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League One Odds: Lincoln City 7/1 to win promotion to the Championship

In little over two months, Michael Skubala has transformed Lincoln City from a side looking over their shoulders into an outfit soaring up the league table with promotion aspirations.

A 3-1 triumph over Carlisle United on Easter Monday was their fifth successive league win and extended their unbeaten run to 15 matches, which is the joint-longest in England's top four tiers.

If those figures were not impressive enough, they've accumulated 32 points from a possible 36 in their last 12 league fixtures, scoring 30 goals and conceding just three.

It's an extraordinary run that's catapulted them into the play-off places.

After a goalless draw against Peterborough United on January 27, the Imps were 750/1 to win promotion. Following their Carlisle win, Skubala's side are now priced at 7/1, while a Top Six finish has shortened into 6/5.

League One

To be Promoted

Skubala's first managerial role

Lincoln were sitting pretty in ninth upon Skubala's appointment, with the former Leeds United coach inheriting the managerial hotseat at Sincil Bank in the middle of November.

His arrival came four weeks after the dismissal of Mark Kennedy, whose departure was of great intrigue to many neutral fans.

Lincoln's chief executive Liam Scully revealed that results were not a factor in Kennedy's exit and insisted that the club's style of play and the development of talent under the former Republic of Ireland winger were the reason for parting ways.

So after a thorough recruitment process, Imps chairman Clive Nates identified Skubala as the best candidate to help evolve the club's identity of front-foot football and player growth.

Skubala's journey into professional football is a fascinating one. He started his coaching career whilst teaching PE at a college in Leicestershire, juggling a variety of roles at local academies. His work was recognised by Loughborough University who appointed him Director of Football, before the Football Association headhunted him for the role as head coach of England's national futsal team.

Further opportunities with the FA would follow, including a coaching role with England's Under-18s, and then Leeds United came along; you may remember him masterminding Leeds' 2-2 draw away at Manchester United after Jesse Marsch's sacking.

Skubala was a highly-sought coach, yet Lincoln were still taking a risk with his appointment.

Those concerns intensified after the Imps amassed just 12 points from Skubala's opening 13 league matches; they failed to win a match in December and January.

It's testament to Skubala's resolve that he adhered to his principles, even if results weren't falling their way. Confident of the growth he had witnessed in the team and his players, Skubala's meticulous nature and clear vision has helped transform Lincoln into a relentless winning machine.

Upturn in form

Skubala felt the turning point for his side was in the second half of their 1-1 draw against Wycombe Wanderers, while a goalless draw against Peterborough strengthened the foundations for Lincoln's remarkable run.

Skubala's teachings finally bore fruit and the fluid shape that he'd been looking to implement had stifled a Peterborough side that had scored in every single league match before their trip to Sincil Bank.

While they were seeing an improvement in their defensive solidity, Skubala was still attempting to unlock Lincoln's attacking potential.

A 1-0 win away at Burton Albion, despite playing with 10 men for over 70 minutes, was the confidence boost that the team needed to progress.

Against Fleetwood a week later they were utterly dominant. Undeterred by a one goal deficit, Lincoln scored two goals in quick succession during the second half to seal back-to-back wins.

Victories against Exeter City, Port Vale and Shrewsbury Town would follow, accompanied by draws versus Charlton Athletic and Stevenage.

Surging clear of the relegation zone, the best was yet to come.

Three huge wins

A trip to Oakwell presented a stern test for Skubala's charges and yet Lincoln swatted Barnsley aside with incredible ease.

The Imps condemned Barnsley to their worst home league defeat in 11 years as they struck five on their trip to Yorkshire, demonstrating their effectiveness on transition and clinical ability.

Their free-scoring spree only whetted the appetite and three days later, Lincoln had struck Cambridge United for six in a ruthless display. Two emphatic victories signalled a warning to the rest of the division but what was most impressive across those two matches was their tactical flexibility.

Against Barnsley, the Imps were happy to cede possession once they went in front and harmed their opponents on transition. Hosting Cambridge, Lincoln dominated the ball and created an abundance of chances, proving their competence at breaking down defences.

If 11 goals in the space of three days were not enough, 16 goals in seven days certainly had Sincil Bank rocking as Lincoln dispatched Bristol Rovers 5-0 to cap off a tremendous week.

They were far from their best in a largely forgettable encounter against Leyton Orient after the international break and yet Skubala's team were rewarded for their resilience and persistence, with substitute Jovon Makama netting a priceless last-minute winner.

A trip to Brunton Park to face basement side Carlisle awaited them on Easter Monday and the Cumbrians had reminded everyone that there are no guarantees in football after their 3-1 triumph over Peterborough on Good Friday.

As you would come to expect from Skubala's outfit, Lincoln were thoroughly professional and tactically disciplined. Their quality told on the contest and a 3-1 victory ensured the Imps finished the Bank Holiday weekend in the top six.

Five crucial games to go

Momentum is evidently in Lincoln's favour as we enter the business end of the campaign but they still have work to do if they're to secure a top-six finish.

A trip to relegation-threatened Reading is up next before welcoming Wigan Athletic to Lincolnshire, but all eyes will be on the Kassam Stadium on April 16 as Lincoln face Oxford United in a match that will have huge implications on the play-off race.

Their penultimate match will see them take on struggling Cheltenham before a home encounter with the potential champions elect Portsmouth wraps up the campaign.

The Imps' defensive strength has been one of the main pillars of their success, having conceded the fewest goals from open play this term. Their structure when out of possession could frustrate their play-off rivals while the array of quality in attack - on-loan forward Joe Taylor has been a revelation since joining the club in January - have proven they're capable of inflicting significant damage to opposition.

Lincoln have not been in the second tier of English football since 1961 and if Skubala is able to guide them into the Championship, it will be one of the greatest stories of the 2023/24 season.

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