You can read all about the match in whichever national paper you choose to take today. I chose to take anything where the title of the paper isn’t written in red, and almost all of them celebrated our wonderful achievement of yesterday. They mentioned a few of the key points, as I’m going to, but in the main they focused on what we’d achieved. As you know I like to focus on how we did it as well.
Now let us be 100% honest – if the two teams were in the same league the match would have been classed as a dour 1-0 win. Neither side created many real chances, City perhaps had two and Burnley had a few more. It was a tight, closely fought game of chess, each side looking to out-muscle each other to gain the upper hand.
The fact there was 80-odd places between the two adds context to what we achieved, certainly enhancing our role in the game and taking a lot away from Burnley. It wasn’t a classic, but it looked to me like two relatively evenly matched teams cancelling each other out. I imagine that is exactly what Danny wanted.
We started the first fifteen with a real intensity as we usually do, and that always stands us in good stead against higher placed opposition. Before the match I chatted to some people who said ‘not conceding was the key’ to getting them rattled. The longer the game went on, the more likely we’d be to snatch the draw. Danny Cowley doesn’t let his teams sit back though, and it was a surprise to all but just over 3,000 fans in Turf Moor when we created the first opening. Influential winger Nathan Arnold loaded the bullets, only for a wicked little bobble to cause Jack Muldoon to shoot over the bar.
If we thought it was the calm before the storm we were wrong, despite their top-flight status and comparatively expensively assembled squad, Burnley didn’t really look like ever over-running us. Joey Barton was a key player in the midfield for them, but he looked to be ‘sinking’ to the non-league level rather than rising to the occasion, or at least that is what the papers say. Aside from maybe Sutton and Barrow I haven’t seen many teams apply the sort of tactics Barton does, and to say he sank to our level is an insult to the National League and its players.
I expected more from Andre Gray, he had a first half shot held well by Farman. Barton hit a stinging volley as well, but Farms was in no mood to play the role of ‘lower league keeper’. I’ve always said the difference between keepers as you move up the divisions is smaller than the difference between outfield players, and Farman certainly didn’t look non-league as he took the venom out of Barton’s volley.
Three portions of fifteen minutes down, three remained. The second half saw City shooting towards the David Fishwick stand, and the vocally active assembled travelling contingent. By then former Peterborough man George Boyd was already on the pitch. Boyd was a former target of Keith Alexander, and I felt maybe he could turn the game. He couldn’t.
Someone had to try and change something for Burnley. Despite it being named a ‘much changed’ side, most of the players on display had made 10 or more appearances in claret and blue this season. On-loan Liverpool defender Jon Flanagan has only made five, but he has made 40 for Liverpool during his tenure there. He was lucky to stay on the pitch after shoving over Terry Hawkridge in a tempestuous and passionate second half. As we know Joey Barton was very lucky to stay on the pitch, whether for the shocking dive (yellow card) or dragging his nails down Hawkridge’s face in the same incident as Flanagan. As for the ‘stamp’ on Rheady, it was petty, blatant and perhaps more at home in the Sunday League, but for me it wasn’t a red. It was deliberate, he tried to tread on Rheady’s toe twice, succeeding once. The outcome was Joey Barton looked like a prize pillock in front of the TV cameras.
All the pantomime and distraction actually helped Lincoln break up the flow of the game. As it wore on I thought perhaps Burnley began to edge it. Maybe the high-intensity pressing game of City started to take its toll on our players. They ran every inch of grass, ensuring that Burnley, who had more of the ball, had little time to do anything with it. I thought Raggett and Waterfall were excellent, maybe even better than that. The full backs complimented perfectly too, working incredibly hard all day. Every Burnley attack was snuffed out one way or another, whether it was a Bradley Wood foot, a Luke Waterfall head or an Alex Woodyard tackle. Those players, to a man, never stopped working. If we ever had to go to war in trenches again, I know I’d want to be in the Lincoln City battalion, because those boys put everything on the line for their team mates.
A special mention must go to Power and Jack Muldoon, left out of the side for the game against Woking I thought both had good outings. Muldoon was restricted to having an impact whenever the ball came forward, but once again Alan Power looked like a player used to playing on a bigger stage. I can’t enthuse enough about him as a player, his attitude and application has always been wonderful. I’m delighted he played a key role in our little slice of history, it is just reward for his loyal and unwavering service to City.
Andre Gray was perhaps the villain of the piece for Burnley. For £9m there was very little to differentiate between him and Muldoon. Both were willing runners, both missed a chance (in Gray’s case a couple) but only one of them has already scored past Liverpool, Arsenal and Middlesbrough this season. On another day the former Luton man might have had two as the second half wore on, but a combination of superb defending and the odd slice (of luck, or off his boot) meant the scores remained 0-0 going into that final chunk of the final fifteen minutes. Five and three-quarter sections through the game and Lincoln were holding on for a famous draw. Pah, famous draw.
An Imps corner swung into the box was manhandled out of play. Was it another corner? No, it should have been a goal kick. Them’s the breaks I’m afraid, and when the second one came over it was nodded back across goal by Luke Waterfall, where his partner, comrade and colleague Sean Raggett was on hand to nod past the so-called England goalkeeper. Why the keeper was clawing the ball away from a yard over the line, who knows? Whatever the Burnley defence were doing wasn’t sufficient either, and the watches on the referee and linesman buzzed to indicate a Lincoln goal. That moment hesitation before it was awarded must have lasted an eternity for Raggett and his team mates. All I can say is thank the lord for goal-line technology, otherwise we might be talking about ‘what could have been’ or we might be cast in the role of desperately unfortunate underdogs today. we’re not though.
The Imps hung on, as the ball hit the back of the net Jamie McCombe was already taking off his track suit top. He knew what was required, another towering centre half, a man with experience and calmness to just help those tiring legs. I’m not convinced Burnley looked like ever getting back into the game at that point, and when the referee finally blasted on his whistle it was clearly a case of ‘job done’ for the Mighty Imps. They went with a game plan, they stuck to it, executed it perfectly and established Premier League players had no answer for it.
I’ll blog about the perspective of a visiting fan later, but for now I’m going to watch a replay of the goal, I’m going to listen to Michael Hortin’s now iconic commentary again, and I might even laugh at Joey Barton. Again, again, and again.
photos courtesy of Graham Burrell