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Opposition Lowdown: Michael Skubala’s Lincoln City

Reading hit the road this weekend to take on Lincoln City. Join us as we take a closer look at the opposition.

Fleetwood Town v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Photo by Andrew Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Form

Lincoln finished 11th in League One last season, after 14 wins, 20 draws and 12 losses. This will be their fifth straight season in League One, having secured promotion to the league back in 2019, where they won the League Two title under Danny Cowley.

They have had a good start to the season, currently sitting in ninth place in the league, only five points away from the playoff places. They are unbeaten in their last four games, having seen two wins and two draws and come into this weekend’s game off the back of a 0-0 draw away to Wigan Athletic.

The two sides last faced each other back in the 1998/99 Division 2 season, when Reading beat Lincoln 2-1 at the Madejski after goals from Neil Clement and Mass Sarr, before they played out a 2-2 draw later on that season.

The boss

Michael Skubala: Skubala took over as head coach at Lincoln in November this year, taking over from Mark Kennedy, who left the club after a poor run of form of only one win in six league games.

The 41-year-old has no playing background, but has had a 20-year career as a coach prior to his first full-time managerial role. He did spend time coaching the England under-18 side and the English Futsal team, before joining Leeds United as the head coach of their under-21 side in 2022.

While at Leeds, Skubala had a three-game spell as interim coach after the sacking of Jesse Marsch in February this year. He joined Javi Gracia’s coaching staff when he took over as Leeds manager earlier on this year. His move to the Imps is his first chance to prove himself as a full-time manager and he has started life well, picking up eight points in his first five games.

Skubala is known for his strong focus on player development and wants his side to play an exciting style of football.

Squad

10 players came through the door at the LNER Stadium this summer, with seven signing permanent deals and three joining on loan. Goalkeeper Lukas Jensen, left-back Jaden Brown, midfielder Alistair Smith, winger Olamide Shopido and striker Tyler Walker all joined the club on free transfers.

Midfielder Ethan Hamilton and winger Reeco Hackett both signed for undisclosed fees from Accrington Stanley and Portsmouth respectively. Centre-back Alex Mitchell (Millwall), midfielder Jack Burroughs (Coventry City) and forward Jack Vale (Blackburn Rovers) all joined on season-long loan deals.

Only four players left the club this summer with defenders Joe Walsh and Regan Poole, midfielder Max Sanders and winger Charles Vernam all departing.

Defender Lewis Montsma and forwards Ben House and Tyler Walker will all miss this weekend’s game with long-term injuries.

Expected lineup

Jensen, O’Connor, Jackson, Eyoma, Sorensen, Burroughs, Hamilton, Erhahon, Smith, Mandroiu, Vale

Key player

Ethan Erhahon: Midfielder Erhahon joined Lincoln in January this year, signing from St Mirren for an undisclosed fee. He started his youth career at St Mirren in 2017 and went on to make 122 appearances for the club, scoring four goals.

He had a loan spell with Barnsley in 2020 but didn’t make an appearance for the Tykes. Since joining Lincoln in January, Erhahon has made 47 appearances for the club and scored his first goal for the Imps earlier on this season.

The 22-year-old has played for Scotland at under-17, under-18, under-19 and under-21 level. He is a defensive midfielder who is a strong tackler and passer of the ball.

One to watch

Alex Mitchell: Defender Mitchell joined Lincoln on a season-long loan from Championship side Millwall this summer. He has come through the youth setup at The Lions but has only made one first-team appearance for the club so far.

He is learning his trade on a series of loan spells, having spent time at Bromley, Leyton Orient and St Johnstone. Last season’s spell at St Johnstone was a real success with Mitchell winning the club’s young player of the year award.

His current loan spell is also going well, with Mitchell playing a part in 19 games so far this season, while also picking up the club’s player of the month award for October. The 22-year-old is a no-nonsense centre-back who is a strong tackler.