Another year has passed, another twelve months that has been written into the annuls of Lincoln City history. For a few years now we’ve had to content ourselves with blind hope and the eternal optimism that lurks, deeply rooted in outwardly pessimistic Imps fans minds.
2016 has been different though, 2016 was the year when that optimism became free and was able to spread and grow. 2016 was the year when unfounded hope became grounded and realistic chance. 2016 was the year it all seemed to begin to change, and here is my all-too brief overview of what has happened since December 31st, 2015.
The Imps saw in 2016 in relatively inauspicious circumstances, snatching a 2-2 draw from soon-to-be relegated Halifax. Craig Stanley and Liam Hearn were on the score sheet, the latter getting his first goal back after returning from an ill-advised loan spell at Barrow.
City bring in Leeds striker Robbie McDaid on-loan to try and stop the poor run, but a home defeat by Dover all-but puts paid to our hopes of finishing above them. Our chase for a play-off spot faltered following further losses to Forest Green (1-0) and play-off rivals Wrexham.
Under fire manager Chris Moyses was singled out for abuse after the 3-1 defeat at Wrexham, and he responded by swearing back at the fans. The early season promise seemed to be evaporating quickly, the manager who worked for free was deemed, by some, not to be up to the challenge.
January 30th finally brings The Imps their first league win in just over two months, Guiseley are beaten 1-0 in a side rejuvenated by the return of former Imps defender Jamie McCombe, and the arrival of a tricky forward from Shrewsbury called James Caton.
We end January in 11th place, only 5 five points off the play-off spots but behind both Gateshead and a Cowley-inspired Braintree who have a significant number of games in hand.
Off the field fans were rocked by the passing of former striker and absolute legend Percy Freeman. Big Percy netted 23 times from 35 league outings during the 1975/76 season, helping secure the Division Four title with a record number of points.
City have just three games in February, but find themselves hitting something of a purple patch. The injection of trickery from Caton, and the calming influence of Jamie McCombe brings just the tonic we needed after losing ground in the play-off race. Young winger George Maris also signs on a youth loan, but his impact was negligible.
Fan hopes are raised as we thrash fellow promotion hopefuls Eastleigh 3-0 at Sincil Bank, with James Caton and Matt Rhead both scoring spectacular goals. A week later an uncharacteristic error from Paul Farman saw us draw 3-3 with Altrincham, although in the grand scheme of things the loss of that point meant very little. One of the scorers for the opposition that day was a young striker by the name of Jonathon Margetts.
The month ended with our routine heavy home win against Southport, Caton scoring twice more and Robbie McDaid putting a late third in the net to secure a comfortable 3-1 win.
Liam Hearn’s time is finally up at the club. He doesn’t feature throughout February, and despite stating he wants to remain and fight for his place, he’s shipped off on loan. Apparently, nobody lost any sleep.
We end February with a sniff of the play-off hunt, nothing more. Both Braintree and the rabble from Crabble look poised to join Grimsby and Forest Green in the end of season lottery, and all-but the most optimistic, rose-tinted spectacle wearing, die-hard, deluded fan thinks we can do it.
I write a blog claiming we can do it.
After a brief resurgence in February, march brings nothing but more frustration, more anger and ultimately more defeats. A win against Aldershot and a credible draw at Macclesfield look like decent results on the face of things, but an injury to Jamie McCombe in the 4-1 defeat at Dover puts paid to any aspirations we haveof playing in the Football League in late 2016.
Bradley Wood is sent off for a deliberate but instinctive handball as we go down 3-2 to Tranmere, although youngsters Robbie McDaid and George Maris claim a goal each on the Wirral to at least give the score an air of respectability, and it is only a goal three minues from time that finally defeats us.
March ends with a 1-1 draw at home to Gateshead, and it has by then become very clear that we are preparing for a life in the National League in 2016/16. Young players such as Elliot Hodge, George Maris and Alex Simmons get a start whilst Kegan Everington is also seen late on from the bench.
By the time April Fools day has arrived even I have to admit we’re not going to trouble the play-off race, predominately because it is mathematically impossible.
The bubbling resentment towards Chris Moyses finally comes to a head as we lose 2-0 at Bromley. Once again he is involved in a confrontation with irate fans who seem to forget he is working for free and has assembled a team that, in the main, have competed in the top half of the table for the first time since our relegation. Just days later Chris announces he is stepping down, the stress of managing a full time football club an his own civil engineering business becoming too much.
As a reaction to this my own anger boils over, and the Stacey West blog is born, starting with an article defending Chris and wishing him all the best. I’m sure my blog’s inception isn’t really news worthy in a review of the year, but I don’t care. I write what I want.
The first game after Chris stands down brings a win for City, 2-1 at home to Chester. Once again it is McDaid and Maris with the goals. The season peters out from there, a draw against Southport is followed by a 3-2 home reverse against Woking and finally a 3-1 loss away at Champion Cheltenham. Attention now turns to who might end up managing our football club, and an early front runner is North Ferriby manager Billy Heath who guides them to the brink of the National League.
The month our season ended, our worst nightmares came true and the New Imps Order started in earnest.
Firstly we finished the season in 13th place with 61 points, which was our highest finish of our non-league stay, but four points shy of our best total. Many see this as a indication we hadn’t progressed. The investment from Clive Nates, and the arrival of players such as Bradley Wood and Matt Rhead gave us a firm base to build on though, and unbeknown to us that had already been noted by other club’s managers, two in particular.
Grimsby win promotion to the Football League after Braintree in the semi finals and Forest Green in the final. It’s a bittersweet moment for Lincoln fans, it’s nice to see a plastic football club with no soul lose in the final, but it’s awful to see out stinking rivals go up as well. It was like trying to chose which arm you have to hack off with a rusty saw.
Our misery is short lived though as Braintree management duo Danny and Nicky Cowley arrive to much fanfare in front of a packed open forum at Sincil Bank. The event will eventually be talked about like the Sex Pistols gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester – you won’t meet a Lincoln fan who won’t claim he was there.
I was, of course, there.
The month was dominated by speculation as to which Braintree players Danny would bring with him, and which we might release. The first bit of news was the Matt Rhead handed in another transfer request, mainly due to the distance he has to travel to Lincoln. In the press he speaks highly of the Cowley brothers, and they speak highly of him.
Not much really happens in June, so my round up of the first six months ends somewhat abruptly with very little to report.
Alex Woodyard arrives from Braintree fairly quickly, as does Sam Habergham and Taylor Miles. Braintree fans begin to wonder which player will be the one left turning out the lights before a move to Lincoln.
Fan Andrew Helgesen launches ‘Cowleys Campaign’ to help try and raise some funds to assist in the signing of more new players.
Whilst watching a really poor England team curl up and die in France, I have the idea of bringing back the Imps fanzine Deranged Ferret. I’m not sure of the correlation between rubbish national sides and off the wall fan humour, but I’m sure there must be one somewhere.
Part 2, which covers the last six months. That’s pretty obvious I suppose.
Thanks to Amazon’s bloody awful ‘author supplies’ chain, there is still just one way to buy ‘Who’s who of Lincoln City 1993-2016’:
If you want to buy direct from Amazon then click here