The Mighty Imps made it to the third round for the second time in three years with a strong and organised win against a decent Carlisle side.
After all of the discussion this week around various subjects, there was a superb togetherness in the ground, reflective of the Lincoln City we know and love. The game started with a tribute to Kevin Austin and I think it only right for me to do the same. I was behind glass for the match today, courtesy of my good friends at Running Imp, but the poignant minute’s applause was still as moving. To hear one last chant of ‘Super Kevin Austin’ brought a lump to my throat and, if I’m honest, I had to stifle a tear.
Prior to that there had been much discussion about the starting line up and, as predicted on the podcast this week, Rhead and Green started up front. I’m not sure it was to take anyone out of the firing line, rather a chance for a couple of good League Two strikers to stake a claim for a first team place. It was also great to see Lee Frecklington back in the side, a player as important to us as anyone.
Other than that it was business as usual and rightly so. The prize money for today was £60k I’m told, a January transfer fee maybe, or just a nice boost for the coffers. We’re not bathing in money, contrary to public belief and anything we spend has been earned the right way, on the pitch and by player sales. When there’s a pot of gold like that waiting for the winner of a game, there’s a strong inclination to take it seriously.
Besides, it is the FA Cup and we were 90 minutes away from round three, maybe another Ipswich clash or something similar. If we weren’t going to play a strong side for this game then something was wrong.
What we needed to do was come out punching, fly out of the traps and give Carlisle a bloody nose before they knew what the situation was. If we could do that, it shakes their game plan and gives us the momentum to grab that money and that place in the draw. It is fair to say we took the initiative.
One of the attributes we showed in the National League season was early goals, something I feel we lacked last season, so to see us with (and I’m sure Danny will have said this at some point) an energy, intensity and purpose was refreshing. The two recalled players had a hand in it too, Matt Green laying the ball to Bruno, his whipped cross nodded home by Matt Rhead. It was a classic Lincoln goal, the sort of open play goal that resembles a set piece, delivery into the box.
What that did was put Carlisle right off their stride and for the next 25 minutes or so I thought we might go on and get two or three more. there was a zip to our play, not scintillating or as refined as we have been but a real desire. You could say we wanted it more, but I’m sure it was more a case of us feeling the pressure building on the visitors.
When we didn’t add the second though, they came back into it and perhaps for the next twenty minutes we rode our luck a bit. Bozzy and Shackell were excellent, but behind them Josh Vickers was showing why he’s our number one keeper. He made a couple of very good stops, not only that he made sure anything loose into the box was picked up and dealt with.
We do like to sit off the opponent and occasionally that seems to invite pressure on, but Carlisle’s spell didn’t end in anything really clear cut. They showed they were a decent side, their movement from right to left hoped to open us up but, like a bad TV series, we weren’t easy to get into at all.
I was in the executive boxes with Chris and Josh Illsley of Running Imp and they were tasked with picking today’s Man of the Match. It was hard because despite us playing well, nobody truly stood out. Bruno and Harry Toffolo looked good on the left, but for the final twenty minutes not much went out that way. I thought the visitors did a good job of keeping everything very narrow, nullifying the threat. Had we not hit them early and bloodied their nose I suspect it would have been frustrating, but whilst they subdued us they didn’t get anything meaningful away of their own.
I thought Freck was having a good game, my old man tells me he rated Tom Pett in the first half; Neal Eardley made some good deliveries and Harry Anderson was his typical bullish self. Nobody grasped the game by the scruff of the neck and demanded to be noticed, but everyone was putting in a shift. It was, for want of a better word, a functional first half.
The best way to sum up the opening 45 was that the goal defined it. After we scored we didn’t need to throw caution to the wind and they didn’t want to be opened up and go two behind, so neither side pushed forward too hard. There were chances at both ends, it was engrossing, but both sides knew the crucial period was after the break.
Next Up: A better second period