All Killer, No Filler: Bowers and Pitsea to Visit Sincil Bank

As we discussed the FA Cup draw yesterday, I said my ultimate choice would be a non-league team from below the National League.

That’s not born out of any complacency or anything like that. I don’t think for one second when a name comes out of the hat it should be easy, no matter who they are. Sure, we’ve beaten Bracknell and Billingham Synthonia in the past, but we’ve also lost to Emley, Telford and Stafford. No, my choice isn’t a misplaced sense of superiority, but because a new name means a memorable game and a sense of what the FA Cup is about.

We’re always told there’s magic in the cup, and for a short while in the 2016/17 season we were like Hogwarts, churning out enough magic for everyone. However, the likes of Forest Green and Plymouth last year typified what I always felt was a Lincoln draw, a team one league below or the same, usually away from home. We made short work of the Village People, but Plymouth away? Just our luck. I remember going out to the likes of Rochdale and MK Dons in the past, those being the sort of ties that are filler in the draw. This year has the filler ties; Bradford v Exeter, Morecambe v Newport and Gillingham against someone I’ve literally forgotten clicking from one window to another. All filler, no killer.

Filler games only the club’s fans remember – Courtesy Graham Burrell

Not us, oh no. We’ve got a team that, to fans of the EFL and no lower, sounds like an accountant or estate agent. Those who like to patronise non-league football will claim they probably have an accountant or estate agent in goal, something like that. What it is, aside from a voyage of discovery for someone who just loves football, is something of note. We won’t just be trying to brush Carlisle and Northampton aside in repeats of league games to get to Round Three. We won’t be celebrating a win in the FA Cup, only to lose two weeks later in the league to the same team and moaning about how we’d prefer three points. No, we’ll have a bona fide cup draw against a team that is pleased to come to Sincil Bank and see us as a big draw. They do too, look at the reaction.

I’m delighted we’ve got Bowers and Pitsea, who play in the Isthmian League, which is a feeder league to the National League South. They’re essentially the same level as Gainsborough Trinity, but here is a word of caution; they’re in the same division as Carshalton. If that doesn’t make you shudder, nothing will.

This is their ‘cup final’ if you like, although, with their run to the First Round, they’ll be hoping they get more cup finals, as we did in 2016/17. It’s not a ‘free hit’, not by a long shot, and whilst you’d imagine we may take the opportunity to protect one or two players, there will be no complacency. There are some Imps links – Bowers and Pitsea were formed by two clubs merging in 2003, and before that, Steve Tilson played for one of those clubs, Bowers. Billy Knott was there last season as well, but he’s moved on. Other than that, don’t expect names you recognise, but do expect a team filled with confidence and belief, a team who probably need that £22,000 prize money much more than we do.

I wanted to use a picture of one of our connections, and I’d never choose Tilson – Courtesy of Graham Burrell

However, if you’re also expecting an easy ride, don’t forget Emley in 1997/98 (as if I ever would). Don’t forget Telford in ’85, Altrincham in 88/89, Stafford in the early nineties, hell, even Kettering back in 07/08. Sure, we’ve dismissed Bracknell, Welling, Stevenage and Billingham in our time, but aside from maybe Bracknell, there’s been no really easy games. This one won’t be any different, but I’ll bloody love it. A lot more than I’d love Plymouth away, that’s for sure.