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.
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.
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...