Lincoln City have earned their first ever trip to Wembley Stadium and place in the EFL Trophy Final after a 4-2 penalty shootout victory over Chelsea’s Under 21s.
The Imps took the lead at Sincil Bank with less than 20 minutes remaining through Luke Waterfall’s header, but Chelsea fought back through Daishawn Redan.
The hosts took control of the match right from the off with Danny Rowe forcing a good stop from visiting goalkeeper Marcin Bulka inside the opening five minutes.
Target man Matt Rhead and Rowe both came close again minutes later, but Chelsea’s defence pulled off a couple of superb goal-line blocks.
Winger Harry Anderson caused the young defence problems all evening, his low driven effort from the left side forced Bulka to make a strong low save.
The battle of the evening was between Lincoln’s bulky striker Rhead and Wales international defender Ethan Ampadu; midway through the opening period, the Imps’ forward came close to giving his side the lead, but Ampadu’s late aerial clearance denied him.
It was clear that the home side’s game plan was to deploy Rhead as their target man, he again posed a threat from a corner, with his headed effort from a corner falling narrowly wide of the far post.
Matters got slightly out of hand shortly before half time, with Michael Bostwick and Reece James of Lincoln and Chelsea respectively coming to blows, causing a minor brawl in the penalty area. Ampadu, who has featured for the Blues’ and Wales first team on a few occasions was quick to put things to an end, showing his maturity and experience, despite only being 17 years old.
Lincoln started the second half in the same dominating and overpowering way in which they presented themselves in the first. Their top goalscorer Matt Green, who has netted 12 times in all competitions this term prior to kick-off, almost got the opening goal four minutes after the restart, but he put his effort straight into the side netting.
Chelsea’s first major chance came minutes later; Callum Hudson-Odoi, who had been amongst the first-team substitutes just 24 hours before the match during their 4-1 defeat to Watford, fired a curling effort past Imps goalkeeper Ryan Allsop, however, defender Bostwick cleared the effort with a fantastic header off the goal-line.
Midfielder Ruben Sammut then came close for the visitors on the hour mark, despite being unable to steer his half-volley on target.
The hosts eventually took the lead with less than 20 minutes remaining after Neil Eardley’s cross was headed in at the back post by defender Luke Waterfall for his second goal of the season.
Lincoln almost doubled their lead from the resulting restart when Blues defender Reece James gave the ball away, but Bulka did well to deny Rowe on two occasions.
Joe Edwards’ young side hit back minutes later when Callum Hudson-Odoi’s pass eventually found its way to Daishwan Redan, who smashed the ball past Allsop to level the match.
Substitute Ollie Palmer came almightily close to winning the tie for Lincoln with less than 10 minutes to go, but he was unable to fire his shot from close range past Bulka.
With an entertaining 90 minutes not enough to separate the two sides, the match was decided via a penalty shootout.
Lincoln took the first kick, but Blues goalkeeper Bulka tipped Sam Habergham’s spot kick onto the cross bar.
Kylian Hazard then put the Blues ahead with his low, effort but defender Ampadu was denied via the post.
Elliott Whitehouse then levelled the match with his effort finding the bottom corner, Luke Waterfall then followed suit to make it 2-1.
Jaocb Maddox’ effort was denied Allsop, giving the hosts a massive advantage, but Harvey St Clair was quick to make it 2-2.
Green made it 3-2 to the Imps, with his venomous striker being too much for Bulka.
Lee Frecklington was the man to send his side into their first ever final at Wembley Stadium with his curling penalty giving his side a 4-2 victory during the penalty shootout.
Lincoln will face either Shrewsbury Town or Yeovil Town in the Final at Wembley Stadium on Sunday 8th April.