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My predictions…November 27th

November 26, 2010 Leave a comment

 

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Not every team playing this weekend but my predictions for my ex-clubs are below.

HEREFORD V LINCOLN CITY

A tough game for 2 sides near the bottom of the League 2 table.  Home advantage to see Hereford through to the next round.

My prediction: 2-1

SHEFF WED V NORTHAMPTON

Northampton to battle but lose by the odd goal.

My prediction: 2-1

NOTTS COUNTY V BOURNEMOUTH

Notts County to build on their midweek victory.

My prediction: 1-0

TORQUAY V WALSALL

Walsall to be in the hat for the draw.

My prediction: 1-1

MIDDLESBORO V HULL

Hull to continue their recent good form.

My prediction: 1-1

READING V LEEDS UTD

A tough game for Leeds Utd. A battling score draw similar to last week at Norwich.

My prediction: 2-2

 

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My time at Lincoln City..Part 4. Another play-off disapointment

November 22, 2010 Leave a comment

 

The BIG ELECTRIC SALE is now on at ASDA

Mansfield Town away for me was one of the most memorable days of my career. It was one of those days where everything I hit seemed to go in. I scored four goals for the first time in the league in my career. I had scored four on a few occasions in reserve matches over the years but they don’t count. It does when there are league points at stake.

When I arrived at Lincoln City Paul Mayo was the penalty taker. His penalties were ferocious. He has a cracking left foot on him and he blasted his penalties. I always liked taking penalties. Obviously it was a superb goal scoring opportunity but I always liked the pressure that came with taking penalties. Pass or fail. It was one or the other. Missing was a horrible experience and it could ruin your performance for the remainder of a match if you allow it to. I missed one of my few penalties at home to MK Dons which really annoyed me. We were 0-2 down just before half time and pulled one back only to be given a penalty to draw level. The keeper guessed correctly and saved it. I remember chewing over it for the whole of the half time period. It did cost us as we lost the match in the end, our first defeat of that season.

Back to the Mansfield game. As Paul Mayo had missed the last penalty away at Torquay I decided to get myself on them. I got two penalties that day to go with my other two from open play. I always enjoyed playing against Mansfield and scored against them many times over the years. This match got me off and running for the season which came as a huge relief after starting the season slowly in terms of goals.

We were a free scoring team in the first half of that season. We had goal threats from all over the pitch. We always thought that we could outscore any team we came up against. We let a fair few in at the other end so I guess we were good to watch. Many people tell me that particular Lincoln City team of that time was the most pleasing on the eye that they have seen. We really should have achieved promotion that season. We fell away in the second half of the season and stumbled into the play-offs. There were lots of opinions why we didn’t do it. I know that John wanted to strengthen the squad in the January window but wasn’t able to get the players he wanted. Our small squad probably couldn’t cope well enough with the long season that panned out too. Although we had a good blend of youth and experience I don’t think that the squad as a whole had enough depth. I also think that opposition teams wised up to us too. They knew our strengths and combated them effectively enough to annul us.

Bristol Rovers awaited us in the play-offs. We played them in the league towards the end of the regular season and it seemed that they had more than an uphill task to reach the top seven. I had a great chance to win the game and all but end their play-off hopes but squandered it. That came to haunt us unfortunately. They were my previous club who hadn’t wanted me so I was very keen to beat them.

A tough away leg saw us return to Sincil Bank with a 2-1 deficit to overturn. We thought we could do it but two early goals at Sincil Bank made it a very tough ask. We put up a fight but in the end we were second best over the two legs. It was a tough defeat to take. My old club had got the better of me and I also thought that it was maybe my last chance to play at the new Wembley and gain promotion. Although I had another year left on my contract you can never take a play-off place for granted.

So the second season in a row had finished at the play-off semi final stage. A horrible way for a season to finish but overall you have to say that it was a successful one. The wage bill had been cut and we had lost McCombe and McAuley as well as a couple of others. That defeat stayed with me all summer and I was glad to get back for the start of pre-season training in the July.

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My weekend predictions for my previous clubs. Do you agree ?

November 19, 2010 1 comment

 

The BIG ELECTRIC SALE is now on at ASDA

 

 

Fridays will now see my weekend predictions for all of the clubs which I have played for.

