The surprising form of Lincoln City – part 2

Part 1 ascertained that Lincoln City are in the midst of a remarkable run of form that would few people would have been bold enough to predict. A team that averaged 6 points and a -5 goal difference per 7 games played has just picked up 18 points with a +3 goal difference over its most recent 7 games. I’m looking for reasons behind the improvement of 8 goals and am going to look at the team in two parts, first the defence and then the attack.

One of the reasons that I guarantee will get put out is the introduction of new personnel to the team. Below is a summary of transfers from the time Steve Tilson was appointed (source: wikipedia)

Date Player in Date Player out
29Oct10 Ashley Grimes 4Jan11 Kern Miller
29Oct 10 Gavin Hoyte
13Jan11 Julian Kelly
20Jan11 Trevor Carson

Ashley Grimes and Gavin Hoyte have been at the club for all but the first couple of games of Steve Tilson’s reign. Kelly has played in all 8 of the games he’s spent at the club and Carson has been at the club (and in net) for the last 7 games. Realistically if we’re looking to pin the improved results on players alone then Kelly and Carson are the players to look at as their arrival marks the beginning of the run.

One way to determine this is to look at the percentage of shots saved before and since the arrival of these two players. First a look at the numbers before Carson arrived:

Goals against Shots against Save percentage
Chris Sutton (1-9) 11 32 69.4
Dave Lindsey (10-12) 4 13 69.3
Steve Tilson (13-21) 17 35 51.4

Steve Tilson must have had nightmares watching the defence during his first 9 games, almost half the shots on goal ended up in the net. The average save percentage in league two is roughly 70% (I’ll get round to posting the numbers behind this one day) so Lincoln’s defensive play was markedly below average. An increase in save percentage from the 60% observed to the league average of 70% would have saved City 8 goals over the first 21 games of the season.

Let’s compare these numbers with the defence over the last 7 games when Carson took over in net.

Goals against Shots against Save percentage
Average (1-21) 32 80 60.0
Steve Tilson (22-28) 10 32 68.8

The defence has allowed goals at exactly the league average over the last 7 games, saving ~2 goals compared to the performance over the first 21 games.

The important thing to remember is that the improvement has been to a level that we can reasonably expect the team to sustain over the remainder of the season: with the pedigree of Carson, Kelly and Hoyte the defence should be league average at worst. I think realistically this defence should be expected to produce a save percentage of ~70% over the rest of the season.

Next to come is part 3 which will look at the attack. There hasn’t been any new arrivals recently but there has been a couple of men on fire. Is it reasonable to expect them to keep it up over the remainder of the season?

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