Hallelujah - Imps Win Cup Tie
A holier trinity of threes stood over the Imps at the AFC Telford Bridge and said to unto them pass this time ye Passionistas and the horned men bedecked in blue and gold with hope in your hearts and a cabbage for the fare in your hand. Cup passage must be cherished and celebrated in Bacchanalian style in Impdom, as history has taught us time and again. They do say things come in threes.......... for this was a triumvirate of goals, a triumvirate of luck and the triumvirate of Sutton, Steff and Uncle Bob gazing forth and dreaming. Doubtless they are still enjoying the view as they count the gold having crossed the cup bridge at long last. Let us hope the view contains a sea of poppies in recognition of the need for help for our heroes past and present. Spare a thought Salop and of course Lincolnshire who at last will be tuning into ITV with ball 5 and Lincoln City a welcome novelty in itself.
And so to the game, epitomised by the mighty warrior King Kovacs - smelt in a furnace of his very own. He greeted the travelling Imps with that King Kovacs flared nostril pre-match ritual of his where he all but emits flames and a desire that you felt could always withstand an onslaught from the iron age. His determination, Pulis' constant encouragement and drive alongside Shaaaane Clarke, plus the magic of namesake and spark Jamie Clarke, for all lay the foundations for our first FA flirt in 7 attempts. The Imps faithful warmed instantly to the return of their talisman and armed with 329 Spartan Imps you felt we could and would go one better than our Blyth counterparts.
We opened brightly and deserved our goal after some slick and inventive football. Jamie Clarke in his natural habitat, playing up front and more central, fired what looked like the opener. Young saved superbly but the ball ran loose with the sprightly Clarke gathering the loose perhaps spent cannon ball. He fed Torres, who like the matador he is instantly brought the ball under his spell and saw magic in the moment. He flashed the cape, twisted right then left on less than a shiny sixpence with four round him. In less than a glorious millisecond the ball flashed home. The Passionistas would not have to do the 'pretend we had scored a goal' song this week as unbridled joy took us in her arms. Directors jaws dropped, the bench partied, the terrace folk danced deliriously and Sportin Hortin and his listeners kissed their Lincolnshire radios born of a pent up passion six years in the making. There in either person or spirit all were hoisting up the Lincoln flag to hear the Red Imps sing.
Telford struggled to find their range. Do not make the mistake our Blue Square North counterparts play hoofball, their game matches their splendid stadium and is deserving of more than their current status. No it is far more a mix with intelligent incisive long balls wide and instant diagonals to feed a fast counter, that puts the feint of heart to the sword. Steve Thomson at number 9 is an advanced player both geographically and intellectually once you get past first impressions of a poor man's Wayne Rooney. A player around whom much of their revival was born bringing his midfield and wide men into the game at a flick of the boot. This to boot, was a side playing a cup final on the back of an unbeaten run of four on a day opened with a minutes silence to fallen heroes and would aptly be won by them on the field of play. We sat back as they, abetted by a ref who let numerous challenges go, suggested more than a comeback. Pulis and Shaaaaane stuck to their tasks but could do little about the impending danger down the flanks. Half time was welcomed by all from Impdom it is safe to say.
Four minutes after an end to end restart Jon Adams fashioned a fabulous cross for the flying Liam Blakeman to power home a howitzer header. The stadium exploded and deservedly so, for this was a true FA Cup goal that suggested a giant killing was in the offing. Janos, Birch and Moses would not need the siren to warn them to batten down the hatches as Telford found their range and rhythm. Pulis dislocated an arm and gestured to Tom Wait to pop it back in so that he could instantly return to the fray. Torres took a challenge that forced him to count them. Telford looked to the big guns found their range peppered our goal, with Burch claiming another impressive Steve Thomson free kick. Jamie Clarke meanwhile went close for us. A contender for goal of the round left trainers boot only to see a fingertip reaction save 30 yards later from Burch. A Thomson curler moments later deserved better but Burch was equal to it and even held the ball. I sleep well knowing Burch is all but signed long term.
Against this onslaught the Imps made their quality up front (I kid thee not) count. A throw found Howe who fed Jamie Clarke, the Lincoln spark. Under pressure from defenders all around he twisted and turned to fire beyond Young's finger tips but an inch inside the away fans right hand post. All from Lincolnshire were beside themselves again, the Telford pressure had seen that seven game itch build all over again. But telford showed their true metal unbowed by such things as a mere one goal deficit. Blakeman fired wide and then Rogers hit a volley that Lineker would have purred about had it been a Premiership one. The thirty five yard thunderbolt seered like Haley's Comet towards the net. Brilliant Burch got his fingers to it to ensure it cannoned off the underside of the bar.
Those humdingers have a bounce blessed or cursed by chance, fortunately for us lady Luck had a Lincoln ribbon in her hair and it bounced clear. From the corner Shane Clarke hammered the thing back into orbit only for Rene Howe to greet its return flashing a left foot drive over the bar at the other end. Moments later the Imps would be reaching for Wembley song lyrics from their dusty black and white scrap books. A superb one touch pitch length counter saw Brown start and finish a move after Howe had unselfishly fed into his path for him to unleash an unstoppable volley. His smile said it all. Telford however were not done and Vaughan had one saved by Burch before Hughton cleared a corner off the line. Swaibu then deflected a Trainer drive, Kovacs took a corner in the face Newton saw his free kick come back off the post. With Vaughan slicing over an unguarded net Pearcey decided it was time to snuff things to avoid a dicey last few minutes. So he did with a further four minutes of added time being negotiated amidst the backdrop of the partying Passionistas who had got their lucky cabbage back and were dividing the leaves amongst them. Fortunately the heart is still in tact and making its way to a deep freeze for safekeeping.
Few games live up to the hype but it is safe to say this surpassed it. The FA Cup need have no fear whilst teams and fans show this kind of heart, determination and valour. Traditional values in a changing world where constants must be cherished, like those who fall for our country then and now such things simply have to be remembered for the duration of time itself.