Lacklustre Imps Bow Out – Chippenham Town 1 – 0 Imps

Credit Graham Burrell

Ah yes the first weekend in November, FA Cup first round weekend. The Imps away at Non-League National League South side Chippenham Town with a whole 78 places between the two teams, what could possibly go wrong? Writes Samuel Rowson.

Lincoln fielded a competitive team to face the North Wiltshire side which on paper had enough quality to win the game, but in classic FA Cup fashion Lincoln were undone late on in the first half and lost 1-0 courtesy of an inventive finish by Chippenham’s Joe Hanks. And thanks to questionable officiating, squandered chances and a lack of luck in the second half Lincoln couldn’t muster a response. As a result they bow out in Round One for the first time since 2019 when we lost to fellow League One outfit Ipswich Town.

There is one thing that needs to be mentioned before we delve into the game as a whole, and it’s this- as supporters of Lincoln City we know what this round means to Non-League teams. As not too many years ago we too were just that. We were in the National League being drawn at home to Plymouth hoping for an upset, going down to Whitehawk expecting to get a win. And more often than not we were on the wrong end of the result. However on the opposite side of the coin we have had great memories in the last 5 years in the FA Cup and feeling the same as the Chippenham Town fans. With that shear elation when you beat a team higher up in the English pyramid. The FA Cup is a great leveller, we weren’t the only League team to be beaten by a Non League outfit this weekend and I can assure you we wont be the last either. I was thinking back to the seasons prior to the Cowley-Era and the many Lincoln horror shows in the FA Cup. And unfortunately todays game falls into that category. One for the history books of The FA Cup and for Chippenham Town no doubt. One for us to forget.

As the team news dropped there were a few noticeable absentees from the squad, the on-loan duo of Jack Diamond and Jordon Garrick were unable to play due to their parent clubs in Sunderland and Swansea not granting them permission to be fielded. Walsh and House were also missing, Walsh sticking to his one game a week routine and House could have potentially picked up an injury. With Mandroiu out for at least a few more games with his hamstring injury, it left the door wide open for someone to make their mark on the game and cement a place in the starting XI going forward. It was also mentioned pre match that Rushworth despite not being concussed was being treated as such and the club were following the correct procedures. Which meant a start in goal for Wright with Bishop returning in midfield alongside Sanders and Sorensen. Draper also started up top to add more youth to the side.

Credit Graham Burrell

My thoughts on the starting XI were that we seemed slightly light in other forward options but considering our recent results I thought the return of Bishop and Draper might be enough to see us through to the second round draw. Especially considering our recent run of defensive performances, and on the assumption that we would be able to dominate possession and really limit them to very little. The decision to bring back Sanders into the starting line up made me feel confident that with him, Sorensen and Bishop in the middle we also had enough experience to dominate the proceedings. And after the last home game vs Accrington I wasn’t worried about our lack of creativity in the final third. The one thing I had overlooked it seems.

We set up for this game with a familiar formation of a back 5, which when scanning through twitter caused a few fans to raise an eyebrow. However this formation if played correctly can allow you to throw more bodies forward in attack and in turn be extremely effective in defensive positions. We only have to look back to previous games to see the fruits of this tactic. However for me personally as the game developed (and I know Kennedy came out in his post match to defend the formation) I would have liked us to do what we did in the second half from the off. Play with a back 4 and to have more possession with purpose in the final third to help assert our dominance more than we did. As in the first half we were very pedestrian, we needed to move the ball quicker between the lines and really threaten the home side.

We did however start the game in a confident and assured manner keeping the majority of the ball for the opening exchanges, but this was without really threatening the Chippenham goal. It was clear from the off that we would keep possession and try to find the pockets of space in between the defensive lines. A few forays into the opposition box resulted in a couple of half chances however it wasn’t Lincoln that fired the first warning shot. On 14 minutes the first warning came when Alex Bray’s cross looped and cracked the top of the cross bar. This was swiftly followed moments later by a surging run into the Lincoln box by Russe. This attack resulted in a corner which Wright had to save. With this steady flow of attempts on goal and half chances the home side grew more and more into the game and grew in confidence as a result. The longer it stayed 0-0 the more belief the home side gained.

It seemed that as the home side were gaining in confidence we were almost shrinking into a shell of our former selves with a free kick by Vernam summing up the first half performance. In which the ball was hit so far that it went out for a throw in on the opposite side of the pitch. In these games as the underdog you really need to stifle your opponent, limit them to very little and frustrate them and while Chippenham were able to do that our first half performance made it even easier for them. A spate of late first half attacks for the home side lead to the opening and only goal of the tie. An in swinging corner controlled and subsequently back heeled into the net by Joe Hank. A well taken finish but as Poole mentioned in the post match interviews the defensive unit as a whole could have dealt with the passage of play better.