Would be great to have your thoughts and suggestions. Here goes……

Derby vs Scunthorpe Utd

A tough one for The Iron. Derby seem to freeze  in front of the expectant home crowd.

My prediction: 1-1

 

Hull City v Ipswich

4 points from the last 2 games will provide the momentum for a narrow home victory against Ipswich

My prediction: 1-0

 

 

Norwich v Leeds United

Norwich is always a tough place to go. Leeds Utd find themselves in a play off spot. A high scoring draw would be a good result for Leeds to maintain a good league position.

My prediction: 2-2

 

 

 

Brighton v Bristol Rovers

Top placed Brighton will be a very difficult match to come through with anything. A comfortable home victory for Brighton

My prediction: 2-0

 

 

 

Notts County v Tranmere

A huge match at the bottom of league 1. A hard fought point each will help neither team.

My prediction: 1-1

 

 

 

Walsall v Carlisle

Walsall will be bouyant following their FA Cup replay victory in midweek but a strong Carlisle side to take all 3 points.

My prediction: 1-2

 

 

 

Barnet v Northampton Town

recent good form to see The Cobblers gain all 3 points at lowly Barnet

My prediction: 0-2

 

 Shrewsbury v Southend United

Shrewsbury to stay in the top 3 with a convincing home victory

My prediction: 3-1

 

 

 

Lincoln City v Hereford

Lincoln to win back to back matches for the first time in a long time and to grind out 3 points in a close match

My prediction: 1-0

 

 

 

Grimsby Town v Barrow

Grimsby Town to secure all 3 points to be hovering on a play off spot

My prediction: 2-1

 

The BIG ELECTRIC SALE is now on at ASDA

 

My time at …Lincoln City. Part 5 Out of contract. Should I stay or should I go ?

November 18, 2010 Leave a comment

 

Another pre-season began for me for the 2007-08 season. I think that it was my 18th pre-season and I can tell you that they don’t get much easier as you get older.

Again, we lost some of our main players. Jeff Hughes, the biggest casualty, earned a move away from Sincil Bank. He had scored quite a few goals the previous season and contributed heavily to our season.

Lincoln City had been in five successive play-off campaigns and not managed to achieve promotion on each occasion. Although everybody wanted to go one better it was always an uphill task given that playing budgets were cut year on year.

The season began at home to Shrewsbury Town. We were on the end of a heavy defeat to start off the season and it set the tone for a disappointing campaign. The squad was older and weaker. Teams had found a way to play against us and we found ourselves towards the wrong end of the table. Because of this we never had much of a settled team. We changed personnel, formation and tactics but our form never matched that of the previous season.

We played MK Dons away which we lost 5-0. It turned out to be the last match under John Schofield. The team looked like conceding goals too often and we didn’t manage to be as much of a threat in attack. I thought his departure was a little bit premature at the time but nothing surprises you in football. I have a lot to thank John Schofield for. He rejuvenated me at a time when my career was coming to an end. I don’t think that the circumstances at Lincoln City when he left were all his fault but I honestly believe that he would be a success if he were to manage again. The abuse he took from some sections was disgraceful. I even heard one fan threaten to stab him as he walked past the dug out toward the end of one match. When you consider what he did for the club it does make you wonder what some people expect.

So Peter Jackson was installed and immediately gave the whole place a lift. I had a couple of niggling injuries at the time of his arrival and, again, wondered what the immediate future held for me. We turned into a gritty, hard working team who ground out results to steer us away from danger. It wasn’t all that pretty but confidence grew and we did enough to be safe. I had a lot of time for Peter. He managed to turn things around really well and had everybody playing for him.

Unfortunately his illness meant that he was away from the club for a lengthy period of time. It was obviously a tough time for him and thankfully he won his battle against cancer. He won Manager of the Month before he left for his cancer treatment which shows the form we were in up to his departure.

Iffy Onoura took over temporarily and it was just a matter of keeping things ticking over.  There were quite a number of us who were out of contract that season. I felt like I had to perform to get anywhere near an offer. At my age even that may not have been good enough. We were told that no decisions were to be made about any of us until he season had finished. I had to accept it even though it was frustrating. I honestly didn’t have a clue if I was to be offered one until I walked in to see Iffy at the end of the season. Normally you get a feel for certain situations and if I was honest then I didn’t feel that confident.

