Lincoln City have reached the fifth round of the FA Cup for the first time in 130 years, after they beat Championship leaders Brighton at Sincil Bank.
Goals from Alan Power and Theo Robinson, as well as an own goal from Fikayo Tomori, sealed the Imps’ historic 3-1 win, despite the Seagulls taking the lead through Richie Towell.
The last time Lincoln City faced Brighton in the FA Cup, it was 2003, and the two sides faced off in the first round, with the Imps defeating the Seagulls 3-1 at Sincil Bank.
In that game, the Imps raced to a 3-0 lead before the Seagulls scored a consolation, but this time, the game would be played out much differently.
This game felt like a boxing match, with the heavyweights of their respective leagues, Brighton top of the Championship and Lincoln City top of the National League, throwing punches back and forth.
A mesmerising mosaic by the Lincoln City fans before the match ramped up the atmosphere in the Bank however the fans were silenced when Brighton threw the first punch in the second minute after target-man Glenn Murray headed just wide from right-back debutant Tomori’s cross.
Tomori had only joined the Seagulls from Chelsea this week, after completing a loan move until the end of the season.
Sincil Bank then erupted in the ninth minute as Theo Robinson finished past ‘keeper Niki Maenpaa after captain Luke Waterfall found himself on the right-wing and expertly crossed for the striker.
However, the Jamaican international was offside and the finish didn’t count.
Robinson continued to have a frustrating half, with his touch off and his passes inaccurate and with him and Matt Rhead unable to keep possession for the Imps, it gave their opponents the perfect impetus to get into the game.
And it did, Brighton could’ve been ahead on the 18th minute after midfielder Solly March beat two Imp players in the middle, and after marauding forward, unleashed a fierce shot from 30 yards, only to hit the crossbar.
The Seagulls were then rewarded for their persistence, as winger Connor Goldson lobbed the ball to Murray. The former Premier League forward used his experience to head on the ball just ahead of Towell, who half-volleyed in.
The half ended 1-0, however as any City fan would’ve witnessed this season, the Cowley brothers have instilled a hardness and a belief into their side that has rarely been matched at Sincil Bank this season.
The Imps started the second half in the perfect way as a penalty was given by referee Andy Madley on the 53rd minute, as Robinson was held and then pushed by Murray in the box.
As a result of Murray’s push on Robinson, the forward collided with Brighton ‘keeper Maenpaa, who was then substituted due to a shoulder injury.
After six minutes of waiting, walking around, composing himself, former captain Alan Power stepped up and as time stood still at Sincil Bank, the midfielder was unfazed as he coolly finished in the bottom left corner.
The two sides then sparred for the next nine minutes, before City made it 2-1, thanks to an own goal by Fikayo Tomori after Arnold’s cross into the box. The right-back and U-20 England international had only just joined the Seagulls this week as he sealed a loan move from Chelsea, but he was helpless to stop Arnold’s low, driven cross.
Despite losing 2-1 to a non-league football club, Brighton didn’t mount much of a fight-back, but they did have one chance on the 77th minute, when the ball fortunately fell to Murray inside the box, and his shot, which had Farman beaten, was heroically blocked by Sean Raggett on the line.
Brighton were then made to pay 11 minutes later, for their lazy and careless handling of possession at the back, which was capitalised on by Lincoln’s high press.
After regaining the ball, putting through Robinson, who effortlessly slotted past substitute Ankergren and for the third time, Sincil Bank exploded with glee.
It was Robinson’s seventh goal of the season, and his goal took the steam out of the Seagulls’ sails, and despite one last opportunity for substitute Tomber Hemed, forcing an excellent one-handed save from Farman, City expertly maneuvered eight minutes of added time without any trouble.
The final whistle blew and for the last time on the night, 8,078 Lincoln City fans cheered and celebrated as their side knocked out Championship leaders Brighton, to make the fifth round of the FA Cup for the first time in 130 years.
This is only the 8th time a non-league side has made it through to the last-16.
A delighted Imps boss Danny Cowley believes his side took confidence from their first half performance despite going a goal down.
Cowley said after the game: “It was a fantastic second half, we set a new benchmark in terms of our levels, but we were pleased with our first half performance.”
“The fact we had 12 turnovers against a Championship was fantastic and we knew if the players continued to press, we’d get our chances.”
Cowley also reflected on what this win meant for the city of Lincoln.
“I think it’s difficult to put the win into context, we should have something profound to say but we don’t,” Cowley said.
“For me and Nicky, this is a great football club, and a great football club is made by great people.
“It’s caught the imagination of the community and after today, it brought Lincoln City into the people’s hearts.”
Brighton manager Chris Hughton reflected on the result by saying his side deserved the win based off their performance, but commended Lincoln on capitalising on the Seagull’s mistakes.
“It’s a result I couldn’t see at half-time, but if you concede the goals that we have done, which were all very poor goals, then it is very difficult to win any game,” Hughton said.
“If I look at the result, the only difference is that they didn’t make the mistakes that allowed us to score, but we did, and that was the only difference in their side.
“Did they perform better than us? No.”
The Imps will receive over £100,000 for reaching the fifth round, taking their total income from the FA Cup to well over £600,000 so far this season.
They’ll find out who they face in the next round of the competition on Monday evening, however the Cowley’s will now turn their attention to Tuesday’s game away to Solihull Moors in the National League.