It’s FA Cup weekend once again, where teams will battle it out for a place in the potentially money-spinning third round.
Lincoln boss Michael Appleton will be without long-term absentees Liam Bridcutt, Tom Hopper and Joe Walsh as they recover from their respective injuries. Youngster Freddie Draper will be out with a concussion, whilst Anthony Scully, who is a target for several EFL Championship clubs, remains out.
In the other camp, Hartlepool’s new manager Graeme Lee will have a selection headache ahead of his first game in charge. Key players such as Nicky Featherstone, David Ferguson and Gary Liddle missed out in the week, with their replacements doing a solid job in their stead. So there is likely to be changes from last weekend.
(4-3-3) Long, Poole, Montsma, Jackson, Robson, Fiorini, Sanders, McGrandles, Maguire, Nlundulu, Bishop
(5-3-2) Killips, Sterry, Hendrie, Byrne, Liddle, Ferguson, Crawford, Daly, Featherstone, Grey, Cullen
Lincoln head into the game as the potential underdogs, due to the rut of form that they find themselves in. They have won just one of their last seven league games, which has left them in 18th place, just four points above the relegation zone.
The Imps have failed to score in their last three in the league as well, a run which was topped off by an EFL Trophy exit to Carlisle United on penalties. Just three goals in their last six games in all competitions shows where the problems lie for Appleton, proving that January reinforcements can’t come soon enough.
Meanwhile, opponents Hartlepool are on an even worse run of league form, having lost all of their last five. Prior to the run, they were in the play-off places, but now find themselves in 17th, being one of only two teams in the league to have lost ten or more games. However, their cup form has been much more impressive, knocking out League One giants Wycombe Wanderers and Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup and EFL Trophy respectively. The latter of which was their most recent game, with their new boss watching from the stands as they came away from Hillsborough with a convincing 3-0 win.
Ones to watch
Whilst several key members of Lincoln’s squad have underperformed in recent months, one player that many fans will see as blameless is forward Chris Maguire.
The Scot, who was signed from Sunderland in the summer, has been one of the Imps’ stand out players this season, appearing all over the pitch to have an influence on the team. His experience on and off the pitch will be crucial if Lincoln are to pull themselves out of the position that they find themselves in. Goals are a problem throughout the team, but Maguire managed to grab his first for the club in the week, so will be hoping to kick on from there on Saturday.
Full-back Jamie Sterry will likely return to league action after serving his suspension following a red card in Hartlepool’s loss to Forest Green Rovers. He played in their midweek win, impressing in what was his 17th appearance of the season, which is a run of games he struggled to manage in his early career.
The former Newcastle United youngster only managed a handful of appearances for the Premier League club, before loan spells at Coventry City and Crewe Alexandra. He has now finally found himself some regular football, meaning he now has the platform to showcase his ability.
These sides have not met one another in over 14 years, since an EFL Trophy clash in October 2007, where Hartlepool ran out 5-2 winners at Sincil Bank. The last time they shared the same division was 2006/07, with Lincoln winning 2-0 at home, before drawing 1-1 in the reverse fixture at Victoria Park later in the campaign.
Despite only taking one point from their encounters that season, United went on to win the League Two title, with City losing in the play-offs. Neither side have won back-to-back games against one another since Hartlepool managed it in the year 2000, something they will be looking to do again on Saturday.
For fans that can’t attend the game in Lincoln, the match will be available to stream on both clubs’ iFollow page. With the highlights available to watch by the end of the day at the latest.
What the managers have said
Lincoln manager Michael Appleton spoke to the club’s media, highlighting the importance of the FA Cup. He said:
“Saturday is massive to potentially get a Premier League side away in the third round. First, we have to focus on Hartlepool.
“It’s always difficult when the opposition have a new manager. You aren’t sure if they will change shape or make any big changes.”
In the other dugout, Hartlepool boss Graeme Lee was interviewed by local media in the week, explaining his decision to finally move into management. He said:
“It’s something I’ve always planned for many years, from when I was about 27 years old I began planning for what’s next.
“Because I started my playing career here, the plan was always I wanted the opportunity to come back here and be the manager.
“And that opportunity is fantastic.”