The EFL League One match coming up this Saturday, 3 August 2019, between Accrington Stanley F.C. and the Lincoln City F.C. will take place at Sincil Bank Stadium in Lincoln, England. It is the first match of the regular season for both teams, and pits the last two champions of EFL League Two against one another. It is an important match for both clubs who will be looking to get early points in the race to stay on this rung of, or even perhaps climb up another rung on the EFL ladder this season.
The two clubs do not have an especially long history against each other, having met for the first time in 2006, but have crossed each others paths quite a few times recently. Accy supporters will of course remember the last regular season League Two match that the two clubs played against one another. In front of one of the largest crowds to ever attend a game in Accrington, Stanley defeated The Imps from Lincoln City 1-0, it was a victory that secured the 2018 League Two Championship for them, and earned them their first ever promotion to the third tier. Lincoln of course followed up by winning League Two in 2019, and now the clubs kick off this season against one another for the first time ever as League One opponents.
It is always hard to know what you are going to get in the first game of a season, especially when a promoted side is involved. Lincoln does return their leading scorer from last year's team John Akinde, who had 15 goals and 6 assists for them in 2018-19. Right now, according to oddschecker.com, Akinde has similar odds to those of Freddie Ladapo, to lead the league in scoring. Considering that Ladapo finished 6th in League One in scoring last season, this tells me that the oddsmakers think that Akinde will be a legit scoring threat at this tier. This is good news for The Imps because Akinde still has a year left on his contract after this season. Speaking of contracts, Accy was able to ink arguable their best player, veteran midfielder Sean McConville to an extension though 2022 this week. McConville really turned things on down the stretch last year. In spite of turning 30 back in March, McConville seems to be getting better with age. Now entering his 5th season with Accy, he has increased his goal total from 5 to 12 to 15 over the past 3 seasons. The 15 goals last season were a career high for him at any level, and his presence will be essential with veteran striker Billy Kee's status going forward uncertain. Kee will at least not be with the team on Saturday. If he does not end up returning it is going to be hard for them to replace a guy who has accounted for 68 of their goals over the past 4 seasons, including 13 last season.
Lincoln City vs Accrington Stanley Vital Information
This match can be viewed on iFollow (which must be purchased from the Lincoln City website) in the United States (Note: Accrington Stanley will have international iFollow access within the next few weeks), and on iFollow in the UK at 10:00 AM U.S. ET/3:00 PM GMT.
Referee appointments have not yet been announced, but will be made available on the EFL Official Website.
This will be the 15th meeting all time between Lincoln City F.C. and Accrington Stanley F.C. In the previous 14 meetings, Lincoln City has won 8 times, Accrington has won 4, and there have been 2 draws. It was an Accrington win in the most recent of those, in a Checkatrade Trophy second round match at WHAM Stadium in Accrington, back on 4 December 2018. That game went the full distance and was 2-2 at the end of 120 minutes, with Accy finally prevailing 4-2 on penalties. It was sweet revenge for Stanley, who had been knocked out of the previous year's Checkatrade Trophy by The Imps on 5 December 2017. Lincoln travels to Accrington to play at the WHAM on 15 February 2020 for this season's other match-up between the two.
Five Points That Shouldn’t be Overlooked
Lincoln City had a pretty dominant season in League Two last season. They won the league by 6 points and finished with a +30 goal difference. This is in spite of going winless in their last 5 matches of the season. Stanley was a similar +30 team in winning League Two in 2018. Last season, stepping up to League One, they finished -16 and 14th place. It is fair to expect that Lincoln will experience a similar increase in degree of difficulty this season.
Accrington has been in a blaze of signings this offseason to the point that John Coleman's side might be a bit hard to recognize for the first few weeks. However, one familiar face to keep an eye on is right back/midfielder Callum Johnson. Now entering his 3rd year with the club, the still just 22-year-old has been the clubs best player in preseason, and could he a guy that has a breakout season. His assist to newcomer Colby Bishop for and equalizing goal against Preston North End F.C. had everyone talking. Johnson is headed into the last year of his contract with Stanley, and if he keeps up his preseason form then he is likely a guy they will need to get promoted to be able to retain next season.
