Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Tamworth 3-1 Lincoln City

FA Trophy first round.

On the face of it, the draw for the first round wasn’t great for the Imps. Ideally you would want a side a couple of divisions below you, preferably at home.  Being handed an away tie at a fellow BSP side wasn’t really what the doctor ordered. Having not been to Tamworth though I wasn’t too disheartened at the draw as it gave me chance to tick a new ground off the list.  Yes it was going to be a tough game but that’s football. Tamworth hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for Lincoln over the past two seasons. Earlier in the year we lost 1-0 at the Lamb ground thanks to a first minute goal. Last year’s trip to Tamworth saw the final game of Steve Tilson’s reign following a dreadful 4-0 defeat.

With Felice having a family engagement and Barry at work i was riding solo today.  Retford to Tamworth isn’t too bad a journey however. It was merely a case of catching the 9.03 from Retford and alighting at Worksop; which was full of folk on their way to Meadowhell to do Christmas shopping, haven’t these poor fools heard of online shopping? After a quick cup of earl grey tea I hopped on the 9.38 to Nottingham. Had I had a longer wait I may have been tempted to try the monster breakfast challenge (whatever that is) I am sure that Baz and Felice would be up for it, and we could well have to factor it into an away game at some point. On second thoughts I doubt that I could do it as I bet it involves eating bacon at some point and I can’t stand the stuff. Plus I have to watch my figure these days.

The train made its merry way to Nottingham and gradually filled up. Again mostly with people off to spend far too much on Christmas gifts. Enroute I was treated to the delight tale of a woman telling her friend all about her husband, who had been taken into hospital only to contract violent diarrhoea  on one of the wards. Quite why she felt that discussing this on a packed train full of people was a wise thing to do I don’t know. We pulled into Nottingham at 10.44 and from here it’s a brisk stroll over to the temporary ticket office on station road to purchase a return to Tamworth. Had I got a straight return from Retford to Tamworth it would have cost £41. However a return from Retford to Nottingham is £12 and a return from Nottingham to Tamworth is £14 a saving of £15! In the queue for the tickets one of the station staff came round offering free bars of chocolate so naturally I bagged a couple. Having at last got my ticket (there are some right muppets at train stations these days) I made my way to the platform furthest from the ticket office and caught the 11.09 to Tamworth.

About an hour later after stopping at Derby and the shithole of Burton upon Trent we arrived at Tamworth. And with more than two and a half hours to go until kick off I headed into the town centre in search of a chip shop and a few refreshing pints.  On leaving the station you head right for the Town centre or head left for the ground.  I know precious little about Tamworth but I imagine that it is described as “A historic market town” (i.e. a pokey little place with a few shops, some pubs and a dodgy market-just like Retford)  I had been tipped of about a pub called the Robert Peel from a fellow Imps fan so I made that my first point of call.

This place is what I call a proper pub and it seems quite real ale orientated. It also seems quite popular as it was quite busy at just gone 12.30pm, although with Carling coming in at £3 a pint it wasn’t the cheapest but I don’t mind paying that bit extra in places like this. It is the kind of place that you could have a real session in and I can thoroughly recommend it if you are ever in Tamworth. After a couple in here I took a walk around the town centre in search of a chippy but alas I was thwarted as the only refreshments I could find was a dodgy looking burger van in the market place. After finally admitting defeat I headed back for more beer this time in the Stone cross, which was rather empty as when I got there I was the only punter in the place. Still it was pleasant enough though, which is more than can be side for the weather as at just gone 1.00pm the rain arrived.
This part of the Midlands has been quite hard hit by the floods over the past couple of days and certain parts of the town had been flooded so this really was the last thing the townsfolk wanted. Although to cheer themselves up they could come and say hello to this little horsey fellow who was out and about in the town centre.

