while Taylor lapped up the plaudits with a hatful of goals.

The problem, as with any team on a good run, has been injuries to key players it seems. The unsung hero of the first team Mo Fofana and influential captain Gary Mills both received injuries at the turn of the year and, with Alan Power now out for three weeks, the spine of the Imps team who performed so well at the tail end of 2012 has disappeared.

The result of this were most apparent against Newport, where Dan Gray and Alan Power were overrun in the centre of the park. While the imposing Andrew Boyce and Tom Miller provided fans with a comedy of errors, leading to the 4-2 home defeat.

With so many injuries, Holdsworth desperately needs reinforcements. Somebody to steel up the defence and, most importantly, a central midfielder to fill the gap left by Fofana, Mills and Power’s absences.

A change in keeper as well seems almost inevitable, as the once imperious Paul Farman has seen his game blighted with errors lately. David Preece, a 36-year-old brought in at the end of 2012, should start at least the game against Wrexham. It will do Farman’s confidence no good but, with City teetering on the brink of the drop zone and without a win in seven games, some experience is desperately needed.

Now for the most controversial decision. Jamie Taylor is the top scorer this season but he should be dropped.

In the last month he’s scored once and, against Newport, he looked a player who needs a rest. Vadaine Oliver, however, has been strong, winning every long ball and playing his teammates into the game well.

A reversion back to the 4-4-1-1 may be the best plan of attack for Holdsworth however, with such scarce resources at his disposal; it may be case of just square pegs in round holes.

One certainty is that without reinforcement and a return of Fofana and Mills, the heady heights City were enjoying last year, at least only for a few months, could be swapped for a very real, very tough relegation battle.

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