After the penalties win against Chelsea on Tuesday, City now have to get themselves ready for League action, putting any thoughts of Wembley on the back burner until the week before the trip.
Cambridge won’t be an easy prospect tonight. Their relatively lowly league position belies the ability of player they have at their disposal. I, rather embarrassingly, tipped them for promotion this season. That might not happen, but they’re more than equipped to take all three points this evening, taking the gloss of our midweek achievements.
Last season we committed many heroic cup feats and, after each one, we performed relatively well in the league. After the 2-2 draw with Ipswich we went to Gateshead in the FA Trophy and won 3-1. After the Ipswich replay we faced Dover, on a Friday night, and on 2-0. After despatching Brighton we went to Solihull and won 1-0, similarly after Burnley we did the same to North Ferriby. The only match that ended the run was Arsenal, after our 5-0 defeat at the Emirates we lost two games, technically beating York over 90 minutes in the FA Trophy but losing the tie after extra time. The less said about that the better.
We don’t normally suffer from post-achievement defeat syndrome and I don’t for one second think that Danny will allow the player’s mentality to affect the outcome. He’s very canny is our manager, making sure to lay plenty of caution carpet for fans to walk to the game on, but he’ll know his players have the right attitude to treat this as any other game. There’s also a lot been said about the Tuesday to Friday turnaround, although I do agree it is only a few hours different to a Saturday to Tuesday. If we do lose this evening, it won’t be because we’ve got one eye on Wembley.
What is particularly interesting is that a win this evening really lays down a challenge to those teams directly below us. If we do get three points we shall have a six-point cushion from ninth to tenth, effectively drawing a little line under us and the chasing pack. Would that demonstrate that the race for the promotion spots is between nine teams? Possibly, there is a lot of football to be played but often these mini-leagues emerge. Which one will we be a part of come ten tonight?
Statistically, according to footstats.com, we’re likely to either draw 1-1 or lose 1-0. They do a simulation model based on previous results, but most of their predictions are for odd-goal wins. That is odd considering the last time we shared a single goal draw was Barnet, previous to that the last single goal league game was Colchester. If there’s one thing we do tend to bring to the table, it is goals at one end or another.
That bring us to the pertinent question, who will start in goal? It may seem a no-brainer that Ryan Allsop, our penalty save hero of 70 odd hours ago, is a shoe-in, but it depends on how Danny sold the switch to Paul Farman. In my eyes, the Checkatrade Trophy has always been the game in which the ‘second’ keeper gets a game. Was Farman dropped for his Swindon performance, or will he be reinstated to number one this evening? It is actually quite a crucial decision. If Farms loses his first team place to a keeper brought in on loan within a couple of days, it sends quite a serious signal to him about his squad status. Rest assured, both are good keepers and whoever plays will have the support of the fans, I hope.
The referee is always a factor and tonight we welcome Darren England to a Lincoln match for only the third time in his career. He’s proven to be something of a lucky charm for City. Interestingly, the first Imps game he officiated in was a National league clash with Cambridge, we beat them 1-0 at the Bank thanks to Ben Tomlinson’s penalty and he sent off Ryan Donaldson for the visitors. The following season he was back at the Bank, you might remember us beating the Cods 3-2 thanks to a late Hamza winner? It was the first taste of ‘proper’ atmosphere at the Bank in a long while. The season after that Mr England was promoted to the Football league and he currently spends his Saturdays taking charge of Championship games. The last match he took charge of saw Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich beat Sunderland 2-0.
One stat that does favour s in tonight’s game is the time the two sides usually score and concede. We score more often in the second half of games which fits with Cambridge’s habit of conceding in the second half. However, 61% of their goals come in the second half, whilst only 30% of our goals conceded away from home are in the second period. We do get much stronger and efficient after the break, but Cambridge don’t start well at home which could give us something of an advantage.
I’m sure history has little place in tonight’s game, but we have won slightly more of our clashes with the U’s. We’ve got 13 wins compared to their 12, with 14 draws. Hardly convincing, is it? There hasn’t been more than two goals scored by either side in one of our matches since 1997 when Phil Stant, John Robertson and a Jody Craddock own goal gave us a 3-1 win. Their most recent win over us was August 2013 when a solitary goal beat us 1-0 at their place, Alan Power sent off late. Our last win was Darren England’s game from the same season.
Whatever happens, there will be a phenomenal number of Imps fans in the ground tonight, last I heard we’d all-but sold out our entire allocation, meaning almost 1,700 red and white shirted fans making the four-hour round trip. That is League One class, let’s hope the team bring the same quality because if they do, we’ll possibly be as high as fifth by the time everyone else kicks off tomorrow.