The second fan up in our ‘Season So Far’ feature is Lincoln City’s Nick Proctor (@nickprocter27 on Twitter).
How has this season been for your team?
This has been a massive season for Lincoln, our first season at this level since 1998. We started the season with the Cowley Brothers as our management team and with the objective to consolidate in League One. We had a great start to the season, continuing from where we left off last season with an evolving style of football which saw Matt Rhead leave and Tyler Walker brought in on loan. The season took an unexpected turn on 9th September with the Cowleys moving to Huddersfield Town, shortly after the transfer window had closed.
Michael Appleton was appointed as our new first-team manager after a short run of games under caretaker boss Jamie McCombe who has since left the club. Appleton’s arrival highlighted a key philosophy change with his spell at Oxford, in particular, showing his approach to play out from the back, keep the ball and look to develop young hungry talent. It was a difficult start with only one league win from his arrival after a harrowing 6-0 defeat at home to Oxford until we beat Burton Albion 2-0 away from home at the start of December.
However, Appleton’s philosophy was becoming more evident and the hours on the training pitch we’re taking effect with impressive wins over Ipswich, Peterborough, Bolton and Blackpool around the turn of the year.
This allowed the clubs board of directors to implement a strategic change earlier than most expected. The move to a player trading model and the concept of virtual safety from relegation due to a good run of form led to a very busy January transfer window, With Andrade, O’Connor, Toffolo, Akinde, Smith and Coker leaving the club and mixture of high potential players and experience coming into the side in January including Bridcutt, Sheehan, Hopper, Edun, John-Jules and Hinds.
This signified a changing of the guard and has unfortunately led to a difficult run of form with only two points gained from our last seven games. However, such significant change was always going to be a stumbling block but due to the performance of the teams and the players in the first half of the season, the club has felt able and comfortable to make these significant changes to the clubs strategic vision. Clive Nates (Chairman) and Liam Scully (CEO) have both spoken with fans and press to explain the rationale behind these changes and fans are excited to see where this project leads.
Our objective at the start of the season was to consolidate and stay in the division and we currently sit 13 points above the relegation spots in 17th place confident that only a few more results are required from the remaining 10 games to keep us safe in the division. No team has been relegated with 49 points or more over the last 10 46 game seasons. This season is a 44 game season due to the sad demise of Bury FC and that means I believe we only need 3 more wins to take us to 48 points to absolutely guarantee us safety in this division for another season which would be a fantastic result as big as winning the League Two title last season.
Which game has been a particular high point and why?
The high point for me would have to be beating Sunderland 2-0 at home at the start of October. If you had told me five years ago that Lincoln would be playing league football against Sunderland, I wouldn’t have believed you and we dominated them on the day at Sincil Bank, showing that we belong at this level.
Which game has been a low point and why?
The low point of the season has to have been the defeat away to Southend. Our away form this season has been poor and we have relied on our home results for our position, however, going to a side that hadn’t won at home all season, going behind and coming back level would have meant a point was a good result, however, conceding so late on as we did and handing Southend their first home win of the season has to be a real low point for us.
Which player(s) is your Player of the Season so far and why?
Joe Morrell, I’m not sure many would argue with this selection. On loan from Bristol City and has dominated our midfield for the whole time he’s been here like a Duracell bunny, limitless energy and drive but skilful on the ball as well. Joe has also become a full Wales international during his time at the club and has played a big part in Wales recent games.
Also a small note for Harry Toffollo who has moved onto Huddersfield during the January transfer window. However, he was absolutely immense for us during his time here. One of the best left backs in the division and has settled in well at Huddersfield since showing his class. Always impressive going forward but had also improved the defensive aspects of his game during the start of this season to become a key part of the back line.
Which player(s) have disappointed and why?
Unfortunately, Jason Shackell has come in for criticism on social media and the terraces. I have had to agree with some of the discussions as he hasn’t looked the same player this season as last and it appears that age has unfortunately caught up with him.
What are you expecting from the final two months of the season?
I am expecting some positive performances and hopefully some good results. Appleton has had 2 full weeks to work with the team on the training pitch due to no league game at the end of Feb. This will allow him to instil his philosophy further into the new recruits and that is encouraging for the end of the season.
Nick was keen to promote the charity walk the Lincoln City SLO’s are doing this month to raise money to help visually impaired Imps’ fans.