How did they do last season?
Lincoln City were the champions of the National League last term, and have rightfully earned their place in the Football League. However, they will be best remembered for their magical FA Cup run, which saw them claim the scalps of League One Oldham, Championship duo Ipswich Town and Brighton & Hove Albion, and Premier League side Burnley before falling at the quarter-final stage away to Arsenal.
Forest Green Rovers secured their place in League Two via the National League play-offs last season, first brushing Dagenham and Redbridge aside 3-1 on aggregate in the semi-finals, before replicating the same score-line in 90 minutes against Tranmere Rovers at Wembley in the final. The victory ensured the Rovers would be playing in the Football League for the first time in their history.
Who stood out?
The Imps boast the recipient of the non-league player of the season award, and their undeniable player of the season, Alex Woodyard. The combative midfielder was ever present throughout his side's title charge and FA Cup run with 56 appearances, even chipping in with seven goals despite his more defensive qualities as a midfield player.
Forest Green had several impressive performers last season, most notably Dale Bennett, Drissa Traore, Liam Noble and Ethan Pinnock. The latter of whom has since earned himself a move to Championship side Barnsley. However, it was frontman Christian Doidge whose 27 goals not only helped fire his side to promotion, but also claim the top scorer, Players’ Player and Supporters’ Player of the Year awards for the 2016-17 season.
Lincoln manager Danny Cowley has earned plenty of praise following his side's impressive season. The Wimbledon youth product’s playing career was unfortunately plagued with injury, which in 2007 sent him into an early retirement at the age of just 28. However, Cowley went straight into management with his most recent playing side, Concord Rangers, who he achieved three promotions with before moving to Braintree Town in 2015. He guided the Iron to the their highest ever National League finish, 3rd, before moving onto the Imps.
Rovers' boss Mark Cooper has one of football’s more expansive CVs, having represented 16 different clubs and made over 450 appearances. At just 48, Cooper has been in management since 2004, and Forest Green are the eighth club he has been at the helm of. The ex-midfielder also enjoyed one of his most fruitful campaigns as a player at his current club back in the 2001-02 season, playing 48 games and scoring 18 goals from midfield.
Lincoln City haven’t done too much in the way of transfer business this summer, presumably happy with the core of the squad that performed so impressively last season. They have however brought in three new recruits, including former Birmingham City striker Matt Green from Mansfield Town, Ollie Palmer from National League-bound Leyton Orient and ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Josh Vickers on a free transfer.
Forest Green have been even less busy, with just two pieces of business so far. Highly regarded defender Ethan Pinnock is the Rovers’ only outgoing player this transfer window, signing for Barnsley, whilst there is only one confirmed recruit. Experienced defender Scott Laird has linked up with the club having previously been under contract with Scunthorpe United.
Our Meetings Last Season
The Reds and The Imps have never encountered each other in the past, however the clubs’ first ever meeting is scheduled for the 28th October 2017 at Sincil Bank.
The last time Crawley and Forest Green Rovers met was during the campaign of the Reds’ National League winning season, as the club secured a 3-0 away win thanks to two goals from Matt Tubbs and one from Craig McAllister. The two sides have met 14 times but only in England’s fifth tier, with tRovers winning four, Crawley winning seven, and the rest finishing level. Rovers have never beaten the Reds by more than one goal.
Despite coming up from the National League, Lincoln City are just 8/1 with SkyBet to finish top of the tree by the end of the season.
Forest Green’s odds aren’t quite as formidable, at 25/1, however it would appear they are expected to survive their first season in the Football League.