Football:Lincoln executive-coach in overdrive

Lincoln City 4 Battersby 22, Alcide 49 Finnigan 66, Holmes 69 Stevenage Borough 1 Alford 90 Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 4,375
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The Independent Online
THEY ARRIVED at Sincil Bank yesterday prepared to witness another routine act of minor giant-killing. They departed ready to herald the dawn of the age of a new entity in football: the chairman-manager.

Far from progressing beyond the second round of the FA Cup for the third successive season, Stevenage Borough, third in the Conference, were utterly dismantled. They could find no answer to an efficient and assured Lincoln City, bottom of the Second Division and widely reckoned to be in crisis.

The result and the performance, somewhat unexpected given the sides' positions and the non-League club's ability to project themselves, was a personal triumph for John Reames. He has been chairman of Lincoln for 14 years and has hired and fired 12 managers. Last month he grew tired of this process and appointed himself.

"I thought the players might think: 'What's the fool doing?' when I took over," he said. "But the reverse has been true. They're actually enjoying coming in to work again and being allowed to express themselves more. They're footballers and we want them to play football rather than just whack the ball upfield as we tended to do."

Of course, he may be enjoying the obligatory honeymoon period, but since Reames is the first Lincoln manager (and therefore their first chairman) to oversee the club's progress into the third round for 20 years, he may wish he had made the appointment long ago. He was elated in both his roles. As manager, he felt he had chosen the right tactics in negating the threat of the Stevenage full-backs down the wings. As chairman he hopes their advancement will go towards meeting some of Lincoln's debt. The club are losing pounds 5,000 a week and that is coming out of the pocket of Reames, a former international grain trader whose full-time occupation now, unsurprisingly, is football.

Stevenage began the match with what looked like a meaningful flourish, full of vigour but this failed to dim Lincoln's astonishing composure. There had already been one outstanding opportunity before John Battersby's looping header gave them the lead in the 22nd minute.

Four minutes into the second half, Colin Alcide's firm drive after Lee Thorpe's shot was blocked further undermined Stevenage's tendency to cockiness. John Finnigan scored the third from the impressive Alcide's cross and Steve Holmes then had a regulation header from a corner at the far post. Stevenage managed a consolation goal, but it was so late that the chairman- manager Reames was already clearing his throat to give his post-match verdict.

The executive-coach sports a green Australian bush hat which could become a feature of the competition if Lincoln progress further. He is desperate for a big club in today's draw so he can sign some more players. "I don't know how long I'll continue but let's say I'm happy with the present guy at the moment," he said.

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