Norwich City new boy Sean Raggett is dominant but developing with Lincoln in League Two
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With no Norwich City game this weekend due to the international break, we sent DAVID FREEZER to Lincoln to check on one of the Canaries' new signings.
“You’ve come to see our star man, have you?” was my greeting from one of Lincoln City’s welcoming staff at Sincil Bank.
Without a Norwich City match to keep us occupied during the international break, it seemed a fitting time to go and find out more about Sean Raggett, one of the Canaries’ many new signings.
The defender’s arrival has gone reasonably unnoticed, well, as much as a defender who stands at 6ft 5ins tall can go unnoticed at least.
That’s due to the former Gillingham trainee being signed from Lincoln but being loaned back to the Imps until January.
With the defensive problems which have blighted early progress under Daniel Farke for City in the early stages of the season, that decision has raised some eyebrows.
However, Norwich being willing to allow the centre-back to return to the League Two side and continue his development is the reason they won the race for his signature. Several other clubs, including West Ham and Sunderland, were keen to activate the £350,000 release clause in the 24-year-old’s contract – which made the in-demand defender’s signing far from straightforward.
The deal was done though and Raggett has got his head down with Lincoln, being named man of the match in a 4-1 home win over Carlisle last weekend. Luton Town were the visitors on Saturday, with their sights set on a promotion push after establishing themselves in League Two, losing in the play-offs last season.
Lincoln largely dominated the game but there was still plenty to keep Raggett and his fellow huge centre-back partner Luke Waterfall busy, as they largely kept the visitors at arm’s length.
Let’s take a step backwards first though.
The Canaries new boy was born in Kent and started out with hometown club Gillingham before joining Dover Athletic. He played an integral part, scoring four goals in 33 appearances, as Dover finished eighth in the Conference in 2015 and also reached the third round of the FA Cup – starting a 4-0 home defeat to Crystal Palace.
Raggett was again a key man as Dover reached the Conference play-offs the following season, convincing the Cowley brothers to take him to Lincoln in August 2016 following their switch from Braintree. He reportedly cost the Imps £50,000 and more than repaid that fee last season.
Lincoln not only ran away with the National League title, with the centre-back scoring seven goals in 47 games in all competitions, but became everyone’s second favourite team in the FA Cup.
An outstanding run saw them knock out Ipswich in the third round, winning a televised replay at Sincil Bank 1-0, before beating another Championship side, Brighton, 3-1 at home.
Then came the big one, with Raggett heading a late goal in a 1-0 win at Burnley, knocking out the Premier League side and raising his profile significantly.
Back to the present, and it’s Norwich who won the race for the rising star’s signature but Canaries supporters will have to wait until January at the earliest to see him in a yellow shirt.
Playing at left centre-back on Saturday, it was obvious very quickly where the big man’s strength is: in the air. In Canaries terms, we are talking more Christoph Zimmermann than Russell Martin.
With a decent touch and seemingly comfortable passing on either foot, Raggett looked assured and comfortable against one of the teams expected to be pushing for promotion from League Two.
His aerial threat was also marked by something I’ve never previously heard at a Football League ground.
Every time Raggett and skipper Waterfall trotted forward to attack a set-piece in the opposition box, sticking close to strapping centre-forward Matt Rhead, the sound of air raid sirens rang out.
While the trio weren’t able to bundle home on this occasion, there was certainly an air of expectancy every time the ball was thrown into the box.
There was one moment of panic for Raggett in the 59th minute when he saw a clearance charged down but it was also the Norwich loanee’s crunching tackle which thwarted the danger as Luke Berry fired at goal for Luton.
This is the youngster’s first campaign in the Football League and while it’s clear to see why City were interested, it also looks sensible to allow him to keep developing in League Two.
His strength, size and aerial ability show he would not be bullied in the Championship but, given that he signed a three-year contract in August, it may well be next season before Raggett gets a proper chance to impress in Norfolk.
PLAYER WATCH – SEAN RAGGETT
2 – Danny Hylton breaks down the left, holds up his progress but the Luton striker cuts inside, only for Raggett to block the cross to allow keeper Paul Farman to collect.
11 – Hylton drops deeper to escape Raggett’s attentions but the centre-back closes down and the forward fires a low shot wide from the edge of the box.
16 – Glen Rea plays to Hylton’s feet midway in the Lincoln half, who turns Raggett but the defender stays strong and wisely concedes foul to end the counter-attack.
27 – Good strength to beat substitute striker Harry Cornick to a ball forward from winger Jack Stacey and pass to left-back Neal Eardley under pressure from Hylton.
41 – Controls long ball and pass goes straight to Hatters skipper Scott Cuthbert, Cornick breaks on the left and Raggett holds up but can’t stop cross, which comes to nothing.
45 – Puts his foot in at vital moment to hold up Hylton on the counter and centre-back partner Luke Waterfall heads away the cross.
47 – Rushes out to narrow angle as Cornick shoots from edge of the box and ball flies wide.
59 – Very nervy moment. Nice back-heel plays him out of trouble but Eardley’s pass puts him back under pressure, clearance is charged down by Cornick and ball is loose in Lincoln box. Keeper Farman holds up Hylton but he manages to cross from left, only for Raggett to slam into tackle and Michael Bostwick to clear.
80 – Rises high to beat Cornick in the air but goes over the striker’s shoulder and lands heavily, doesn’t need treatment.
83 – Luton keeper just beats him to a corner with a punch in the six-yard box.
84 – Luton break down right but Raggett takes no chances, clearing the ball into touch with a strong tackle and hurting team-mate Alex Woodyard in the process.
89 – Heads down free-kick from the left in the box but Luton clear the danger.
Verdict: A solid seven out of 10 performance for the young centre-back, dominating in the air and recovering well from his most worrying moment.
Stats: Headers won, 14; tackles made, 4; blocks, 1; fouls given away, 1; clearances, 6, interceptions, 2.