A New Page (Episode 21: A Lincoln Legend)

The epitome of unity and understanding.

A loss on the first day of the season means very little. In the bigger picture that is. If the team feels like getting their losses out of their system in the first month or two, that’s fine by me. That being said, I really won’t enjoy it if we lose two or, god forbid, three on the bounce.

To give me some encouragement about the season ahead, Rafael Barbosa decides to join up with the Imps for this season on the Monday after our loss to Blackpool. He claims the number 13 jersey which makes me ask whether he believes the number is unlucky. Of course, the bloke only speaks Portuguese so I have to whip out Translate on my phone for him to type an answer back. The emotionless, monotonic voice takes me by surprise.

“I believe that this number is unlucky as people think it is unlucky. I make my own luck.” I didn’t know it till he said it but that’s the right bloody answer. We share a mute handshake/hug combo before introducing him to the squad.

In an almost hilarious twist, James Wilson picks up a cut on his head which, according to my medical team, rules him out of selection for the Sheffield United game. Despite my protests and multiple attempts at calling him a wimp, the argument about the severity of cut and further potential damage prevails. Load of rubbish if you ask me.

I’m taking the cups, especially the Carabao and Checkatrade, as chances to try new formations, positions and personnel. For our game against the red half of Sheffield, Sam Walker starts in goal with Bostwick partnering Nelson as a centre back. Eardley replaces Gergo on the right but now is where it gets interesting. We’re playing a 4-1-2-1-2 wide with Woody holding as he loves to put on a show in the cup games. Barbosa gets his debut in a Lincoln shirt behind an Ivan Toney and Ellis Harrison strike partnership. Toney is going to play on the shoulder today and try to use his explosive speed to give us the upper hand.

Sheffield United on the other hand are playing a defensive 5-2-1-2 with Leon Clarke and Billy Sharp up front. Before the game starts, I turn to Batesy and cross my fingers.

“Let’s up those lads up top don’t sharpen the Blades today, ey mate?” He sighs and sits down with a disappointed look on his face. While my management is constantly praised, my sense of humour is being majorly underappreciated. My notice is being handed in unless this changes.

Just 4 minutes in, Rowe shows hes up for a battle today as he puts in a crunching yet fair tackle on Leonard before passing forward to Harrison. He lays the ball into the new lad Barbosa who waits for the run before giving it back to Ellis. He touches onto his right foot before striking across goal but a set of good hands push it away. Baldock is under pressure from Danny and clears for a throw in to avoid giving up possession in a dangerous position.

15 minutes later, Valerio intercepts a Stevens pass, starting a string of passes along the halfway line before Barbosa plays a through ball to Toney. He fakes outside before cutting back inside and finesses from the edge of the box but it’s a good height for Blackman to save. The ball remains in play but Harrison fouls Stevens chasing down the ball. The aerial battle from Blackman’s free kick is won by Clarke but the ball flies past Evans to Ellis Harrison. The ball finds it’s way out to Dickenson who plays Rowe in the middle first time. He flicks it on to Barbosa who feints past a flat footed Basham before lacing a shot a yard over the joining of the post and the crossbar. It’s very close to a splendid debut goal for the loanee.

In the 35th minute, Sheffield decide they want to play some football now with Stevens charging down the byline. He picks his pass between the right side of our team, Esposito and Eardley, to find Evans. He plays it to Clarke who turns Nelson too easily and threads it back to Evans. He hits it first time, looking for the far corner but Sam Walker plucks the ball calmly from it’s path mid-air. Brilliant stuff from him.

In the last minute of the half, Brook switches to Stevens who hops a Eardley challenge on the touchline. Nelson comes over to cover but consequently leaves Leon Clarke open to receive the pass. He works it back out to Stevens who hits a perfect driven ball in for Billy Sharp to run in and just clear Walker’s trailing leg with a sliding shot and make it 1-0. It really is one of the worst times to concede as I see multiple heads drop. I try my best to fire them back up at half-time but it could be a lost cause. I replace Esposito with Stewart as he’s ran himself senseless in the first half.

