The Giant Killers

Every F A cup giant killing since 1888

All time greatest F A cup giant killings

Number 47

 

Lincoln City 3-1 Brighton & Hove Albion

Fourth Round: Saturday January 28th 2017

Sincil Bank, Lincoln

Attendance: 9,469

Scorers: Richie Towell {24}, Alan Power {57-pen}, Fikayo Timori {62-own goal}, Theo Robinson {85}

 

Number 10

 

Burnley 0-1 Lincoln City

Fifth Round: Saturday February 18th 2017

Turf Moor, Burnley

Attendance: 19,185

Scorer: Sean Raggett {89} 

 

 Donald Trump spent his first week in office as US President making a series of controversial decisions. UK Prime Minister, Theresa May had the distinction of first world leader to meet with Trump since his inauguration, Ed Sheeran was dominating the charts in the top two spots with ;Shape of You' & 'Castle On The Hill', Netflix's latest TV hit saw Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf in 'A Series Of Unfortunate Events', The record equalling Oscar nominated 'La La Land' was the cinema hit with nominations for its stars, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, while the movie and Racing worlds mourned the passing of actor, John Hurt and Grand National winner, Many Clouds.

Despite a history that boasted the unenviable record of having spent the most seasons in the Football League without reaching the top flight, Lincoln City had never enjoyed the experience of defeating a top flight side in the FA cup. Another unwanted record was their record of having lost their League status more times than any other club. Usually they bounced back relatively quickly but when their League place was lost in 2012 the club began to face the threat of sinking to the sixth tier of the game as they struggled in the Football Conference.

The appointment of Braintree Town manager Danny Cowley in 2016 suddenly brought a remarkable change in fortune. After two early defeats, The Imps spent the Autumn sweeping aside all comers to roar to the top of the National League, formerly known as the Football Conference, and the gateway back to the Football League.

Cowley’s team topped the table during both August and September with a side made up largely of players with limited Football League experience like captain, Luke Waterfall, keeper, Bradley Wood, the former Irish Under 21 International Alan Power and other former League One and Two experienced players like Alex Woodyard, Terry Hawkridge and Jack Muldoon. Club top scorer, Nathan Arnold had a backup career as a barber while strike partner, Matt Rhead also had some League experience

. Only the former Jamaican International, Theo Robinson had ever experienced the big time, making a solitary Premier League appearance for Watford a decade earlier. Even then it was the two former League Two players, Matt Rhead and his full-time barber come strike partner Nathan Arnold who provided the goals. In defence the club had Jamie McCombe, who once suffered the heartbreak of missing out on the big time when Bristol City lost a Premier League promotion play-off final. Cowley also made use of the loan market to bring Reading’s Irish Under 21 International Sean Long to the club.

The Imps’ FA cup campaign kicked off in October with a difficult Fourth Qualifying round tie against fellow National League side Guiseley, which required a replay before a Theo Robinson brace saw them into the first round.

National League North Altrincham were the next visitors in round one but this time City dominated with goals from Sean Raggett and Alan Power before a late Altrincham goal gave an unrealistic balance to the result.

Lincoln now found themselves in the second-round draw or the first time in five years and another home tie, this time against League One strugglers, Oldham. The Imps went into the tie having won all four League games they had played since their cup victory over Altrincham and were now on a fourteen-game unbeaten run. The BBC sensed a cupset and duly sent their cameras to see another day that would belong to Theo Robinson. For the second time in the run he bagged a brace, sandwiched with a gift of a goal for Terry Hawkridge to give the Imps a sensational three goal lead, although Oldham’s League One class almost came to bear as they fought back late on to almost snatch a replay at an increasingly foggy Sincil Bank. Visibility stayed just about good enough and so did Lincoln’s nerve for a 3-2 win to reach their first Third Round draw in seven years.

The Imps’ unbeaten run had come to an end by the time they travelled to struggling Championship side, Ipswich on third round day. 5,000 Imps fans made the trip to Portman Road, intent on a good old fashioned cup day out and got just that when Theo Robinson completed his third brace of the cup run. Twice the former Jamaican International put the National League leaders in front, much to the particular delight of the delirious Radio Lincolnshire commentator, Michael Hortin.