Speaking of Colby Bishop, of all of the signings that Stanley has made this offseason, this one might be the biggest. The 22-year-old, who scored an impressive 29 goals in 36 games for Leamington F.C. in the National League North last year, signed a 3-year-contract with Stanley this offseason. Bishop seems to be a part of a trend at Stanley where the team seems to be focusing on bringing in young, up-and-coming talent from the lower leagues. The length of contract shows that they are confident in his future with the club. At this point, it is appears that he could be the heir apparent to Kee in the primary striker's role.
Like any newly promoted club, Lincoln City has been making their fair share of new acquisitions as well. As so often happens, The Imps brought in a player who had previously played well against them in 24-year-old Jorge Grant. Grant had spent his entire career since 2014 with Nottingham Forest F.C., but had only played 17 games with them, spending a majority of his time out on loan. In one of those loan stints at Nottingham County F.C., he scored off this bending free kick in 2017. Lincoln must have remembered that, and they were quick to scoop him up when he hit the market. He is a promising young player who is defensive minded, yet has over 20 career goals, and is obviously adept at set pieces. Another exciting sign for Lincoln is Alex Bradley, a Finland Youth International, who was signed by Lincoln after being released by West Bromwich Albion F.C.. He is just 20-years-old and already has a League One goal to his credit, having scored in the last game of the season for Burton Albion F.C. against Peterborough United F.C. on 4 May 2019.
Last season, the goalkeeping situation in Accrington was anything by consistent. Accy started the season with the brilliant Connor Ripley (now up the road at Preston) in net for 21 games before he was recalled to Middlesbrough F.C.. From that point on, they went with a combination of the steady Jonny Maxted (who has since moved on to Exeter City F.C.) and Dimitar Evtimov, who was acquired from Burton Albion after Ripley departed. Evtimov is a clearly talented player, who showed the ability to make the jaw dropping save last year, but also is a guy who tends to make have some mental lapses that can be costly. He is extremely aggressive in terms of playing the ball, and that can be a boom or bust proposition at times. He also got sent off 2 times last year in less than half a season. It can easily be argued that neither send off was warranted, but it goes back to putting himself in a position for it to be an option in the first place. That being said, the job appears to be his going into the year, and word has it that the coaching staff is confident that they 25-year-old Bulgarian is their man. Lincoln City appears to be a little bit more settled in goal, and Josh Vickers, who has been with the club since 2017 recently inked a contract extension with them.
Lincoln City vs Accrington Stanley Prediction
This is sure to be a closely contested game, that if you go by recent history, is going to be pretty evenly matched on the pitch. Lincoln, has the advantage of playing at home, and the added swagger of walking into the stadium as champions. Stanley carried that champion's confidence to some surprising results early last season. It's worth noting though, that Lincoln is a team that wrapped things up early last year, and then decided not to show up for the last 5 games of the season. It will be interesting to see if that malaise in any way carries over to this year. It will be important for Lincoln to try to get some points out of these early season matches because things won't get any easier for them once the weather turns cold. Once January hits, and The Imps have to travel to play at massive clubs Sunderland A.F.C. and Ipswich Town F.C. in the span of 3 weeks. During that stretch they are going to quickly realize that they aren't in Morecambe anymore.
It was proven last year by Luton Town F.C. that it is possible to come up in your first season, and go out and win this league, as they did convincingly last year. I picture them more in the class of Accrington, Wycombe Wanders F.C., and Coventry City F.C., all of who were promoted last year, struggled, but ultimately stayed up. (Speaking of teams signing guys who played well against them, Paul Smyth, who scored for Accy against them last year, just joined Wycombe on a season long loan from Queens Park Rangers F.C.) This is a game the can really go either way, and a draw could be considered a possible, and possibly even a probable result in this early season match. What fun is it to pick a draw in the first game of the season though? I think it will come down to a late goal by McConville, possibly assisted on a cross into the box by Johnson after the 80th minute that decides it. I'll say that Bishop puts the onion in the bag for his first Stanley goal sometime late in the first half to record his first club goal, in his first game out. A John Akinde equalizer around the 60th minute isn't enough to help The Imps get points out of the match.
Prediction – Accrington - 2 Lincoln City 1