Lincoln deliver ‘Turf Magic’ and create history
Well… where do you start. Lincoln City of the non-league had a trip to face Sean Dyche’s Burnley for a chance to reach the quarter finals of the FA cup. The last time a non-league club reached that stage of the competition was a mere 103 years ago. Could Lincoln write a new chapter in the history books?
Lincoln’s line-up was very similar to the side that has saw off Oldham, Ipswich and Brighton. One major alteration was Jack Muldoon who filled the boots of the recently departed Theo Robinson. Burnley made six changes but still fielded an extremely strong side with the likes of Welsh international Sam Vokes and Andre Gray featuring in the starting eleven.
The odds were definitely in Burnley’s favour, a team performing fantastically in the Premier League and were coming off the back of an impressive draw against high-flying Chelsea. Lincoln though have been in imperious form, losing only 2, in 27 games.
The match started and the familiar Lincoln press was very noticeable. It in fact lead to the first great chance of the game. A poor Tom Heaton clearance was intercepted and Nathan Arnold found himself one on one with the Burnley defender. Arnold found the composure to square the ball to City striker Jack Muldoon, but he could not provide the finish necessary. A bright start though for Lincoln who would have gained confidence that they got behind the Burnley back line as early as they did.
What was clear from the start was that this FA cup tie was going to be gritty, hard fought and would come down to the side that really wanted it more. Strong tackles were a recurring theme with Alan Power maybe being a little too forceful as he received the first yellow card of the game, and in the process ended Burnley’s Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s day who could not continue. Burnley set out a game plan of being very direct. Vokes unsurprisingly was the focal point acting as a target man with Gray looking to play off him. The aerial threat of Vokes was very effectively being nullified by both Lincoln centre half’s Sean Raggett and Luke Waterfall.
Only half chances were falling Burnley’s way with numerous shots sailing over the bar or wide of the Lincoln goal. Andre Gray also had his shot comfortably saved by Paul Farman, and so too Joey Barton who struck a volley expertly but it was straight at the Lincoln stopper. That was arguably Burnley’s best chance of the half. Despite Burnley having more possession, Lincoln still were asking questions with the pace of Muldoon and Arnold posing a continuous threat. A gruelling first half ended with the sides level at the break, a very even half with both teams having opportunities to open the scoring.
Burnley came out quick after the interval. Farman had to be really brave to deny the on rushing Arfield. Barton also delivered a perfect free-kick for it only to be sent wide by the usually clinical Andre Gray. From then on Lincoln really started to grow in confidence, long spells of the ball and plenty more crosses into the ever dangerous Matt Rhead.
Whenever Joey Barton is playing, you know there is always a chance for controversy. Rhead and Barton all game long were a part of a physical battle with each other. But referee Graham Scott had a decision to make with Rhead claiming Joey Barton stamped on him, whilst Barton himself was on the floor holding his head. Replays showed Barton blatantly faking a head injury supposedly inflicted by Rhead.
“I wasn’t trying to get the big man sent off” claims Barton but it was obvious for everyone to see that he was. A few minutes later, Graham Scott had to make another big decision with an incident again involving Joey Barton, John Flanagan and Terry Hawkridge. At real time, it would have been near impossible to call what happened. But it looked like Barton potentially scratched Hawkridge and then the Lincoln man was pushed to the ground. Tempers boiled over as both sets of players were involved with some pushing and pulling. A fiercely competitive match, a true FA cup tie.
Burnley started to find a little foothold in the game with ten minutes to go. Tiredness, fatigue and concentration would all be tested, so it was imperative for the Lincoln players to have one last push to the full-time whistle. Who knows, maybe even score a late goal in the process. Burnley though were looking threatening and defender James Tarkowski might feel he should have done better when he headed over the bar from close range.
Down the other end went Lincoln. A testament to the fitness of the players who still had more to give. Lincoln won a corner in the 88th minute, surely they couldn’t, could they? The ball was whipped to the far post but Waterfall was not able to direct his header goal wards. A slice of luck perhaps as Lincoln were awarded another corner.
A corner routine straight from the training ground saw Waterfall again break away from his marker, he headed the ball back towards the Burnley goal. Cue the pandemonium, jubilation and sheer anarchy as Sean Raggett was on hand to head the ball over the line. Tom Heaton nearly kept the ball out but goal-line technology showed the ball had crossed the line.
Lincoln were in dreamland and were on course to break a 103 year wait for a non-league club to reach the quarter finals of the FA cup. A nervous five minutes was in store but could Lincoln hold on? A great flick on sent Andre Gray through but some spirited Goal keeping saw his left footed shot saved by Paul Farman. More resilient defending from Lincoln meant they could see out an unforgettable result.
So, Lincoln’s FA cup continues after they defied all odds and surpassed Premier League Burnley. Lincoln thoroughly deserved to book themselves into the next round. Lincoln’s performance was inspirational and nothing more than what they deserve. All the hard work and tireless days have paid off in what is one of the biggest FA cup shocks in recent history.
An unbelievable moment in football. A once in a lifetime moment. Well done Lincoln City.