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Taking On the Gunners: Remembering Lincoln’s Famous FA Cup Date with Arsenal


Promotion to the Championship would be a remarkable achievement for Lincoln City, who just seven years ago were still playing in non-league.

That was the year that they also famously reached the FA Cup quarter-finals, defeating the likes of second-tier Brighton and Burnley – who they may meet in next season’s Championship – before running into a rampant Arsenal.

That was the highest profile opponent that the Imps have faced in years, but there could be some pretty big names in next season’s Championship too, with the likes of Sheffield United, Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Portsmouth and possibly Derby County in the second tier.

In readiness (and hope!) of tangling with them, here’s a reminder of Lincoln’s trip to the capital to take on Arsenal.

Famous Foe

Although this wasn’t a vintage Arsenal side, they still had plenty of big-hitters in their side. Alexis Sanchez was close to winning the Golden Boot, which today would have put him on a par with some of the leading contenders in the English Premier League top goalscorer odds – the likes of Ollie Watkins (13/2), Mo Salah (16/1) and Son Heung-Min (33/1).

The Gunners’ side that fateful day in March 2017 also included Granit Xhaka – he’s just won the German Bundesliga title with Bayer Leverkusen, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud, a World Cup and Champions League winner no less.

Lincoln had overcome the odds in each of the mains rounds of the FA Cup, but Arsenal were a step up in class from the likes of Brighton and Burnley – not that you’d have known it from the Imps’ first-half performance.

Luke Waterfall and Sean Raggett were outstanding at the heart of Lincoln’s defence, outmuscling Giroud and helping to propel the threat of Sanchez when he stepped inside.

Alex Woodyard and Alan Power also held their own in midfield against their illustrious opponents, while there was even time for the odd Imps foray into the Gunners’ box – Nathan Arnold stepped off the right flank, danced through the Arsenal defence and forced a good save from Petr Cech.

The ‘cupset’ was well and truly on…

Late Heartbreak

Unfortunately, Arsenal would go ahead in first-half injury time…

Walcott’s pot-shot took a wicked deflection past Paul Farman and into the net, which would have changed the context of Danny Cowley’s half-time team talk – although the general theme, encouraging his side to continue to stick to their task, would have remained the same.

The danger, of course, was that Arsenal would show their true class in the second half – while Lincoln, unused to playing at this intensity over 90 minutes, would come unstuck.

And so it would prove, with Giroud showing his predatory instincts in front of goal early in the second period – a clinical finish doubling the Gunners’ advantage.

Cowley sent on Jonny Margetts to give the Imps more attacking thrust, but one of his first acts was to watch Waterfall unluckily score an own goal as he inadvertently turned in Walcott’s cross.

The game was effectively beyond Lincoln at this point, but they continued manfully until the end – desperate to score a goal to celebrate with the 9,000 or so Imps fans that had made the trip to the capital.

Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey would add further goals for Arsenal, but Cowley reiterated what many inside the Emirates Stadium already knew: Lincoln had performed with pride on the big stage, becoming the first non-league side to reach the last eight of the FA Cup in more than a century.

Could they break new barriers in the final weeks of 2023/24?

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