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.
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.
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
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.
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.
I love a good replay.