To get to Tamworth’s ground you need to head left out of the station follow the road round then go left at the roundabout. On the way to the ground you could see the affect that the rain has had on the local area. With all this in mind and the steady fall of rain it did make me wonder whether the match would finish should the rain get much heavier. The car park was a total mud bath but at least the away end is the nearest point of the ground you approach. The club shop is also situated on this side of the ground. This takes the form of a small portacabin about 50 metres away from the away turnstiles, it is a real non league shop with club badges on sale for £3.50.
The match day programme was also on sale. Tamworth’s normal league effort costs £2.50 and is a decent enough read. However for today’s fixture they produced a smaller effort for £1.50, as it was raining I just stuffed the thing in my man bag and didn’t read it till the journey back after the game. It was only then that I realised that it was a bit of a rip off. It contained eight pages and not a huge amount to read. All in all a poor show and hugely overpriced. At least it means that City won’t win my worst programme of the season award at the end of the season.
However to Tamworth’s credit admission prices for the game were set at £10 for the standing area and £12 for the seating. Now normally I would go in the standing area without a thought. However the weather made me think twice. Having seen pictures of the semi covered terrace I wasn’t totally convinced that it would be up to the task of keeping us dry so I paid the extra couple of quid and went into the seated area. However this area seemed to offer less protection from the elements.  On entrance to the game you were given a ticket and told to keep hold of it in case the match was abandoned which didn’t exactly fill me with confidence that the match would be finished. There was only one food outlet and that was in the standing area. If you were in the seated area you showed your ticket and the steward let you through. So I did this and headed for the terrace and found out that it did indeed offer more protection from the drizzle.   So yes I may have wasted a couple of quid but when you measure up the need to keep dry against the waste of £2 the former won hands down. Before the game I bagged a ½ pound cheeseburger and very nice it was too. £4 may seem a tad pricey but it was well cooked and quite filling. A solid if not spectacle 7/10. I didn’t try one but the large hotdogs looked rather nice as well.
As for the Lamb ground itself, I would describe is as a typical non league ground. I know that seems a little harsh and maybe a little arrogant but I don’t know how else to describe it. To the left of the away terrace you have the main stand which is the most modern area of the ground and actually rather smart.  Behind the far goal you have an uncovered area which unsurprisingly was sparsely populated today. Along the other touchline was a small covered area which housed most of the Tamworth fans. In my ground’s ranking I would say it is better than Alfreton but not as good as Kettering. It goes without saying its far better than Grimsby.
There had been quite a lot of discussion from Imps fans in the week leading up to the game as to what the team line up should have been. The Imps have a huge game in the FA Cup with Mansfield next weekend and have several key players one booking away from a suspension those being; Mills, Boyce, Gray, and star striker Jamie Taylor.  Thankfully manager David Holdsworth rested the four of them for this match. In recent weeks Lincoln have named a settled side and normally I would never like to see a winning side changed but today I think it was called for. However the afore mentioned players were on the pitch going through their own warm up. I for one didn’t see the point of this because if one of them picked up an injury (hamstring pull etc) then the plan would have back fired and made us look rather stupid. I get the idea of them travelling down with the team for team spirit and such, but not sure that making them warm up on a slippery pitch for a game they weren’t in the match day squad for seemed a little pointless. I would also have liked to have seen Jake Turner given a game in goal today but that was a change too far for the Imps’ management it would seem.
Lincoln started the game kicking towards the open end of the ground and two things soon became apparent. Firstly it wasn’t going to be a game for playing pretty passing football, and secondly that conditions were going to get worse as the game wore on. In games like this it’s always worth having a shot from distance as there is a high chance that the keeper could well spill the ball out as its difficult to hold on to it. However for this to work you have to 1) Get your shot away and not blast it at the first defender and 2) Not hit the ball out of the ground. It is fair to say that both sides failed to do both these things far too often.  All this meant that meaningful efforts on goal were in short supply. Both sides won their fair share of corners but neither side was able to do anything with them.  City’s main threat came in the form of winger Aristide Bassele who is on loan from League one Bournemouth. His pace on this tricky surface was giving the home side plenty to think about and his willingness to chase down lost causes was keeping them on their toes.  City took the lead.; Adam Smith’s shot was blocked but the ball fell nicely for Alan Power to slot home a cool finish from just inside the box. It was a tidy finish and a great time for the Imps to score
HT 0-1
Just after the break Lincoln had a great chance to put the game to bed. City won a free kick down their right hand side which was swung in by Alan Power. Colin Larkin got ahead of everybody but some how volleyed over when it seemed easier to score. That miss would come back to haunt the Imps. It also gave the home side a huge lift and from there on in, took control of the match. City were now seemed a yard off the pace as Tamworth got to grips with the conditions  a lot better than we did. Although the Lambs were having more of the ball, they never really threatened the City goal until the 71st minute when, after Lincoln missed a couple of chances to clear, the ball fell to Marcus Kelly whose low shot from 12 yards out found the bottom corner and we were all square.
Having been pegged back I expected a reaction from City, but it was Tamworth who continued to be on the front foot.  Paul Farman was now keeping Lincoln in the game. His one handed save from a Tamworth free kick only delayed the inevitable, as the following corner wasn’t cleared with the ball falling to Kelly who tucked away the chance for his second of the game. 85 minutes gone and the Imps 2-1 down and heading out of the trophy. Lincoln did try and rally but it really was too little too late. As we threw men forward for a late corner Tamworth broke away with the best passing move of the match that finished with Kelly completing his hat trick with almost the last kick of the game.
FT 3-1
The weather was still shite but thankfully it didn’t take long to get back to the station, where I managed to catch the 5.09 back to Nottingham. Once back in Notts I had just under an hour to wait for the train back to Worksop. To kill time I headed straight for the Canalside bar; the best pub in the vicinity of Nottingham Station for a swift pint and to reflect on the day’s events.
Firstly I don’t go in for all this “the FA Trophy is Mickey mouse/ a tin pot competition”. Had we been lucky enough to get to the final, every man and his dog would have been in the queue for a ticket.  I have always believed that if a club is entered into a competition then it should be respected and every attempt made to be successful in it. That being said I believe we made the correct decision by resting players given how big the FA cup game next week is. The players that came in have all got plenty of experience so we can’t say that we had a weakened side out. Today Tamworth adapted to the worsening conditions much better than we did in the second half and deserved their victory. In a way, had Lincoln snatched a draw before they scored their third we would have faced a replay Tuesday night, which would really have been a ball ache. Thankfully that’s a problem Mansfield now face, although I given the weather I doubt it will be on.
We have been on a decent run recently. The trick for the Imps is now to do it again. Next up Mansfield and a post match drink session in Ordsall. My prediction? A 2-2 draw and yet another replay.

