Ahead of our trip to Sincil Bank we caught up with Lincoln City programme contributor Jonathan Battersby to give his thoughts on the match…

Ahead of What are your thoughts ahead of the Sunderland game?

It’ll be another tough encounter for City as the games come thick and fast during December. As bottom club Wigan showed, it was hard to distinguish who was bottom and who was near the top for the first seventy minutes until City eventually got their game together to come from behind in a hard fought 2-1 win. Defensively we are hardly conceding at all, but at times seem a little goal shy, reflected in our “goals for” column. We are though, playing some of the best football I’ve witnessed in 45 years under Michael Appleton and he seems to have taken us onto another level entirely post the Cowley era, bringing in almost an entirely new squad close season. Just a massive shame that we won’t be seeing a sell out at Sincil Bank. With the current restrictions and the away end (Stacey West Stand) extension on hold until next summer, I’ve no doubt that we could have sold 15,000 tickets for this game had normal service been in place.

Do you think it'll be even more of a challenge with Sunderland under new management?

Absolutely. Lincoln seem to have the uncanny habit of playing teams with the “under new management” sign hung above the door. I’ve no doubt it’ll be tougher playing Sunderland this Saturday than it was last. Players will be fired up with a point to prove under the new regime, so I expect it to be a much tougher prospect than it might have been a week or so ago. Having said all that, Michael Appleton lost his first game 6-0 at home to Oxford, albeit watching from the stands....

What's Lincoln's form been like and how do you think they'll set up?

We’ve still been picking up points without playing particularly well for large parts of matches recently. I guess our form is largely built on a strong defence with us only conceding 10 goals so far in the league. That doesn’t mean we set up defensively though- our game relies on us moving the ball very quickly (on the ground) and when we do that effectively, very few teams can live with us for periods in a game. We are though, struggling without an “out and out” goal scorer at the moment, and I guess had we been able to keep Tyler Walker from last season, I’ve no doubt someone of his calibre would have been on the end of lots of our approach play.

Who are Lincoln's one to watch players?

Two players have really stood out this season- Jorge Grant and Lewis Montsma. Grant is one of only two of the remaining Cowley signings currently playing and whilst no one doubted his ability last season, Appleton has really improved his consistency and all round game this season. He’s our main creator in midfield with a wicked free kick and has 7 goals so far amongst numerous assists. Just has that little bit extra for League 1. Lewis Montsma. What can you say? Signed from FC Dordrecht in the summer on a free and quickly became a fans favourite (if you can still say that with empty stadiums) 5 goals already from a centre half, can play it out from the back (Sunderland fans may well remember that this was a particular Achilles heel at Lincoln City from last season’s comedy duo appearance at the SOL) and still, after all this, finds the time to be a part time male model. All at the tender age of 22… lucky bugger.

Apparently topflight scouts are already marking his card, but I think he needs to learn a bit more yet in League 1 and time his headers better. We are after all, only 15 games in. Liam Bridcutt also gets an honourable mention. I know Sunderland fans may beg to differ and find this hard to take, but when fit, he certainly makes Lincoln tick, and as captain when he does play, certainly leads from the front. Whether he’s fit for Saturday though is anyone’s guess, unless we are saving him because he’s getting on a bit....

Score prediction?

I’m going to sit on the fence for this one and go for a draw as we haven’t had one at home this season yet. Sunderland will be fired up against the “young guns” of Lincoln, so an honourable 1-1 would do me fine…

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