It seems at the moment after every game I sit down to write a blog, wondering how I can possibly find new ways to enthuse about our football club. I’m going to try because it’s what I do, but sometimes football produces moments, matches and spectacles that simply defy words. Therefore I might find it hard to express in the English language what at least 6,600 people felt tonight.
I’ll start at the very beginning, the Travis Perkins suite as early as 6.15pm. It was rammed full, not just like the ‘good old days’ under Keith but even busier. Clearly people wanted to see the draw, and as the pictures began beaming out from Sincil Bank we could already see the Coop filling up on the big screen. I’d said to my Dad I expected close to 6,000 people, and prior to kick off that had seemed like an ambitious estimate.
Obviously the draw was perhaps a little less inspiring than we’d hoped. Ipswich are mid table in the Championship, but they do average 17,000 so it will be a good payday for the club. Whenever you get into the third round draw you hope for the big boys, but nothing was decided at 7.10pm no matter who we got. Sure if we won we had a trip to a biggish club, but Oldham weren’t going to be pushovers.
Normally I’d hang around until 7.40 ish in the bar then take a wander into the ground, but seeing how busy everything was we decided to get into the ground early. Usually it is my Dad, me and my step mum Mo, but today we had Mo’s brother, his mate and my mate Portion as well. It did seem like everyone had brought a friend or two with them, the bar under the stand was as busy twenty minutes ahead of kick off as it is at half time of any game. Binning off the idea of a pint we went to get a seat, and found the upper tier almost completely full. At that point I realised we were in for a special night in front of a big crowd, and I’m sure a lot of other people felt the same.
Now I know a lot of fans ask ‘where were you when we were rubbish’ (or something like that) to the stay away fans who come out for the big games, but I don’t at all. Football is a product and if that product is Steve Tilson or David Holdsworth quality then a lot of fans simply won’t pay to watch it. I will, most of you reading this probably will but not everyone has red and white pumping through their veins (unless we are talking blood cells, then everyone does…). Some people want to watch good football, committed players and winning teams. If we keep winning, they keep coming. I’m happy that a big cup tie can attract so many floating fans, especially on a bloody cold and foggy night in December. The next home game will attract 4,500 perhaps, but the other 2,500 from tonight will come again and will pay again. Let them come and see what’s happening at our club without labelling them as part time.
Anyway on to the game. These days you know Lincoln City mean business, and after the teams came out the players did their warm up in front of the paced Coop whilst Oldham’s lot stood around already looking cold. The intensity is instilled into the team and it is getting more and more evident and widespread. I’m sure it isn’t by chance that they warm up right in front of the big stand full of Imps fans, it’s almost like a warm up for us all. The boys are there, right in front of us, acknowledging the crowd and showing they’re here to win games. I think it is purely by design to begin to entice fans in before a ball is even kicked.
First half I thought Oldham were terrible. They had a couple of half chances, but we took the lead and deserved it through a good passage of play. The League One defenders didn’t want to have to deal with Rheady, and in doubling up on him it left spaces elsewhere. Theo worked hard to get into position to take his goal, and it was a typical strikers finish: almost by chance. You could see what it meant to him, and I think it was more than just happiness at scoring in such a high profile game. I’m not convinced Theo is here just to sell himself anymore, I think he looks every inch a committed Imp. Time will tell.
With everyone on their feet I took the opportunity to squeeze out for a brief toilet break, and by the time I returned they were on their feet again celebrating Terry’s goal. I was absolutely delighted for Terry, not just because it gave us a massive edge in the tie, but because he’s had a tough time in and out of the team. He had a good game tonight and he took his goal well, especially after having an earlier effort saved. I did wonder if playing Terry is a precursor to Harry Anderson returning to Posh, and Danny is trying to get him settled back in the side.
We cruised into half time, and I didn’t bother going for food knowing the queues would be hellish, and obviously the food is awful. My mate Portion did, and he hadn’t got halfway down the line when we kicked off. He’d only just taken his seat when Theo calmly finished to give us what would be the winning advantage.
