“Hark now hear, the Lincoln sing. The Grimsby ran away. We will fight for evermore, because of Boxing Day“
I first heard those magical words in 1988, several years after we had last played Grimsby Town. Something used to spark the imagination about a Boxing Day fixture, something that kept my old man singing songs from ten years previous. He was singing this particular tune as he prepared to go and watch us beat Kidderminster Town 5-3, three days after Boxing Day in 1987 (I love my old man to pieces, but sometimes his songs don’t bear chronological relation to anything). Unfortunately I was misled by my father as to the level of success we achieve on Boxing Day, and although in 1987 we managed a 2-1 win at Boston, generally speaking the 26th of December is not a good date for Lincoln City.
Of course yesterday nobody ran away, certainly not from Lincoln City. Guiseley fronted us out in the bitter cold winds, and chance favoured them instead of us. It gave my left over turkey a bit of a sour taste, and made sure the next few days a little less ‘celebration’ and a little more ‘anticipation’ for New Years Day. We shouldn’t have been too surprised though, because we seem gripped by a Boxing Day hoodoo.
Take last year. The 1-0 defeat at home against Halifax Town was our sixth game without a win. In context it was ‘just another defeat’, in reality it was another defeat against opposition we expected to beat on Boxing Day. Halifax were relegated at the end of the season, and our next win didn’t happen until January 30th, ironically coming at home, 1-0 against Guiseley. I’m sure we’d all take that in five days time.
In 2013 it was the turn of Grimsby Town to inflict the festive misery on the Imps. Jake Sherdian was sent off, and in an example of how far we have come, Bohan Dixon kept Jon Nolan on the bench. Three days later it was Halifax again compounding a miserable festive period, trouncing us 5-1 after Alan Power’s 12th minute dismissal.
2012? Grimsby beat us 4-1 at the Bank. 2011? Grimsby again, at home again, this time a Liam Hearn goal snatching the win for them. Francis Laurent and Conal Platt started up front for us. Let that sink in for a moment. Yes we lost yesterday, but we have taken some massive strides since 2011.
The harsh fact is we’ve only won one Boxing Day clash since we’ve been in the National League, and that was the 2014 win against Alfreton, a win followed up by victories against the Codheads and Barnet. 2014 was a good Christmas for Lincoln City, although by January 10th we were back to our inconsistent selves, losing 4-0 at Eastleigh.
Mercifully the year we were relegated there was no Boxing Day football, the dousing of snow we endured kept football at a minimum, in truth probably the very best thing that could have happened. The less football we saw in the 2010/11 season the better. I still wake up remembering the joy every time a home game was called off.
For our last really good Boxing Day result you have to go back to December 2009, seven years ago. At the time we were in free fall, motor mouth ‘manager’ Peter Jackson had gone, Mr Personality Chris Sutton had arrived and the club looked to be in the depths of a relegation battle. We hadn’t heard of Davide Somma at the time, or his knack of scoring goals for fun. We went into the Boxing Day clash with Chesterfield expecting nothing more than a trouncing and confirmation of the fact we were absolute crap.
We won 2-1, and if memory serves me correctly the biggest cheer of the day was reserved for Jack Lester as he missed a penalty at the Stacey West end. I would say it was a Merry Christmas, but with Brian Gilmour up front for you, Christmas can never truly be ‘merry’ in the strictest sense. If only we knew what was coming.
In 1999 it was Halifax again (3-0), 1997 Rotherham (1-0), and in 1996 Hull City beat us 2-1.
Let’s keep going back shall we? I feel inclined to mention Boxing Day 1985, a fairly unremarkable 2-2 draw against the Spireites. I want to mention it because a reader of my blog, Warren Ward, scored our second goal as we got a point. A point wasn’t much good though, Warren didn’t play again until April 22nd, and by then we were all but relegated. His three from five games at the tail end of the season couldn’t keep us up.
1984, Orient beat us 1-0. There was no 1982 Boxing Day fixture, but on the 28th we lost to Huddersfield. Even in 1947/48, the year we stormed to the Division Three North final we lost the festive fixture, 3-2 to Accrington Stanley. I picked that game because the superbly named Jimmy Hutchinson (no relation) bagged a brace.
I picked a few random seasons from my books as well. 1962 Aldershot beat us 4-2. 1971 Southend beat us, 1970 Colchester, 1968 Port Vale did us 1-0 in front of 12,208 at Sincil Bank.
What is the point of me bringing you all this misery I hear you ask? Did we not suffer enough losing in dramatic fashion to Guiseley yesterday? Yes we did suffer enough, but our fathers suffered over Christmas before us, and before them their fathers suffered too. In fact their fathers also suffered. In our very first Boxing Day fixture we faced Horncastle Town competing for the Lincolnshire Senior Cup. The date was December 26th (obviously) 1884, and we lost 3-0 on The Wong. It was our only our fifth competitive game, but we were already setting precedents. The harsh truth is this: if you’re a Lincoln City fan, prepare for a shit Boxing Day.
The only exception to this terrible curse is if we play Macclesfield or Boston, two teams we have registered wins over on December 26th. Sadly Macclesfield could have done us a favour by getting a result this year, but succumbed to a late Jeff Hughes goal. It was Jeff Hughes who scored our winner against Boston, Boxing Day 2006. Hughes sat out the 2005 0-0 draw with Boston.
So what of New Years Day? Do we have another monkey on our back, and do Guiseley have a real chance of seizing on our festive frailties?
Our first ever NYD clash saw us beaten 5-1 by Newcastle United (1893), but in the main things do tend to pick up. The freshly christened ‘Boxing Day Hoodoo’ does seem restricted to that short period in and around Christmas Day, by the time the New Year arrives managers down the years seemed to have kicked some arses and got a response. Whilst we’ve lost all but one of our Boxing Day clashes in recent years, we’ve drawn three and lost one of our New Years clashes, with the closest fixture in 2014 (Jan 3rd) bringing us a 4-1 win.
Let’s just hope that Boxing Day 2017 sees Sincil Bank under six feet of snow, with no chance of a match until at least January 1st!