Last updated at 20:11, Tuesday 17th July 2012
Former Rushden & Diamonds midfielder Gary Mills has joined Lincoln City

One step at a time for Imps

Henry Milward

After struggling their way through 2011/12, Lincoln boss David Holdsworth has cleared the decks as the Imps eye progress this time around…


Stability **

It was barely winter by the time Lincoln fans were writing off their campaign as one of uncomfortable consolidation. Indeed, the threat of relegation lingered for rather too long as the Imps struggled to adapt to life back in non-league. Boss David Holdsworth faced an uphill battle on taking over in October tasked as he was with clubbing into shape a squad assembled by Steve Tilson.

Tilson, who had presided over the club’s drop from the Football League, recruited both quality and quantity but the balance was never right. Hamstrung during the campaign, Holdsworth was quick to ditch those expensive arrivals in May. Jefferson Louis, Richard Pacquette, Francis Laurent and Simon Russell were among those to depart as the former Mansfield boss set out to wipe his slate clean.

This may not be stability but Holdsworth had little option, reducing the wage bill while establishing a healthier blend. He was happy to introduce the club’s younger players to the fold towards the end of last term and while summer arrivals Rob Duffy and Gary Mills are not risk-free additions, they have both proven themselves to be useful operators at this level.

Control ***

Holdsworth took on a mightily difficult job last autumn, when just avoiding further humiliation was about the best he could hope for. This season is the one on which he will be judged. The 43-year-old has been handed the chance to stamp his own mark on the Imps; this is now his project.

However, while he enjoyed some encouraging moments during his time at Mansfield, the boss still has plenty to prove in the Blue Square Bet Premier. His irascible nature has not always helped to win friends and influence people but if his side can start well, that will be brushed off as an irrelevance.

Mood ***

City fans have learned to be staunchly cautious in their optimism; the years of play-off heartache under Keith Alexander fostered a unique spirit at Sincil Bank. And while there is hope of an improved campaign this time around, supporters aren’t expecting a title tilt and many may simply be content with a hassle-free year of mid-table progress.

Development ***

If Holdsworth can integrate his experienced arrivals with the young players who impressed in patches towards the end of last term, City have the opportunity to build a sustained challenge. This may not be their year to impress but if the board and the supporters keep patience with the current regime, the Imps can aim for steady growth. However, not all are convinced that the current boss is the man to lead City in the long term.

Early call:

We don’t expect the Imps to be in any danger at the bottom as last term, nor can we see them making an impact in the division’s upper reaches. This is a year for measured progress which should end in mid-table.

Back Lincoln to beat Kidderminster on the opening day at 13/10

For more on the Blue Square Bet Premier, read our profiles of the other 23 sides during the coming days: Alfreton, Barrow, Braintree, Cambridge, Dartford, Ebbsfleet, Forest Green, Gateshead, Grimsby, Hereford, Hyde, Kidderminster, Luton, Macclesfield, Mansfield, Newport, Nuneaton, Southport, Stockport, Tamworth, Telford, Woking, Wrexham

We also featured the Blue Square Bet North and South divisions.

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