 I love a good replay.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Lincoln Ladies 2013 season tickets information.

It gives me great pleasure to inform you that season tickets for Lincoln Ladies 2013 season are now on sale. Not only are they on sale but until Christmas they are available for the bargain price of just £20. Yes you have read that correctly £20 (Twenty pounds). But hurry along boys and girls, this offer is only available until Christmas.

When you purchase one you will feel a huge amount of accomplishment and feel at peace with yourself. Your social standing will dramatically increase and you will be the envy of all your friends. Apart from giving your well being a huge boost there is also a great saving to be made by getting paid up early.

Last season entrance to Lincoln’s home games in the WSL was £6 (which is still great value given the quality of football that was on display). A season ticket works out at a mere £2.85 per match which as I am sure you have deduced is better than half price. When you look at it like that, how can you not afford to get one? To put it into context, step 7 of non league men’s football costs £3 a game. Yet you can watch top class international class players for less than that with the season ticket at LLFC, it really is a no brainer. Most clubs in League One charge more than a £20 entrance fee for one game. So, one poor League One game (and most are by the way) or a whole season of top class action in the FAWSL. I know where I would rather be.

And how do I get my hands on the hottest ticket in town I can hear you scream? Why it’s very simple. Simply pop along to the club’s website( WWW.LINCOLNLADIES.COM)  and click on the link that says get your 2013 season tickets here which is in the bottom right hand corner of the home page. It’s that simple. 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

A great cup win and Lincoln Moorlands

Just a few months ago it would have seemed inconceivable to the majority of Lincoln fans that the Imps would be able to hold a League One side to a draw. But having done just that at Sincil Bank many fans were now not only confidant of giving the Saddlers a good game on their own patch but actually turning them over. How football can change in a short space of time. The general opinion of people who were at the first match was that the Imps were by far the better side and can feel a tad unlucky not to have finished the tie off there and then. However Walsall’s late equaliser meant that a trip to the West Midlands was required.