We’ve won games this season, we’ve scored goals this season and as fans we’ve had plenty to cheer. That third goal though was different to any other because it felt like we’d killed the game. Little old Lincoln City (so little we attracted 2,000 more home fans than Championship side Burton Albion did on Saturday) had gone 3-0 up against opposition two leagues higher in front of the TV cameras. The big crowd had turned up, football fans across the nation were watching and we had given them a demonstration of what we can achieve. Pride? Restored, and then some.
My phone was going mental after that. I had a mate, a Leicester season ticket holder, messaging me saying it was the best game he’d seen all season. I haven’t heard from that mate for two years. I had two Codheads message the same, a Man Utd season ticket holder… suddenly Lincoln City were centre of attention, and we weren’t fluffing our lines. Deep down you knew we wouldn’t, deep down we knew we’d win this game. It’s the fear that stops you shouting it from the rooftops, the fear of us doing our usual thing and us fans ending up with egg on our face. Theo killed that fear for me with a superb finish.
Of course Oldham came at us in the latter stages, and Lee Croft in particular was outstanding for them. A gap opened up between Habergham and Arnold as the game got stretched, and every time they came down the right you thought they might score. They did score of course, twice but as we know twice isn’t enough when you’re three nil down.
To give the night an even more special atmosphere the fog came down as thick as I recall ever seeing at the Bank. Not one of the 4,500 fans in the Coop stand could see the bench by the end of the game, but it added to the mystique. It all felt very unique, and the relief and joy that greeted the final whistle was something very, very special. Very few of the 7,000 fans had left the ground early, and we weren’t just celebrating a win. We were celebrating a giant killing, we were celebrating rising to the big occasion, we were celebrating the whole country being able to see that we are on our way back. It was almost cathartic, finally we had beaten not just a league side, but a League One side. No longer are we the fodder for the likes of Carshalton or North Ferriby. No longer do we dream of an FA Cup first round tie with Rochdale to make us feel almost a proper team again. The last five years of hurt and embarrassment melted away as we proved that not only are we as good as anyone in our league, but we’re as good as at least one team two leagues above us.
The £27,500 prize money is a nice bonus too, as well as half the gate receipts from a 17,000+ crowd at Ipswich. If I were Dover I’d hope Rickey Miller scores a couple in the next few weeks so they can ramp the price up a bit more.
It’s 12.20pm now, usually I wouldn’t write this late into the night but unless you’ve been on the beer all day I imagine you too are finding it hard to sleep. I’ve watched the goals three times already, and I don’t doubt I’ll watch them three times more before I finally succumb to a nights sleep. It’s not just the goals, it’s not just the win and it’s not just the exposure. It’s the belief and pride, it’s 7,000 people turning up to Sincil Bank to watch a team to be proud of, full of belief that we were going to win the game. The last time that many people were in the Bank was one of the worst days of my life, the day we slipped out of the league. I think finally we can forget the indignity and shame of that day, and I think after tonight the rest of English football will begin to realise we’re coming back.
I am going to congratulate the crowd, and not just the 617 for their visual displays. Everyone was singing in that stand, and it wasn’t always led by the boys. I read on a thread tonight they’re a hard core of fifty or so, and it would be remiss to single out 50 from a stand with best part of 5,000 people in. All the fans were magnificent, young and old, 627 or Johnny-cum-latelys. If they heard us in Bracebridge Heath last week I’m pretty sure they heard us in Sleaford this week.
I tell you what, I bet Ipswich won’t be rubbing their hands at the draw because they know we’ll go there and give it a bloody good go. In round three against Bolton Wanderers Chris Sutton put out an assortment of loan players as we crumbled to a 4-0 defeat. Against the Tractor Boys Danny Cowley will put out a proper team, a team that is in the habit of winning matches, a team that is scared of nobody and most of all a team that I am bloody proud to support.
Don’t forget there’s a book out that would make a great Christmas present to anyone who supports Lincoln City. It’s earning rave reviews (well, two) on Amazon. It’s called ‘Who’s who of Lincoln City 1993-2016’: and there are more than one ways to buy it.
If you want to buy direct from Amazon then click here
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Please note although Amazon offer ‘Prime’ delivery to buyers, they don’t offer it to me on wholesale copies so any books ordered through me will be posted out first class week commencing 12th December.