The magic of the FA Cup was made manifest on Saturday, when Non-League side Lincoln City did the unthinkable and defeated Premier League side Burnley at Turf Moor to progress to the sixth round of the FA Cup.
The Lincolnshire-based club were under no illusions they had a good chance coming into the match against Premier League side Burnley. After all, a good 81 places across five leagues separated the two clubs, and the gulf in class was bound to show on the pitch come game time. Surely, Burnley were the odds-on favourites to win and progress to the next round.
But Lincoln have been here before thrice this season. Despite being a side who plays in the National League – England’s fifth tier football competition, they have overcome the odds and won. In their second round fixture back in December, Lincoln won 3-2 at home against Oldham Athletic, who played in League One.
The Imps continued their FA cup run with another giant-killing in the third round, beating Championship side Ipswich after drawing away then earning a 1-0 win on the replay at home.
Before last month came to a close, they would once again defy expectations and topple down another Championship side in the form of Brighton and Hove Albion, the minnows defeating the Seagulls 3-1 at home.
Then came their toughest test yet. Before their fifth round match, Lincoln have yet to face a top-tier side. That all changed on Satuday, when the Imps found themselves drawn against Burnley.
The home side fielded a commendable squad, with the likes of former Liverpool left-back Jon Flanagan, former England midfielder Joey Barton, and Wales international Sam Vokes playing for the Claret and Blues.
They had nearly 60% possession throughout the game, had a whopping 17 attempts at goal – and yet they would come up short against a solid and gritty Lincoln defence.
The breakthrough came in the 88th minute, when Imps defender Sean Raggett headed the ball home despite pressure from opposition goalkeeper Tom Heaton. Lincoln would eventually win the game 1-0, sending the Lincoln fans, and perhaps all the football fans around the world who have come to follow the Imps’ unlikely rise, into a frenzy.
It would’ve been understandable for Lincoln to celebrate after such an achievement. They are the first-ever non-League side to progress to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in more than a century – 103 years, to be exact. And yet, the club are keeping their feet on the ground.
In the post-match interview, goalscorer Raggett said, “It’s crazy! A non-league side in the quarter-finals?! It’s unheard of. No time for celebrations, though, it’s North Ferriby away on Tuesday.”
Raggett’s humility and down-to-earth nature only makes fans want to root for these underdogs more. They are remaining focused on their game, especially as they are currently at the top of the national league, their dreams of promotion back to the Football League slowly but surely becoming a reality.
Then again, to achieve such a feat for such a side is definitely commendable, as manager Danny Cowley attests: “Last eight of the FA Cup sounds pretty good. Not often I’m lost for words, but this is one of those occasions. It was a fantastic feeling! I’m mightily proud.”
Cowley is right to be proud. His side has captured the imagination of football fans all around the world; indeed, that is the magic of the FA Cup – in football, anything can happen.