Big day for the Imps today. Not only was it the 4th qualifying round of the FA cup but it was also the first game for new Imps manager David Holdsworth. He was appointed on Monday on a contract till the end of the season and has been tasked with guiding the Imps to a safe mid table position.
Many Imps fans were surprised and disappointed when he got the gig. He wasn't my choice for the job but was far from the worst candidate for the job in my eyes. After a time to reflect on it he ticks all the boxes on the board's check list. In my view the most important thing we needed was experience at working at Blue Square prem level. Mr Holdsworth has this from his time at Mansfield Town and has worked at the level below with Ilkeston Town. He guided the Stags to finishes of 9th and 12th in his time there, something we would gladly take now given our position in the league at the moment. A few eyebrows have been raised about the large number of signings he made at Mansfield but given that cash is a tad tight at Sincil Bank at the moment i don't think he will have that problem here anytime soon. After hearing his press conferences and seeing the way he conducted himself in his first match i am starting to believe that the chap could well be just what we need at the moment. Yes anybody can talk a good game, but our last two managers have struggled to even do that.
Good luck David you are going to need it.
Ok today's match. At stake for the winner a £12,000 prize and a place in the first round proper of the FA Cup alongside the footballing heavy weights of Macclesfield, Accrington, Barnet, and Sheffield Wednesday. For the losers, a weekend off in a couple of weeks and a chance to wheel out the old cliches of "Now we can concentrate on the League" and "I would rather have three points" blah blah blah (and a chance to get a random game in ground-hopping in the instance of nothing else better to do)
Given that this was the start of a new era and the FA cup first round proper was at stake, what Imps fan could resist the temptation of this match? Answer one that is
under the thumb away on a family day in Blackpool. It would have been very interesting had we drawn Fleetwood away!
Alfreton isn't too bad of a draw. It's fairly local and they sit only a couple of places below the Imps in the table. It was only 18 days ago that we were here for a league match and came away with a fine 1-3 victory. There was certainly a lot of worse draws we could have been handed. Having only been here a couple of weeks ago i was able to get us straight to the ground without any trouble at all and got the motor parked up a mere guinea pigs' goal kick away from the away turnstiles. Even though it was just after 2.00pm there were a good number of Lincoln fans milling around along with a good showing from the Derbyshire constabulary. We walked up to a dodgy looking shop at the end of the road then headed into the "Impact Arena"
|Welcome to the "Impact Arena"|
We didn't go to the chip shop this time and headed like bats out of hell over to the food hut. I must say that the range of snap on offer was most impressive and it all looked pretty tasty. In the end i went for the Cheeseburger and chips option for £4.20 which i thoroughly enjoyed. The cheese was nicely melted onto the burger and not just thrown on before being served up. The chips were a tad on the greasy side but a solid effort on the food front and an 8/10 overall. The pies and pasties did look nice as well, but i didn't hear any reports of their quality.
After snapping up i had a quick flick through the rather average programme. Over the two issues i had read I've only really been impressed with the column penned by the Alfreton Town FC chairman Mr Wayne Bradley (the rest of the program is distinctly average!). He seems to be of the very rare breed of football chairman who talks a great deal of sense. At the first game i felt he was spot on about clubs spending what they can afford, and in today's column he refused to blame the ref for the recent defeat at Mansfield laying the blame firmly at the feet of the players. If we had more chairman like him at the top level of the English game instead of the cowboys at the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Blackburn etc, then maybe, just maybe, the game wouldn't be dying on its arse. I get the impression that even if Alfreton are relegated at the end of the season the club will be in a stable place financially and be able to bounce back. Sensible spending seems the order of the day here.
Also impressive was the warm up that the Imps players were undergoing. There has been a lot of speculation amongst Imps supporters as to who will be David Holdsworth's number two or even if he will have one. Today he was helped out by former Forest player Gary Charles and former Hull City and Grimsby player and ex boxer Curtis Woodhouse. DH, sharp suit and all, was also heavily involved in the warm up and took a special interest in working with the back four and watching their drills very carefully. After the laid back style of Tilson and Brush this made a refreshing change. DH also went round to each player; wishing them well. Indeed there seemed to be a fair bit of back slapping and high fives going on between the players and staff. It was certainly one of the most structured warm ups i have seen in a while. Since the John Beck days in fact.
