The festive season may be over but Friday night was like Christmas Eve for many Lincoln City fans. I know how they felt – I struggled to sleep too!
A mixture of excitement for the big FA Cup tie and fear that I might over-sleep and miss my early coach to Suffolk meant I spent most of the night wondering how Lincoln would compete against an Ipswich team that play their football three divisions higher.
Well the Imps players answered that question emphatically. From the minute they ran out to warm up and were met by the wall of noise from the Lincoln City fans there was a feeling in the air that an upset could be on the cards.
As the coaches with all of the Imps fans approached Ipswich, we were given a police escort to the stadium. The locals wondered what was happening – its not everyday that they get 5,000 away fans turn up for a match. In fact, the last time Ipswich saw so many away fans was in 1992 – I wasn’t even born!
I don’t claim to be a long-suffering Lincoln City fan. I’m far from it; I only moved to the city in September 2015. But I’ve been to Sincil Bank regularly since then and I’ve heard and I’ve listened to talk of the club’s history; the great Graham Taylor days are fondly mentioned but in recent years relegation from the Football League have made life as an Imps fan quite tough.
Even as I sat and watched the team last season, with attendances at Sincil Bank rarely reaching 3,000 fans, there was a sense that the club was *slowly* on its way back.
And now the dynamic duo of Danny and Nicky Cowley have accelerated this progression. They’ve moulded a team which is defensively solid but also quick and lethal in attack – a difficult blend for any manager to find.
The Imps are top of the National League and with this amazing cup run as well, belief is growing in the city. This was proven on Saturday when the only noise that could be heard in Portman Road was being made by the Lincoln City fans.
The belief was shown in the team’s performance too. City were more than a match for Ipswich. After surviving early pressure from the home side, the Imps settled and when Theo Robinson scored, Imps fans were in dreamland.
The bubble was briefly burst when Tom Lawrence equalised for Ipswich but the Imps continued to hold their own. Alex Woodyard shone in central midfield, as he has done for most of the season. Nathan Arnold and Terry Hawkridge caused problems on the wings and striker Matt Rhead bullied the Ipswich defence all day.
But it was Theo Robinson who popped up to put Lincoln in front again midway through the second half. The shock was on. Ipswich fans sat watching in disbelief. For Imps fans, time seemed to stand still. I was watching through my fingers as Ipswich pressed for an equaliser. An equaliser which they eventually found just a few minutes from time.
At this point I would normally say City hearts were broken. But they weren’t; they’re not. The Imps held a Championship team and really should’ve won the match. That should give them great heart and even more belief ahead of next week’s replay.
As mad as it sounds, Lincoln are favourites to win the replay in my opinion. Its predicted that Sincil Bank will be sold out. The city is behind its football club again and I think that’s a force which a struggling Ipswich team won’t be able to stop.
The fourth round draw takes place this evening which could add even more incentive for Lincoln City to win the replay. Imagine drawing Manchester United or Liverpool (I could go on and list loads of teams)!
The odds on Lincoln City to win the FA Cup are 2000-1… its an impossible dream isn’t it? If football fans have learnt anything from Leicester City’s Premier League triumph last season; its that nothing is impossible!Tweet