In the days between the cup tie and replay, Lincoln's legendary former manager, Graham Taylor passed away at the age of seventy-two. The future England Manager began his management career at Sincil Bank and was still the last man to take the club into the fourth round of the cup forty-one years early. Fitting then that, on the night the club paid tribute to Taylor, the men of 2017 emulated his 1976 team in impressive style. On a night when Mick McCarthy's Ipswich side were simply awful, Lincoln repeatedly failed to turn their dominance into goals with Dean Gerken producing one fantastic first half save when it seemed certain the deadlock would be broken. That stop set up a tense finish as a rare Ipswich attack resulted in a dangerous free kick as the game ticked into stoppage time with all in the stadium and watching on TV feeling that a goal now would be cruel to deny the Non-League side an extra half hour, not to mention an unexpected late night for the BBC's News at Ten team. The Championship side threw extra bodies forward in the hope of achieving just that but when the poorly effected set piece broke to Adam Marriott he suddenly found himself deep in his own half but with just one blue shirt between he and the Ipswich goal. With a hopelessly exposed Ipswich defence desperately trying to get back into position, Marriott showed great composure to not race on himself, instead checking his own break before laying a great through ball to Nathan Arnold who equally calmly rounded the defenceless Gerken before slotting into the empty net to clinch the victory and a fourth-round tie against Championship high flyers, Brighton. 

Lincoln were now national news, though it was a little surprising that their big day against the Championship leaders missed out on the live TV cameras. Instead Chris Hughton, a cup winner with Tottenham in the early 1980s, brought his promotion chasing side to Sincil Bank for the traditional 3pm kick off.

Not surprisingly Chris Hughton placed winning the Championship over winning the cup and made nine changes from his Championship side that won a League game three days before the cup tie. With yet another League game to come in the following midweek, Houghton took the calculated risk of resting the majority of his first choice eleven but left his regulars, Norwood, Sidwell,and Murray in the company of highly experienced players at Championship level like Finnish national keeper Niki Maenpaa, along with Connor Goldson, Uwe Hunnemeier, Richie Towell and Solly March, Canadian and Czech Internationals Sam Adekugbe and Jiri Skalak with the side completed by the talented young debutant, Fikayo Timori, signed a few days earlier on loan from Premiership leaders, Chelsea. This was not a team selected by a manager showing disregard for the cup but instead a quality second string worthy of the potential Championship Champions.

The first half of the tie certainly suggested that Hughton’s calculated risk would pay off as Glenn Murray forced a good save early on before Solly March cracked the crossbar. There was little surprise when Rchie Towell fired Brighton into a deserved lead midway through the first half and half time came with the visitors looking firmly in control.

The second half however saw the visitors capitulate in sensational fashion as they presented three complete presents to the home side. The second half was twelve minutes in when Brighton suffered a double whammy of their own making. A looping Lincoln free kick into the box was aimed at Robinson but Glenn Murray made certain he wouldn’t get there by wrestling him away. In doing so he not only gave away a needless penalty but also managed to put Robinson in the way of the onrushing Maenpaa who fell awkwardly and would have to leave the field with an injured shoulder. Albion’s third choice keeper and goalkeeping coach, the vastly experienced Casper Ankergren. The long delay in replacing the keeper didn’t faze Alan Power, who sent the new custodian the wrong way to level.

Five minutes later the game was turned on its head with another Brighton catastrophe in defence. This time Max Arnold’s dangerous cross into the box was turned into his own net by the debutant, Tomori. If Brighton hadn’t been charitable enough, they offered a touch of gloss to the victory with five minutes of regulation time remaining. This time the gift was presented by Uwe Hunemeier as his dreadfully poor clearance was snapped up by a hungry Lincoln forward line to present Robinson with his seventh goal of their cup run.

The tie was still technically far from over as the referee’s assistant confirmed eight minutes of stoppage time to allow for the long delay for Maenpaa’s earlier injury. It was one hundred and fifteen years since the Imps had appeared in the draw for the last sixteen of the competition and were now set to be in the hat where the possibility of a tie against one of the London or Manchester giants remained. 

