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Everton vs Lincoln City: The Opposition View

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We spoke to Imps blogger Gary Hutchinson prior to Saturday’s FA Cup meeting at Goodison

Lincoln City v Port Vale - Sky Bet League Two
Shay McCartan scored for Lincoln in their 1-1 home draw with Port Vale on January 1
Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Everton get their 2018/19 FA Cup campaign underway when they host Lincoln City at Goodison Park on Saturday.

The Imps, four points clear at the top of League Two, enjoyed a remarkable run in this competition two years ago, becoming the first non-league side to reach the quarter-final since 1914.

Their high-profile scalps included Ipswich Town, Brighton & Hove Albion and Burnley, before falling to a 5-0 defeat at Arsenal in the final eight.

Since then, Danny Cowley’s side have won promotion back to League Two, lifted the EFL Trophy last season, and are on course to make it to League One next year.

Ahead of Saturday’s game, the first meeting between the sides since 1993, we spoke to Lincoln fan Gary Hutchinson, editor of Imps blog, The Stacey West:

RBM: Firstly, is there are confidence about Lincoln fans, especially given Everton’s poor recent form and the memories of the Imps’ 2017 FA Cup run, that they can pull off another shock this weekend?

Gary: Honestly, I’m not sure anyone really cares too much. That might sound ridiculous, but we’re not coming to Everton thinking we’ll get a win. We’ve had our time in the FA Cup and while this is a great game for us, nobody is hoping to repeat that.

Why? Because the only priority this season is the league. We treat the cup with respect, it’s a great competition and the prize money is great, but we’ve got to get out of League Two. That’s what everyone wants and this is just a nice day out for some fans.

RBM: In their last two years, Lincoln have won promotion from the National League, are on course for League One next year, reached the FA Cup quarter-finals and clinched the EFL Trophy. What is the secret to their recent success?

Gary: Hard work. Danny and [assistant manager] Nicky Cowley are relentless in their work ethic; they push everyone around them to give as much as they’ve got and it works. They’re nice lads too - very approachable and friendly - but they study the game to within an inch of its life.

In the top flight, video analysis and sports science are normal, but in League Two it’s the top clubs that do it. Morecambe don’t have the money to fund the sort of backroom team we have and that gives us an edge. Spending isn’t all about players and wages and we’ve gone about things differently.

Burnley v Lincoln City - The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round
Sean Raggett scored the only goal in Lincoln’s 1-0 FA Cup win at Burnley in February 2017
Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

RBM: What has been your personal highlight as a Lincoln fan in the last few years and why?

Gary: It would be utterly ridiculous to say anything other than promotion from the National League. That was redemption; a return to our former selves and the end of a horribly dark spell in our club’s history.

In terms of single moments, Nathan Arnold’s goal against Ipswich Town in the FA Cup third round of 2016/17 was very special. I get goosebumps writing about it even now. It was an emotional night all round and one I’ll never forget.

RBM: Danny Cowley has won a lot of admirers during his three-and-a-half years as Lincoln boss. At how high a level can he manage?

Gary: He can mange at the very top, but only by earning his stripes at Lincoln. There will be no quick fix, no club-hopping and climbing the ladder quickly. He wants to build a legacy and see the fruits of his labour flourish when he leaves.

Make no mistake, he is the manager in name, but a co-manager in truth. Him and Nicky go everywhere and do everything together.

Stevenage v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League Two
Danny Cowley has done an outstanding job as Lincoln manager
Photo by Andrew Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

RBM: Only Bury have scored more goals than Lincoln in League Two this season. Do you expect them to be more ambitious than to simply try and contain Everton?

Gary: We won’t be there to shut up shop and hope for a draw; that much is almost certain. There will be a game plan to finish the match on the afternoon and ensure the fixture congestion doesn’t affect the league push.

Of course, nobody is saying we’d rather lose than draw, but don’t expect ten men behind the ball for 90 minutes because Danny goes into every match looking for a win.

RBM: How do you expect Lincoln to line up on Saturday? Is there a chance Cowley may rest some players given the importance of your league campaign?

Gary: There will be no resting of key players. The other two cups were seen as distractions, but the FA Cup is sacred, is it not? It’s a shame the big clubs rest players, but such is life. We won’t.

Danny will come to win so expect the full first team, 4-5-1 or a variation thereof with an emphasis on quickly moving the ball from back to front. That’s a posh way of saying a direct approach.

The label we have as a long ball team is unfair in the league, but we’ll look to keep it away from the skilful Everton men this weekend.

RBM: Which of Lincoln’s players do you think could cause Everton the most problems?

Gary: John Akinde and Matt Rhead are both a handful up top and if we’re moving quickly into them then they’ll be tough to deal with. If we’re coming down the flank watch out for Harry Anderson, he’s a bullish wide man with strength as well as pace.

I think the main danger man will be Jason Shackell from corners, though. We’re great at set-pieces and a little birdie tells me Everton can’t defend them for toffee, pardon the pun.

Lincoln City v Newport County - Sky Bet League Two
Akinde is Lincoln’s top scorer this season with 11 goals
Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s game?

Gary: We lose 3-0. All the goodwill, direct football and hope in the world won’t get us a win this weekend.

Everton need the morale boost and won’t take any chances, so we’ll be the plucky losers with League One football to look forward to instead of another FA Cup tie.

Our thanks to Gary for his time. To read The Stacey West’s preview of Saturday’s game, click here.