 I was one of the fortunate ones to be offered a contract. To be honest there were a few scenarios that could have occurred. I could have been released, offered a contract on significantly less money or offered a contract on the same terms. There was little chance of a pay rise seeing as though I was 33. So the outcome was as good as could be expected, a 1 year offer on the same terms. I was very happy with that although there were a couple of other stipulations relating to my off the field activities. I was running a soccer academy at the time and Lincoln City were concerned that there was a conflict of interest between my academy and the club, who have their own coaching set up. It was a shame but it forced my hand a little bit. The dilemma I faced was to play for Lincoln City under restrictions or move under no restrictions. I can see it from both sides but I was 33 and knew that there were not too many years in the tank remaining so I had to choose for the sake of my future.

 

My time at ..Lincoln City. Part 3. A new era

November 9, 2010 Leave a comment

 

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As I reported for pre-season training I hadn’t managed to sell the house in Bristol. This was a real pain. Luckily for me my mother-in-law allowed me to stay with her in Grimsby meaning that I was to commute to Lincoln during pre-season training. I travelled in with Martin Gritton. Although it was under an hour from door to door I wanted to get all the family moved up as soon as possible. John Schofield was brilliant for me during that time. We had weekends off during pre-season for the first few weeks which allowed me to get back down to Bristol. It was a 5am departure on a Monday morning to trek back up to Lincoln for training though.

John Schofield was promoted to first team coach with John Deeham coming in to assist him. John was brilliant as youth team coach and I got on well with him when he was assistant to Keith Alexander. In my opinion he was rightly given the opportunity to lead the first team following the departure of Keith.

Two of Lincoln’s biggest players, both in height and status, had left over the summer. Jamie McCombe and Gareth McAuley left to play for Bristol City and Leicester City respectively. Both were leaving for higher divisions so you can fully understand their departures.

Although there were other players that left at that time you always felt that McAuley and McCombe would be tough to replace. The budget was cut, as it so often is at lower league clubs so the recruitment was important.

Adie Moses was brought in. Nat Brown and Paul Morgan were the other recognised central defenders. Paul Mayo played at centre half occasionally too but John Schofield was to put a larger emphasis on attacking when he took over. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t as if he completely neglected the defensive side of the game but he had so many attack minded players at his disposal that it made sense to play the way he did. When a new manager comes in they always like to put their stamp onto their team as early as possible. John made his values clear from very early on.

Mark Stallard was signed too from Shrewsbury. We immediately hit it off both on and off the pitch. We are the same age, only separated by a week or so, and we had played against each other many times for our previous clubs over the years.

We adapted a 4-3-3 formation for the pre-season matches but also worked on a 4-4-2 formation. We had the personnel to change formation without changing players. I really didn’t mind which formation we played but I think we were more effective when we played 4-4-2. Mark Stallard and I seemed to have an understanding of how to play up front together. Lee Frecklington burst onto the scene too which made us both look better than we were. Freck had a rare quality of being able to run beyond both Mark and I. His energy along with his quality gave the team so many options. The younger legs of Jeff Hughes and Ryan Amoo also took the pressure off the two of us up front. Our football brains and re-vitalisation that playing in that team gave us allowed us to be a big reason why we reached the play-offs that season.

A 1-1 draw at home to Notts County saw us get off the mark. The next two away matches were perfect for me. Hereford United and Torquay United were not too far from Bristol and John allowed me to stay down that week. These gestures go a long way for me. He could so easily have made me train up in Lincoln that week.

6 points from those two games gave us a great start to the season. A stoppage time winner at Torquay by Martin Gritton was a great way to win a match. A defeat to Scunthorpe United after extra time in the league cup was not ideal but allowed us to focus on the league matches which definitely helped. Although I had contributed towards our results I hadn’t scored in the first four matches. My experience taught me not to get too uptight yet I always felt a pressure to get off to a scoring start to any season. I think John Schofield saw that and pulled me to one side. He said that the goals would come and he proved to be correct.

I would like to say thank you to the sponsors of this blog: JJB SPORTS who have a 3 for 2 offer.

 

find-me-a-gift Over 2000 Gifts and Gadgets

My time at Lincoln City…Part 2 Clocking up the miles and making it permanent.

