How can a team be in a position we they simultaneously have won one in their previous six, but also three in their previous four?
It’s probably the most interesting thing to say about the previous couple of months at Coventry City. Whereas in previous season when we’ve been around the play-off places, it’s been hard to contain the excitement, this season has felt more akin to a dull mid-table season than a promotion season.
Ultimately, the ends will justify the means. If Mark Robins can become the first Coventry City manager since Jimmy Hill to achieve promotion, then it won’t matter how dull the football has been. The concern right now is whether the means are the correct ones in a division where most teams are seeking to avoid defeat against us.
While it would be harsh on Mansfield to describe their performance last Saturday as defensive, they were another organised side that we struggled to break down before quickly running out of ideas. If Jodi Jones isn’t at his best, this team struggles to create chances, even if he is, there are too few players committed to getting on the end of his good work. Very few promotions are won off the back of having one good winger in your side.
Mark Robins has to consider whether he has got the balance right in this side between attack and defence. However, this upcoming game is one of the trickiest away trips of the season, which probably behoves Robins to set the team up in our typical cautious manner. Oddly, the increased difficulty of this fixture arguably gives us a better chance of result.
The only question with the team selection for this trip to Lincoln is whether Mark Robins tweaks things again up front or persists with what worked against Luton and Maidenhead. Jordan Ponticelli and Marc McNulty had their moments against Mansfield, but it felt like we were missing a presence up front of whom we could build our attacking play around, whether the alternative options solve that conundrum is another question.
Last Time We Met
As with a lot of our league games this season, this is the first competitive meeting between us and our opponents in quite a while. The aforementioned last Coventry City manager to win promotion – Jimmy Hill – was in charge as the Sky Blues comfortably navigated past Lincoln City in the FA Cup Third Round in 1963 via a 5-1 scoreline. Hugh Barr, Terry Bly, Ron Farmer, Jimmy Whitehouse and an own goal were on the scoresheet.
How Are They Doing?
Lincoln are a club re-energised over the past 18 months, dating back to the appointment of Danny Cowley – and his brother Nicky – as manager prior to the start of last season. The Imps had settled into being a fairly unremarkable mid-table National League side before the former PE teacher Danny Cowley instantly galvanised the place, storming their way back into the Football League and embarking on a memorable FA Cup run that took them into the Sixth Round.
The club are still riding the crest of that wave, boasting the largest attendances in the division and finding themselves on the fringes of the play-offs. However, a failure to convert chances has held them back at times this season but they are a team that could find themselves challenging for automatic promotion if they can get a run together.
The Cowley have also been trying to make Lincoln a more attractive side to watch this season, which may also have played a part in the somewhat underwhelming opening few months of the campaign. Target man centre-forward Matt Rhead – standing at around six foot three and weighing in around 16 stone – was a key player last year but has been relegated to more of a reserve role, with the more mobile Matt Green preferred, playing ahead of the number 10 Billy Knott.
Lincoln’s pace from wide positions is a key element of their threat, with Josh Ginnelly – who is from Coventry – and Harry Anderson among their better performers this season. In particular, Anderson is one to stop, a skilful wide man with a level of directness to his game, he is currently Lincoln’s top goalscorer this season.
Towards the back of the side, Lincoln are assertive and energetic, with the tireless Alex Woodyard and Michael Bostwick sitting in front of the defence both arguably being of at least League One quality. The dominant Sean Raggett in central defence impressed so much last season that he earned a move to Norwich, before being loaned back to the Imps on a half-season deal (Norwich have form for that).
If we are going to continue to struggle at home as we have done over the past month or so, putting together a more imperious run of results away from home is imperative. While it seems that this team is more suited to playing away, we’ve won just three of our eight games on the road this season, which is okay, but not enough to rely upon during what we hope is a promotion campaign.
As mentioned earlier, Lincoln being one of our toughest away trips of the season arguably makes this a more beneficial game for us right now. However, we saw against Mansfield that this defence struggles against teams that have both physicality and pace in attack, which could make for another difficult afternoon – especially if our attack remains blunt.
I’m not optimistic for this game, I can see us losing 2-0.