Lincoln striker Matt Rhead: We left Emirates full of pride despite FA Cup defeat

12 March 2017

Lincoln striker Matt Rhead loved his "beautiful" battle with Arsenal's international centre-back partnership and says the Imps left the Emirates Stadium with their heads held high despite losing their FA Cup sixth-round tie 5-0.

The Vanarama National League leaders had beaten two Championship sides and won at Premier League outfit Burnley to set up a tantalising quarter-final clash with the 12-time winners in north London.

Nine thousand Lincoln fans made the trip to north London and saw their side keep the Gunners honest until Theo Walcott's deflected effort opening the scoring on the stroke of half-time.

As the visitors tired, Olivier Giroud doubled the lead with a Luke Waterfall own goal making it three before Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey completed what was eventually a comprehensive win for Arsene Wenger's beleaguered side.

But Rhead, who tussled with Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi before being substituted in the 66th minute, enjoyed a spell on the big stage.

Asked about the challenge of playing against such a respected pair of defenders, the 32-year-old said: "Yeah, I loved it. It was beautiful. I loved every minute. They are good players, it was a good battle and it wasn't to be.

"The goal just before half-time killed us a little bit. But they're a world-class team, they showed us respect and played their best players so you can't complain.

"The first goal was a bit deflected but they had lots of chances, it's the end of an unbelievable run and now we have to focus on the league."

Rhead spoke after the game, clinging on to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's shirt, which the player had signed after the Arsenal players paid tribute to their opponent's cup run.

"I got Chamberlain's shirt," he revealed.

"Their lads have been fine, signed them for us and it was a great touch from them. A few of their lads came in to our dressing room, we then went into theirs and it was a touch of class from them."

While the Imps were unable to seal a day out at Wembley in an FA Cup semi-final, Danny Cowley's side still have a chance to play under the arch in the FA Trophy.

They take on York in a two-legged semi-final in the coming week, starting with a trip to Bootham Crescent on Tuesday night.

"We've got the trophy to come, the games are coming thick and fast," added Rhead.

"Wembley to come and hopefully we can put this behind us, sweep it under the carpet, know we've done something very special and finish the season with medals round out necks.

"Wembley would be a special occasion, like this and we will enjoy it, look back at the end of the season. We want medals round our necks at the end of the season as a reminder of what we've achieved."