In a sensational fifth round draw, all eight remaining top flight teams were kept apart as all eight remaining lower division sides were offered a chance of a cupset. Lincoln's task seemed tougher than most, despite having missed out on the five title chasing big guns from London and Manchester, an away day at Burnley looked like nothing more than a nice day out.

Sean Dyche's Clarets might not have been among the title chasing class but they appeared in a reasonably comfortable mid table top flight position. For their fans, a home fifth round tie against one of the two remaining Non-League sides provided an opportunity to surely cruise into the quarter finals and hope that some cupsets might be on the cards elsewhere to take them one step away from Wembley and a semi final appearance the club hadn't enjoyed for over forty years. 

The Clarets's Premier League quality had come most to the fore at their own Turf Moor with just one side from outside the title chasing six having left there with the points. Title favourites Chelsea had been the most recent visitors, having to settle for a point. Dych made six changes from that side though three of those changes came through a combination of a trio of players being cup tied, suspended and injured. His starting eleven still consisted of England Internationals, Tom Heaton and John Flanagan and the once capped veteran, Joey Barton, Euro 2016 stars, Johann Berg Gudmundsson of Iceland and Sam Vokes of Wales, The Scot turned Canadian International, Scott Arfield and Andre Grey, a man who knew all about the Non League pulling off shocks at top flight clubs as he had been part of the Luton team that did it at Norwich four years earlier. Such was the quality of Dyche's side that none of his starting eleven had less then fifty top flight appearances under their belt. Surely even an in form Lincoln hadn't a prayer.

An expectant Turf Moor rose to applaud their players onto the field as they were accompanied by some of the club's oldest fans rather than the more usual youngsters as mascots. Many of those mascots may well have been at the ground forty-two years earlier when the Clarets were victims of one of the great slayings at the hands on then Non-League Wimbledon. But then, so few were the occasions that a top flight team has lost to Non-League in front of their own fans that the chances of it happening to the same club twice?

Over 3,000 Imps fans were optimistic enough to suggest that the huge weight of history running against their side could be overturned. It was 103 years since Non-League QPR had played in a cup quarter final, something no side of their stature had done since. The pedantic would point out that back in 1914, Non-League was third tier had since been represented in the semi finals. The fifth tier, by contrast had never seen a club of their ranks emerge victorious from a fifth round tie.

Another factor working against the Imps was the loss of the cup talisman, Theo Robinson, lured back into the ranks of the Football League by Southend on transfer deadline day. Jack Muldoon, a late substitute against Brighton, would start against Burnley.

The game was barely five minutes old when those travelling Lincoln fans were left to question if they might have been a goal up had Robinson been on the pitch as Sean Raggett laid on a great chance for Jack Muldoon, who blazed over under pressure, though Darikwa deserved credit for reading the game well enough to get in and apply sufficient pressure on Muldoon as he teed himself up.

At the other end Burnley were kept at arms length for the most part with only Andre Grey and a speculative Joey Barton effort stinging the hands of Paul Farman. At half time it was expected that a rather subdued Burnley might get an earful from Dyche and while their second half tempo certainly seemed improved, their finishing was wasteful. the best chance came to Andre Grey from a free kick but the forward fired wide when seemingly losing his bearings of where the goal was.

The growing main feature of the game was an ongoing and increasingly rugged battle between Lincoln forward, Matt Rhead and Burnley's ever colourful Joey Barton. At one point Barton appeared to try and stamp on Rhead twice within seconds as they awaited a throw in before hurling himself to the ground when literally running into Rhead's outstretched hand. The referee remained unmoved by both men's appeals but was compelled to act later when Barton yet again was at the centre of an altercation that almost developed into a full pitch brawl. All was settled with only a yellow card for the controversial Claret.

That adrenaline rush threw extra impetus into the dying minutes of the tie as it began to look like Premier League fitness was starting to tell against tiring fifth tier limbs. Lincoln looked stretched as arguably their two most impressive players, Luke Waterfall and Sean Raggett now put in their hardest work of the tie to keep the Premier League side at bay. The urgency was now with Burnley as the clock ticked towards a replay at Sincil Bank that would have been a huge story in it's own right.

