COWLEY PROUD AS IMPS RUN TOFFEES CLOSE
LEAGUE Two leaders Lincoln City gave Premier League Everton a huge fright, before ultimately falling just short of taking the Toffees back to Sincil Bank.
A mad two-minute period during the first half, in which Ademola Lookman – with his first goal in 394 days – and Bernard scored, proved the Imps’ downfall and despite clawing a goal back through man-of-thematch Michael Bostwick, it wasn’t to be for the Imps.
Lincoln boss Danny Cowley was pleased with the way his side responded to going 2-0 down, with the Toffees looking likely to roll City over, before the tide turned.
He said: “I think we can be proud of our efforts. When you are 2-0 down after 15 minutes at a Premier League club, you fear the worst – but we have a resilient, gritty, determined group and we showed all those qualities to get back in the game.
“We scored and it gave us the confidence to go toe-to-toe with Everton.
“There was a 30-minute period in the game when they didn’t have a shot on target and that’s an achievement against a Premier League side.
“They are Premier League players, have a worldclass manager and they have tested us to the hilt.”
Lookman signalled his statement of intent within 57 seconds, cutting in from the right and firing a left-footed shot just over, but his long wait for a first goal since December 2017 ended when he converted a far-post header from Leighton Baines’ cross.
When Gylfi Sigurdsson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin combined for Bernard to cleverly dink over Josh Vickers, back in the Lincoln goal for the first time since Boxing Day after injury, Everton already had one foot in the fourth round.
But it was the last real piece of quality to come from the hosts with Lookman’s effort their final attacking threat. Lincoln, having overcome their early nerves, began to play more football and with their big front man John Akinde inducing unnecessary panic in centre-backs Kurt Zouma and Yerry Mina, there were plenty of free-kicks around the penalty area to take advantage of.
They duly did in the 28th minute when Jordan Pickford saved Jason Shackell’s header, only for Bostwick to follow up from close range.
Momentum switched in an instant as Everton lost all composure while their visitors’ confidence visibly grew and halftime came at the wrong time for them.
Sigurdsson’s 30-yard drive was batted away by Vickers, but still Everton did not look like they were in full control and a lack of cutting edge always offered Lincoln hope.
Visiting hopes were raised when Toffees top scorer Richarlison had to head out from under his own crossbar to deny Shackell at a corner. But their hopes of snatching a replay disappeared when sub Shay McCartan had a penalty claim rejected after going down under the combined challenge of Zouma and Mina.
Everton manager Marco Silva was satisfied with the win, if not the performance.
“First we achieved the main thing, to play in the next round,” he said. “We started with intensity and some good moments, but after we lost the focus and gave them hope.”
EARLY HOPE: Lincoln’s Michael Bostwick, left, celebrates scoring their first goal, inset, with team-mate Jason Shackell
FIST PUMP: Everton’s Bernard has hit the winner