The EFL Cup clash with Port Vale this evening is something of a nightmare for pundits and bloggers alike. There’s no set pattern to how a team approaches these games, no firm idea of possible line ups and certainly not games to be called on the current form book.
Lincoln City do buck the trend a little, last season we put up a good fight against Rotherham at this stage and went on to have a good season, but early shocks are not uncommon. The lack of seeding has meant we’ll face Port Vale at the same time Sheffield Wednesday face Sunderland, giving the competitions even more mystique.
Gone is the two-legged affairs such as the last time we played Vale, themselves a third-tier side at the time. We triumphed on away goals over two legs in 1993/94, Tony Lormor’s brace enough to secure us a 2-2 draw at Vale Park. That led to another two-legged tie against Everton, City losing 8-5 on aggregate against their full first team.
Tonight, the tie will be settled on 90 minutes no matter what happens and if it is a 2-2 draw again, penalties will settle proceedings. If we were to draw Everton it would mot likely be a reserve side and again, 90 minutes would settle it. The competition has been remodelled to be as unobtrusive as possible, making it far less of a spectacle, but no less of a chance for a smaller club to shine.
Indeed, when we faced Everton all those years ago, Paul Rideout and Tony Cottee almost ensured we were going no further. The current situation makes a cup run likely as the early stages are littered with weakened sides. We know how badly that can affect good teams from our FA Cup run.
Still, as Notts County face a weakened Middlesbrough tonight, as QPR boss Steve McClaren threatens to break the mould and name his strongest eleven at Peterborough, we only have breadcrumbs laid by Danny to base our own analysis on.
Here are three things we feel you can expect from tonight’s game, but three things perhaps not to expect as well.