The new season is upon us. Just 90 days after Lincoln City lined-up for the final time in the 2022/23 season, they will begin their new campaign away at Bolton Wanderers. 

The Imps have had a productive off-season, with a month of pre-season fixtures and some fresh (and familiar) faces building the squad into this season’s League One playoff dark horses. 

Comings and goings:

The new season beckons. Credit: Jamie Johnson

It’s been somewhat of a summer of change at the LNER Stadium, as Head Coach Mark Kennedy prepares for his second season in charge of the club. Max Sanders and Joe Walsh were both released by the club, while Regan Poole ended up at fellow League One club Portsmouth after rejecting contract proposals. 

The loanees who were key to success last term all returned to their parent clubs: chief among them promising goalkeeper Carl Rushworth, pacey winger Mide Shodipo and clever midfielder Matty Virtue. 

Out-of-favour winger Charles Vernam also left, returning to former side Grimsby Town. 

However, replacements have been found. Giant goalkeeper Lukas Jensen, on loan at Accrington Stanley last season, replacing Rushworth. Sutton’s 2022/23 Player of the Season, Alistair Smith, slotting into the midfield, Sheffield Wednesday’s Jaden Brown arriving at wing-back and St. Lucia international Recco Hackett on the frontline. 

LincSport Deputy Editor Spencer O’Leary said: “The signings on paper look like good replacements for key players from last season, such as Rushworth and Poole. City have quietly gone about their business, and not having to juggle as many loan players will only help the team this season.”

Arguably the most exciting of the arrivals is in fact a return, as Tyler Walker returns to the club for which he scored 16 goals in a prolific 2021/22 loan spell. LincSport Reporter Finley Smithson said: “The return of Tyler Walker has been a fan favourite, and I’m sure Mark Kennedy will hope that the warm welcome will urge him on to score some important goals to aid City this season.”

Securing the re-signing of rising star Sean Roughan, until summer 2025, was an important step for Lincoln this off-season. 

Admittedly, there remains room for a new addition in defence, but BBC Radio Lincolnshire’s Michael Hortin has teased the possibility of a further two or three players signing the dotted line before the transfer window slams shut. 

Pre-season verdict:

Pitchside for pre-season clash. Credit: Spencer O’Leary

Pre-season has been a mixed-bag in terms of results, but a seven game campaign can’t do anything but benefit the fitness of City’s players. From their seven fixtures, Lincoln came away with three wins, two draws and two losses. 

Danny Mandroiu has been the star of pre-season, scoring a couple of braces, alongside a spot-kick against King’s Lynn. He scored both goals in a 2-1 victory over Crewe Alexandra, and another brace during the 7-0 drubbing of Lincolnshire’s Boston United. 

Summer signing Reeco Hackett also found himself on the pre-season scoresheet, impressing after moving in the opposite direction to Portsmouth’s new man Regan Poole. 

It’s hard to draw too many conclusions from pre-season games, as they are mainly about building squad fitness, but the Imps have given themselves a foundation to grow on in the new season. 

Outlook for the season:

So, what does the new season hold?

With the new additions plugging gaps left by key departures, Lincoln City have a strong League One squad. As always, it’s a competitive division, and Bolton away will be a testing opening fixture, but City have all the tools to mount a serious playoff push. 

Mark Kennedy is a settled and determined force at the LNER Stadium, moulding a team around his own playing style. The summer business has fulfilled that remit and solidified a turn away from loan players and towards permanent signings. 

With the captain’s armband now on forceful centre-back Paudie O’Connor, the Imps have a strong voice to guide the team. There is an injection of youth in the squad, but some older heads too. 

Spencer O’Leary delivered his prediction for the new season: “If the side can avoid injury worries I can only envisage improvement on last season. If some of the draws can be turned into wins then dare the Imps dream of a play-off push?”

Finley Smithson’s verdict is a similar one. He said: “Lincoln have had a really successful pre-season campaign, bringing in good additions and strengthening their squad with permanent transfers. With the players better suited to Kennedy’s style, we could expect to see Lincoln pushing further up the table.”

That seems to be the protruding sentiment as Lincoln City ready for another year in League One. It’s a sentiment that says they aren’t favourites for the play-offs, but are certainly the dark horses of a competitive field.

The main area for growth in the new season is in front of goal after a stunning defensive record, conceding the same amount of goal as champions Plymouth Argyle, last term. Tyler Walker may prove to have been the missing ingredient. With a few more goals Lincoln could turn last season’s 20 draws into a few more wins, propelling them towards the promotion chasing pack.

We won’t know what will happen until the referee blows his whistle at 3pm on Saturday, August 5th. It’s a season that holds a lot of potential for Lincoln City, a desire to reach-up and build on a strong campaign last time out.