It comes with the ex-Imps boss returning to the club for the first time tomorrow alongside his Blues aiming to extend their unbeaten run to eight games.
However, the club have suffered a major hangover from the defeat at Wembley and have failed to recapture the performances that gained them many admirers.
Michael Appleton’s men are presently 16th in the division, five points behind the Blues.
But in spite of thi s, Cowley was full of praise for his former employers ahead of tomorrow’s showdown.
Speaking to The News he said: ‘They (Lincoln) have brilliant people at the wheel and Michael Appleton has done a brilliant job off the back of us being there. I think he’s a very good coach and I thought on paper last year they were the best team in the division and I think they deserve that accolade.
‘Certainly the recruitment they did during the summer before last was just outstanding. In a year where there was a salary cap, maybe it was easier because everybody had similar finances, but they still worked tirelessly and made so many intelligent decisions, in my opinion.
‘When I looked at them on paper last year, I genuinely thought they were the best team in the division and credit it to them for that. It just shows what could be achieved if you get the foundations right.’
The 43-year-old enjoyed the greatest years of his managerial career so far at Sincil Bank and will be forever immortalised in Imps folklore thanks to the two promotions gained under his stewardship, alongside an FA Cup quarter-final appearance and an EFL Trophy success.
The now Fratton Park chief would leave the Lincolnshire club for Championship Huddersfield in 2019, but missed out on a reunion last season with both fixtures against Lincoln already fulfilled when he arrived on the south coast in March.
Cowley continued: ‘Lincoln’s a great club where I have lots of fond memories and also lots of relationships and friendships that we made along the way. I think me, Nicky and our families will always keep them close to our hearts.
‘It’s a special, a great club, and one I will always have nothing but the very best to say about.
‘It’s just a brilliant city with brilliant people and I’m just appreciative of the opportunity they gave Nicky and I and the way they treated our families.’
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