Johnny Moore asks Mark Whiley from the Lincolnshire Echo to run the rule over the Imps
Q: Would Lincoln have expected to be in their current lofty position at this stage of the season.
A: No. There was quiet confidence around the club in the summer after some impressive-looking signings, despite a 40 per cent cut to the playing budget. That was largely down to the pandemic, but they were looking to get the wage bill down anyway.
My pre-season prediction was 11th and I think everyone around the club would have been happy with that – it would have represented an improvement on last season.
So to be second at the halfway stage is unexpected, but thoroughly deserved given the quality of football they’ve played. Staying there will be a tall order, but it would be a surprise if City don’t at least make the play-offs now.
Every challenge they’ve come up against, they’ve overcome and while it’s a small squad, there’s quality cover in most positions.
Q: Were Lincoln relatively satisfied with their final placing of 16th when the season came to an abrupt halt last term?
A: Yes, I think they were fairly happy with that finish following a season of upheaval with the change of manager and lots of comings and goings in the squad.
While City made a strong start under the Cowleys, they’d lost seven in nine prior to them joining Huddersfield.
It was clear it would take Appleton time to get the team how he wanted it. He wanted to implement a new style of play and the players he inherited didn’t really suit his approach.
There were still a few highs, though, and the home record remained strong with great wins over Sunderland, Ipswich and Peterborough. But the away record was wretched.
A lot of news faces arrived in January and it took time for them to bed in. You got the feeling Appleton was counting down the days until the end of the season, so he could get the players in he wanted. He just needed to make sure they weren’t drawn into a relegation battle.
Q: How highly do the club rate former Pompey boss Appleton?
A: His stock couldn’t be higher. He had a tough act to follow after the Cowleys, but has managed to take the team forward.
The current side is widely regarded as the club’s best since the early 1980s, when they flirted with promotion to the second tier under Colin Murphy.
He’s not just brought winning football, but entertaining football too. It’s just a pity the fans have been unable to see it in the flesh yet.
Q: Who are the in-form players likely to pose Pompey problems this evening?
A: That’s a tough question given the season so far. Playmaker Jorge Grant has to be one – he’s having the season of his life and is attracting attention from Championship clubs. He’s out of contract in the summer and talks are underway over a new deal.
After a tricky start under Appleton, he’s really blossomed over the last year. He looks every inch a Championship quality player and has become one of the leaders of the team.
There’s also Brennan Johnson, who’s been in scintillating form since arriving on loan from Nottingham Forest.
That form has led to fears he could be recalled by Forest but, as I write, it looks like he’ll be staying for the rest of the season. Capable of playing anywhere across the front three, his pace is electrifying – and he’s only 19!
The son of former Forest and Ipswich striker David, he was capped at Wales senior level for the first time earlier this season.
Q: Will Lincoln be playing for win or satisfied to take a point back home to Lincoln?
A: I think they’ll happy with a point, but will come to win the game. The Imps have actually picked up more points on the road this season, with four home defeats and just one loss on the road.
That’s not really a surprise as they are lethal on the counter-attack. I can see Pompey having plenty of the ball, but Lincoln will try to be positive whenever possible. Appleton doesn’t tend to play for draws and there have been just three this season.