On paper Lincoln went into the game as the form side.  Unbeaten in 8 league and cup matches, the last two being a comfortable 3-0 home win over Braintree and a gutsy 2-1 away win at Barrow. I listened to the Barrow match on BBC Radio Lincolnshire as I had a rare Saturday off from watching the beautiful game (or non league shite depending on your point of view) and decided to start sorting out my programme collection that at the moment has taken over pretty much all of the spare room floor. Needless to say I didn’t get very far and spent more time reading them instead of sorting the sods out. Oh well there’s no rush.
 It’s always hard to judge a game when you are not there. Even viewing on television doesn’t always give you the full picture in my opinion, but from what I gathered it was a real gritty, battling performance from Lincoln as we ground out three points.  Something that has been lacking in recent seasons. Top marks to the commentary team.

In contrast, Walsall are in dreadful form. The men from the Banks stadium had failed to record a win in ten matches in all competitions and had lost their last couple of home games including a 1-4 kicking at the hands of Scunthorpe. After a quick glance at their message board, I gathered that the fans aren’t the happiest at the moment and there seems a lot of disillusionment around at the moment. Given all this however I still had the hosts as very strong favourites to go through. Why? Well in my experience as the lower ranked side you normally only get one chance to upset the odds. As always with a game that pits two sides with a two division gap between them, the higher ranked side has to have an off day and the underdog has to raise its game.  Lincoln had Walsall on the ropes at Sincil Bank but could not quite land the knockout blow.  I just couldn’t see the Saddlers playing so poorly again and although they are in poor form you have to remember that there are some quality sides in league one this season, and doesn’t everybody always say form goes out the window when it comes to the FA Cup? I was however looking forward to this game. Again it’s another cliché but all the pressure was on the hosts so we could go out and give it our best with no fear.  And it was also another new ground to tick off. Throw into the mix the fact that I had the next day booked off work it had all the ingredients to be a great away match. Whatever happened this was the first time that Lincoln had played four matches in the FA Cup since the 1997/98 season.

Unfortunately due to a family emergency for one of our number we were unable to make the trip. In contrast to Saturday I decided to follow the game on Twitter. To some this may seem sad but I quite enjoy reading the fans reaction to the game. By the feedback I was getting the Imps were more than holding their own and took the lead just after halftime. Walsall came back to make it 1-1 and into extra time we went. Now it was at this point that I have to admit that I fell asleep. I then woke up at just gone 11pm and was greeted with a couple of texts that pointed to the fact the Imps had done it and would go on to face Mansfield Town in the next round. This was the first time that Lincoln had beaten a side two divisions above themselves in the FA cup in their history.  Obviously I was over the moon and incredibly proud of the team, but also a tad embarrassed that while we were grinding out a 3-2 win in extra time, I was fast on in the land of nod.  To be blunt I felt like a right twat.
Programme from the last time the Imps and Stags locked horns in the FA Cup in 1987/99
Determined to celebrate this fantastic win and without a day of work ahead of me, I headed out for a few drinks in Retford before watching the third biggest cup tie that involved Lincoln’s football teams this week; the NCEL league cup tie between Lincoln Moorlands Railway and Worksop Parramore, at the Moorlands Sports ground (The second biggest cup tie was the FA Youth cup game between Lincoln and Hartlepool at Sincil Bank).
Pulling up outside the ground at just gone seven we could tell that there was a game on tonight as the floodlights were on and the lights were on in the buildings inside the ground. The turnstile block was however shut. After a few moments a chap appeared and said that he would be opening up in about 5 minutes. On obtaining this information we headed over the clubhouse for a swift pint. Again further proof that this game hadn’t quite galvanised the Lincoln public became apparent when the lady behind the bar asked who Moorlands were playing and enquired as to whether it was a League or Cup match.
We entered the ground with about 15 minutes to go till kick off and it was clear that there hadn’t been a mass rush for the turnstiles. After paying our £5 entrance fee and £1.20 for the match programme the striking thing was how empty the place looked. I would guess that the crowd was in the 20s with a good number of those being officials of the two clubs. I have no doubt that the International friendly between Sweden and England had had a huge effect on the turnout plus the fact that quite a few fans would have been tempted to see the Imps youth team at Sincil Bank just up the road. This did mean there was plenty of food available and I bagged a rather tasty burger for £2.
Moorlands have had a turbulent season up to date and currently sit bottom of the division.  However since the new management team took over and drafted in some new players they form has improved dramatically and they have hauled themselves to within a point of the nearest side above them in the table. Even given this upturn in form I didn’t give them much hope against a Parramore side that sat fourth in the league.
The match was no classic and when it was goalless at halftme we all feared the dreaded extra time. Thankfully halfway through the second half Parramore broke down their right and as the Moorlands keeper came racing out from his goal the winger slid the ball calmly past him.  That pretty summed up the whole action in the game as it was pretty uneventful with entertainment at a premium. But cup football is all about getting through to the next round and that is what the visitors did. Moorlands did look competitive however, and if they battle like this for the rest of the season they have a great chance of avoiding the drop, something that looked odds on just a few weeks ago. If only they could get a few more through the gate to watch them.
It was a good night for away sides in Lincoln as City’s youth team went down 1-3 to Hartlepool in the FA Youth cup. Oh well you can’t win them all. 
Did I miss anything in the England game?

