Marcus Braddock looks ahead to the Checkatrade Final against Lincoln City
We all know that this has been a crazy season, an almost unbelievable season and part of it is about to come to fruition. Wembley beckons for the fourth time in our history and for the second time in this competition and it's my privilege to preview the game.
Our opponents have had a good first season back in the Football League and have better form in this competition than we do having won all of their games. They currently sit in 6th place in League Two, tied with Notts County on points but the Imps have a game in hand and are on a run of six unbeaten games.
Lincoln City have been going great guns for a couple of seasons since brothers Nicky and Danny Cowley took over the managerial reins. They'd taken Braintree Town to their highest ever finish in the National League and the play-offs, only to be beaten by Grimsby Town, managed by Paul Hurst and Chris Doig. Before that they managed Concord Rangers to three promotions from the Essex Senior Football League to the National League South.
With such an impressive CV a bigger club was always going to come in for them and Lincoln signed them up after just one season in charge of Braintree. Now, having seen Lincoln promoted, they've had an incredible first season back in the Football League, reaching the CheckaTrade Trophy final and going for a second successive promotion. Part of their success is down to some of the basics like fitness, speaking in the Guardian recently, Danny Cowley said, “We’re physically set up to go until the end. The boys work really, really hard on their fitness – they don’t always enjoy it – but that allows us to physically go until the end. Our will is so strong – they never give up. I’m proud of our physical condition, our mentality and our fight.”
Matt Green 13 in League Two and 3 in this competition.
Matt Rhead 7 in League Two and 1 in this competition.
Ollie Palmer 6 in League Two and 3 in this competition.
Harry Anderson 6 in League Two and 1 in this competition.
Neil Eardley 6
Matt Rhead 5
Harry Anderson 4
Fourteen, six at home and eight away.
70 yellow cards, 4 red cards.
Referee - Gavin Ward from Surrey. Games this season: 39. Yellow cards: 109. Red cards: 4.
Assistants: Duncan Street & Wayne Grunnill
4th Official: Mark Heywood.
Lincoln will be without midfielders Tom Pett and Jordan William and defender Scott Wharton who are all cup tied.
Paul Hurst will be without Abu Ogogo and Junior Brown who are both injured. Alex Rodman and Toto Nsiala will be decided upon closer to the game.
This is our fourth appearance at Wembley or our third at the new incarnation of the national stadium. It always seems a bit unreal when we go there, or at least it does to me. Maybe it's the cultural baggage that comes with it, 1966, Football's coming home and that white horse from when the world was monochrome.
We could do with winning this time, already there is a certain amount of dread associated with the place in my mind and that needs to be blown away. We face a team who are cresting a bigger wave than our own with their first visit to Wembley and great form in the league for the last two seasons. I don't really mind that though, it could take some of the pressure off the Towns shoulders.
When I look at the managerial team at Lincoln I see similarities between theirs and ours. Both have climbed into the league from a lowly starting point and both talk of the need for discipline and fitness that lasts the game so we should have a decent spectacle to watch for the full 90 minutes and maybe beyond. It's really disappointing to read that Abu Ogogo will be missing for the rest of the season, he deserves better luck after being a colossus for us. Losing someone like him whilst Lincoln have their key players available levels things a little even with the great replacements we have.
The main threats as I see them are the two strikers Matt Green and Matt Rhead, two experienced strikers who combine height, pace and physicality to give defences a difficult time. Obviously there is far more to Lincoln than the strikers, they have a defence that has kept eight clean sheets away from home in League two so our forward players are going to have to work very hard to get anything. I can see this one going all the way, maybe beyond the 90 minutes as two hard working teams clash. It's going to be exciting and nail biting but I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world tomorrow at 3 pm.