This is a Christmas like no other, with people’s lives being changed dramatically. But one thing that remains the same is a Boxing Day packed with festive football.
Although a number of games in EFL League One are off with positive Coronavirus tests, particularly teams in the promotion chase.
The game involving the league’s second placed side Lincoln City is still on however, as they host basement side Burton Albion, with it being of vital importance to both.
Lincoln boss Michael Appleton may be able to welcome back box-to-box midfielder Conor McGrandles who has been out with a calf injury. But the game will come too soon for both Liam Bridcutt and Adam Jackson, who are more likely to be available after the turn of the year.
In the other camp, Burton manager Jake Buxton suffered a huge blow in their recent defeat to Doncaster Rovers. As defender Sam Hughes suffered what appears to be a long-term knee injury, meaning his loan from Leicester City is likely to be cut short. Buxton luckily has no other injury concerns.
(4-3-3) Palmer, Eyoma, Montsma, Walsh, Edun, Gotts, Jones, Grant, Scully, Hopper, Johnson.
(4-3-3) O’Hara, Eardley, O’Toole, Bostwick, Daniel, Powell, Quinn, Edwards, Ennis, Akins, Vernam.
Lincoln managed to brush off back-to-back defeats with a convincing 4-0 win away at Northampton Town last weekend. However both of those defeats came at Sincil Bank, so Lincoln will be aiming to win their first home league game since the start of the month when they bested Burton’s relegation rivals Wigan Athletic. A win would take them to the top of the league, so that gives the Imps an extra incentive to get all three points
Speaking of back-to-back defeats, Burton have lost their last two to Doncaster and Ipswich Town. They had drawn their previous three prior to that, meaning they are without a win in five. In fact, their season on a whole has been a bit of a winless run, picking up maximum points just twice in 19 games, with none of those coming away from home. So winning on the road here, especially at promotion challenging Lincoln, would be one of the surprise results of the season.
Ones to watch
A lot of promotion contenders possess a 15-20 goal a season frontman, but this is not the sort of striker that Lincoln have in Tom Hopper. The former Southend United man has been used for his link-up play, bringing others into the game and creating chances. However, his finishing is something that he has been trying to work on recently, and got on the scoresheet in their win over Northampton. He also bagged his first goals for Lincoln against Burton back in March, so will be aiming for another couple on Saturday to guide his team to victory.
A man who also featured in that game in March was commanding centre-back Michael Bostwick. However, like Hopper, he was also lining up for Lincoln, and this game will be his first return to Sincil Bank since that game. He was a fan favourite at his former club, but nevertheless he was released in the summer, likely down to both his age and his injury prone nature. So he will be looking to prove that he can still perform to the highest standards at this level, despite his current teams position.
These sides last met on the final matchday before lockdown in March, with Lincoln coming from behind twice to beat Burton 3-2 at Sincil Bank in a highly entertaining encounter. City managed to do the double over their Nottinghamshire opponents last season, which is the only two times they’ve beaten them in their six meetings. Albion took 10 points from their opponents in the first four meetings, and will be hoping to regain that form over them starting Boxing Day.
How to watch
The game is available to watch for both sets of fans on each club’s individual iFollow pages. For season ticket holding Lincoln fans, the link is obtainable for free.
What the managers have said
Lincoln manager Michael Appleton spoke ahead of the game to local journalists, expressing how hard it can be to come up against a struggling side. He said:
“It becomes a mentality, a mindset, that was the difficulty going into a game like Northampton on Saturday.
“I hope just because we’ve had a fantastic result, we don’t loosen up and step away from that (performance).
“I don’t think we will, because we’ve got targets to hit. It’s going to be a tough game, they’re a very experienced side.”
In the other dugout, Burton boss Jake Buxton addressed the club’s media, praising their opponents and knowing how tough Saturday will be. He said:
“They have the youngest squad in the division. They are full of energy, and have had a good start to the season and we will need to bring our A game and be at them on Boxing Day.
“There’s not a lot between any of the teams in League One, just small details and big moments.”