Another weekend of EFL action is upon us, as many teams are now entering their final ten games of the season. Which means that for sides with something to play for, each game becomes a cup final, where every point matters.
For Saturday's opponents Lincoln City and Burton Albion, promotion from EFL League One is likely to be a step too far this season. However both would like a few more wins to guarantee their league status for next season.
Story behind the game
Lincoln manager Michael Appleton will be hoping his side can gain their first win since mid January, which is a result of picking up just two points from their last seven games. City however, haven't played for two weeks, so will be hoping that the extended break will give them an advantage. Meanwhile, Burton boss Nigel Clough will also be looking for an upturn in results, having won just one of their last eight. Five of those results have been draws, including last week against Peterborough United, so they will be aiming to find that killer instinct against out-of-form opposition.
The Imps came out on top when these sides met back in December at the Pirelli Stadium, which is one of just two away wins that they've had all season. That 2-0 victory was one of only five meetings the two clubs have ever had. The other four came in the 09/10 and 10/11 seasons in EFL League Two, which resulted in one draw and three wins for Burton. So Lincoln will be hoping for their first ever Sincil Bank win against the Brewers on Saturday.
Victory for either side, but particularly the home side, will be a welcome one, as they look to solidify their place in the league and ease any lingering relegation fears.
Appleton cold hand a debut to new signing Alan Sheehan who joined in the week after his release from Luton Town. Joe Morrell makes his return from suspension and is likely to feature, whilst Tayo Edun will be serving his one-match ban following his red card against Gillingham.
In the other camp, Clough could be without keeper Kieran O'Hara, who has been charged by the FA for an alleged bite on Posh player Sammie Szmodics. Elsewhere, defender Conor Shaughnessy is a doubt, after missing last weeks game due to a hamstring injury.
(4-2-3-1) Vickers, Eardley, Bostwick, Sheehan, Melbourne, Bridcutt, Morrell, Anderson, Grant, Scully, Hopper.
(3-5-2) Garratt, Brayford, O'Toole, Wallace, Akins, Edwards, Quinn, Powell, Daniel, Sarkic, Murphy.
Alan Sheehan v Oliver Sarkic
Left sided centre-back Alan Sheehan has a huge amount of experience at this level, having captained Luton to the League One title as recent as last season. So Lincoln's new signing will have high expectations amongst the fans as they hope he can be the key to steadying the ship that is their season. However the more immediate goal, is to overcome Burton this weekend, as Sheehan will be tasked with nullifying the threat of Oliver Sarkic. The Montenegro under 21 international has 15 goal contributions so far this season, so is a constant threat to opposition defences. However, only five of those are goals, so he will be looking to improve his tally when he comes up against this experienced backline.
Tom Hopper v John Joe O'Toole
With Tyreece John-Jules ruled out for the season, it leaves Lincoln with just two strikers for the remainder of the campaign. So a lot of pressure falls on the shoulders of January signing Tom Hopper, who is still looking for his first goal for the club since joining from Southend United. However the manager has shown faith in him, so he will be looking to repay that faith against Burton this weekend. He will come up against experienced centre-back John Joe O'Toole, who plays at the centre of a back three. The Irishman joined from Northampton Town last summer, and is looking to prove that he belongs in the starting eleven, so will no doubt be looking for a clean sheet against Lincoln.
What the managers have said
Appleton spoke to the local press ahead of the game, as he expects a difficult game against a knowledgeable manager. He said:
“Burton are a decent side who play very good football. They have an experienced manager who has been there a long time. He's been there and done it.
“It's going to be a good game and a tough game. They've had a couple of positive results recently, beating Southend and, probably more importantly, against Peterborough last weekend.
“It'll suit us a lot more than our last game against Gillingham, given how direct they were and the elements."
Meanwhile his counterpart Clough told the club's media, that he expects Lincoln to survive with ease this season, and build a platform for next. He said:
“Michael Appleton has come in and it takes time to get things working your way.
“But they will be comfortable this season and then it's a case of putting things in place and the new style of play. Next season, they are more than capable of being right up there.
“They have a big enough squad and when the crowd gets behind them, they are one of those clubs primed to go onto the next level.”