Date: 15th November 2012 at 8:54am
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Wednesday night saw the Lincoln City u18’s crash out of the FA Youth Cup with a rather poor 3-1 defeat at home to Hartlepool United. The Imps took a very early lead when Conner Robinson tapped in after a corner but from there on it was downhill with Brad Walker scoring twice and getting involved in the majority of Hartlepools attacks. The third goal was scored by Josh Nearey to round off a good display from the visiting side and ensure their passage into the Third Round of the FA Youth Cup.

Lincoln City lined up for this Second Round tie of the FA youth with a very strong line up. Just as in the previous round manager Grant Brown lined Conner Robinson and Jordan Thomas together in a very attacking line up, behind these two in the wide areas are Rob Taylor, who was mightily impressive in the previous round scoring two goals, and Aaron Rice who also impressive in the previous round. These four players seemed to have a freedom and cohesion that can’t be coached into players. The side lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Cotton and Everington sitting deep in the centre to allow the attacking quartet freedom to attack, this formation was very reminiscent of the style adopted by the first team in recent weeks.

The Imps kicked off heading towards the south stand on a mild night perfect for football. The Imps set off on the front foot and won the first corner of the match from a blocked effort from Rice on the left. The resulting corner ended up with the keeper flapping the ball only as far as Robinson who tapped the ball into the back of the net to give the Imps an early lead after only five minutes.

Hartlepool didn’t hang about in getting the equaliser though as only four minutes later a corner from the right was headed home under some very open defending by Brad Walker . The Imps had started the better but a defensive lapse that was evident in the last FA Cup tie allowed the monkey hangers to get straight back in the match. This allowed Hartlepool to push the Imps back, just minutes later a late tackle from Will Rawdon saw him yellow carded but luckily the free kick went wide of Pannells left hand post and out for a goal kick.

The next effort came from Hartlepool as steady build up play came to Brad Walker n the edge of the box his effort had Pannell scrambling but the ball flashed wide of his right hand post. After a slow start Hartlepool were beginning to control the match. The Imps were countering when they could and after twenty minutes Thomas had an effort from the left side of the box that curled in towards goal but it was a comfortable save for Foden. Minutes later Thomas came close again with a cross from the left by Taylor was headed against the post by the lively striker but it bounced out and into the keepers’ arms.

Hartlepool attacked again and two efforts from range both went wide but gaps were appearing in the heart of the Imps defence when balls were crossed into the box form wide areas and set pieces. At the half hour point it was a fairly even match but Hartlepool looked the more creative in the final third. The Imps looked threatening from corners though and Taylor was delivering good balls into the box but sadly none of the Imps attackers were able to get on the end of them. Thomas came very close to getting a second goal for the Imps when he was put through with a superb through ball from Taylor but as he tried to round the keeper Foden stretched an arm out to put the ball behind for a corner that when taken sailed straight out of play unchallenged.

As the half drew to a close the Imps offered more of a threat, a great cross form the right side by Taylor was just inches away from the toe of Taylor, had he made contact it would have surely gone in but as it was it ran out of the other side of the box and was cleared up the pitch. Just minutes later Aaron Rice got on the end of a great cut back form Thomas but saw his left footed effort well saved for a corner.

Just before the ref blew for half time Hartlepool were awarded a free kick after a foul from Ryan Leggett, it was taken from the left side but whilst it was headed back across goal Parnell came out and claimed the ball, just minutes after this save he was called into action again when Zak Boagey got on the end of a cross but his effort was denied superbly in a great reaction save from the Imps keeper to keep the scores level and ensure the sides went in at 1-1. A good entertaining first half and both sides definitely seemed to prefer attacking then defending and it appeared that there were plenty more goals to come from this match.

Both sides came out form half time unchanged and Hartlepool kick off attacking the South stand. The Imps had a claim for. A penalty turned down as a cross from the left seemed to hit Brown on his arm, but it was down by his side and the ref waived play on. Hartlepool got the second goal though after only four minutes of the restart an initial shot by Boagey was well saved by Parnell but the rebound fell straight to Walker and he stoked the ball home despite Parnell doing his best to get to the second effort. A major setback for the Imps after starting the match so brightly.

The Imps came close to the equalising goal after 55 minutes a corner form the right by Rice was only half cleared, Everington fired the ball back in through the crowd but unfortunately the ball bounced up safely into the keepers hand. This was a big loss for the Imps as Hrtlepool broke up the other end of the pitch and after a brief scramble Josh Nearey fired the ball home to make the score 3-1 to the visitors. Poor defending again form the Imps allowed Hartlepool too much space and we were duly punished.

Jonathan Wright received a yellow card shortly after the goal for a foul in the left back position as he did what he could to prevent an Imps attack from gathering momentum. A good decision as it turned out as the resulting free kick went straight to the first man in the wall. The imps did look to attack more though following the third goal as it became clear that an instant reply was needed to keep themselves in the game. Hartlepool were able to withstand the pressure and crosses into the box seemed to always be met by a defending head or foot. Two corners in succession were conceded and Taylor continued to put good balls in the box but somehow Hartlepool got away with it on both occasions.

The Imps continued to attack and a great run from Rice down the left side saw him cross the ball across the box, it looked like it was deflected behind for a corner but the linesman and the ref gave a goal kick. Taylor had a weak effort go wide of the goal when better options were available to him as the Imps desperately needed to get back into the match. Hartlepool looked more organised in defence then in the first half and the Imps struggled to break them down in the final third.

Hartlepool came inches away from a fourth goal in the 70th minute when a cross was poorly judged by Leggett his weak clearance fell straight to Turner who drove the ball with power but Farnell pulled off a superb save and the ball floated inches over the ball for a corner. Following this Hartlepool made their first Chang with Mitchinson coming on for Jones on the left side. The impact was instant as Parnell was again called into action and pulled off another save to keep the score down to just three.

As the Imps frantically chased a goal Kegan Everington received a yellow card for late challenge in the centre circle, the game at this point was very scrappy and it seemed that Hartlepool would be able to see the game out with their two goal advantage. Leggett had an effort form range that went wide just before Matt Bowles came on to replace the recently cautioned Everington in midfield. With only just over five minutes remaining Kieran Walker came on to replace Will Rawdon. Another change was made shortly after with Matt Simmons replacing Matt Cotton as the Imps went for it bringing on a more attack minded player.

Just minutes remained for the Imps in what was becoming a more unlikely scenario to get back into this match and subsequently keep in the FA Cup for this season. It looked to be another goal for Hartlepool when Walker found acres of space on the edge of the box but his effort, which would have secured him a hat trick, hit the foot of the post and the follow up effort from Boagey flew over the bar. The match after this point petered out with the Imps piling forward but they just couldn’t find a clear chance or a break through. Hartlepool had yet another chance at the death after Parnell cleared an effort on the edge the box but it fell to Harbottle who hit it on his weaker left foot and it sailed narrowly over the bar.

The ref then blew the final whistle to signal the end of the match and also the end of the Imps participation in this year competition. In the end aside from a good opening five minutes the Imps struggled to get going and when you can say that even letting three goals in your goal keeper is man of the match then you know you received what you deserved. There wasn’t enough passing and movement in the final third, Robinson in particular was anonymous for the majority of the game and there seemed to be a notion of head down and running into cul-de-sacs from the other attacking players when the better option of a pass was usually on.