Lincoln City sit top of the Sky Bet League Two having earned 13 points out of a possible 15 so far this season. With their only dropped points coming in a Lincolnshire Derby away from home.
Their latest success came in the form of a 3-1 victory over a dismal Notts County side who sacked manager Kevin Nolan the following day. A goal of the season contender from captain Lee Frecklington started the rout before Bruno Andrade and Harry Anderson condemned Nolan to unemployment.
The Imps had a mixed start to the season where they sat outside the play-off places but this season appears to be different. However, what is different from this City side to the one that came before it?
One major factor to this sensational turn around would perhaps be the signings. Not only have the Imps broken their transfer record on forward John Akinde, but they have also managed to replace their outgoings. The major loss in the off season was midfielder Alex Woodyard who left the club and joined Peterborough United. Other players who were let go include Elliott Whitehouse, Ollie Palmer and Sean Long. Danny Cowley has managed to draft in quality, ensuring that there is competition for places all over the pitch.
Grant Smith was brought in to provide competition for Josh Vickers and has recently stepped up the plate and performed against Bury and Notts County. Jason Shakell, a defender was drafted in from Millwall to replace the outbound Luke Waterfall to Shrewsbury. Shakell has added leadership into the group and has balanced the back four well as himself and Michael Bostwick have formed a very good partnership.
Michael O’Connor was also a new arrival from Notts County and despite missing most of preseason with injury, the midfielder has settled well to life in Lincoln with an impressive display against his former side.
Bruno Andrade was the star of the National League last season, helping Boreham Wood get to the play-off final which they lost out to Tranmere. Andrade had caught the eye of clubs higher in the pyramid than the Imps but he gave the manager as the most important factor behind his move to Sincil Bank. Both of them have risen through non-league and impressed.
Cowley’s men could have been branded as a long ball side last season with Matt Rhead the focal point in attack, but the Imps have taken a different approach this year. The signings made by Cowley have given him tactical flexibility and he is able to play a variety of different systems to keep the opposition going. The majority of the players who were brought in over the summer can play in different positions capably which is a key aspect to Danny’s recruitment.
This year, the Imps are always looking for their full-backs and wingers to get whipped crosses into the box to cause defences all sorts of issues. With full backs like Neal Eardley and Harry Toffolo who have pinpoint accuracy, it is clear why Cowley prefers this approach. The Imps are fortunate to have the attacking players that they do with a variety of boxes being ticked. If they want to go long they have Matt Rhead as well as part of the game as John Akinde but also if they want to get in behind the opposition they have Andrade, Harry Anderson and Matt Green. All three of those have electric pace and can cause a full-back a lot of issues. In the Notts County tie, never had a full-back look more afraid than Matt Tootle when Andrade was bursting at him with pace.
Lincoln have the highest attendances in the league again this season and with the crowds, it spurs the players on. It is very difficult to go to a ground where you are completely outnumbered and manage to get a result. The hostile atmosphere gives the Imps players momentum and several players have said that it spurs them on.
The Imps look the real deal this season, and despite it being August appear to be set to challenge for an automatic promotion spot. A tough start to the season is set to continue as they make the long journey down to St James’ Park for the first time since their play-off defeat to Exeter City.
Picture Credit: EFL