Burnley face non-league Lincoln City in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday, with both teams looking to parallel impressive league form with success in the cup.
The Imps have made a name for themselves as the ‘giant-killers’ of this season’s FA Cup, beating high-flying Brighton in the last round 3-1, and Championship side Ipswich Town in the third round. Currently sitting top of the Vanarama National League, City have scored 10 goals in their last four games, including the three against Brighton, who boast the second best defence in the Championship.
Burnley, themselves, should be full of confidence going into the match, having gone eight games unbeaten at Turf Moor, a run stretching back to November which has included a win against last season’s champions Leicester City, and a draw on Sunday against this season’s favourites, Chelsea.
But going up against Lincoln City, the Clarets can expect a different type of challenge. Away from the ‘glitz and glamour’ of the Premier League, Lincoln have founded their cup run on spirit, solidarity and a sprinkling of the Magic of the FA Cup.
Manager Danny Cowley said that the Brighton win was, “beyond all of (his) wildest dreams,” and praised the organisation and bravery of his players. The former PE Teacher identified the team’s commitment to a ‘high press’ style as key to overcoming the Premier League hopefuls, and this is something Burnley should watch out for.
Sean Dyche and his players can also take some of Brighton manager Chris Hughton’s post match comments as words of warning, as he outlined the danger Lincoln pose, focusing on the physical side of their game in particular: “They are a big strong side with a lot of energy and they play very direct.” He also admitted that, “you can’t afford to make elementary mistakes like we did. We got punished for it,” and complacency must be avoided if the Clarets are to proceed to the next round.
With this being the first time Lincoln have reached the FA Cup fifth round in 115 years, the occasion is, undoubtedly, massive for them. Again going into the game as underdogs, they will be playing pressure-free, and quietly confident that they can pull of another upset.
But for Burnley, too, the game presents the opportunity to reach the FA Cup quarter final for the first time since 2003, and they will be attempting to reach the final for the first time since 1962, when they were defeated by Tottenham three goals to one.
The two sides have met three times before in the FA Cup, with Burnley emerging victorious on all three occasions (although two of those games were forced to replays). Lincoln did make the visit to Turf Moor in December 1998 in the old Division Two, in a match which finished 1-1; the reverse fixture, which also finished 1-1, was the last time the two sides met.
However, Burnley have lost at home to non-league opposition in the cup before, when they played Southern League Wimbledon in 1975, in a match which finished 1-0. From there, Wimbledon went on to gain promotion to the First Division in 1986, and won the FA Cup in 1988 - Lincoln will be hoping this is a sign of things to come...
Despite losing striker Theo Robinson, who scored twice against Ipswich as well as bagging against Brighton, Lincoln’s squad has been boosted by a couple of loan signings: striker Dayle Southwell from League Two Wycombe Wanderers, midfielder Billy Knott from League One Gillingham, and Brighton winger Joe Ward has had his loan extended. Knott is ineligible to play on Saturday as he is cup-tied.
Burnley new-boy Robbie Brady has already made an impact at Turf Moor after scoring a stunning free kick against league leaders Chelsea on Sunday, but will also be unable to play, after appearing for Norwich in an earlier round. Steven Defour and Dean Marney will miss the game through injury.
Lincoln have been allocated 3,210 tickets for the game, which has disappointed some Imps fans, but with that allocation sold out, and tickets reasonably priced at £10 for adults and £5 for concessions, we can be hopeful of a high attendance, a bouncing atmosphere, and a classic FA Cup encounter.
You can catch the game live on BT Sport from noon (kick off 12-30pm), with both clubs receiving a sum of £247,500 from the FA Live Broadcasting Fee.
Burnley: Pope, Darikwa, Keane, Mee, Flanagan, Gudmundsson, Barton, Tarkowski, Westwood, Arfield, Vokes
Lincoln: Farman, Wood, Waterfall, Raggett, Habergham, Arnold, Power, Woodyard, Hawkridge, Rhead, Southwell
View from both camps
On making changes to his lineup...
“When you look at the teams we've fielded in the cup so far, although there have been changes, it's still been a well-rounded team, it’s not like we've thrown kids into the side and handed out debuts. We've still been playing strong sides. I certainly take it seriously and so do my players, it's a fantastic competition."
On being the favourites...
“I've been on the other side of it, being the underdog as a player and a manager. Even now in the Premier League, we were underdogs against Chelsea on Sunday for instance. I understand the thought process and, besides, I take my prep for any game very seriously. A day before the Chelsea game, I travelled over to Lincoln to watch them. Myself, my staff and my players prepare diligently for every challenge that is put in front of us.”
On Lincoln’s FA Cup run thus far...
“It's a great opportunity to test ourselves against a Premier League side. People have said it's not a very good draw but it's a Premier League team. We've done really in the FA Cup games and you never know where it's going to end up.
“People have written us off for the last three FA Cup ties so we've got nothing to fear, although we'll be mindful of their good players. You know what you're going to get from us and if they've not prepared properly, we'll probably get a result. I think we'll create chances and hopefully we can take them.The Brighton game was unbelievable, a dream come true. You treasure days like that and we'll try and do it again."