Match report: Tom Lawrence spares Ipswich Town’s blushes in fortunate FA Cup third round 2-2 home draw with non-league Lincoln City
Tom Lawrence’s late leveller got Ipswich Town out of jail as they narrowly avoided an embarrassing FA Cup third round home defeat to non-league Lincoln City.
The Blues, stuttering in the Championship, were outplayed by the confident National League leaders for the majority of the match.
Twice the alert Theo Robinson put them ahead thanks to good movement and emphatic finishes in the area (7 and 65), but twice in-form Leicester City loanee Lawrence came to the rescue with fine individual goals – the first at the end of a solo run (12) and the second a crisp long-range strike (86).
It never looked like 57 places and three divisions separate the sides as the Imps, backed by close to 5,000 vocal fans, played the better football and posed the far greater attacking threat.
Just like last season, when Ipswich somehow salvaged a 2-2 home draw against impressive League Two visitors Portsmouth, the Blues will have to go to a replay – at Sincil Bank a week on Tuesday – with the Fourth Round draw taking place at 7pm on Monday evening.
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This result and performance heaps more pressure on Town boss Mick McCarthy ahead of Saturday’s home visit of Blackburn. Ipswich, as a club, still haven’t won an FA Cup tie since 2010. There were yet more boos at the final whistle.
McCarthy, who had vowed to name his strongest possible team, made five changes to his starting line-up following Monday’s 2-1 defeat at QPR. Dean Gerken replaced Bartosz Bialkowski in goal for his first appearance since last August, while Luke Chambers (swollen knee), Myles Kenlock (calf), Cole Skuse (swollen knee) and David McGoldrick (groin) all dropped out with injury to be replaced by Jonas Knudsen, Grant Ward, Andre Dozzell and Freddie Sears.
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Veteran midfielder Jonathan Douglas was the only senior player on the bench, with youngsters Pat Webber (17, left-back), George Fowler (19, centre-back), Adam McDonnell (19, midfielder), Shane McLoughlin (19, striker) and Ben Morris (17, striker) all among the subs. Leon Best missed out through illness.
Lincoln were unchanged following their 3-1 home win over Guiseley on New Year’s Day.
With season tickets not including entry to this game, the true state of apathy surrounding the club was fully apparent with little more than 11,000 home fans in attendance. The lack of interest in this tie – despite the most expensive ticket being £10 – meant that the upper tiers of the North and South Stands were shut.
Lincoln, by contrast, had close to 5,000 travelling packing out the entire Cobbold Stand and they made it feel like a home game for their players by singing their hearts out as early as half an hour before kick-off.
The Imps fans therefore went loopy when their team broke the deadlock in the seventh minute. It was a well-worked goal, former Derby striker Robinson starting the move with a pass out right before continuing his run and ghosting between defenders Adam Webster and Josh Emamnuel to prod home a lose-range finish.
It had been a peach of a cross from Nathan Arnold, but the winger had been afforded far too much time and space by the out-of-position Knudsen.
The ‘Imps Invasion’ – given its own hashtag on Twitter – joyously chanted ‘you’re getting sacked in the morning’ at Blues boss McCarthy as he became embroiled in deep discussion with assistant Terry Connor on the edge of his technical area. A few home fans may have just joined in.
Ipswich were behind for less than five minutes though thanks to another magic moment from in-form Leicester loanee Lawrence. The flying winger set off on one of his trademark direct runs from inside the centre circle, the away midfield backed off in numbers and, after a neat bodyswerve left a defender on his backside in the box, a fierce low shot crept under keeper Paul Farman.
That goal should have seen any nerves or worries dissipate on and off the field. Town should have kicked on and shown the supposed extra quality of a team that plays three levels higher. Instead, Lincoln slowly but surely regained their confidence and looked far more like the Championship team.
With Town lacking leadership, tempo and aggression, the Imps were able to dominate possession just like Fulham had done at Portman Road on Boxing Day.
Time-and-time again Knudsen was nowhere as Lincoln got in down the right. On the half hour mark, Arnold shot straight at Gerken after a through ball from Terry Hawkridge. Moments later, marauding right-back Bradley Wood almost picked out Robinson in the box for what would have been a carbon copy of the opener.
Town did, finally, improve in the final few moments of the period and, after a positive run from Emmanuel, Dozzell’s crisp goalbound shot was deflected wide.
Ipswich started the second half on the front foot, but Lincoln threatened on the counter in the 52nd minute. Tricky wide man Arnold managed to isolate Adam Webster and was able to beat him far too easily by pushing the ball one side and running the other. His dangerous cross was cut out by Berra with Robinson once again looking to get on the end of it.
The confident National League leaders carved open another chance in the 56th minute when Hawkridge’s well-weighted reverse ball sent Arnold racing clear. Gerken had to be quick off his line to block with his legs and Berra nervously hacked the loose ball clear under pressure.
Ipswich were second best all over the pitch, but created a chance out of nothing just after the hour mark when Sears took the ball with his back to goal on the edge of the box, spun neatly before fizzing a shot just past the post.
Town, who were getting well and truly outplayed, lived dangerously again in the 61st minute when Gerken’s sloppy throw out the back was pounced upon by Sam Habergham. The left-back’s cross was slightly over-hit.
There was only one team that looked like scoring and Lincoln, who had played some good football, finally got their breakthrough in the 65th minute via route one fashion. Keeper Farman’s long kick was inadvertently helped on by the under-pressure Berra and the alert Robinson, benefitting from Gerken’s slight slip as he looked to race off his line, volleyed home emphatically.
Town had posed zero attacking threat since the restart and there were ironic cheers when Lawrence fired a long-range free-kick well over the bar in the 65th minute. Both sets of fans chanted ‘Championship, you’re having a laugh’.
However, as the game entered the final 10 minutes, Lincoln increasingly began to defend deep in an attempt to protect their lead.
Pitman lifted a shot well over the bar following a direct Ward run, then Dozzell’s glancing header was kept out of the bottom corner by keeper Farman.
The equaliser arrived in the 86th minute when Lawrence received the ball in space, turned and unleashed a crisp, low shot from 25-yards which beat the despairing dive of Farman to find the bottom corner.
It then became a classic cup finish as both teams looked for a winner. Lawrence’s sharp give-and-go saw him burst into the box and force Farman into a near post stop. At the other end, Josh Emmanuel raced half the length of the field to make an outstanding recovery challenge on Alex Woodyward as Lincoln countered at pace.
Not for the first time this season, resounding boos greeted the final whistle at Portman Road.
LINCOLN CITY (4-4-2): Farman; Wood, Waterfall (cpt), Raggett, Habergham; Arnold, Power, Woodyard, Hawkridge; Robinson (Muldoon 82), Rhead (Long 90).
Unused subs: Walker, Marriott, Miles, Fixter, McCombe.
IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Gerken; Emmanuel, Webster, Berra (cpt), Knudsen; Ward, Bru, Dozzell, Lawrence; Pitman, Sears.
Unused subs: Bialkowski, Fowler, Webber, Douglas, McDonnell, McLoughlin, Morris.
Attendance: 16,027 (4,838 away)
Referee: Lee Probert