Opposition Focus: Lincoln City

We spoke with our friend, Gary Hutchinson, from The Stacey West, ahead of this Saturday’s clash between Ipswich Town and Lincoln City.

Since that end-to-end game at Sincil Bank last month, The Imps have picked up some good results. How would you describe your recent form?

It’s been good. When you consider who we’ve played; you, Peterborough, Blackpool and even Bolton to a degree, we’ve looked fairly comfortable. We could have got something from the Sunderland game too, we were the architects of our own downfall that day. We handed them three goals, two with bad defending and one in comical fashion. Had we been on our game we’d have got a point there and been unbeaten since the 5-3 win against you.

You currently sit just four points outside the top six, it’s a congested league and I know you’ve previously said it’s all about survival, but could you be a dark horse?

We could be, but it’s unlikely. We’ve played a few more games than most clubs and that’s reflected in our league position. We do have a good run at home; we still have Gillingham, Rochdale, Wimbledon, MK Dons and Burton at home, all winnable. When you think we still have to go to strugglers like Bolton, Accrington and Southend as well, anything is possible.

This league is always the same, it’s so tight and many of the clubs are on a level. On our day, we’ll beat anyone put in front of us. If we find consistency and stay injury free, why not challenge for the top six? The key is we don’t expect it and being free of expectation is a big benefit.

You’ve been busy in the January transfer window, firstly with the outgoings, losing Toffolo and O’Connor must be a blow?

The transfers were widely expected I think. All the players who left were out of contract in the summer anyway. Mickey (O’Connor) would be 33 by the time that comes around and for his security the move made sense. As for Toff, he was always destined for bigger and better things and he’s going to have fetched a tidy sum of money for the club. It’s tough when title-winning players move on, especially good people off the field too which those two were. That’s football though and at the moment we’re going through steady evolution to stop a full revolution in the summer.

In terms of incoming, you’ve signed Tom Hopper from Southend. Where do you see him fitting into your side?

At present, I see him on the bench. We’ve got Tyler Walker with 16 goals, Tyreece John-Jules who is Arsenal’s big hope and I can’t see Hopper displacing either. No, he’s here for the long haul and will likely feature form the bench and perhaps in the first team next season. It’s hard to have a strong opinion of him as we haven’t really seen him play much recently, but Michael Appleton is really happy to have him and that is good enough for me.

Keeping hold of Tyler Walker must have been pleasing too? We understand he no longer can be recalled by Forest?

As far as I’m aware, he never could be. He signed a one-year deal with no recall, so if he went back it would be a matter of us agreeing to cancel the loan early. Why would we do that when he’s getting so many goals? it would make sense. He’s argubaly the best-ever loan signing this club has had and whatever the future holds after this season, he deserves it. How much would he be worth if he’d got the record he has now with one parent club? Say he’s hit 25 last season for us, as he did for Mansfield, and is one 16 now, he’d be worth £2m, minimum. He’s going to be a top player.

Looking ahead to Saturday, what sort of line-up are you expecting Appleton to pick?

I imagine it’ll be 4-4-2- or 4-4-1-1 depending on how you look at it. The defence picks itself, Joe Morrell will be part of a double six midfield with either Tayo Edun or Conor Coventry alongside him: I expect Coventry. Jorge Grant is in great form at present and he’ll be on one flank with Harry Anderson on the other. Up top, Walker and John-Jules. It’s a strong side.

Both Ipswich and Lincoln are in decent form, could we expect another eight goal thriller? 

No. I think you’ll have learned that attacking us in numbers is a recipie for disaster. I do like the look of James Wilson in your defence though, purely from an attacking point of view. He couldn’t get in our XI last season in League Two and I thought he struggled in the FA Cup against us. If you play three at the back like you did at the weekend, I suspect that will stifle our threat, but Jackson and Keane will need to do better than in the last game; they offered little that we couldn’t deal with. If I were a betting man, I’d go 1-1.

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