Saturday, 1 October 2016

Lincoln United 3 v Handsworth Parramore 1 - FA Cup 3QR

Saturday 1st October 2016
Emirates FA Cup Third Qualifying Round
at the Sun Hat Villas Stadium, Ashby Avenue, Lincoln
Lincoln United (1) 3
Sean Wright 19, Gary King 65, Jack McGovern 90
Handsworth Parramore (0) 1
Jon Froggatt 81
Admission £8. Programme £1. Attendance 318
Lincoln United:
Mario Ziccardi, Luke Hornsey, Sean Wright, Michael Jacklin, Callum Ward, Matt Cotton, Rob Norris, Tom Maddison, Kallum Smith, Gary King, Jack McGovern
Subs - Phil McGann, Danny Brooks, Jack Wilkinson, Harry Millard, Sean Cann, Jordan Hempenstall, Sam Mullarky.
Handsworth Parramore:
Joe Green, Ben Starosa, Connor Smythe, Simon Harrison, Michael Harcourt, Gareth Griffiths, Connor Higginson, Stephen Warne, Jon Froggatt, Kieran Wells, Tom Dugdale
Subs - Alex Rippon, Danny Holland, Tom Claisse, Danny Buttle, Colin Marrison, Sam Denton, 'Archie' Sneath (GK)
Upon entering the ground at Ashby Avenue, I overheard a conversation that went along the lines of: "You wouldn't believe it, but a month ago you could've played crown green bowls on this pitch". Looking out over the playing surface I was gobsmacked, it was awful; with big threadbare patches of scorched earth all over the place, you could easily have mistaken it for the local 'rec a couple of days after a few hundred new age travellers had just been evicted.
But the guy I had eavesdropped was 100% correct... I didn't believe him!
Apparently a batch of rogue fertilizer has caused the problem. I hope the 'Whites' (who I could have sworn used to be called the Lillywhites, whenever I have visited Ashby Avenue in the past) find a solution and can rectify their surface, but it's going to be difficult now the pitch is getting regular use as the fixtures pile up thick and fast.
Sadly, both remaining NCEL clubs were knocked out of the FA Cup today, with Handsworth going down 3-1 here at Ashby Avenue on the outskirts of Lincoln, while AFC Mansfield lost 2-1 at home against Stamford, who beat the Bulls 2-1 by virtue of a 90th minute goal.
On the way across from this mornings EFL Youth Alliance match in Doncaster, I had pondered over how this afternoon's game might go and fancied the Ambers to take at least a draw and subsequent replay at Sandy Lane on Wednesday. But although that did look like a distinct possibility in the closing ten minutes, as Jon Froggatt's strike from the penalty spot injected new life into Parramore'splay and raised their spirits, they were nobbled by a last minute sucker punch too. 
Not that Lincoln United's efforts hadn't actually warranted the win over the 80 minutes prior to that anyway.
It was more of a step up in class, rather than a gulf, but the Ambers were struggling to make much headway against a side who marked tighter and got stuck into their tackles much harder than they were accustomed to in the NCEL.
Although they weren't actually overrun or thrashed, it will have been an eye opener as they were undone by a team from a league above.
One thing is certain, the referee definitely appeared to let more go, as regards the way that the defenders could manhandle, harass and 'legitimately' make contact with Handsworth's forwards, than they would have usually expected.
That isn't an excuse for why the visitors misfired at times throughout the afternoon, but it was, without a doubt, a contributing factor.
In a nutshell, Lincoln were the stronger side and imposed themselves on the game better than their NCEL visitors.
It was suggested to me that perhaps one or two of the Handsworth players had suffered from stage fright upon reaching the dizzy heights of the third qualifying round. I would suggest that was a bit harsh, but can possibly see why anybody would make such an observation, even though you couldn't fault Micky Godber and Mark Ward's side for effort.
The visitors weren't their usual selves and the trademark fluent passing and movement was missing at times, or maybe it just looked that way because their EvoStik League opponents gave them less time to think on the ball and closed them down a lot more quickly than they are perhaps used to.
Joe Green got lucky during the opening exchanges, when Lincoln's prolific front man Jack McGovern, crashed a shot against the left hand post that rebounded back into the arms of the Ambers keeper.
Alas the bounce of the ball didn't always fall so kindly for Green over the course of the afternoon.
McGovern picked up a pass from Kallum Smith on the edge of the area, but Gareth Griffiths put himself in the line of fire and blocked the shot.
Michael Jacklin intercepted the ball as Connor Higginson combined with Jon Frogatt twelve yards from United's goal, after Kieran Wells had played the ball forward from Green's long kick. 
