Lincoln City boss Danny Cowley. Credit: Getty Images
By Russell Kempson
Last Tuesday evening, the English Football League (EFL) dodged a bullet. Actually, they managed to evade a fusillade from a fully loaded machine gun.
Lincoln City defeated Chelsea Under-21s 4-2 on penalties, after a 1-1 draw, in their semi-final of the Checkatrade Trophy at Sincil Bank.
Thus, League Two Lincoln will play in the final of the competition – a first visit for them to Wembley Stadium in their 134-year history.
How good is that? What a great backstory for a club that dwelled in the non-league backwaters only one year ago.
Yet that was still a moment in time when they incredibly made it to the FA Cup quarter-finals before losing 5-0 at Premier League Arsenal, the eventual winners.
Now, Lincoln will make an historic trip to the “Venue of Legends” to take on Shrewsbury Town or Yeovil Town on Sunday, April 8.
Love it, don’t you just love it …
And what, you may ask, would have been the EFL and Checkatrade reaction had the Chelsea kids – average age of their team at Lincoln, 18 – made it to Wembley?
Publicly, the pair would have been chuffed to bits. The PR spiel would have bordered on the nauseous.
Chelsea youngster Ethan Ampadu played in the defeat by Lincoln
Something like: “This proves that the integration of academy and development teams into the competition has proved a huge success.”
Privately, the EFL and Checkatrade people may have been rather rattled that their showpiece event would not only attract a meagre attendance but also little publicity – apart from that of the negative variety.
To be fair, the Chelsea youngsters appeared upset at losing the penalty shoot-out.
But they can return to their plush training ground in Cobham, Surrey, and their fat contracts.
And the dismay at missing out on the final will have been gone within, say, 24 hours.
For Lincoln, the dream of playing at Wembley is now reality. And the dream is still alive for Shrewsbury and Yeovil, too.
To them, the competition means the world – just the way it should be.
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