It’s just after 6:30pm on Sunday evening, and three of the four ties for the FA Cup quarter-finals have been drawn. Packed into the Travis Perkins Suite in Sincil Bank, hundreds of Lincoln City fans were waiting for their fate.
Ball number one, their ball, remains in the bowl. So too does ball number four, that of Sutton United or Arsenal.
Once Millwall were drawn away to Tottenham Hotspur, Imps fans realised they would, in all likelihood, be facing Arsenal in the next round. If the cheers then were loud, they erupted even further when ball four came out next, and ball one swiftly after.
It was then confirmed by Arsenal defeating Sutton last night that Lincoln City would be going to the Emirates Stadium in the quarter-final of the FA Cup.
There were tears at full time at Turf Moor, and more weren’t far off in the Travis Perkins Suite. City fans realised their next game in the world’s most famous club cup competition would be at one of England’s finest stadiums, against the FA Cup’s most successful club.
And what a draw it is for the Imps. The away allocation is expected to be around 9,000, and for Lincoln to pack out that away section would be testament to how far they’ve come under the Cowley brothers’ stewardship.
If the Burnley draw was a little anticlimatic, then a trip to the Emirates is at the opposite end of the spectrum.
Sutton caused Arsenal a few problems last night and there’s no doubt Lincoln could do the same.
Saturday’s battle between Joey Barton and Matt Rhead was fascinating, and having watched that Arsene Wenger may look at playing Per Mertesacker to deal with Rhead’s aerial threat.
Whether Wenger picks a full strength side remains to be seen, but on the evidence of Saturday he may need to play Ozil, Sanchez and other first-teamers.
Burnley’s full strength Premier League strength attack didn’t have enough guile and craft to unpick the Lincoln defence led superbly by Luke Waterfall and Sean Raggett. Arsenal may just need their first choice front line to do what Burnley couldn’t.
And then there’s the sentimental aspect.
Lincoln’s run to this stage has been nothing short of incredible and Danny Cowley’s men deserve nothing less than to play against some of the Premier League’s best players.
But the Cowleys won’t think about that yet. First there is a title challenge to strengthen and an FA Trophy to progress in. The fans may dream ahead to the Emirates but one thing is
for sure, the players and management won’t.