Lincoln City manager Danny Cowley has described their run to the Fifth Round of the FA Cup as “a fairytale”.
The Imps saw off EFL Championship leaders Brighton and Hove Albion at Sincil Bank on Saturday and will take their place alongside the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City in the last sixteen of the competition.
The win also made club history, with Cowley’s side becoming the first Lincoln City side to reach the last sixteen of the FA Cup since 1902.
On that occasion they beat the likes of Barnsley and Newton Heath, who would become Manchester United later that year, before succumbing to Derby County.
With Sincil Bank buzzing with excitement and anticipation on Saturday, Cowley saw his side produce a fine display to dump the Seagulls out of the competition to seal their last sixteen place.
However, he urged caution, as he asked his side not to let the victory distract them from their Vanarama National League fixture at Solihull Moors on Tuesday night.
“This is new territory for us, the last 16 of the Cup. It’s a fairytale isn’t it?” admitted Cowley.
“It doesn’t happen now. Non-league teams don’t get to the fifth round of the FA Cup. It’s a frightening achievement, but we know it’s going to end. We’re all realistic enough to know that somewhere along the line it’s going to end for us. So we’ve got to make sure we don’t allow it to distract us. That means we have to go and find our very, very best on Tuesday.
“And I love that.
“Tuesday night at Solihull Moors. That, to me, is perfect. I’ll learn everything about our players. I’ll learn everything about them Tuesday night. I know I’ll be there and I know that Nicky will be there and that we’ll be completely committed. We’ll put as much focus on Solihull Moors on Sunday and Monday as we have into Brighton today”
Incredibly that fixture at Solihull Moors will be the Imps’ thirty-eighth of the season.
With many Premier League and Championship managers having the opportunity to rotate their squads thanks to their large player pools, Cowley hasn’t been afforded that luxury with his squad.
He admitted that keeping his high standards is “incredibly tough” but believes that they can get through their heavy schedule with the “huge support and momentum” they have behind them.
“It’s incredible and incredibly tough in terms of the number of games. None of us expected to have the run that we’ve had in the Cup, but we’ve been inspired by it. We’ve set a new benchmark in terms of the standard of our second-half performance and I’m a greedy man – once the players show they’re capable of something, I want it game-in game-out. I think we’ve been inspired by the magnitude of the games.
“We said to the players that if they’re willing to keep working hard then maybe days like today can be their reality every Saturday. That’s what we’ve got to hope. We’ve got huge support and momentum behind us. We’ve got to take all of that into what’s going to be a 19 game league season now.
With Premier League giants like Manchester City and Chelsea still in the FA Cup, the odds of the Imps behind handed a glamour tie in the last sixteen are fairly short.
If that was to happen then the demand for tickets would surpass the scenes that Cowley witnessed as Imps supporters queued through the night to secure a ticket for the Brighton game.
That has put a strain on those that work in the ticket office at Sincil Bank and Cowley paid tribute to the work done by people behind the scenes at the club.
He said “I don’t even know who’s left in the competition, to be honest. We’ll have to see who we draw. The girls in the ticket office will be crying! I was saying to them ‘don’t worry, it’ll be over on Saturday. We can have a rest now’, but we’ll obviously have to go again.
“People don’t realise how much commitment it takes for what is a really small support network that we have at this level. They’ve been inundated. And all the people behind the scenes who get nowhere near the amount of recognition that Nicky, myself and the players get work tirelessly hard. I’m really proud of them”
With both Lincoln City and Sutton United representing non-league football in the last sixteen there seems a good chance that they will be handed a televised tie.
The Imps had their Third Round replay against Ipswich Town shown live on the BBC and Cowley is hoping that his side can play their Fifth Round tie in front of the cameras once again.
“It would be nice” he admitted.
“We’d hope to have one in the fifth round, whoever we draw, but we’ll have to see who we draw.”
They will find out their fate on Monday night when the FA Cup Fifth Round draw is made.
Article: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)
Images: Reuters Media (Action Images)