IT'S derby day at Blundell Park on Saturday afternoon (1pm kick-off) as Town and Lincoln City renew their rivalry for the first time since both sides returned to the EFL.
Boss Russell Slade and his players will be eager to give the Town fans the bragging rights against the Imps and after the 2-2 draw with Colchester United on Tuesday night, he will also have his eyes on extending the club's unbeaten run at home to four games against the newly promoted Lincoln side.
No fresh concerns for Town
There are no fresh injury concerns for Town boss Russell Slade to contend with after the players came away largely unscathed from the game against Colchester in midweek, but there is some positive news on the injury front with Zak Mills having returned to training following a hamstring problem, so he could come into contention for a place in the squad.
In other news, the likes of Tom Bolarinwa, Chris Clements, Sean McAllister and Akwasi Asante are continuing to plot their return from injury and will be hoping to back in consideration in the near future.
Lincoln will definitely be without midfielder Billy Knott, who will be serving the second game of a three match suspension following his sending off against Notts County a week ago. Nathan Arnold has also been carrying a knock but should be okay to figure in the game, and he will surely be desperate to play a part in the game with his history at the club.
Positive vibes at Sincil Bank
There is an extremely positive vibe at local rivals Lincoln City under boss Danny Cowley after a year that saw them lift the National League title in May, and they are now looking to build on last campaign in League Two.
Manager Danny Cowley and his brother and assistant Nicky first caught the eye at Braintree Town the season before last, where they led the club to the play-offs against the odds before going out to Town in dramatic fashion on the way to the Mariners' return to the EFL.
This led to them moving to the Imps and they have transformed the mood around Sincil Bank in their time in charge, with their promotion in May also being helped massively with their FA Cup run last season, which saw them defeat Championship side Ipswich Town and Premier League side Burnley, becoming the first non-league side ever to reach the last eight of the competition in the process, where they went down to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
Since then, attendances have increased considerabl and the Imps will bring their biggest following in many years to Blundell Park on Saturday afternoon, so a great atmosphere from both sets of fans is to be expected.
The Imps have kept the majority of the side that won promotion last time out, which includes former Town winger and Wembley hero Nathan Arnold, but the likes of strikers Matt Green and another former Mariners player in Ollie Palmer and former Peterborough pair Michael Bostwick and Harry Anderson mean that Lincoln have plenty of options on paper.
Cowley's side have had a steady start to this season and were only prevented from being unbeaten at home for an entire calendar year by one day when they lost against Mansfield Town earlier in the month, but they come into the game in a positive fashion after a 2-1 victory over Barnet in midweek so will be looking to build on that.
A first meeting in nearly two years
It has been nearly two years since the sides last met, which is a long time with how often the fixture has been played in recent years, but it was Town that were the victors last time out.
Town won 2-0 on that day thanks to goals from Padraig Amond and Nathan Arnold in December 2015 in a game that also saw Imps defender Luke Waterfall sent off.
The reverse fixture at Sincil Bank ended 1-1 when Town bounced back from Josh Gowling's dismissal and the resulting Matt Rhead penalty to come away with a point thanks to Omar Bogle in a spirited performance.
Town boss Russell Slade will have both positive and negative memories of his clashes with the Imps over the years, famously giving an on the pitch team talk in a 5-0 defeat before the Mariners eventually had the last laugh that same season by defeating Lincoln over two legs in the League Two play-off semi-finals.
The derby has been played 109 times over its history, with Town winning on 49 occassions. The Imps have come away with all three points 30 times and the sides have also drawn on the same number of occasions, so the Mariners will be looking to retain their bragging rights at the weekend.
Managers in summary
Russell Slade: “We know it’s going to be a tough game because the momentum is with them. They got promoted last season, and they’ve spent a lot of money in trying to build and rebuild their team. They’ll probably be reasonably happy, you’ll have to ask them, with where they are in the league, but there’s been a huge investment so expectations will be, I suspect, reasonably high as well. So they will be expected to be in the mix as well.”
Danny Cowley: ''It'll be the first time I've managed against Russell Slade and I've got a lot of respect for him. He's been a really experienced manager going through the divisions and anyone that stands the test of time in football has my respect so I'll look forward to meeting him and going toe to toe and hopefully it'll be a competitive game.''