Friday, 9 November 2012

Lincoln City 3-0 Braintree Town

In the few weeks there has been a sense, just a sense mind you, that Lincoln City may, just may, have turned the corner. There has been no outpouring of joy and shouting from the roof tops that they are about to romp up the league but there is a feeling amongst City fans that after a recent six game unbeaten run the team/squad may have started to gel.

The unbeaten run we are currently on does contain two games against FC Halifax Town who are a league below City which are matches you would expect us not to lose. On the other side of the coin it also includes a 1-1 draw with a midtable League one side (Walsall) and a fantastic 4-2 away win at Wrexham who at the time sat in second place in the division and were unbeaten at home.  The other two games in this run contained a very eventful 3-3 home draw with Stockport County and a 0-0 draw at Mansfield Town. A game that was so dull and uneventful that even I couldn’t find anything interesting to write about it and thus didn’t do a blog post, which is unusual as it is very rare that I don’t write up the away matches. 

For all the slightly positive signs however the huge elephant in the room is that the club does sit a little too close to the relegation zone for comfort (and how many times have we said that over the past 5 seasons?). Ok I know it’s only November and the League is tighter than Lee Houseman’s wallet when it’s his turn at the bar, but all Imps fans would still like to see City a little higher up the League. Well ideally not even in this League but alas I fear we will be here for quite a while to come. So long as we don’t go down that is. As people often say football is a results based business and tonight was a night when we had to get a winning result otherwise all the good work of the past six matches would have gone down the toilet.  Before kickoff, Braintree sat just below City and were just a point worse off that the Imps. Last season’s match between the two sides at Sincil Bank was one of the better ones of the season ending 3-3. The away game at their place was one of the worst Lincoln performances of the season, and bearing in mind that last season saw lots of poo poo performances from City you can get an idea just how bad it really was. We lost 1-0 and were pretty bloody awful throughout. We did have a stonking good kebab afterwards though, and got a free T-shirt as part of the Blue Square hop treble.
Braintree v Lincoln last season.

As it was an evening match we again went in search of a kebab and tried out an eating establishment on the high street that we haven’t been to before, the afc kebab shop. The name alone would have brought a tear to Felice’s eye. The man in question wasn’t with us tonight as he was away in the big smoke doing a spot of shopping. The kebab was nothing short of fantastic coming in at less than £5. We each went for the basic; Baz with the chicken and myself with the lamb donner. But we were both very impressed and we will certainly be back before the Imps next evening match.
Dinner is served

As we made our way to the Bank it was obvious that tonight was going to be another poor attendance. In the end only 1450 fans (with 30 from Braintree) attended, you could argue that there were mitigating circumstances for this; cold weather, Champions League live on TV, a run of home games etc but it was still a poor turnout in my view and just another reminder how hard it’s going to be to get the fans back through the turnstiles. We have been on a good run of late but it will take a lot more to rebalance five years of rapid decline.

