The FA Cup. The greatest cup competition in the world, and nights like this make it just that. Just 10 days after Lincoln City picked up a 2-2 draw away at Championship side Ipswich Town, and were unfortunate to only pick up a draw. On Tuesday, Ipswich made the journey to Sincil Bank for the replay.
Ipswich were, widely believed, comfortably second best in the first game, and despite the fact that they were coming into this game 59 places above the Imps in league terms, they weren’t heavily fancied to progress into the fourth round. They were in 14th place in the Championship, and Mick McCarthy was under a lot of pressure. This was a game that had all the ingredients needed to be a cupset. Lincoln were in fine form, Ipswich weren’t. Over 9000 fans were packed into Sincil Bank, the biggest for a competitive fixture in over a decade.
I had gone to the second round tie with Oldham Athletic at Sincil Bank, though it felt wrong to do an Away Days report on a game that I was able to walk to. I did write one on the game at Portman Road though, so I thought it was worth doing one for the game at Sincil Bank.
For the game, I was sat in the Co-op Stand, the biggest stand at the ground, and where most of the atmosphere came from during the match. At £2 a ticket for U18s, it was certainly value for money, and it was good to see the club not hike up ticket prices for such a big game. The food at Sincil Bank is OK, but nothing better than that. It’s the typical menu at football grounds, and unfortunately still the typical high prices.
I don’t think there are many places in the ground where you get a bad view, but situated just about level with the half way line, I can’t imagine there were too many better seats in the house. Before the match there was a tribute to former Lincoln boss Graham Taylor, who sadly past away last week. He was the last man to take the Imps to the fourth round of the FA Cup, back in 1976.
Ipswich set up in a 5-3-2 formation, a change from the 4-5-1 formation that they deployed in the first game. Leon Best came into the side and started up front, alongside on-loan Leicester City forward Tom Lawrence, who has impressed in recent weeks. That will be the final mention of Best in this report in terms of what he did on the pitch, because he was utterly useless and did barely anything all night, much like his years in the Premier League.
Lincoln manager Danny Cowley kept it simple however, and stuck with the same 4-4-2 formation that has given him so much success in the league and cup this season. Matt Rhead, who is a bit of a cult hero at the club, led the line, alongside Theo Robinson, who was the hero of the game at Portman Road, scoring twice. Lincoln began the game much like they did in that match, on the front foot. It was clear from the first whistle that they were hungrier than Ipswich, and were backed by a strong and vocal support. The first chance however fell to Ipswich, with Lawrence pouncing on an error in midfield before driving towards goal, only for his powerful low effort to be easily saved by Paul Farman.
From then on, it was all Lincoln for the first half. Robinson found himself with the ball at his feet eight yards out with his back to goal, only to be denied by Paul Digby’s last ditch challenge. A much better chance though fell to Alex Woodyard, who got on the end of Robinson’s excellent cross. Unfortunately, much like the first game, he didn’t seem used to being in the position, and the ball hit his shoulder and went wide.
Matt Rhead was Lincoln’s biggest threat in the first half, and he seems like one of those strikers who defenders hate to come up against. He’s a massive bloke, who won every ball that came his way all night, and for such a big guy, he has a fantastic first touch. He had Lincoln’s next big chance, when he nearly got on the end of Terry Hawkridge’s back post cross.
The big chance though fell to Luke Waterfall, whose close range half-volley was magnificently kept out by Dean Gerken in the Ipswich goal, only for the referee to award a goal kick. Even he looked slightly disappointed to realise the referee hadn’t acknowledged his efforts.
You would have expected Ipswich to up their game in the second half, but they continued to be absolutely awful. Lincoln continued to dominate the game, but without creating that many opportunities. Both Hawkridge and Arnold continued to get into dangerous positions, but failing to create any clear cut chances. Josh Emmanuel’s strike from the edge of the box was comfortably pushed away from goal by Farman, and that was probably about as good as it got for Ipswich.
As the game came to a bit of a lull midway through the half, the Lincoln fans remembered that former manager Chris Sutton was at the ground working for BBC 5 Live. Sutton is not a popular man amongst Lincoln fans, and that was reflected by some of chants coming from the stands.
The game slowed down as the substitutes came on. Lincoln bought on Alan Marriott for Robinson to bring some pace up front, while Freddie Sears came on for Leon Best. That’s all Best did, he started the game, then went off after 75 minutes. That was it. The 76th minute saw Lincoln fans rise to applaud Graham Taylor once more, with his name once more being chanted around the ground.
Extra time seemed inevitable entering the final few minutes, as both sides looked afraid to lose the game. That all changed though as we entered the first minute of added time. Lawrence’s poor free kick was cleared out to Marriott, who turned and ran at the Ipswich defence. He seemed to turn away from goal however, and it seemed the chance would have been gone, until he picked out a fantastic through ball to pick out Nathan Arnold. The former Grimsby man coolly rounded Dean Gerken in the Ipswich goal before slotting home. It was a fantastic goal, and brilliant composure from Arnold.
Sincil Bank erupted, with what was surely the winning goal. The Lincoln fans bought out the Dambusters celebration, which was quickly followed by chants of “Who are ya?” and “You’re getting sacked in the morning,” to the forlorn McCarthy on the touchline. It was undoubtedly the right team who won the tie. Lincoln had the better of Ipswich in both games, and it would have been an injustice if the Imps hadn’t progressed to the fourth round.
Lincoln will now take on Brighton at Sincil Bank next Saturday in what is one of the biggest games in the club’s history. I will hopefully be able to get tickets, and if I do I will write a report on it, as it should be a fantastic occasion.