Down 1-0 at halftime, Lincoln City needed something miraculous for their FA Cup tie with Championship side Brighton & Hove Albion to turn around, and in the 57th minute they got it. A crucial penalty, converted by Alan Power with ease, saw the match turn on its head, and there was no turning back.
Three goals later, Lincoln had pulled off the improbable, and the National League side defeated a team 72 places above them. For the first time since 1902, they were into the last 16 of the FA Cup. After the match, Manager Danny Cowley told BBC Sport, “I can’t believe the scenes and the emotion and the support. It’s beyond all of my wildest dreams.”
Now the current National League leaders have their sights set on continuing their magical run towards the cup. We sat down with Cowley and first-team performance analyst Glenn Skingsley to hear how they were able to achieve such impressive results for the club, and what their preparations look like for their upcoming tie with Premier League side Burnley.
For a team to make a run in any competition, it has to start somewhere. For the staff at Lincoln, it all begins with meticulous preparation and their use of Hudl has been instrumental as part of this process. Although this is the first year the Imps have been on Hudl, it’s not the first time that the staff has used it.
Previously, Danny and his brother Nick managed at Braintree Town FC with Skingsley, and together they brought Hudl into the fold. So when the staff moved over to Lincoln at the beginning of the season, it made sense for them to continue with the same formula. Now it’s paid tremendous dividends. “[It’s due to] lots of hard work, and loads of dedication from the staff, especially the hard work that’s been put in behind the scenes,” said Skingsley.
The hours spent on analysis each week ranges depending on the specifics the staff chooses to focus on. Regardless, they spend a tremendous amount of time on analysing their opponents. This helps them be prepared for any eventuality when they take the pitch. “The focus will be the same whether we’re playing a league game or a cup game,” said Cowley. “Monday will [usually] be a debrief of the game, so we’ll use Hudl to break the game down...We’ll look at areas where we did well and areas that we can improve in. We’ll do that as a group.
“Thursday will be a day where we start to talk about the opposition. We’ll do some analysis on the opposition, look at their strengths and areas where we feel like we can exploit them.”
The squad will then implement that analysis directly into training. It’s a system that clearly translates to execution on the pitch.
Overall, the staff spends countless hours each week poring over video of matches, sometimes watching back their own matches two or three times until they fully grasp every single aspect they want to analyse. “It gives us an insight into aspects of the game, tactically,” said Skingsley. “[And] it gives us added analysis to look at how they [opponent's] play.”
The dedication to progress flows from the top down. The ability to monitor their players within Hudl helps the staff keep everything organized in the buildup to a big match. “It tells us a lot about our players,” said Cowley. “Their willingness to want to learn and to improve [means] dedicating time.” From their perspective, it’s one of the factors that has seen them go on this remarkable run.
For the club, it’s all about the process. From their style of play on the pitch to the work they do off of it, they're motivated to keep pushing forward to new heights. The ambition is clear—it’s around continuous development, individually and collectively, as they continue their magical run. “That extra one percent that [Hudl] gives us is more than other teams, and hopefully that one percent is enough to get us promoted and a [give us] a good run in the FA Cup,” said Skingsley.
The staff are realistic, but they see both as an achievable feat. “If they continue to work hard, games like Ipswich and Brighton will be there every Saturday,” said Cowley. With video analysis at the forefront, this edge might just get them to where they want to be.
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