From the get go, Sheffield are throwing players forward to try and grab an early second but, like many decisions in football, it can either pay off or you can be made to pay. Rowe collects the ball in the 62nd minute after blocking a pass and smashes it up to Barbosa. He sweeps it to Toney who plays an open Stewart down the right. Stearman catches him as he enters the 18 yard box so Cameron turns back on himself and passes to Barbosa inside the D. He puts it into space on the right hand side of the box for Rowe to run in and put a floating low ball in for Harrison to delicately direct into the bottom left past the hopeless Blackman. 1-1 and we’re right back in it. Rowe’s legs are looking a bit heavy however so I bring on Pett for the rest of the game.

10 minutes after our equaliser, Stewart tries to heads a Baldock cross clear but instead heads it at Sharp. There’s a tussle in the box between them both before Sharp swings at the ball but Walker is down quickly to push round the post for corner. A few minutes pass before Sheffield have another corner which is whipped in to the unmarked Basham who volleys towards the top right corner but an insane reaction save from Walker keeps the score’s even again. What a game he’s having.

With 5 minutes to go, Pett gives away a free kick and picks up a yellow card but I decide to make use of the break in play. I bring on Ollie Palmer for Barbosa who gets a warm reception from the away fans. He’s done really well today considering it’s his first proper run in English football. Harrison drops back behind Ollie. The free kick is whipped in but it’s headed out to Toney by Bostwick. He passes it up to Harrison who only has the one man to beat but decides to wait for the Palmer overlap to his right before advancing too far forward. Ollie gets into the box and turns Baldock inside out with some neat footwork before curling a shot into the bottom left. That’s if a outstanding full stretch save from Jamal Blackman hadn’t pushed it just round the post.

The regulation time comes to a close with the scoreline still even so added time is needed to find a victor. We have used all our subs so the team remains as it is for the next half an hour.

Shortly after the game gets back underway, Stewart steals the ball from Stearman after pressuring Baldock to make a pass. He runs into the box and is hacked down by Stearman just as he swings his foot back to shoot. No red card but a yellow and penalty is rightly given. I don’t know why but I agree to let Ellis Harrison take the penalty, against every fibre in my body telling me not to. He runs up and hits it low to the right but of course Blackman dives the right way and palms it out for a corner. What the fuck is with this spot kick voodoo?

We’re not made to mull over missed chances or saved penalties for too long when in the 98th minute, Stewart heads a Nelson knock down out to Woody. He just beats Lafferty to the ball and passes it to Harrison. He plays it sideways to Stewart who runs at an angle before pulling out a ridiculous one legged roulette to completely eliminate Leonard from the game and the rest of his footballing career. He looks up and spots Toney who is playing perfectly on Coutts shoulder. The ball bounces up off his left foot awkwardly but Ivan adjusts his body to smoothly sidefoot a volley home with his right into the bottom right. It’s an amazing bit of play and it gets a standing ovation from the away end. I’m truthfully a bit hot under the collar after seeing that skill from Stewart. 2-1.

Half-time comes and the lads are feeling a lot more confident than the previous half time. They want to push for another so I tell them to do so with caution.

In the 108th minute, Pett darts inside and plays a gorgeous ball over Lafferty for Stewart on the far side. He half volleys the ball into the front post where Palmer connects with a half volley of his own that flies into the back of the net. A two goal lead with 10 minutes left? Sounds like park the bus to me.

The 120 minutes finish and a unintentionally smug grin is plastered across my face. Today was a real show of grit and hard graft to battle through added time and win comfortably. The subs really helped turn the game, don’t get me wrong but everyone else held their own and didn’t look out place compared to their fresher compatriots. A great performance all round.

During that game, Tom Pett picked up a yellow card which apparently earns him a suspension. I’m not sure why but I wasn’t planning on playing him anyways so I don’t appeal the decision.

Similar to last season, I turn my attention over the next few days to tying some of our important players as a lot of them have less than a year left on their current deals. After a couple days of non-stop meetings with agents and players, I get most people to commit to the club for at least another 2 years. Details below:

  • Josh Vickers till 2021 (£3’000 wage increase)
  • Gergo till 2020 (£500 wage increase)
  • Eardley till 2021 (£1’200 wage increase)
  • Habergham till 2021 (£350 wage increase)
  • Woody till 2021 (£800 wage increase)
  • Captain Bostwick till 2020 (£100 wage increase w/£20’000 bonus for 15 appearances)
  • Esposito till 2024 (£2’600 wage increase w/£300’000 bonus for 25 goals)
  • Palmer till 2021 (No wage increase and suggests to be a sporadic player due to new signings, another reason I love this bloke)

Bozhikov was the only player to reject new terms but it wasn’t done with any haste or anger. I’ll try again later into the year to keep him around for another year or two.

