Match Preview: Lincoln City v Port Vale
After six years of playing in the wilderness that is non-league, isn't it wonderful to be able to say we are playing Port Vale again? Two traditional Football League clubs battling it out in the lowest division, just like we used to when I first began watching the Imps back in the sixties. Indeed, my first game between the two clubs was at Sincil Bank in March 1966 when, sadly, we lost 0-1. In all we have played them 83 times including cup games and the records are very similar; Port Vale have won 31, City have won 30 and there have been 22 draws. A home win on Saturday, therefore, would bring back parity.
Our last game against them was on 29 March 2011, during that fateful run to relegation, and the Vale won at home by two goals to one. Two months earlier and our last home game against them saw the Imps run out 1-0 winners in front of (a mere) 3,370 with Ashley Grimes netting the only goal in the 86th minute.
Vale come off the back of a 0-4 home reverse against Mansfield Town while we were losing by the odd goal in Essex. They currently sit in 21st place, just one point above the relegation places and with a goal difference of -10. They have scored as many as we have conceded, 18. Neil Aspin has recently taken over the managerial reins at Vale Park and he is clearly finding it somewhat difficult to change things around. Aspin is expected to give starts to two of his players returning from injury; Anton Forrester and Cristian Montano who both played part of the game against Mansfield. Aspin is also expecting a difficult game on Saturday against a team for whom he has a lot of respect; "I've got a lot of respect for them and they had a great season last year, deservedly getting promotion. They've built on that and it's going to be a tough test, but every game is difficult and we have to make sure that we're better in certain areas."
As for the Imps, I expect Michael Bostwick to take no part again and fear that the same will be said of Sam Habergham and Josh Ginnelly. Following Tuesday's poor performance, I think there will be other changes, too. Don't be surprised to see a recall for Luke Waterfall for one of either Rob Dickie or Sean Raggett who may be rested. I'd be surprised if Billy Knott were to start following his pretty ineffective half on Tuesday but feel there may be a place for Nathan Arnold to do so. I'd certainly keep Matt Rhead and Matty Green together up front as they seemed to click again during the second half at Colchester. On the right, I'd definitely keep Harry Anderson and I assume Alex Woodyard will start leaving just one midfield space which I believe will go to Elliott Whitehouse who put in a creditable performance on Tuesday, replacing the injured Bostwick.
Back to winning ways then as the Imps are roared on by yet another astonishing crowd. I predict us to score two or three goals without reply.
Thank you to Graham Burrell and Lincoln City FC for the photographs.