But it was mainly the home side who were on the attack and Matt Cotton went close as his shot dropped just wide of Green's left hand post.
Jacklin was assigned the task of man marking Wells this afternoon, by the end of the game they had spent so much time intertwined that they'll probably have to get married now and attend ante natal classes together.
The visitors were dealt a blow after 19 minutes, when Sean Wright met Rob Norris' right wing corner with a downwards head, that crashed into the ground and spun up viciously over Green's head, to open the scoring.
Shortly afterwards, they suffered a second setback when Higginson took a knock as he tried his luck with a twenty five yard shot and had to leave the field of play, to be replaced by Tom Claisse, who was making his final appearance for the 'Parras' before leaving to do his bit for Queen and country.
McGovern threatened Green's goal again, but Griffiths was playing out of his skin, along with his defensive partner Micky Harcourt and he thwarted the Lincoln hit-man, who has found the net in every cup game his side have played this season so far... a record that he held onto in dramatic circumstances late in the game.
Handsworth were under the cosh as the first half headed towards the break, with the home side's wide midfielders Matt Cotton and Kallum Smith making regular in roads into the final third.
But it was United's left back Callum Ward who almost provided his side with a second goal right on the stroke of half time, when he drilled a dangerous ball across the face of Green's goal that only needed a touch... but Gary King couldn't quite provide it and the dominant home side had to settle for a solitary one goal interval lead.
HT: Whites 1 v Ambers 0 
Mariano Ziccardi did well to tip Froggatt's header over from Harcourt's free kick.
The game had now reached that 'next goal is crucial' stage, but Lincoln were withstanding every Handsworth attempt to get goal side of their back four, while the direct and long ball approach that was dictated as a means to an end by the prairie that was just about managing to impersonate a football pitch evidently suited Lincoln better.
When Handsworth get accused of being a 'hoof-ball' team, by those who don't understand their penchant for getting the ball forward quickly to the feet of their strikers, their system requires a half decent pitch for their fast forwards and wingers to provide the finishing touches.
But that wasn't an option today, by any stretch of the imagination. And it appeared that Jacklin and Wright between them were on the verge of making a claim to the Guinness book of Records, for the biggest amount of defensive headers completed in a game.
Danny Holland was sent on to bolster the Ambers attack, but almost immediately that plan came unstuck, when Lincoln picked up the ball and Cotton crossed from the right to King who directed a header across the face of Green's goal that nestled just inside the right hand post on 59 minutes.
Cotton ought to have added a third for the home side when he pushed forward into the Ambers goalmouth twice, before planting the ball wide of the goal.
With the Lincoln defence looking solid and crowding the route to go for the Ambers, both Harrison and Froggatt tried their luck with shots from outside the area, which weren't far off the mark.
A brief stand off flared off involving a few players in front of the dug out and unfortunately for Handsworth, Harcourt raised his hand in the heat of the moment and was dismissed. However, the visitors were given a glimmer of hope on 81 minutes when Connor Smythe's cross from out on the left flank was handled as a scrum of defenders moved in to clear the ball and Froggatt duly dispatched his spot kick to the keepers right... and with nine minutes still remaining, regardless of all of the percentages, the numerical advantage and lop sided stats thus far, it was 'game on' for the closing stages.
But much as the ten men of Handsworth battled, attacking the end of the ground where their young supporters were making one hell of a din, the ball just wouldn't run for them in front of Lincoln's net... and moments after Ziccardi pulled off a save at full stretch from Griffiths, who planted a header towards the goal from Smythe's cross, the Ambers cup exit, following a magnificent run that they should justifiably be proud of, still had a sting in it's tail.
And as Lincoln stood up to the Alamo like scene unfolding around their goal area, a stoppage time counter attack, saw McGovern break into the left hand side of the Parramore goal area and nudged the ball (from an improbable angle) beyond the reach of Green, who had unfortunately used up his entire share of good luck in the first few minutes.
Gareth Griffiths, so close to making it 2-2
The home side had obviously watched Handsworth before today, because their midfield ganged up on Stephen Warne to prevent him from fulfilling his duties as the engine room of the team, which unsettled the Ambers momentum no end.
Lincoln were the better team, on a number of levels, but they left the pitch knowing that they had been in a game.
FT: Lincoln United 3 v Handsworth Parramore 1
Well done Handsworth Parramore on your magnificent FA Cup run... and good luck to Lincoln United with both their next game in the competition and their forthcoming pitch repairs.
Lincoln United face Romulus at home in the FA Trophy next weekend, while Handsworth Parramore have a midweek trip to Barton Town Old Boys on Tuesday and a home game against last season's NCEL Division One champions Hemsworth MW on Saturday coming up.