Everton 2 Lincoln City 1
For Lincoln City there will be no new shockwave to follow on from the one they caused in 2017 by becoming the first non-league club for over a century to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals, but do not let it be said that they did not give it a good go.
On a chilly Merseyside afternoon Danny Cowley's men, now leaders of League Two, pushed Everton all the way in a third-round tie during which, at times, it was difficult to judge who were the favourites and who were the underdogs.
Having scored twice in the space of two first-half minutes, through Ademola Lookman and Bernard, Everton ultimately did enough to reach the fourth round but this was another largely unconvincing display from Marco Silva's men. They toiled against opponents who sit 85 places below them and who showed incredible spirit, aggression and ambition.
Lincoln scored through Michael Bostwick's close-range shot on 28 minutes and will reflect on those moments when they caused enough panic inside Everton's area to have potentially forced a replay.
For Everton, there were positives, notably the performances of Leighton Baines and Bernard, two of five changes Silva made to the side that lost 1-0 to Leicester on New Year's Day, but this remains a team still struggling for an identity. A first trophy - and first FA Cup - since 1995 looks unlikely.
Lincoln's 2016/17 Cup run really was staggering. Brighton beaten in the fourth round before Burnley were overcome in the last 16 thanks to Sean Raggett's never-to-be-forgotten late header. The Imps' improbable journey came to an end via a 5-0 defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium but they left north London with their heads held high, not to mention with enough money to build a £1.3m training facility.
They were cheered on by an expectedly fervent away support numbering around 5,000, about half the size of the crowd Lincoln get for most home games at Sincil Bank. Those decked out in red and white in the Bullens Road end certainly tried to make this feel like a Lincoln home game, singing and bouncing long before kick-off.
They continued as the action got under way and Lincoln looked to make life difficult for Everton by pressing high up the pitch. The hosts appeared rattled but soon took a grip of proceedings. Lookman opened the scoring on 12 minutes with a glancing header following Baines' deep cross before Bernard doubled Everton's lead with a lovely lifted finish over Josh Vickers.
The rest of the first half looked set to be a procession but then came a bolt from the blue, or rather from the red and white. Michael O'Connor sent a deep free-kick into Everton's area and there was Jason Shackell to send the ball towards goal with a firm header. Jordan Pickford kept it out with a brilliant reaction save but he could do nothing to stop Bostwick drilling the rebound into the back of the net. Cue another eruption of noise from the away end that pretty much continued until the half-time whistle.
Everton, for whom James McCarthy was an unused substitute, were struggling to maintain their lead and, as such, it was not a huge surprise to see Silva made a double switch at half-time, bringing on Cenk Tosun and André Gomes for Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Tom Davies. But the changes made no immediate difference as the hosts continued to give away the ball and build little or no attacking momentum.
It was not until the 57th minute that Everton had their next meaningful attempt at goal, a Gylfi Sigurdsson drive from just outside the area that Vickers kept out with a low save.
With 10 minutes remaining Silva made his final change, bringing Richarlison on for Sigurdsson. The Brazilian supposedly came on to get a third goal for Everton yet on 82 minutes found himself having to prevent Lincoln getting the second, heading the ball away from practically underneath the home side's crossbar after Shackell again connected with a visitors' set-piece, this time Bruno Andrade's left-sided corner.
Sunday Indo Sport