I had half expected City to struggle tonight after the good performance at the weekend but they took the game to the visitors and had the lead within the first five minutes. Jake Sheridan took a shot from outside the box which struck a defender and looped over the keeper into the back of the net. Braintree had set up in a defensive formation, so grabbing an early goal against them changed the outlook of the match. It s rather doubtful that he would have scored if the ball hadn’t taken a deflection and in the papers the next day the goal was given as an own goal. However the dubious goals panel has now awarded the goal to the City midfielder who many fans were surprised that he was resigned this season. His game has improved greatly this year and just goes to show that fans don’t always know best when it comes to signings.
This goal did seem to rattle the visitors who never really got going at all in the first half. Their best effort came from Holdman whose low effort drew a top class save from Paul Farman diving down low to his left and sending the ball out for a corner. At the other end City made plenty of running with Adam Smith a constant problem for the Iron’s defence. Smith does seem to have a great ability to go past people but does seem to try and beat one man too many at times and needs to work on his final ball. Once he does this then we will have a really decent player on our hands.  Although Lincoln had been the better side for the first half we only had a one goal lead to show for our efforts and this, as we all know, can be worrying.

City wrapped up the points in within 5 minutes of the restart.  Adam Smith again went on a decent run and won the Imps a corner. Although Braintree defended the first attack they only cleared the ball as far as Adam Smith. His shot was a tad wayward and was only stopped from going for a throw by Jamie Taylor whose pin point cross picked out Adam Boyce who had stayed up from the corner.  Boyce then got ahead of the last defender and powered a header past the Braintree keeper (Naisbitt) to double the Imps advantage. 47 minutes gone and the Imps lead 2-0.
Two minutes later the points were all but safe. Jamie Taylor pounced upon some poor communication between the Braintree keeper and his central defender to nip in and roll the ball into an empty net. 3-0 and pretty much game over.

The rest of the game was a rather tame affair. Braintree did steady themselves, but never really threatened to get back in the game. Lincoln look like they are really adjusting to this system now and looked confident on the ball. Further chances were created but City just couldn’t find the fourth goal that would have taken them to a goal difference of zero in the goal difference column. Never mind though. This result took the Imps’ unbeaten run to seven matches, gave us a four point gap to the drop zone and lifted us up to 15th place in what is a very congested table.
Earlier in this article I mentioned how this was a game that City had to win and win well, and I am delighted to say that this is exactly what they did. City have been playing with a new found confidence and actually look like a team.  The fans that were there were certainly entertained and it was great to see Lincoln fans leaving the ground with a smile on their faces. Although a 3-0 win over Braintree won’t lead to full houses over night, it is at least another small step in the right direction. Let’s hope we can continue along this path.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Lincoln City 1-1 Walsall

FA cup first round.

Before kickoff I didn’t have a huge amount of faith in City getting a result this afternoon.  On paper it was an odds-on away win. Walsall are in mid table in league one side some 50 places higher than City in the footballing pyramid. I know that people go on about the FA cup being a great leveller and giant killing and all that but in never really happen for City. Walsall haven’t been in great form as of late but they would have seen a tie against a side in the bottom third of the Blue Square premier division as an ideal chance to get their season back on track.  In the end football once again proved what an unpredictable beast it is, as City more than held their own against their lofty opponents from the West Midlands. After putting in their best home performance of the season City can feel a tad unfortunate not to be in the draw for the second round in their own right.

The club has quite rightly in my opinion taken a bit of flack in recent times over the match day experience at Sincil Bank, but there may be signs that club are trying to improve things. The Trust suite (former centre spot bar) has been one area that seems to have gone downhill in recent seasons. The club has tried to address this by changing it back into a place where fans can enjoy themselves before the game and get something decent to eat instead of it just being a barn for drinking in.  We called in before the game for a swift pint and it did seem a lot busier than it has been in recent games. A big factor in this (in my view) is that the club has now got Sky Sports back in, so they are able to show the 12.45pm kickoffs from the Premiership. Today’s game was the Manchester United v Arsenal match which seemed to attract quite a few punters in. I didn’t try any of the food on offer but it’s good to see the club trying to do something different and being proactive in getting fans to Sincil Bank early. A good few Walsall fans were also in the bar and it made a nice change to see a few away fans at a game.

As it was the FA Cup the club had changed the ticket prices to £15 in all areas of the ground, and in another twist away from the norm, they had opened up all areas of the stadium (the club often close certain areas for cup games, much to some fan’s annoyance). We chose to go in the CO-OP stand and sat pretty much in the same area we did in the last round against FC Halifax Town. When given a choice I have always gone behind the goal at City matches but it does make a change to view the action from the side of the pitch from time to time, and when it’s the same price in all areas of the stadium it makes sense to take advantage and get the best viewpoint of the action.

