Lincoln City have become the first non-league side to reach the quarter finals since 1914 after beating Premier League side Burnley at Turf Moor.
The Imps matched the premier league side in every aspect of their game just as they have against Brighton, Ipswich and Oldham but it was a late Sean Raggett header that took the leaders of the National League to the next stage of the country’s oldest cup competition for the first time in the club’s history. The Imps are now one game away from Wembley after a thoroughly deserved win.
The attacking styles and confidence of both teams left the field as an open battlefield but it was Lincoln who proved to have the best weapons in their arsenal.
Both teams were met with roars from the crowd but the Imps fans were the loudest as they saw their team enter the fortress that Burnley have made Turf Moor into. The Clarets have won 29 of their 30 premier league points at Turf Moor.
Despite Burnley’s six changes from the team that drew with Chelsea at the weekend their team was strong as there was plenty of premier league quality in Jon Flanagan, Joey Barton and Tom Heaton.
Lincoln made two changes to their side that managed a win at Woking as Billy Knott was cup tied and a surprise change saw Jack Muldoon come in for new signing Dayle Southwell who had a tough game showing in their last game missing a penalty.
It became clear that Burnley would try and exploit Gray’s pace from the off as little flicks were put over the Lincoln City defence for him to run onto.
He warned the defence in the first minute as he sprinted onto a ball which left Bradley Wood standing and charged at the keeper. However, Luke Waterfall kept a calm head to usher the ball back to Paul Farman.
Burnley weren’t the only ones with a pacey forward though as in the 4th minute Muldoon had a chance of his own courtesy of Nathan Arnold. After fooling James Tarkowski with a fake shot the wide man had an opportunity at goal but chose to lay off the incoming striker who connected but sent it just over the goal.
The Imps didn’t look to back off the premier league side despite being the visitors to a side four divisions higher than them. Danny and Nicky Cowley’s side pressed the opposition’s defence and midfield hoping for the opposition to slip up whilst still maintaining a strong formation. Target man Matt Rhead dropped deeper into the midfield to play a supportive role in getting the ball to the running Muldoon. This was similar to how Lincoln’s top scorer for this season played alongside FA cup hero Theo Robinson who left to join League 1 Southend on transfer deadline day.
Muldoon looked sharp and offered more than a good shot as in the 15th minute he played a hopeful pass to the far right corner and almost found Nathan Arnold in a similar position to when he scored the winning goal against Ipswich last month.
Lincoln did show the Clarets opportunities from mistakes but the opposition failed to make the most of them and that would come back to haunt them.
At the centre of the war there were a series of controversial battles. The first came in the 16th minute as Lincoln City veteran Alan Power made a strong sliding challenge which saw him get a lot of leg and no ball. The Irishman got a yellow card meaning that the Imps’ midfield powerhouse would have to be careful for the remainder of the game.
The challenge ended the game for Gudmundsson as he was replaced by George Boyd who was an instrumental part of their 1-1 draw to Chelsea at the weekend and added more pace to their wide game.
Chances were coming thick and fast and Sam Vokes was met with a clear opportunity in the 18th minute as a long ball from England ‘keeper Heaton got knocked down to the striker who has scored seven in all competitions but he couldn’t convert it, sending it flying over the bar.
The first save didn’t come until the 26th minute as Scott Arfield’s backheel flick went beyond the Lincoln defence and fell to Gray who put a strong shot at Paul Farman. However, the man in pink was quick to react and kept the ball glued to his hands.
It was like the times of old as target man Matt Rhead knocked a high ball down to Muldoon in the box. The striker reversed into Michael Keane and one turning sweep at the ball would have seen a shot on target but Tarkowski came and nicked the ball before his foot made contact.
Hearts were in mouths as Luke Waterfall didn’t get a strong enough connection with the ball only sending it as far as the edge of the area where Joey Barton was waiting to spoil the party. The ball travelled in slow motion from Barton’s foot eventually into the safe hands of Paul Farman in the middle of the goal.
With two minutes of added time left in the first half the sense in the David Fishwick Stand, home to the Lincoln City fans was that taking a draw into half time would be a monumental achievement completely oblivious to what they would witness in the second half.
The story of the second half was another battle between Rhead and Barton. The Burnley midfielder that signed on a free transfer in December seemed to tread on the Imps striker’s foot and then simulate that he had been hit in the face. However, where most players would have lost their heads the experienced 32 year old kept his head and got the last laugh.
The fans felt cheated in the 54th minute as James Tarkowsky fouled Matt Rhead without much contact with the ball and only received a warning.
Throughout the second half it was Lincoln that were frustrating the opposition with Arnold consistently crossing into the Burnley box. That passion came into fruition in the 68th minute as after attempting to retrieve the ball from a floor bound Alex Woodyard Barton slapped Imps winger Terry Hawkridge who then got pushed over by Jon Flanagan. The ex-Liverpool midfielder came away unscathed but Barton received a yellow card for his antics.
Things got scrappy in the box as the Imps seemed to tire leading to sloppy scrambles in the Lincoln box. With ten minutes to go Farman came fifteen yards out of his goal to deny Barton twice in the box. It was Burnley’s best chance and one that they would look back on in frustration.
Set pieces hadn’t been capitalised on for the whole game until the 89th minute and there was no better time to do it. Sean Raggett scored a dramatic late winner against Forest Green Rovers earlier in the season but it’s fair to say that this goal far surpasses that. Habergham’s corner found Waterfall on his own just inside the box. The defender headed it to the back post where Raggett was waiting to head the ball past Heaton. However, after the England ‘keeper pushed it out, the stadium went silent for what seemed like an eternity waiting for the referee’s arm to point towards the centre spot and as he did… Turf Moor erupted.
Jamie McCombe came on to settle the team down and despite pressure from Burnley they made it through five minutes of extra time to the final whistle.
The scenes were electric, the belief carries on and the magic of the FA Cup has been restored. All courtesy of what used to be a little lost city in Lincolnshire.Tweet