Opposition's view SPECIAL: Leigh Curtis v Stevie Roden

By Paul Smith and Gary Moss
Last updated : 23 November 2007

How do you assess your sides recent form?

Lincoln: There has certainly been a vast improvement under Peter Jackson,

Ryan... Sending off epitomises Imps luck
than it was under John Schofield, but the team have suffered from some terrible bad luck recently. First there is the penalty against Chester that never was, then there was a Ben Wright goal that got ruled out in that game. You go to Wycombe and there is Ollie Ryan getting sent off, which from my opinion was a little bit harsh. But as for recent form, I think slowly but surely it's starting to come together but undoubtedly they need a result to get going.

Notts: To be honest I haven't been to the last two or three games but by all accounts it has started to get better, until Saturday (1-0 home defeat to Macclesfield) but this is going to take time. Notts are starting to get things right however.

What were the pre-season aspirations?

Lincoln: Obviously it was the playoffs, under John Schofield they finished fifth last year and everyone was talking about going up this season. Then City went into the first game and it ended with a 4-0 defeat against Shrewsbury and its all went downhill from there. I think at the minute some fans are still thinking that the play-off's are achievable, but for me I think consolidation this season would be good at this moment in time. Jackson knows he's got a big job on his hands - the loan deadline has passed without incident, there's no players that have come in so I think it's January where he will really make his mark and I don't think it will be until next summer when we'll actually see the real Jackson team because you know at the minute he's inherited a squad that is primarily not his - only Ben Smith he has bought in and to be fair he did quite well at Wycombe.

Notts: I think everyone was talking about a playoff place. The manager (then Steve Thompson) was barking on about it and all the players seemed to be saying it aswell. The chairman at the time (Jeff Moore) also seemed to be pointing towards it.

What do you think are the aspirations now?

Lincoln: I think Lincoln are better than their league position suggest but saying that the league table doesn't lie. The squad they've got is primarily the same as last season's. They were up at the top for large parts of it and something has obviously happened here in January and we still don't know what those reasons are and how a team that was playing so well have just dropped like a stone. This season has been no different. The poor form has continued and the losing momentum has carried on - and it needs to stop. The gap at the bottom is nine points I think, from the team that are sixth bottom which is Notts County, and City can't afford that gap to get any bigger. Tomorrow is vitally important - they certainly don't want to get to Christmas having to win two or three games just to get themselves out of the bottom two because that is going to be a big ask. They need a result but certainly I think that January could be key and I think that Lincoln are compared to some of the other teams I've seen this season, a lot better than some of the teams that are down there around them.

Green... Imps player of the last few games
Notts:
Everybody would love to make the playoffs but at the minute it is just about getting out of trouble. They are still only a few places from near the bottom so they need to get out of that really before looking further up the table. December is the key, there are so many games in it that Notts can look at moving further up the table.

Who do you think has been your sides player of the season so far?

Lincoln: God that's a difficult question to answer. None of them really to be honest. With the position that they are in - how can you pick somebody that has been very good? In the first 13 games this season, the team was changing week on week, one player would play well one week and then would be dropped the next; and its then very hard for players to gain consistency. For me recently under Peter Jackson, Paul Green has been arguably Lincoln's best player, Lee Frecklington is just starting to come back into a bit of form which is good news because he is a massive player for Lincoln - he scored ten goals last season and they definitely need somebody of his calibre and creativity if they are going to rescue this season. So I would probably say 'Greeny,' and Danny Hone as well deserves a mention. But certainly if you are talking about players so far this season it's far too early to be talking about that.

Notts: I think Neil MacKenzie has been class. Richard Butcher has got more of the goals but MacKenzie plays with such a confidence. Even earlier in the season when things were not going right he was trying to play football and he is a key player. His experience is vital and for me he gets better and better as he gets older. Whether he will be fit enough on Saturday or not I'm not sure but if he is fit enough he will play. Paul Mayo has been good aswell, always working hard and not really made too many mistakes.

Who do you see as Lincoln City's danger man on Saturday?

Lincoln: I think the game tomorrow will hinge upon the midfield battle -

Wright... Key player tomorrow?
Richard Butcher is a very good player. Neil Mackenzie is also a very good player. I'm led to believe that MacKenzie could come back in tomorrow. He's had a hernia operation but could make it. Lee Frecklington and Scott Kerr is also a very good central midfield partnership. Other than that, Lincoln ultimately need to win games and the only way they are going to win games is by scoring goals and Ben Wright for me will be a key player tomorrow along with Dany N'Guessan - if he makes it back. I think Dany's creativity and Ben's ability to hold the ball up will be crucial to Lincoln if they are going to get a result.

