We return to Emirates FA Cup action on Saturday when we face Lincoln City, and ahead of the game Michael Cox and Adrian Clarke examine our quarter-final opponents in detail.
MC: Danny Cowley was a PE teacher this time last year – now, he’s managing a side flying high at the top of the National League. A methodical coach who will approach this game with an intelligent gameplan, Cowley says he’s treating this as nine 10-minute matches, and Lincoln have been practising by playing 10-minute games in training.
MC: Lincoln broadly played a 4-4-2 in the previous round, a 1-0 victory over Burnley. But there’s nuance to their centre-forward play. Up front, Stoke-born Matt Rhead is the classic non-league striker. He’s 6ft 4in, he wears number nine, he wins plenty of balls in the air but also concedes free-kicks for fouling defenders regularly. He’ll look to hold up the ball and wait for support from the wide players, and from probable strike partner Jack Muldoon. It’s a classic little-and-large partnership, with Jack Muldoon offering speed in the channels, which might prove more dangerous than Rhead’s physical and aerial power.
AC: It’s not going to be as easy as a lot of people think because Lincoln are a professional side. They’re not part-timers like Sutton, they train every day. To be perfectly honest, given how well they’re doing in the National League and what I’ve seen of them this season, I think they’re a League One team. We should almost dismiss the fact they’re in the National League because the standard of players they have and their team unit itself is League One quality. We can’t underestimate them.
MC: Lincoln’s most important performers here will be their two centre-backs, who combined for the crucial last-minute winner against Burnley in the fifth round. Captain Luke Waterfall is a solid and composed defender, while goalscoring hero Sean Raggott is an absolutely towering centre-back who, at 6ft 5in will be tough to beat in the air. They may also be crucial if Lincoln get any set-piece opportunities. Indeed, the goal against Burnley was notable for being an extremely well-worked routine, with everyone going to the near post, leaving Waterfall to peel off to the far post, meet the deep corner and nod across the box for Raggott to convert.
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AC: Set-pieces are huge for Lincoln and, let’s be honest, defending set-pieces has been an issue for us. Liverpool hit the post last weekend from a set-piece and almost scored another when Divock Origi scuffed a header, so we need to be careful. Lincoln are just as good as Liverpool when it comes to set-pieces, and might even be better. Waterfall gets seven, eight or nine goals a season - he’s a decent player so we’ll need to concentrate.
MC: Nathan Arnold could prove Lincoln’s most dangerous counter-attacking option. A small and tricky winger, he constantly attempted to beat opponents at speed in the victory over Burnley, and while he was guilty of losing possession rather too often, nevertheless produced some of Lincoln’s brightest moments too.
AC: Matt Rhead is a handful up front and whoever plays centre back needs to ready themselves for that. I imagine the players will need to look at the video of the Burnley game, and they’ll see how Rhead tried to rough up the centre halves. He will do the same to whoever he lines up against. He will put his weight around and he’s a very clever centre forward who uses his body well.
AREAS TO TARGET
MC: Lincoln’s defence lacks speed, and stamina might also be an issue – but they’re a well-organised side who might prove difficult to break down.
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