Imps v Newcastle U21s – How Do We Qualify and Who Plays?

Tonight is one of those games I just can’t bring myself to attend.

As you all know, I’m not backing the boycott; I sit on the fence regarding that. I can see why the competition sparks people’s anger, but there are far bigger threats from the Premier League, which people seem happy to ignore. Global expansion of the Premier League, a second Premier League division and lifting the 3pm blackout are all bigger threats than us having to stage matches against Under 21s, and I’m happy to boycott all Premier League matches and interaction for that reason.

Anyway, I’ve said that enough recently. Tonight, it’s still Lincoln City in EFL trophy action, and whilst I won’t become a number in terms of attendance, it’s likely I will help Lincoln City with the costs of staging such a match by buying an iFollow pass. What’s hilarious (and here I go again) is I guarantee I’ll see Lincoln fans claiming not to go to the game on principle, but who will be at home paying to watch Forest at Brighton on BT. If you want to watch that, fine, but don’t then talk about boycotts or principles or anything because, believe me, you don’t have a leg to stand on if you would rather give money to a TV company than Lincoln City.

I know; I’ll get to the point of the article. I do apologise, I’m a ball of rage at the moment away from football, and it seems my anger manifests itself into verbal attacks on supporters with confusing principles.

Credit Graham Burrell

Anyway (we’ll try again), tonight is the Imps’ chance to qualify for the next round of the Papa John’s Trophy. Some might say we don’t want to, but there’s £10k at stake, with a possible £20k for the next round and £40k for the round after that. I guess that’s why we often see League Two clubs doing well; that sort of money is bigger to a Harrogate or Sutton than Ipswich or Sheff Weds. To a club like us, any income is good income, so we do need to get through.

How do we achieve that? Well, the league stands like this at present, so exactly what we need is absolutely clear.

Newcastle Under 21s are out of the competition, so they come to Sincil Bank looking for nothing but to salvage a bit of pride. Barnsley are already through because whatever we do, they finish above Doncaster. It is therefore between Doncaster and us as to who goes through.

Credit Graham Burrell

Lincoln Win – We Top The Group

A Lincoln win in normal time would be enough to secure not only passage to the next round but top spot in the group. Having analysed the prize money, I don’t see it being an advantage to win the group, aside from getting a home tie in the next round. Essentially, beat Newcastle Under 21s, and we go through and get a home tie in the next round.

Lincoln Win on Penalties – We’re Through

A draw would only be enough if we won the penalty shoot-out. Let’s say we draw 0-0, then win on penalties; we’d go through. That’s because second place is decided on goal difference, not the head-to-head, so despite Doncaster beating us a couple of weeks ago, we’d have five points (one for the draw and the extra one for winning the shoot-out) and a +2 goal difference.

However, we’d finish on five points, behind Barnsley, so we would be drawn away from home. If the draw then pitted us against an Under 21 group winner, we’d play at home – last season, Aston Villa Under 21s won their group and were drawn against a runner-up (Charlton) to play away. At present, youth sides from Everton, Leeds and Wolves could win their groups, whilst Manchester United Under 21s have already won theirs. If all four ended up topping their groups, and we finished second in ours, then we’d have a 60% (ish) chance of being at home (eight groups, but we could get Barnsley, so seven, with a possible four Under 21 sides).

Credit Graham Burrell

Any Other Result – We’re Out

Any other result would see us eliminated; a draw and penalty defeat or a straight defeat, and it is all over. Do not pass Go, do not collect £20k for winning in the next round, and do not play a youth team in competitive action for another 12 months or so.

What To Expect Team Wise

It’s fair to say there will likely be a few changes for this evening’s encounter. If I were a betting man (and I’m not anyomore), I’d say we’ll go with our 4-3-3 formation, and look a little something like this, injuries depending, of course. Jordan Wright, Jay Benn, Jamie Robson, Paudie O’Connor, Regan Poole, Lasse Sorensen, Tashan Oakley-Boothe, Max Sanders, Charles Vernam, Jordan Garrick, Freddie Draper.

In an ideal world, we might get some minutes into Danny Mandroiu, which could see Garrick deployed through the middle – I’ve gone for Draper as I think we’ll look to nurse House through the week. It’s more likely we’ll start with Garrick through the middle and either Diamond or Mandroiu on the flank, I guess (I’m writing this on my proof read and changing my mind), but much depends on who came through the weekend in good shape. I’m not sure how far away Tom Hopper and Jacob Davenport are, or Joe Walsh, but it would be nice to see one or more of them involved as well. Jovon Makama and Morgan Worsfold-Gregg haven’t been involved recently at their loan clubs either, so we might even see them from the bench.

I’d imagine we’ll keep Poole and O’Connor as our centre-backs – Adam Jackson has been known to pick up a knock, and of the three, he’s the one we might rest in midweek to get to Sheff Weds and go back to our three central defenders.

Credit Graham Burrell

Can We Do It?

I’d bloody hope so. Newcastle Under 21s haven’t scored in the competition yet and were soundly beaten 2-0 by Barnsley. They were held by Doncaster, 0-0, and in fairness, we should have brushed the League Two team aside at the Bank and not even be worrying right now. I also think with players such as Tashan, Lasse and Garrick in the team, we have first-team players with a point to prove. Our back four will have three League One regulars in (Jamie Robson has been unlucky), so really, it’s all about up top. Can Charles Vernam stake a claim for a first-team place as he slides towards being a bit of a forgotten man? Whoever plays through the middle must use physicality to bully the younger players, and whilst they might have plenty of pace in their youthful legs, our experience should be enough.

However, if we play as we did against Doncaster a couple of weeks ago, this will be the last article mentioning words like ‘boycott’ and ‘Under 21s’ for a good ten months or more.