League Cup Preview: Rotherham United v Lincoln City
After a trip to Wycombe, City have an away fixture closer to home on Tuesday as they make their first ever appearance at the New York Stadium to face Rotherham in the League Cup. The Imps will be hoping to a reverse a horrendous run against the Millers, as City have lost their last nine encounters against the South Yorkshire outfit going back to a 1-1 draw in August 1999.
Much has changed since the two sides last faced off, however. After Rotherham's thumping 6-0 win at Sincil Bank in 2011, the Imps have undergone a difficult six-year absence from the Football League while Rotherham catapulted through the divisions to the Championship, and clung on to second tier status until an abject campaign last season saw them comprehensively relegated.
It will be interesting to see how the Rotherham boss manages this one. In contrast to City's 2016/17, losing became a habit for the Millers in the Championship last season (W5, D8, L33) and an opening day loss at Fleetwood may well mean manager Paul Warne picks a strong side to face the Imps in an effort to get a win on the board and right the ship after last season's woes.
Danny Cowley meanwhile has a few rotation options as City open their campaign with three games in 7 days. It would be a surprise not to see Jordan Maguire-Drew and Harry Anderson play, the two wingers who were left out of the starting eleven on Saturday but are obviously well thought of. If Luke Waterfall is fit he may come back into the side, and you'd be surprised to see the highly-sought after Sean Raggett following a bruising encounter with Akinfenwa on Saturday. Matt Green ran himself into the ground on Saturday too, and it appears unlikely he will see out 90 minutes in South Yorkshire.
There are a few names to watch out for in the Rotherham ranks. Ex-Lincoln midfielder Lee Frecklington captains the side and has had a solid career across the Championship and League One since his departure, albeit one marked with a fair few injury problems. With that in mind, it is not a given that the Lincoln-born midfielder will start on Tuesday night. At centre half meanwhile, there is a familiar name from last season in Michael Ihiekwe. The 6ft 1in defender signed from Tranmere in the summer and gained some notoriety amongst Imps fans for stating that his late winner against Sutton United would 'Kill Lincoln' in the race for the National League title. Of course, the rest is history and City won 5 on the bounce to secure promotion, but a fair few City fans didn't forget his words (especially on social media)!
Another player to look out for is Josh Emmanuel at right-back; the 19-year-old was one of Ipswich's best performers in an otherwise abject display against City in the FA Cup, particularly in the first game at Portman Road. He had a number of driving runs forward and made a couple of outstanding challenges when City were well placed to score.
The Millers also have a bit of pedigree in the League Cup, albeit going back more than 50 years to the inaugural competition! Rotherham made the final in 1961 and won the first leg 2-0, only to lose 3-2 on aggregate to a Villa side that included club legend Peter McParland. City meanwhile, have not progressed past the first round of the League Cup since 2005/6 when they made it to the second round and gave Chris Coleman's Fulham a serious run for their money at Craven Cottage.
It is worth noting that extra time will be played if scores are level, and if the game goes to penalties they will be taken in the new ABBA format that was utilised in the charity shield on Sunday afternoon.
Last season Rotherham were dumped out 5-4 in a nine goal thriller by Jim Bentley's Morecambe, and City will hope to emulate their League Two counterparts and progress through the competition. Through 2016/17, Lincoln's 'lizards' helped City compete on all fronts, making the FA Trophy semi-final and a famous FA Cup Quarter Final. It will be interesting to see if City can maintain a cup run this season, but rest assured that the Cowleys will want to be competitive on Tuesday and run as deep into the League Cup as possible. Let's hope a win on Tuesday starts another special cup run for the Imps.