Now that’s what I call a cup tie: Imps 3-2 Northampton

The magic of the FA Cup is still alive and well in Lincolnshire, our hopes of another cup run are too after a scintillating and hotly contested first round victory at Sincil Bank.

If we’re going to kick off with a cliché or two, it truly was a game of two halves, with one half showcasing the very best of Lincoln City, whilst the second proved to be a topsy-turvy affair which had enough drama and excitement to fill a whole game on its own. Once the floodlights have powered down and the doors are locked for the night, we’re in the second round.

It was far from straightforward, it wasn’t always pretty but once again, Danny Cowley’s Lincoln City showed resilience and fortitude when it mattered against a very good side. Northampton might be in the bottom half right now, but if they’re not top ten at the end of the season I’ll be gobsmacked.

I had been vocal prior to the game about how I felt we should treat this as a league match and play our full strength side and so it came to pass. I’d seen plenty of calls for Matt Green to start after his brace in mid-week, but I ask you where? Who do you drop? John Akinde, arguably one of the best players on the park last week? Shay McCartan, a different type of striker who currently fits our system? I feel as bad as anyone for Matt Green, he’s a player I’ve championed since the minute he joined the club. Right now, he’s showing great attitude but our first choice pairing is John Akinde and Shay McCartan.

It’s testament to how far we’ve come when a crowd of 6,000 is considered a poor effort and I’m not going to start fan shaming on here. It is a shame we couldn’t break 7,000 or more, but with so many games in close proximity it’s no surprise we struggled for a gate. Before anyone on social media does think to moan about the numbers, remember today’s ‘poor’ crowd was three times our National League average. Across the country, FA Cup first round weekend shows a down turn in attendances, not just at the Bank.

Those who didn’t go, or indeed those who couldn’t, missed a cracking first half from City. The football was slick, free-flowing and at times Northampton looked like a side who deserved to be in the bottom half. Their big lump at the back, Aaron Pierre, looked nervy and we probed down both flanks hoping to expose a weakness. The wingers were exceptional, the full backs similarly as effective. Before anyone calls out James Wilson, for a centre half he was once again functional at right back. On the other side, the Toffolo and Andrade combo was brilliant to watch at times.

It was those two who combined wonderfully to open the scoring on 15 minutes, not long after Akinde had fired just wide. A smart exchange of passes set Toffolo free and his cross was inch perfect, right across goal at pace. Harry Anderson still had a job to do, stealing in from the flank to finish emphatically. With John Akinde effectively playing as a lone striker, the wide players have to get in where they can and the goal had an element of our winner against Forest Green. We’re dangerous from the flanks, however we manage to work the space and a quality delivery causes problems.

Harry Toffolo – Courtesy of Graham Burrell

Harry Toffolo is someone I’ve occasionally thought could do better defensively, it would be harsh to levy that this afternoon as he was exceptional. When he’s running at defenders and combing with Bruno it’s like we’ve got two wingers on the field, going back to the days of having an inside left and an outside left. The tactic relies on them working hard tracking back and I’d love to see how many miles the full back ran today, not just around his goal, but all afternoon.

On the other flank Harry had a bit more running to do, but James Wilson turned in a solid display, functional as I believe I’ve already said. In the middle of the park both Pett and O’Connor were working hard and we should really have scored more.

Shay McCartan was up to his usual tricks, making penetrating runs, one from the left hand side caused the Cobblers all sorts of trouble. Like a blowtorch through ice cream, he found himself right on the edge of the six yard box and needing a smart finish to make it 2-0. His smart effort was low, but forced a great save from David Cornell. 

Northampton rarely troubled at the other end, but on a rare foray forward Josh Vickers was forced into a superb stop. His shot stopping is first-rate, 99% of the time and his instinctive fingertip save kept the game at 1-0. As the first half drew to a close that one chance was perhaps all the opposition had to show for their 45 minutes work, whilst in truth we could, and should have been leading by more.




  1. Excellent write up Gary! My concern recently has been the lack of support for John Akinde. Today he had much more. I also thought Shay McCartan was man of the match and by a distance. Have to say though the save from Josh Vickers you refer to was breathtaking! Morais was an idiot. In his frustration he clearly aggressively hauled Tom Pett to the ground after the ref blew. Whilst I thought we should have had a pen when Shay was bundled over in the are I thought the ref was excellent. Consistent and considered. Added to the game by letting it flow.

  2. Cobblers fan here in peace. I must say how refreshing it is to read such an unbiased account of a game from an opposition fan. For what it is worth all our fans and the paper write-up were saying how outstanding your lad McCartan was today. All the best for the rest if the season, i can definitely see you staying in the top 3

    • Hello Joe, thanks for your comments. I do try to be objective when I can. It’s all too easy to see things through rose-tinted glasses. I’ve liked you boys since the opening day, you’re not far away. I sense a title challenge next season.

  3. Difficult to disagree on this game as most things were quite clear to see. MacCartan was clearly MoM in my eyes and certainly should have had a penalty as well.
    I do however think describing Wilson as ‘functional’ is harsh. We all know he’s not Neal Eardley, but yesterday was one of his best games. He was sound defensively and got forward much more and to much greater effect than in recent games. His link ups with Harry were much better and it was his pass to Akinde that set up Pett’s goal. He is another player who just seems to have a lot of doubters but yesterday was possibly one of his best games in a Lincoln shirt …. so fair play to him!

  4. Thanks for another well-informed analysis of the match, Gary. As a lifelong Imps fan (first match was back in 1955) now living in New Zealand I welcome these measured insights into the games.

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