Lincoln City finally got their season underway this weekend with a 3-0 win against Wycombe Wanderers after surrendering by the same margin to the division’s other Wanderers, Bolton, on the opening day.
The Imps took their visitors apart in a second half that boasted three goals and numerous chances. Managed by Mark Kennedy, Lincoln could be a surprise package, with four loan spots left in their squad and an array of solid signings this summer. Tyler Walker, Ethan Hamilton and Reeco Hackett stand out, but Ali Smith, Jaden Brown and Lukas Jensen joined a settled squad comfortable playing with each other.
In an attacking sense, the Imps were blunt in 2022/23. They had the fourth-lowest xG, and with 47 goals, they were bottom seven when it came to beating the opposition’s keeper. However, defensive resilience saw them finish 11th and only lose at home twice all season. Fans weren’t always entertained, but a pragmatic side was never in any doubt of slipping into the fourth tier.
Survival in League One this season will give the Imps their longest run in the division ever, beating a five-year stay in the early eighties. They’ll survive if their defence is as tight as last season, but they might thrive if they find their shooting boots in attack. Enter a man who might just be the league’s breakout star, Danny Mandroiu.
Who is Danny Mandroiu?
For those who do podcasts and are dreading pronouncing his name, Mandroiu is said man-droy-ooh. The 24-year-old Dubliner began his career with St Kevin’s Boys, the same boys team that also produced Liam Brady, Ian Harte and Damien Duff. He moved to Brighton in 2015, aged just 15, and spent four years on the South Coast. He appeared for. them against Manchester City and scored in the Checkatrade Trophy against Oxford for the Under 21s, but he returned to Ireland with 18 months left on his deal.
He joined Bohemians and went on to win PFAI Young Player of the Year and was named in the PFAI Team of the Year. One goal, a 30-yard wonder strike against Shamrock, went viral, and it alerted the Hoops to his talents, although it was one of 17 in just 44 matches. Despite being linked with a move to FC Twente, he signed for Bohs arch-rivals in 2020. Whilst at the Tallaght Stadium, he won two League of Ireland titles and earned a call-up to the Ireland squad without getting on the field. He was linked with a move to Celtic, but like the Twente rumours, it came to nothing.
When manager Michael Appleton left Lincoln City, they were linked with Stephen Bradley, the Shamrock manager. He didn’t end up moving to Sincil Bank, but they did go back for Mandroiu, who had a release clause that allowed him to leave for a low five-figure fee if an English club came in for him. He joined the Imps in July 2022.
Why Did We Hear About Him Last Season?
Mandroiu has been with the Imps for 13 months now, but last season was a bit stop/start for him. He arrived with an ankle injury which was thought to be insignificant enough for him to miss a couple of weeks; instead, he didn’t make his debut until October. It took him just three games to score before bagging three in three, including a leveller against Sheffield Wednesday at Sincil Bank and a winner at Oakwell against Barnsley. That earned him the Imps’ Player of the Month award, but an injury sustained in the 1-0 defeat at Port Vale ruled him out for a month.
He had a decent season upon his return, scoring four more goals, including another one against Sheffield Wednesday, ending the season with six League One goals and four assists from 20 starts. It wasn’t enough to have casual pundits raving, but it did get Imps’ fans thinking they might have a diamond on their hands.
Why Is He So Exciting?
This season, Mandroiu looks settled in the English game. Sometimes, players coming from Ireland, or indeed any league, can find the pace difficult or need time to adjust. Mandroiu’s talent was always evident, but with a solid pre-season under his belt, he looks devastatingly effective. He hit five goals in pre-season, including a brace away at Crewe, and after a steady start against Bolton, he came alive in the Carabao Cup, notching seven shots as Notts County were beaten.
This weekend is the game that has got people’s attention. Mandroiu, playing on the left of a front three almost as an old inside forward, created two goals for the Imps, the first a delicious cross for Reeco Hackett to gobble up, recycling the ball quickly. The second assist saw him drag a 70-yard pass down with one touch before delivering a cross on the half-volley for Ted Bishop to score. Mandroiu then iced the cake and popped the cherry on top himself, taking Bishop’s pass in his side to cut across the goal and beat the keeper from 20 yards with a low drive.
Aside from the goals and assists, Mandroiu’s all-around impact is impressive. He looks effortless on the ball as if grace and poise come naturally. A couple of his decisions were delayed a second or two in the first half on Saturday, but he kept wanting the ball, never shying away from possession and always looking forward. Imps’ supporters didn’t see enough creativity in the final third last season, but with Mandroiu waving his wand of a left foot at the ball, that’s something they’ll likely not suffer from this time out.
After the game, Head Coach Mark Kennedy jokingly refused to speak about Mandroiu as he ‘doesn’t want to lose him’. Sorry Mark, the cat is out of the bag, and more performances like Saturday might have the likes of Celtic reigniting their interest, as well as Stephen Kenny picking up the phone.
Remember the name. Learn how to pronounce it because if you’re talking about League One football this season, you’re going to need to know exactly how to say the name Danny Mandroiu.