Plymouth Argyle lock horns with Lincoln City this Saturday in the FA Cup second round, with the winning side going back in the hat, alongside the newly-added Premier League teams, for the draw on Monday night.
With Wednesday’s announcement that fans will soon return to Home Park, Argyle manager Ryan Lowe will know a potential home draw against a top-flight club is at stake.
For Lincoln, Michael Appleton will be hoping to replicate the cup success achieved three years ago under former manager Danny Cowley, which saw them reach the dizzy heights of the quarter-finals.
Argyle wing-back George Cooper was visibly struggling to run towards the end of the Pilgrims’ clash with Peterborough United, but remained on the pitch as Lowe had made all five replacements. Cooper should be fit to play on Saturday.
Argyle captain Gary Sawyer remains out until Christmas with an ankle injury and midfielder Lewis Macleod should be back any day now. Niall Canavan has served his one match suspension and will be available to play against Lincoln if selected.
Appleton is still unable to call upon injured centre-back Joe Walsh, who featured against Argyle last month.
Imps captain Liam Bridcutt seems back to full fitness, playing maximum minutes against Accrington Stanley and Swindon Town in the past week.
However, the Lincoln boss said he will be making changes to his side.
Argyle go into the match winless in three. Heads shouldn’t be dropping, however, as the Pilgrims battled well against Peterborough on Tuesday and could have easily left with a share of the spoils.
The players will certainly be up for it against the Imps, appreciating the chance to rectify October’s loss.
Lincoln are certainly not a club to take lightly away from the LNER Stadium, losing just once away from home in all competitions.
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City look watertight at the back, with former Argyle loanee Alex Palmer keeping back-to-back clean sheets at his new club in their last two games.
This season has only seen them concede more than two goals in a game on one occasion, compared to Argyle’s four.
Ones to watch
Brennan Johnson scored his only league goal back in October, against Plymouth. The Nottingham Forest loanee also got on the scoresheet against League Two side Forest Green Rovers in the last round of the FA Cup. Johnson will certainly want to build on these tallies this Saturday. Looking away from his goalscoring record, the 19-year-old Welsh international has four assists to his name so far in League One – one of them coming against Argyle.
Luke Jephcott will be a familiar face to Johnson as the duo were apart of the same Wales U21 squad.
The Pilgrims forward has six goals in the league this campaign and having scored five in his last five for the Greens, he is knocking on the door of Portsmouth’s John Marquis – the league’s current top scorer.
Saturday sees both sides play each other for the 45th time.
Lincoln are starting to run away with the lead. Last month’s victory takes their total wins to 17, with 14 losses and 13 stalemates.
Saturday will give Argyle a chance to set the record straight after losing in the league.
That match saw a controversial penalty awarded to Lincoln which seemingly deflated the Pilgrims, who conceded twice in the second half - leaving the LNER Stadium empty handed.
How to watch
The match has not been selected for television coverage, though, a match pass is available to purchase via either club’s iFollow websites.
Kick-off is 15:00 GMT.
What has been said
Lincoln boss Michael Appleton stated his intention to play a rotated side on the weekend in the pre-match press conference.
“With them [Argyle] being the home team, there will be an expectation for them to win the game and play as strong a team as they possibly can.
“I am not really fussed about that, if I am being honest, I am just going to try and focus on our lads and make sure we have got a decent balance about us and give the opportunity to players who deserve to have a run-out.”
Appleton had no issue being the away side in the knockout competition either, with Lincoln holding a solid away record.
“We do not mind the opposition having the ball” said Appleton, accrediting this as the secret behind their form.
“I feel quite relaxed when the opposition have got the ball 40 yards away from our goal.
“I know we’ve got a lot of pace and threat going forward. Last year, we lacked a bit of pace and a bit of energy. If we were defending deep late in games, I didn’t think we could get up the pitch like we can this year.”
Switching sides, Ryan Lowe was excited and optimistic when speaking to the press about the Lincoln task his side face.
“The importance of the FA Cup is massive for me and the lads, and the football club as a whole.
“It is a great competition and it will be nice to get back on Home Park. We have done a lot of travelling.
“It is going to be a tough test in Lincoln, as we all know, but it is one we are looking forward to, and it is one we feel we can win, definitely.
“They are as good as most teams (in League One) but so are we on the day.
“We know what to expect from Lincoln. They are a good team with a good manager, and they play the right way, but we have got to make sure we are solely focused on us.”