November 3, 2010 Leave a comment

I headed back to Bristol after the home victory against Grimsby Town knowing that the following week would be a big one. I am not just talking about the size of the matches but also the amount of mileage that I would be clocking up. Away games at Carlisle and Darlington were the fixtures for that week. Bristol was a long way from both. I met the squad at the team hotel in Carlisle on the Tuesday evening after a frighteningly long drive. A defeat at Brunten Park made for a very long day. I think I arrived back home at about 3am.  It was back in Lincoln on the Thursday and Darlington on the Saturday. I asked one of the young lads who was not playing to drive my car behind the team bus so that I could go directly home to Bristol from Darlington instead of travelling back to Lincoln.

I remember at half time that Keith threatened the team with a spot of Sunday training if we didn’t pull our fingers out. This would have been disastrous for me and was hoping that it didn’t come to that. Well, we lost the match and the half time threat turned to a reality. Thankfully he let me off. As a loan player it was a slightly different situation for me but he really wasn’t happy with the performance. Keith didn’t come down too heavy on players as a general rule but you always knew where the line was with him.

An enjoyable and successful loan spell was turned into a permanent transfer before the play-off matches against Grimsby Town. There was quite a bit of negotiating to do for all parties. I had an extra year beyond the 2005-06 season on my contract at Bristol Rovers. I had to take a cut in wages so things had to be right for me. Eventually it was Keith that made the difference. I have to say that if it wasn’t for him then I may not have signed at that time. He even suggested that I stay living in Bristol and travel up on a Thursday like I had done on loan. This worked for a short loan spell but I didn’t feel comfortable doing it for a further two years. It would not have been fair on the rest of the lads and my fitness and form would have suffered as a consequence.

So I had agreed to become what was Keith’s final Lincoln City signing before the end of that season. It gave me a bit of an advantage is putting the house up for sale in Bristol. There was a chance that we could we could be moved up to Lincoln by the start of pre-season training.

Our play-off spot was secured which meant that we faced Grimsby Town in the play-offs. The 5-0 victory against them did us no favours whatsoever. It made them more determined to gain some revenge. The pre-match talk made us favourites but we all knew there would be an improved performance by them after the heavy defeat they suffered. A 0-1 home defeat put them in the driving seat for the 2nd leg at Blundell Park. Although we equalised quite early on we never played well enough to deserve a place at Wembley.

I had a brief chat with Keith after the game when we returned to Sincil Bank. Effectively it was the end of the season so needed to know how the land lay as I was heading off to Bristol. It was a funny conversation really. We were obviously all very downbeat. Keith mentioned that he may be leaving for pastures new. I had only signed a week or two previous to that so didn’t want Keith to leave. He was such a big factor in me signing that I felt left in the lurch a little bit.

Keith eventually did leave which led to a summer of uncertainty for me personally. I had just signed for Lincoln and the manager was off. I don’t blame Keith at all. You need to think of yourself in football. There was all sorts going through my mind. The next manager may not fancy me, for one.

Thankfully for me John Schofield took over.

I would like to say thank you to the sponsors of this blog: JJB SPORTS who have a 3 for 2 offer.

Lincoln City vs Northampton Town

November 2, 2010 2 comments

As another two of my former clubs go head to head I thought I would preview the match.

Lincoln City look for their first victory under new manager Steve Tilson. An encouraging result away at Wycombe Wanderers at the weekend may provide the momentum for The Imps to begin to climb the table.

Steve has immediately added to the squad by adding Ashley Grimes, Luke Howell, Gavin Hoyte and Josh Gowling. This is a sign that he wants to put his own stamp on the squad as soon as possible. The signing of Hoyte looks a particularly interesting one.

I know Steve and am sure that he will be looking to play an exciting, expansive game. This can be aided by results and I make Lincoln City slight favourites for this clash.

Northampton Town have so far showed their best form in the League Cup. Now that their run in that competition is over it is imperative that they start to produce that form in League 2. They have slipped down close to the bottom of the table somewhat surprisingly and results will need to improve. I know that Ian Sampson has had his budget cut from last season which is always going to make things tougher. I saw the corresponding fixture last term and at that time Northampton were looking to secure a play off spot towards the end of last season.

For now, for both sides, it is all about gathering some points quickly to steer them to safety.

In what is a hugely important match for both teams I think that the impetus that the new signings can bring will see Lincoln City win by the odd goal to take all three points.

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