In my time as a Lincoln City fan I’ve witnessed the Imps maul only a select handful of sides. 7-1 against Rochdale and the 6-1 win against North Ferriby are probably the highest scoring. The Rochdale win came in a season of extreme highs and ultimate low. We topped the table, beat Barnet 5-0 away and ended up in the Play Offs. That big win came in the context of a good season. The win on Tuesday night has far further reaching repercussions in my eyes.
You may know I spent the pre match outside the TP’s lounge selling DF and doing a live radio interview. We sold a few Ferrets, I chatted to some Imps fans and all was positive. It’s been positive for a while now, for instance the 90 (ish) days the Cowley Brothers have been with us. I began noticing a few faces I hadn’t seen for a while at a game, and it did seem busy for a Tuesday night looking back. It was our first home game though and lots of people were wondering what all the fuss was about. 1,000 fans may like to get in there pre season, but there’s another group who only come out for the competitive stuff.
The managers first matches in charge can be busier as people want to take in a fresh Lincoln City, and with this being their first competitive home game the club were hoping for a big crowd. Our pre match talk bandied numbers ranging from 2,400 up to the holy grail of 3,000. Personally I had us down for 2,900 which did seem optimistic.
We discussed our opponents as well. I called 4-0 which was way in excess of any other score I heard. All fans agreed we should win the game, but one I spoke to even said he’d take four from the next six points ‘however they came’. It’s fair to say a majority of the people I spoke too were being tactically pessimistic. They wanted to believe but were too long in the tooth to be convinced things had changed this early in the season.
As kick off drew near myself and Ben Grundy made our way round to the turnstiles. It was here that I first sensed properly that something was changing. There were queues.
We skipped the first one thinking we’d have more joy further down, but all we found was another queue. Up and down the Sincil Drain there were queues of people trying to get into a Lincoln City game. I hadn’t seen it for a good few years, and it is was a welcome sight.
We missed kick off due to queuing to get in. I admit we left it until about 7.35pm before we mooched around so we could be held responsible ourselves, but what does it really mean to miss kick off? Miss a big punt up front and a goal kick? Miss a couple of rough tackles and a throw in?
Not tonight, tonight it meant missing Matt Rhead’s third goal of the season. In fact I’d only just taken my seat in a busy stand when Nathan Arnold made it 2-0. It was at this point I realised something had changed significantly.
There’s been lots of teams we’ve played that we feel we should be beating comfortably. Bath City. Boreham Wood. Bromley. North Ferriby. These are teams who (in truth) we feel we are superior too and we feel we should be beating. Invariably they end up putting us in our place, and in the case of North Ferriby a couple of seasons ago, humiliating us completely. At this level we flatter to deceive and bar the odd game we’ve never shown our supposed class by handing out a firm and resounding thrashing to a smaller club.
However just five minutes into Tuesday it became clear we we’re going to win the game heavily, and by the time Ben Middleton was sent off I truly believe we could hit nine or ten. North Ferriby were being outplayed all over the park by an energetic and slick City side.
It could be said of course that they were awful and I think perhaps that is true. History will judge me on this one but I think they’ll be relegated this season, but I don’t think many side will score six past them. They were bad, but in times gone by those ‘bad’ teams provide tough opposition for us.
I feel it is far more down to the work the Cowley’s have put in and the players they have added to the squad. Last seasons icons like Wood, Rhead and Muldoon are still present and performing, but Habergham, Woodyard and Nathan Arnold have added some real quality and options. The players were interlinking and switching clever little passes, seeking out space everywhere and exploiting it when they could. It was exciting and fast paced football that looked organised and purposeful. In the words of a guy sat a few rows back ‘they’re tearing this lot to fucking pieces’.
Again history may judge me here but I believe that there is sufficient evidence to suggest we are in for a really good season. The chatter around the ground was as much about the crowd as it was about the match, and for the first time I heard 3,500 ish thrown about. The truth was of course 3,622 which is an unlikely attendance for a National League game at Sincil Bank recently. The 50/50 fan and the old faces had come along to see what all the fuss was about, and they were witnessing the most comprehensive dismantling of a team in almost a decade. If you’re a fan thinking of coming back and your first tentative steps back onto the terraces bring a 6-1 win, what are you going to do the next time City are at home?
By the time we were 6-1 up some of the boys in the stand had broken out into chants of ‘we are going up’ or something similar. It seemed premature and those who believe they are sensible and level headed (like me) secretly chuckled to myself at the optimism and naivety of those fans.
Then I realised I was wrong, so very wrong. Something had changed. We were seizing the moment on the field to impress the big crowd and put the smaller club in their place. The City had started to believe and come out in big numbers. We’d almost sold out of the ferret. We were playing good football and everything felt good. Why should we try and dampen down that positivity with pessimism?
We should get carried away as fans of the club. We should believe we are going to win every game, and we should support the team in that exact manner right the way through the season. Belief breeds confidence and confidence breeds success. The players will never give up working, but it is they who need not to be complacent. However as fans I feel it is perhaps our duty to believe we are in for great things and to project that belief onto the players and the people around us. The players we have may lose form, we may get an injury or two and a decision or two may go against us, but if we have that unwavering belief that we will be successful then we’ll stay upbeat and positive, and when things on the pitch are not going well the players will still feel that support and belief.
Besides actually believing it is a lot more fun than being permanently pessimistic. We’ve spent enough years being overly optimistic despite having rubbish sides and getting bad results. We’ve suffered enough of the strong and committed teams not quite having enough to get out of the bottom half. We’ve sat in the gutter as fans for five seasons wishing our football was better than it was. We deserve to get carried away a bit, we deserve to really have true belief that we may have turned a corner.
4000 Saturday? I hope so because it will further enhance my belief that Tuesday night really was the night something changed. If a 6-1 win can convince another 500 people to come and have a look I make that another £8k or so in gate receipts, and if the Cowley brothers have the funding they’ve proved they can pull of really good signings.
Believe me when I say this: this season is going to be a bit different.
I accept no responsibility if we now lose to Sutton on Saturday and end up struggling to a mid table finish in front of just under 2,000 avid fans.