In what proves a controversial decision with Batesy, I accept a loan offer from Doncaster for Ellis Chapman. He is a good player but I just think we need someone who can help cover Freckles with the same ability as him right now. Ellis is a player for the future but we need to bring in a defensive midfielder for reinforcements sooner rather than later.

In what’s a uncanny Carabao Cup draw, we are hosting Bristol City in the second round. Just days after we play their locacl rivals and Ellis’ old team Bristol Rovers. Asides from that, it’s a good home draw where we’ve avoided some of the huge teams but still have a tough game that will sell tickets.

In just our first away game of the season, we have the infamous trip to Burton Albion. They have some solid players and are not to be underestimated but I really want a win to get us back on track.

Vickers is back in goal with Wilson starting after his tragic head cut has miraculously healed. Bostwick and Woody are together in the middle with Barbosa starting out on the right and Oztumer returning behind Ollie Palmer. It would be a huge first win away against one of the relegated sides if we can pull it off today.

For the first half hour, both teams are pushing and playing decent football but with no end result. There’s been a couple desperate swings and frustrated shots from ourselves and Burton but to no avail. In the 35th minute, Rowe challenges for a ball after a Burton throw and manages to get a pass to Bostwick. It’s driven to Barbosa’s feet who lays it off to Palmer. Ollie pulls off a cheeky heel chop pass to give it just enough for Oztumer to take in his stride and smash it past the keeper, just inside the near post. It’s a lovely assist from Ollie and a venomous finish from Erhun. A no prisoner mindset could really open this game up cause god knows it needs it.

Half time comes and goes and it’s not until the 57th minute when another chance arises. A Bostwick switch is read and cut out by Qalinge who brings it down and hits it to Liam Boyce. He controls before shocking everyone inside the Pirelli Stadium by unleashing a screamer from 25 yards that swerves inwards then back out into the very top right corner. There’s nothing Vickers could do about that as it’s an unstoppable strike to bring the scores level. Where the fucks he pulled that from?

In the 64th minute, Rowe passes inside to Palmer who lets it roll to Barbosa. He spins his man in a flash and hits a powerful strike but a strong save denies him a first Lincoln goal. 10 minutes pass and with fifteen minutes left, I ask the team to push for a winner. And they do just that. Not even a minute after my instruction gets out, Bostwick heads a Flanagan clearance down to Oztumer. He spreads the play out wide to Barbosa. Ollie leaves his marker to come short and slots a return ball between the defence. Barbosa runs into the box and puts a low ball into the danger zone where Oztumer pips Mcfadzean to the ball and slides home past Bywater’s foot. A brace from him today and we’ve restored our lead. I bring on Anderson and Toney for Barbosa and Rowe.

I make a defensive change with Sam coming on for Dickenson in the 80th minute and we manage to hold on throught a panicked finale to claim our first win in League One. Oztumer will grab all the headlines and rightly so but the team worked well today. The last goal is a perfect example of that. The epitome of unity and understanding.

Chapman rejects the opportunity to join Doncaster on loan as he doesn’t feel ready to leave his home town just yet. He is only 17 to be fair to him but a loan move would have done him a world of good. In a arguably more exciting bid for a Lincoln player, Derby County offer £1’200’000 for Harry Anderson. While he’s been pushed down the ranks by Rowe, Valerio and Stewart, he’s going to get a lot more playing time as the season kicks on. He will be a vital part of the busy periods this season so Derby’s offer is rejected. Plus, he’s still at the tender age of 21 with his best years ahead of him. A bigger price is needed for a player of his promise.

Looking forward into the not-so-distant future, we’re going to have a busy and tough week ahead. After hosting both Bristol clubs in the league and the cup, we travel to Rotherham who will be looking for an early push towards promotion after missing out on the play-offs last season. That’s just the day after the transfer window slams shut too. Not a lot of people know it but I am still eyeing up one more deal before midnight on the 31st. And whilst it won’t be doomsday if I don’t get somebody in, who doesn’t love a deadline day deal?

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