Lincoln City head coach Michael Skubala

It was quite the ride for Lincoln City through the 2023/24 season, with new managers, new fan favourites and a mighty run throughout 2024 to end with an unlikely play-off push.

The Linc looks back at the good, the bad and what Imps fans can look forward to in the new season.

It Was Just Not to be in League One Play-off Hunt:

If somebody had said to a Lincoln City fan on New Year’s Day, after the 2-0 defeat at Blackpool, that Michael Skubala’s side would be in a play-off place at kick-off on the last day of the season, they may well have been laughed at. However, that soon became a reality after a monstrous 16 game unbeaten run through to the middle of April, which put the Imps right in the play-off mix. This run saw 32 goals scored, including 16 in the space of a week.

But, with the good comes the bad, as the Imps struggling throughout the end of 2023. The Christmas period saw the Imps go winless, failing to collect maximum points throughout the months of December and January, over ten games.

A final day showdown between the Imps, eventual play-off winners Oxford United, and Blackpool did not turn out to go the way the 10,000 plus that were packed in the LNER Stadium wanted it to go. A 2-0 defeat to champions Portsmouth meant the Imps were relying on results elsewhere. While Blackpool also tasted defeat at Reading, Oxford’s 2-1 success at Exeter City ensured it would be the U’s that slotted into the play-offs.

Lincoln City at the LNER Stadium.
There was many a memorable night under the LNER Stadium lights last season. Credit: Chris Vaughan/Lincoln City FC

Reporter Finley Smithson looks back on a topsy-turvy campaign with plenty of ups and downs:

“After Kennedy was dismissed, things were looking very bleak. Once Skubala was appointed, the Imps beat Cambridge United 3-0, before going on a 10 game winless streak. January gave Imps fans a more positive month, with draws against Peterborough United and promoted Derby County, before a vital three points against Burton Albion.

That win would turn City into serious play-off contenders for the rest of the season. In the end it came down to the final day, where City had to face champions Portsmouth. On the day you could argue that nerves got the better of the players as they could not do enough to cross the line, with goals from Myles Peart-Harris and Paddy Lane killing the dreams of Imps fans.”

Magic of the Cup:

In the cup competitions, a similar feeling of highs and lows were experienced through the season.

Some of the season’s biggest highlights came in cup competitions, most notably the penalty shootout victory over Premier League side Sheffield United in the Carabao Cup.

This in turn set up a night to remember under the Sincil Bank lights. The Imps welcomed top division side West Ham United to Lincolnshire, and in front of a 10,000 strong crowd.

Lincoln City's Mark Kennedy and Lukas Jensen
Lincoln City’s Lukas Jensen and Mark Kennedy celebrate the penalty shootout win at Sheffield United. Credit: Chris Vaughan/Lincoln City FC

The FA Cup saw the most disappointment, with interim head coach Tom Shaw tasting defeat in the first round of the competition: a 2-1 loss to League Two side Morecambe in November.

M&Ms: Out with Mark, in with Michael:

Perhaps the biggest shock of the season came on October 18th when Mark Kennedy was dismissed after a 1-0 defeat to Burton Albion. The Irishman spent more than 70 games in the City dugout and got the side off to an impressive start to the season, only tasting defeat once in the first seven fixtures.

It took time for the Michael Skubala effect to take place, after his appointment on November 13th, but the new City man did have an extensive injury list to contend with, alongside the busy Christmas fixture list. Of his 31 games taken in the Imps’ dugout to date, Skubala has been victorious 14 times, drawn nine and lost eight.

An opening game defeat to fellow play-off contenders Stevenage was quickly followed by a win over Leyton Orient and a dominant 3-0 win over Cambridge United. The next 10 games, over a couple of the winter months, proved to be difficult.

Highlights definitely include Ethan Erhahon’s last minute equaliser at Wycombe Wanderers to set off the unbeaten run, the week of 16 goals, a late 1-0 win against Leyton Orient, and the 10-men holding on to beat Oxford United.

Lincoln City's Michael Skubala
Head coach Michael Skubala celebrates February’s win over Fleetwood Town. Credit: Chris Vaughan/Lincoln City FC

The impact once Skubala had time to settle is clear for all to see and a similar feeling of excitement is building at the LNER Stadium for next season. A full pre-season for the former Leeds United under-21s boss is vital for the Imps’ chances of progressing next season.

