Lincoln reached their second Cuppers semi-final in three years after denying New the chance to avenge last season’s final defeat to Worcester.
Despite going down 5-1 to New earlier in the season, a close-range finish from skipper Sam Townsend and an exquisite header from Josh Thomas fired the 2009 winners into the last four where they will face the current holders.
Almost a dozen intrepid fans made their way to a blustery Barties to witness a hotly-contested tie between two of Division One’s heavyweights. While Lincoln were on top for long periods of the game, they had to work hard for their victory. Ejike Onuchukwu was a thorn in the side of Lincoln’s defence all afternoon but squandered a number of chances to put New ahead.
The quick-footed winger could have grabbed an opener after a mazy run bamboozled the back four but his ambitious shot came crashing off the crossbar. Lincoln immediately hit back after Nathan Riddell’s flick-on header put Alex Biggs through but with defenders surrounding him was unable to finish.
But Lincoln didn’t have to wait long for a goal – their early dominance was rewarded midway through the half. A penetrating Thomas cross wasn’t cleared by the New defenders and Townsend reacted fastest to fire home from six yards.
The Lincoln captain scored the odd goal in a 2-1 reversal to Trinity College, Cambridge in last season’s Super Cuppers fixture and was on hand again to take his side within 180 minutes of another battle with a Tab team.
The lead was almost doubled soon afterwards when Richard Simmonds headed wide. The midfield dynamo connected with one of many long-throws from Riddell but couldn’t find the target.
Lincoln’s very own Rory Delap found himself in the referee’s book for going in late on New ‘keeper Mycroft – this proved to be one of the game’s more ironic moments as the referee had earlier misjudged his timing by turning up an hour late.
Before the break New went in search of an equaliser and nearly snatched a goal through Ben Quigley. Rising to meet Charlie Court’s corner, Quigley saw his header comfortably saved.
New continued to pile on the pressure in the second half– only a superb save from Dan Pascoe denied Onuchukwu a deserved goal.
But Lincoln always looked dangerous on the break and were unlucky not to go 2-0 ahead after Thomas burst down the left and found Nick Worsley on the edge of the box. The holding midfielder unleashed a pile-driver which whistled past the upright.
The losing team attempted to shake up their attack by bringing Edd Hermes on for captain Tom Pearson-Jones but he couldn’t deliver a goal despite some good hold-up play with top-scorer Sam Donald.
Lincoln’s defence capably coped with New’s searching set-plays and were rewarded by increasing their advantage in the 72nd minute. Biggs’s corner eluded everyone in the packed penalty area except Thomas who rose highest to float the ball past Mycroft.
With only 17 minutes remaining Lincoln had one foot in the next round but had to work hard to maintain their two-goal lead. Once again Onuchukwu nearly netted – first blazing a difficult header over from three yards before seeing a half-chance smothered by Pascoe.
Yet New’s chances were restricted thanks to a solid display from Rick Taylor while an injection of pace through substitute Harry McGahan kept the ball deep in the New half. This didn’t stop Donald from trying to pull a goal back – a superb run allowed him to cut inside the 18-yard box but his shot sailed wide.
Lincoln managed to weather the storm and celebrated both a hard-earned win against tough opposition and the prospect of a Cuppers semi-final.
In the other quarter final matches, an all-Premiership tie saw Worcester sweep past Exeter with a 3-0 win thanks to goals from Tom Phelan, Adam Healy and Julian Austin while second division St Anne’s overcame third division Trinity 2-1.
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