If you’d have said to a Lincoln City fan at the beginning of the season that they’d be top of the National League, in the Semi-Finals of the FA Trophy, and would have a place in the Quarter-Finals of the world’s biggest club competition, the FA Cup, chances are they’d have laughed in your face. However, this is now reality for the Imps, and they might just be starting to dream.
After being relegated from the Football League in 2011, Lincoln have struggled in non-league’s top division. They have finished in the bottom half of the table for the past five seasons in the National League, but a well-needed change of manager in the summer has turned the Imps fortunes around completely.
Danny Cowley was appointed City’s new manager after achieving a third-placed finish with Braintree Town on a limited budget the season before. He also achieved three promotions with Concord Rangers before his spell in Essex, and left his job as a teacher to work full time at Sincil Bank.
Bringing his brother Nicky with him up to Lincolnshire, they quickly set about turning a mid-table side in to major promotion candidates, topping the table for a large part of this season, but it is their cup exploits they are getting noticed for.
It was a run that started in the Fourth Qualifying Round against Guiseley, a game that needed a replay away in West Yorkshire, with two goals from Theo Robinson earning the Imps a place in the First Round Proper, a home tie with Altrincham.
Lincoln then went on to complete a hat-trick of wins against Football League opposition in Oldham, Ipswich and Brighton, and fans were starting to wonder when and where this FA Cup journey might end.
It was a City side that was defying all the odds, along with fellow National League side Sutton United, who’s own story was captivating the nation. However, it was the Imps who stunned English football and showed that the magic of the FA Cup was still well and truly alive.
A trip to Premier League Burnley was gifted to Lincoln and it was an opportunity that they didn’t pass up on. There was no sign of there being such a huge gap between the two sides, and it was a last minute goal that won it for the Imps. Sean Raggett’s header was the decisive goal and for the first time in over 100 years there was a non-league team in the Quarter Final.
Their reward for that result was a dream tie away at Premier League giants Arsenal, which takes place on March 11 in North London, with around 10,000 Imps heading to the Emirates hoping that they might just see something ever more special.
The Cup won’t be Lincoln’s priority though, however special progression has been for them so far. They sit top of the National League and won’t be too distracted from the job in hand.
Manager Danny Cowley was quick to play down their win at Burnley by saying his players were already focused on North Ferriby the Tuesday after and it shows how dedicated the Imps players and staff are to returning to the Football League for he first time in six years.
I spoke to Award Nominated Sports Writer and Lincoln City fan, Charlie Russell, who gave me his thoughts on Lincoln’s league ambitions going forward:
“I feel that the Cowley’s have turned Lincoln around this season. The signings they have made and the tactics they are playing have worked well and they finally have a system which is working after years of frustration.
“The signings who have come in are much better than what have previously been acquired over the past few years, and the Imps finally have players who are Football League quality, such as Paul Farman and Bradley Wood”.
He also gave me a quick word on City’s chances this weekend in the FA Cup:
“The FA Cup has been a brilliant success for the club both on the football side of things as well as the financial. I feel an upset could be on the card with Arsenal’s recent poor form but we will have to see on the day as anything can happen as we saw in the last round”.
This season’s FA Cup has shown that anything is possible, and if anyone can do it, it will be the Imps.
Good luck to all at Lincoln City in the game this weekend at Arsenal, and thanks to Charlie Russell for his comments for the article.