Since Scottish football is on its winter break, it allowed me another opportunity to tick of a Premier League ground of off my list. So on Saturday I headed down to Merseyside to watch Everton against the high-flying League Two side, Lincoln City. The Cowley brothers, Danny and Nicky have done an amazing job at the Lincolnshire side, getting them promoted from the National League, after they went on an incredible FA cup run back in 2016/17. The club said that FA cup run has changed the clubs future. They went all the way to the quarter-finals, beating Championship side Ipswich town in a replay at Sincil Bank before beating Championship leaders, Brighton. The biggest shock of all came when the Imps beat Burnley in their own back yard, scoring a header in the dying minutes, setting up a quarter-final tie at the Emirates against Arsenal. Lincoln were the first non league side to reach that stage in the competition since 1914. To add to the recent success, they also won the Checkatrade Trophy at Wembley in 2018 after beating Shrewsbury 1-0 at . The Imps currently sit top of the Sky Bet League Two table, four points clear of MK Dons and will have huge hopes of reaching League One.
The Toffee’s have had an up and down season so far, currently sitting in 11th in the Barclays Premier League table. After speaking with a couple of Everton’s fans on Saturday, they told me they were concerned about the lack of goals and throwing away leads far to regualry. A club as big as Everton should definitely not be in the bottom half of the BPL. Manager, Marco Silva said he would be taking no risks against Lincoln on Saturday and was planning on throwing out a strong side.
Everton made five changes from the rather disappointing 1-0 defeat at home against Claude Puel’s, Leicester City on New Years Day, where Jamie Vardy scored the only goal after 58 minutes.
Leighton Baines captained the Toffee’s after getting a rare start, replacing the impressive summer signing, Luca Digne. Yery Mina replaced Michael Keane in Centre-Back while young midfielder, Tom Davis stood in for the experienced Andre Gomes. Ademola Lookman played on the wing and lastly, tricky and pacey winger, Bernard played out on the left-hand side.
The Imps made three changes from their slip up against Port Vale on New Years Day, where the home side failed to put their chances to bed and were punished in the last minute when Valliant’s striker, Manny Oyekele scored a peach from outside the box to steal a point at Sincil Bank.
Josh Vickers started in goal in place of Grant Smith, while the Lincolnshire side changed both of their strikers. Matt Rhead and Shay McCartan dropped to the bench to be replaced by the Imps top goal-scorer John Akinde, and also Tom Pett.
The game got underway at Goodison Park with the packed out away end in full voice. The Toffee’s started the game brilliantly and had the Imps camped in their own box from the first minute. Ademola Lookman looked a threat down the right-wing, and went close after two minutes when he beat his man and cut onto his weak left-foot and had a strike at goal. His effort fizzed over the bar. It looked a matter of time until the English top-tier side opened the scoring and they did just that after 12 minutes. The ball was worked out to Leighton Baines, who perfectly picked out the smallest man on the pitch, Ademola Lookman. His looping header went over Vickers and into the net, despite Michael Bostwick’s best effort to try clear it off of the line. The home side doubled their lead just three minutes later, and what a goal it was. A matter of a couple of passes split open the Imps defence. Gylfi Sigurdsson played it into Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who slid in Bernard and the Brazilian winger opened his Everton account in style as he cheekily dinked it over Vickers. It looked like a long day at the office for the League Two side. Lookman nearly scored his second of the afternoon after 20 minutes, when some nice play led to the young Englishman curling an effort just wide the Lincoln goal from the edge of the box. Out of nowhere the away side pulled one back. I was well aware of the physical threat that the Imps hold, so it was no surprise to see their goal come from a set-piece. A free-kick was delivered in by Michael O’Connor , which was met by Jason Shackell. His effort was fantastically saved by Jordon Pickford from point-blank range, but the rebound effort fell to Lincoln’s other centre-back, Michael Bostwick, who slammed the ball home, to the travelling Imps mental. To the away side’s credit they fought back superbly and clearly got a boost from pulling one back. It was a cagey end to the first-half.
Half time- Everton 2-1 Lincoln City
The second half got into proceedings in Merseyside. The first chance came after 56 minutes when another brilliant Baines cross was headed away, and straight to Sigurdsson, who caught it sweetly on the half-volley from 25 yards out, but Vickers pulled off a great save to tip it around the post. The home fans were becoming frustrated and thought it was going to be one of those days again, chucking away a lead. Marco Silva was forced to bring on his big guns, with the likes of Cenk Tosun, Andre Gomes and their main man, Richarlison all coming on. The Toffee’s were extremely wasteful and squandered numerous chances with efforts from Gomes and Sigurdsson going into row Z, but Lincoln were doing their job well and the Blue’s were struggling to carve out many clear-cut chances. It looked as If the Imps were planning on leaving it late and hoping to pounce on a set-piece. Their plan nearly worked to perfection,when they were only denied by a goal-line clearance after 82 minutes. A corner was swung in which met Shackell head once again, but his looping header was cleared off the line by Richarlison with Pickford well beaten. As the game got into the dying stages, the away side had no choice apart from to throw bodies forward. That did leave them exposed however. The final chance in a very entertaining match in Merseyside, came in the 88th minute, when Richarlison received a pass from Baines at the edge of the box. He took a touch and curled his effort wide from 20 yards.
Job done for the home side, who were expected to easily walk over Lincoln but it was far from the case. Lincoln fought back bravely after conceding two early and should be proud of their selves. The travelling fans were unbelievable, signing their hearts out from the first whistle to the final whistle.
After Mondays draw, A trip to Milwall awaits for Everton in the fourth round.
Pickford, Kenny, Mina, Zouma, Baines, Davis(46), Gueye, Lookman, Sigurdsson(80), Bernard, Calvert-Lewin(46)
Subs- Steklenburg, Coleman, Jagielka, McCarthy, Gomes(46), Richarlison(80), Tosun(46)
Vickers, Eardley, Bostwick, Shackell, Toffolo, Frecklington, Anderson, O’Connor(72), Andrade, Pett(78), Akinde(71)
Subs- Slocombe, Chapman(78), Gordon, McCartan(72), Mensah, Rhead(71), Wharton
Referee- John Brooks
Assistants- Akil Howson & Lee Venamore
Fourth Official- Michael Salisbury
Attendance- 37,900 (5,481 away)
Goals- Lookman(12), Bernard(15), Bostwick(26)
Yellow Cards- Kenny(47)
Red Cards- 0