The Imps started the game kicking towards the Stacey West end of the ground but after a few even exchanges Walsall started to take control of the game. As you would expect with a gap of two divisions between the two sides Walsall’s passing and control of the ball was much better than Lincolns, but crucially they weren’t going anywhere with it. Early on in the first half they must have strung about 30 passes together in one move but City stuck to their 4-4-1-1 shape, got behind the ball, and made it hard for Walsall to break them down. In the end the Walsall move broke down pretty much where it had started.  One area where Lincoln were getting a great deal of joy, was the long ball over the top. Jamie Taylor was working the channels very well and was giving the two Walsall centre backs plenty to think about. City had the first real chance when an Alan Power effort smacked the top of the crossbar with Grof in the Walsall goal well beaten. This was then followed up by another long range effort from Lincoln which Grof did well to turn around the post. After 20 minutes or so Lincoln seemed more confident to take the game to their visitors and started to pressure them into mistakes. In midfield big Mo Fofana was running the show; putting in some great challenges, and being very hard to shift when he was on the ball. Walsall’s passing style may have been more pleasing to the eye on the pitch, but in the dugout the Imps were the clear leader in the fashion stakes, with Imps gaffer David Holdsworth going for a smart gangster look in an all black suit with black shirt, while his counterpart Dean Smith; the Walsall manger, looked like a PE teacher from the 1980’s in an all light grey tracksuit.
Back on the pitch and the moment of the game arrived in the 45th minute. Dan Grey sent a smart ball forward which Jamie Taylor beat the defenders to, at the corner of the box. Spotting the keeper off his line he chipped the keeper and the ball nestled into the far bottom hand corner to give City the lead. What had looked like being a good half for Lincoln was now a hell of a lot better.

 HT 1-0

I was expecting a response from the visitors at the start of the second half but although they played with a much higher intensity, they struggled to create any real clear cut efforts on the City goal. Lincoln missed a golden chance to go 2-0 up when Taylor’s effort following a corner was well saved by Grof, and I had that horrible feeling that that miss could come back  to haunt us..and it did.  As with all cup games, when you are leading a higher ranked team you get more nervous as the game goes on, and spend more time looking at the clock. Lincoln were more than a match for Walsall but you are never safe at 1-0. Then in the 87th minute Walsall levelled from the only real attack of the second half. A long throw was sent into the City box and George Bowerman rose above everybody else to head home. The header didn’t look the most powerful but its placement was spot on. Walsall then built up a head of steam for the final few moments and for the first time in the game the Imps looked nervous.  Lincoln did have a chance to steal the win right at the death but Nicolau dragged his shot wide when maybe he could have passed.

FT 1-1

Now I have moaned and been as pissed off as anybody about City this season, but today I don’t think anybody in the Lincoln camp can fault the players/manager in any way today. It was one of the best performances we have seen at the Bank in recent years and the fans responded by providing a great atmosphere.  All of the team played well but for me, the standout players were Jamie Taylor and Big Mo Fofana. The big question is can we do it again in the replay?
Although I would love to say yes I feel that our chance has gone. I just can’t see Walsall being as poor as they were today again, and especially in front of their own fans. However the Retford Imps will be there and it is a trip I am looking forward to. I have never been to the Banks Stadium as it is now called, so it’s another one ticked off the list. Whisper it carefully but we may even have a full car for the trip. Anybody know of any good kebab shops in Walsall?
Whats that you say? We are the only Lincolnshire side left in the FA Cup?

And in other news...

A big well done to Terry Flemming. Lincoln United had a wrenched start to the season but Terry has started to turn it around. The whites have won 3 and drawn 1 in their last four games.

A huge pat on the back to Casey Stoney and Megan Harris who both scooped awards at the FA Women’s football awards on Thursday. Casey bagged the International Player of the Year award and Megan got the Goal of the Season award for her screamer against Arsenal.

Another big well done to Inter Milan who smashed Juventus’ 49 match unbeaten run, and became the first side to beat them in the League in their new stadium. After going 0-1 down in 20 seconds to a goal that was a mile offside, the Nerazzurri hit back with 3 second half goals to record a fine 3-1 victory.  This was Inter’s 6th win on the trot and lifted them to within one point of Juventus in the League standings. Chin up though Felice. At least Celtic won, oh wait hang on...