Snobbery is alive and well in football.
Fans love to sneer at the long-ball game, the primitive tactic of launching air-to-air missiles (that siren employed at Sincil Bank is actually there to warn aircraft Michael Bostwick is playing) to two big lumps who put themselves about and try and force set-pieces from which they can deliver yet more carnage.
This is the label attached to Lincoln City by rivals and not without justification. Manager Danny Cowley hasn’t yet read the pretty passing page in the coaching manual, but then why would he and why should he? He has inspired a three-fold and more increase in crowd size and a set of results that has lifted Lincoln out of the doldrums, back into the Football League and now within a win of the club’s first trip to Wembley. It’s not pretty football Cowley promotes, but it’s mightily effective, and on the evidence of last night, it’s aggressively positive which should be applauded rather than knocked.
Most impressively Cowley also appears to be something of a psychic as from his position alongside the press box he was heard to communicate to his staff ‘they are tired, get Harry Anderson going and he will win us this game,’ 10 minutes from time. Remarkably he was right on all three counts amd if he doesn’t play the National Lottery he surely should.
Anyway it actually made a welcome change to watch a side ignore the slow-tempo, passing of the ball sideways and backwards which appears to be writ large on page one of that coaching manual. It certainly helped create a rip-roaring cup tie between two fully committed sides that was in the balance until former Posh player Anderson converted a high-tariff volley in the 90th minute to put Lincoln 3-2 ahead, a margin they extended with virtually the last kick of the game through speedy striker Matt Green to spark great celebrations among the home support.
Of course Posh weren’t helped by playing voluntarily without their most composed defender in Steven Taylor and less happily without top scorer Jack Marriott who pulled out of the game at 7.15pm with a hip flexor injury, or as the cynics have already started to claim, to preserve his big-money January move to a bigger club.
Taylor would have doubtless helped ease the panic caused by the crosses that rained into the Posh penalty area all night and Marriott would doubtless have enjoyed the space available to terrorise a large and relatively immobile pair of centre-backs. Danny Lloyd did well as his replacement and scored a stunning goal from 25 yards, but Marriott’s ability to find shooting positions in the penalty area was missed.
Posh have played far worse than this - the previous performance in this competition against Luton reserves for a start - and they enjoyed lengthy spells of possession, but they were eventually worn down by a very fit, physical outfit who belied accusations of a lack of skill and technique by scoring two goals of high quality. Danny Rowe’s first-half equaliser was a gem involving a dribble past two players and a curler into the top corner.
Posh boss Grant McCann summed up the match pretty well by bemoaning his side’s desire to cut out more crosses and by his players’ failure to keep to their own playing beliefs rather than get drawn into a battle against the likes of burly home striker Matt Rhead, a player for whom a career in WWWE surely beckons once he gets fed up of opposition taunts about his body shape.
Rhead, who is a folk hero at Sincil Bank, had the last laugh here by volleying home at the far post just five minutes after Lloyd’s stunning strike had shot Posh in front for the second time. It was a poorly defended goal and McCann was also heard chuntering about a habit ‘of believing a one-goal lead would be enough’.
Both goalkeepers made terrific early saves with Jonathan Bond denying Luke Waterfall from close range following a corner and home number one Paul Farman stretching well to keep out Chris Forrester’s glancing header. Marcus Maddison delivered that cross before largely disappearing from view again, a point the omnipresent Leeds United scout would presumably have noted.
Posh were in front on 14 minutes when Lincoln full-back Neal Eardley obligingly diverted a Junior Morias cross into his own net and they looked to be in control until Rowe’s leveller four minutes before the break.
It was end-to-end at 2-2 with Maddison forcing an important save from Farman and Elliott Whitehouse failing to make contact with a Lincoln corner with the goal gaping in front of him.
Ultimately Whitehouse was reprieved as Lincoln kept hopes of a walk down Wembley way alive. Posh still have four chances to appear at the national stadium this season, but as that involves beating Leicester and Spurs away before winning an FA Cup semi-final, it’s probably best they concentrate on getting there for the League One play-off final.
Posh: Jonathan Bond, Liam Shephard, Andrew Hughes, Jack Baldwin, Ryan Tafazolli, Anthony Grant, Chris Forrester, Junior Morias (sub Leo Da Silva Lopes, 70 mins), Marcus Maddison, Danny Lloyd, Joe Ward (sub Idris Kanu, 70 mins)
Unused substitutes: Conor O’Malley, Lewis Freestone, Alex Penny, Michael Doughty, Jermaine Anderson.
Lincoln: Paul Farman, Sam Habergham, Elliott Whitehouse, Neal Eardley. Michael Bostwick, Luke Waterfall, Danny Rowe (for Cameron Stewart, 69 mins), Lee Frecklington (sub Sean Long, 64 mins), Harry Anderson, Matt Green, Matt Rhead (sub Ollie Palmer, 65 mins).
Unused substitutes: Josh Vickers, Callum Howe, Ellis Chapman, Nathan Arnold.
Goals: Posh - Eardley (og, 14 mins), Lloyd (50 mins).
Lincoln - Rowe (43 mins), Rhead (55 mins), Anderson (90 mins), Green (90 + 3 mins).
Referee: Michael Salisbury 8
Attendance: 6,663 (1028 Posh).