Notts: Things have changed a lot at Sincil Bank. Jamie Forrester's still there and he is always a threat. To be honest I'm surprised he wasn't taken on by someone else with all the changes because he is always dangerous. Mark Stallard doesn't seem to have done as much this time but they have gone thirteen games without a win now so it will be interesting.

Who is Notts County's danger man?

Lindfield... Scoring for Liverpool youth
Lincoln:
As for Notts, I think the lad Lindfield from Liverpool is a very good player. I'm a Liverpool fan and I've watched him a few times for the reserves and he looks very lively in and around the box; a typical predator that has already been compared to Ian Rush which is a great compliment. So I think Lincoln are going to have to watch him tomorrow. I certainly think he could be a danger man. And as well as him, the two former Lincoln lads Mayo and Butcher could cause danger. I think Butcher is a great engine from midfield who gets into the box, can spot a pass, can score goals as well, and he's a very, very good player and I am very surprised that Peterborough let him go.

Do you agree with the respective sackings of John Schofield and Steve Thompson?

Lincoln: I think they had to make a decision. They had to make a change. I

Schofield... Had to go
think Jackson is certainly the best man for the job. He was the right candidate in the end - it was quite clear that Brian Little was unsure about the job and you can't afford to have that in the position Lincoln are in really. You need someone to take the bull by the horns and Peter to be fair has done that. He has still got to make a few signings - I think he knows that. I think the performances have improved since he came in. He's a good manager, he's a good man and I think he will take the club forward. It's far too early to make any sort of assessment yet, because he has only played four games and those four games have been hard: Chester, Chesterfield, Forest in the cup and Wycombe away. But I think he is the right man for the job and I think he will prove that. His record at Huddersfield proves what a good manager he is and I think he will prove that at Lincoln.

Notts: You could see after the Bury game that the fans had turned on him that wasn't hard to see and it would be hard to see him go on longer. He spent the money available to him and brought his own players in. To be fair he did a good job at a difficult time when he first come in but I don't think the start Notts had last year did him any favours in the long run. The people that brought him in have now gone (Howard Wilkinson and Jeff Moore), and with a new board come fresh ideas.

What do you make to new Notts boss Charlie McParland?

McParland... Good appointment
Notts:
The appointment of Charlie and Dave (Kevan, McParland's assistant) is good. I remember speaking to Michael Dawson from Tottenham who worked with McParland when he was at Forest and he spoke highly of him and said he was brilliant. Straight away you can see going down there the differences already in the last couple of weeks but these things don't happen over night and it is going to take a bit of time.

How important a game is this?

Lincoln: Well Lincoln have Stockport and Hereford away after Notts. I don't usually like talking clichés, when talking about big games because every game is a massive game in its own, but the significance of tomorrow's game if it's a defeat could be catastrophic, even at this early stage of the season. Notts would be twelve points ahead of Lincoln and if other results don't go against teams at the bottom as well the gap will be getting wider. They just need a win and they need one quickly. It's very important in that respect. It is 15 games without a win now in the league and cup. I think what could be crucial tomorrow is if Lincoln get that first goal - I think that it will give them something to protect and something to fight for and I think that is when we will see the better Lincoln. When they go a goal down they often are concerned about their ability to keep the teams out but certainly if they go a goal up they are one of these teams that thrive on being able to fight because they have something to keep hold of.

Notts: It's a big game and a chance for Notts to get more distance from the bottom. It's a difficult place to go and I think Notts have struggled there over the years. It was a setback on Saturday (against Macclesfield) where Notts would have expected at least a draw but I think they can go there and win ahead of the big month of December.

Where do you think Notts will finish this season?

Lincoln: County will be 12th.

Notts: I can't see no reason why they can't make the playoffs still. If they get a few results in the FA Cup and draw a big team and get some money in then it has been made clear than any funds brought in will be available in January (start of transfer window). I think you get £40,000 for getting through in the cup.

Where will Lincoln City finish this season?

Jackson... Will save Imps

Lincoln: I think Lincoln will be 15th.

Notts: Definitely not at the bottom. After making the playoffs five times on the trot they were supposed to make the playoffs again and it is a surprise to see them struggling. They've made some changes and a few players went and they have changed their style of football. In Peter Jackson they've got a good manager who took Huddersfield Town up from this division and speaking to some fans they expect a top half finish. I think once they get one result they will start pulling away - hopefully after Saturday!

Prediction?

Lincoln: Lincoln are going to break their duck tomorrow - it's going to be 1-0 to Lincoln!

Notts: Like I say I think Notts can win there. 1-0 Notts.

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