There’s no doubt that the FA Cup is a competition we are not going to win, but many observers see the clash with Burnley as a game that might provide an upset. It’ll be a different ball game to knocking out Championship reserve sides though, but can we get a result?
My gut feeling is that it might be a step too far. The team have performed brilliantly over the last few months, and simply being in this position is a testament to the hard work that has been put in at the club this season. Valiant defeat wouldn’t be the end of the world, but there might be a way Lincoln can grab a result.
Burnley have a tremendous home record, and the fact Sean Dyche has been in person to watch us speaks volumes about the preparation his side will be making. If anything both Brighton and Ipswich under estimated us, Brighton in particular. The indifferent home crowd at Portman Road helped immensely in our draw there, at times it felt like we were the home team. The Ipswich fans were disgruntled before we even showed up, and eventually the outcome was perhaps less of a surprise that it should have been.
The home fans on Saturday will not be turned as easily, and the draw against Chelsea last weekend will only serve to heighten their belief even more. Unlike a regular home game though they’ll need to do more than soak up pressure, they’ll be forced to have possession of the ball and create chances. It might not entirely match their usual game plan, and when you change your method it can go wrong.
I’m sure we’ll go 4-4-2 as usual and give it a go in the style we’ve become accustomed to seeing. Very few non-league sides would go to Premiership opposition and be so bold. It caught Ipswich out, but I doubt it will do the same to a well managed side such as Burnley.
On our day though we can compete with just about anyone, but the loss of Theo Robinson will be noticed. He put in an awful lot of running, and his pace frightened the Championship sides, especially Ipswich. Matt Rhead was virtually unplayable, and Theo running off him created serious issues.
I’m not sure Dayle Southwell offers the same as Theo, and it will be interesting to see if he can get close enough to Matt Rhead to make a difference, and indeed if Rheady can be as effective as he has been in the last three FA Cup games. If he can, then it might be that Burnley haven’t scouted that particular route to goal because we haven’t seen it properly ourselves. Dayle will be benefitting every day from being at Lincoln, and if this is the week that he’s made a breakthrough with our ‘method’, then it might just surprise a few.
The other key factor will be the player that plays at the head of the diamond we seem to operate in midfield. Alex Woodyard will be as industrious as ever, but the player behind the front two will be crucial. It’s almost certain that Alan Power will play that role, and that will change the dynamic a little from Woking this Saturday. We seemed to be disjointed at times in the 3-2 win, and I think that balance was affected by having two new players in the side. If Alan does start it will alter our pattern significantly from Saturday, and maybe again it will catch Burnley by surprise.
Outside of those two small margins there is very little we can do but work hard, stay on the game plan and hope we catch Burnley on a bad day. It isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that we snatch a draw, it’s certainly more realistic than Sutton beating Arsenal. My only issue is that we can’t rely on our opponents taking the game lightly this time around.
I’m more than a little concerned about some of the travel advice. Not showing colours in your car, police on horses and a warning to stay out of all pubs in the area doesn’t bode well to travelling Imps. I didn’t think this was the 1980’s and I hoped that a non-league side travelling to a Premiership side would be greeted warmly. Ipswich fans were top drawer when we went there, but by the sounds of things we shouldn’t expect the same again.
I do hope that the warnings are mere over reaction, and that the game will encapsulate everything that is good about the FA Cup, and the size of the occasion for us. For Burnley the FA Cup is a viable route into Europe. and this game to them is akin to our clash with Altrincham in the earlier rounds. We were full of praise for the visitors that day, and we welcomed them into Sincil Bank as the plucky under dogs and appreciated guests. I sincerely hope we get the same courtesy afforded to us in the North West.