This being the FA cup clubs are allowed to field 7 subs. Alfreton have a bit of an injury crisis at the moment and were only able to name two subs. Lincoln named a full bench with injury casualties Josh Gowling and Francis Laurent among the subs. The latter making his first appearance of the season. It was a new formation for the Imps today with DH going for a 4-1-4-1 line up with Sam Smith as the lone striker. Off the pitch it was a great turn out off Imps fans and there seemed alot more than made the first trip over here.
Lincoln got off to a great start when Nicky Nicolau crossed in for Sam Smith to head home his third goal against the reds this season from close range in the tenth minute. Lincoln looked in control for much of the first half with the home side reduced to long range efforts and set plays. However the game turned on its head in the 40th minute when in a moment of madness Imps keeper Joe Anyon collected the ball just ahead of the on rushing Alfreton player Chris Senior. What happen next was unclear to the Imps fans as we were at the other end of the ground but it appears that Anyon pushed him which lead the the Alfreton players surrounding the ref. The ref then consulted with her assistant then showed Anyon the red card, gave the home side a penalty, and handed them a way back into the match.
As City now had no keeper, an outfield player had to be sacrificed in order to allow sub goal keeper 17 year old Nick Draper to come on and make his first team debut. Simon Russell being the player to make way. Now if this was Roy of the Rovers then young Draper would have pulled off a fantastic save from the penalty and seen us through to the first round of the cup. But as this is Lincoln City however he was sent the wrong was and Alferton were level having barely troubled the Imps in the first half at all. Its a funny old game as they say.
There was also movement off the pitch as halfway through the first half the stewards decided that instead of having folks stood in the gangways they would open up a second pen for the Imps fans. As soon as it was opened up i scurried into it. The view was slightly better. In fact i got a perfect view of the home side’s equaliser.
All of a sudden the game had a totally different outlook. Had we been offered a replay i am sure we would have taken it. I would also expected the home side to throw everything they had at us. Over the years i had rarely known City survive in such circumstances. Given the situation we were in it wasn't surprising that we werent throwing bodies forward at every opportunity but nor did we look under a huge amount of pressure at the back. As the game wore on the home side had more of the play but Draper was only forced into one decent save and cleared his lines well and collected what few crosses Alfreton threw into the box. The home side then happened upon a really good chance that they blasted over following a shot that hit the far post, but City deserved to have a bit of luck. With about five minutes to go we got our first look at French winger Francis Laurent who although looked a little rusty made a couple of decent runs down the right. When he gets a bit more match fitness under his belt we could have a decent player here. The main fireworks came off the pitch as sections of the home and away support tried to get at each other but were kept apart from each other by the old bill and a group of furry crocodiles. (Police dogs)
At the end of the match it was great to see DH and the players all come over and applaud the City travelling support. We managed to pick up BBC Radio Lincolnshire on the way back and got the impression that the ref had made the correct call over the sending off and that Anyon had been a tad foolish. David Holdsworth seemed to agree with this but overall he like us was impressed with the work rate of the City team. I know its very early days but it does seem as if DH has good PR skills and appreciates the fans something the last two Lincoln City managers never quite got. The only downside of picking up BBC Lincs was the fact that we got to hear Scott Dalton commentate on a very lucky last minute equaliser for Boston United.The upshot of all this is that City now face a quick turn around as the replay will take place at Sincil Bank this coming Tuesday night with a 7.45 Kick off. Admission is a bargain £10
|Great turnout by the City fans|
And the prize to the winner,
a chance to get thumped at home by league one play off chasers Carlisle United A mouth watering home clash with Carlisle United in a couple of weeks time. The side that i watched Lincoln City take on in 1994 in my first ever Lincoln game. It finished 1-1 Gary Bannister with the Imps goal.
Some things you just never forget.