The Linc Sport Editor Jamie Johnson looks back on the managerial status throughout the campaign:

“The season started with the feeling of security and consistency under Mark Kennedy at the helm. However a few months later the former Republic of Ireland international was dismissed by the higher-ups. The sturdiness of Lincoln’s strategy was cast into some doubt. Interim Tom Shaw quelled those concerns. A win under the lights against Charlton Athletic was the highlight of his spell. As director of football Jez George said in his post-season chat with BBC Radio Lincolnshire, the steadying of the ship by Tom Shaw allowed the requirement process to take the time it needed.

Eventually, Michael Skubala was announced and after New Year’s Day, city embarked on a 16 game unbeaten run. Skubala has revitalised Lincoln, employing an attacking, easy-on-the-eye style of football that has spread excitement around Sincil Bank. It puts them in a promising position as the summer window hots up.”

A Settled Squad With Quality Oozing Throughout:

Lincoln City’s modern transfer policy has started to be recognised by fans, with a slightly younger approach to their business proving fruitful. The current average age of the squad lies at a lean 24.1 years old, (as per Transfermarkt).

At the back, goalkeeper Lukas Jensen has seriously impressed in filling the boots of former loanee Carl Rushworth. He kept 19 clean sheets over the course of the League One campaign and only lost out to Derby County’s Joe Wildmsith on the final day of the season in the golden glove race.

Alex Mitchell proved to be a quick fan favourite, on loan from Championship side Millwall, leaving City fans wanting more from the Scottish defender in a red and white shirt. We will have to wait and see on that one.

Lincoln City's Ethan Hamilton and Ethan Erhahon
Midfield duo Ethan Erhahon and Ethan Hamilton have impressed over the past season. Credit: Chris Vaughan/Lincoln City FC

The permanent signings of the two Ethan’s in midfield proved to be a fruitful piece of business, as both impressed throughout the campaign. Ethan Hamilton looked a key player until his injury-hit finish to the season. As for Ethan Erhahon, the club will do a fantastic job to keep hold of the Scotsman after his excellent season at the LNER Stadium, picking up the fans’ player of the season award.

Up front, Ben House showed his physical presence after returning from a long-term injury. New signing Tyler Walker had little impact due to his season defining injury, but could still prove to be a key addition next season.

The introduction of Irishman Jack Moylan has wept the appetite of City fans, as he has proved what he can do, especially during the unbeaten run seen in the second half of the campaign. Many eyebrows were raised with his two brilliant goals in the 5-1 demolition of Barnsley at Oakwell.

The story of the season, was the impact of Luton Town loanee Joe Taylor. The pacey forward only spent half of the season at the club, but finished City’s top scorer with ten goals and three assist, in just 19 appearances.

Taylor was just one of the many loan movements made by the club during the season. Fellow forward Freddie Draper was recalled from his successful loan spell at League Two side Walsall and made an impact, especially in taking the play-off fight to the last day with his crucial goal at Cheltenham Town.

Lincoln City's Joe Taylor
Joe Taylor recorded his first career hat-trick, against Bristol Rovers. Credit: Chris Vaughan/Lincoln City FC

Defender Jack Burroughs had a part to play, more during the first part of the season, but provided good quality on the left side. He has also returned back to his parent club, Coventry City.

The return of Conor McGrandles to the LNER Stadium in January saw the required experience come into the midfield. Unfortunately, once again, injuries played a part in the time he spent on the pitch, only appearing five times.

The Linc Deputy Sport Editor Spencer O’Leary gives his view on the transfer business conducted in the 2023/24 season:

“There’s a lot to unpack transfer wise over the course of last season, much to do with the injury crisis that plagued the Imps’ campaign. This time last season, it would be fair to say that many fans would want more permanent signings as opposed to loans. However, it must also be said that their use of the loan market this season has been excellent.

Lukas Jensen has proved to be an excellent signing, with the stats speaking for themselves. The first of the loan movements was Alex Mitchell, who has been consistently solid at League One level, and would be welcomed back at the LNER Stadium. Joe Taylor is the obvious signing that changed the season for the Imps, with his goals proving to be nothing short of vital for their top half finish. Alongside him, Freddie Draper looks more suited to be playing at League One level, while Jovon Makama could use with a loan like Draper had at League Two, as he gains more experience.

We are still waiting to see the new Tyler Walker, whilst Jack Moylan and Reeco Hackett have provided attacking excitement. This squad is certainly a top half League One side quality wise and should only be looking up from where they finished in the 23/24 season.”

The summer could be a busy one in Lincolnshire, ahead of a League One season that has the attention of many ahead of kick-off in August.

Feature Image Credit: Chris Vaughan/Lincoln City FC

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