I’m looking forward to tonight’s match. Many have said that it’s a Mickey Mouse cup but that’s where we are at the moment so we can just try to win whatever trophies we’re involved in. Everyone was boosted by Saturday’s great win and the manner in which it was accomplished. We’ve already given Lincoln a good hiding this season but I doubt if we’ll get a similar result today. Wyke has really got his confidence back and the way he and McGeady combined against Donny was a joy to watch but you can be sure Lincoln will have a couple of big defenders keeping close attendance on him this evening. Mind you, Donny didn’t learn their lesson after he’d already headed in two goals. Willis will be missing and maybe Wright but I don’t know any other news at this early hour. I was pleased that Tranmere beat Oxford and the script has been written for a while that we’ll get to Wembley, win it and none of our fans will be able to attend after so many disappointing visits there in recent decades. A win tonight and at Wembley will definitely give us a boost and also a psychological advantage against the current league leaders. I’ll be watching the game in Sunderland with my bubble and I think we’ll win so my match prediction is 2-1.
I got the team-news an hour before kick-off and Wright was starting after all as were Leadbitter and Neill. I noticed one of Lincoln’s subs was called Roughan… I got to the bubble, opened a can of Stella and awaited what would be.
We were passing it about well in the opening stages, which was an improvement in itself, and most of the action was in the Lincoln half. The Sky crowd-noises certainly made the experience better. In the tenth minute O’Nien did well to head it out for the first corner of the game when Lincoln had a few men in our box. Lincoln were looking very handy coming forward and were starting to get the better of things. Fortunately their shooting left a lot to be desired. Edun conceded a free-kick around the midway mark and was booked for his pains but we couldn’t convert the resultant chance. Wright did well to get us out of trouble when Lincoln pressed dangerously into the right side of our box but we weren’t getting much together at the other end. Just after the half-hour mark MacFadzean had our best chance so far with a low shot from the left and it went for a corner. Neither side had managed a shot on target yet. Speaking of which following McGeady’s best run and cross so far the ball came out to Leadbitter who blasted it high and wide. It looked even worse on the replay. McGeady went on another good run and actually got a shot on target but Palmer in goal saved the day for them. We were finishing the half the stronger of the two but despite three minutes of stoppage-time, it was still goalless at the break.
It was looking like 1-0 or penalties as we kicked off again. McLaughlin had replaced Wright, who it turned out had a calf injury. We had a let-off almost immediately when Lincoln broke down the left and managed a shot on target but Burge was up to it. We got a corner five minutes in but it went to nothing. O’Nien took a yellow for the team after nine minutes and conceded a free-kick in a very dodgy position but true to form the kick was well off-target. We brought on Diamond and Maguire for Neil and Scowen on the hour and that looked good to me. However, in the sixty-fourth minute Lincoln went ahead when a great long ball by Grant down the left was crossed and after Burge palmed it away Scully was there to shoot home from close range. The move started when Lincoln were awarded a throw that probably should have gone to us. Lincoln were defending very tightly and somebody would have to pull something great out of the bag to get us level. Gooch had a strong shot on target and then Wyke had his first goalbound effort of the game but it went for a corner. Next thing we were level and it was McGeady again who put in a lowish cross from the left and Wyke headed it into the bottom left corner. We were definitely in charge and I fancied us to get the winner before full-time. McGeady almost did it ten minutes from time when his strong shot was turned away by Palmer. O’Brien replaced Gooch seven minutes from time and McGeady had another great shot that Palmer held. Four minutes of added-time were announced and then we conceded a corner when we may have suffered worse.
And so it went to penalties. Power took the first and scored and next Scully got their first off Burge’s foot. O’Nien scored and then McGrandles scored so it was 2-2.. Maguire got our third even though Palmer got a hand on it. Crucially Howarth hit the bar and McGeady got our next. If they missed their next, we’d win but Johnson got it in. Leadbitter took our last one and rolled it in to win the tie. Cue much relief. It was a close tie but we did what we had to do to get to the final. We’re on our way to Wembley… well, a few people are.