Lincoln's centre backs had other ideas though and both went up for a 90th minute corner when perhaps their counterparts at most other fifth tier clubs might have decided on more caution. A deep whipped in corner troubled the Burnley defence who surprisingly made little appeal when the referee pointed for another corner when the ball went behind off a green shirt.

Lincoln were a side who worked hard on their set pieces in training and this time employed their deep corner routine. Luke Waterfall didn't have time to properly appreciate quite how much freedom he'd been given in the Burnley penalty area as he headed back across goal to his defensive partner, Sean Raggett whose header was pushed away by Heaton. The Lincoln players all raised their hands to celebrate a goal before turning for a moment to look at a linesman who didn't appear to be giving it. They were looking at the wrong official though and the Burnley players all turned their heads to a referee who motioned to his watch to signal that the goal line technology, which Lincoln's level of League Football didn't have, had done it's job. His watch vibrated to signal that the ball had crossed the line and pandemonium ensued behind a goal where the Lincoln fans were situated.

It was a goal of surely perfect timing but as the goal was scored, the fourth official's board signalled five minutes of stoppage time. Burnley again poured forward, now trying to spare themselves from humiliation. A trip to Sincil Bank was suddenly very appealing and yet again it was Andre Grey who spurned the best chance to try and salvage a reply as his own personal battle with Paul Farman was going to end as a personal defeat.

To their credit the Burnley fans rose to applaud a day almost as black as when Wimbledon had vanquished them forty-two years earlier and Sean Dyche was full of praise for the manner with which Lincoln had gone about their game plan. At the same time he was critical of his own team's inability to reach their own Premier League capability. Danny Cowley described his team's performance as a Football miracle. And indeed it was as Lincoln became the first Non-League team in the modern era to have a date with a cup quarter final.

And it could have been an even bigger story as the other Non-League side in the fifth round, Sutton United were paired with Lincoln in the quarter final draw. The only fly in the ointment was a certain London club named Arsenal. Alas that tie was played the day after the draw with Arsenal's Premier League class telling. The title chasing Gunners had the quite amasing statstic of a cup run that involved playing Non-League sides in the last sixteen and last eight.

For Lincoln it was that dream tie every Non-League giant killer prays for. To take the field in front of over 60,000 at Ashburton Grove.

Lincoln vs Brighton: 1:Paul Farman, 2:Bradley Wood, 5:Luke Waterfall, 25:Sean Raggett, 3:Sam Habergham, 28:Nathan Arnold, 8:Alan Power {Replaced by 27:Jamie McCombe 90 +8}, 30:Alex Woodyard, 11:Terry Hawkridge, 9:Matt Rhead {Replaced by 12:Sean Long 88}, 31:Theo Robinson {Replaced by 7:Jack Muldoon 87} {Manager:Danny Cowley}

Changes vs Burnley 

Jack Muldoon came in for Theo Robinson [Replaced by 31:Dayle Southwell {64}, 38:Joe Ward [81st minute sub for Hawkridge], McCombe on for Rhead {90 +1}

That stop set up a tense finish as a rare Ipswich attack resulted in a dangerous free kick as the game ticked into stoppage time with all in 
Attendance: 9,054
Attendance: 9,054

Brighton: 1: Niki Maenpaa {Replaced by 16:Casper Ankergren 56}, 27:Fikayo Tomori, 18:Connor Goldson, 4:Uwe Hunemeier, 44:Sam Adekugbe, 21:Oliver Norwood, 14:Steve Sidwell, 8:Jiri Skalak, {Replaced by 15:Jamie Murphy 68}, 29:Riche Towell {Replaced by 10:Tomer Hemed 68}, 20:Solly March, 17:Glenn Murray {Manager:Chris Hughton}

Burnley:  1:Tom Heaton, 27:Tendayi Darikwa, 5:Michael Keane, 26:James Tarkowski, 4:Jon Flanagan, 25:Johann Berg Gudmundsson {Replaced by 21:George Boyd}, 18:Ashley Westwood, 19:Joey Barton, 37:Scott Arfield, 7:Andre Gray, 9:Sam Vokes {Replaced by 10:Ashley Barnes 73}: Manager:Sean Dyche