After the Second World War, Lincoln City enjoyed something of a resurgence in fortunes. Before Hitler attempted to take over the whole of Europe with his own brand of politics, City had predominately been a Division Three (North) side. Just one season after the cessation of hostilities, City stormed to the title, and secured second tier football.
After one year we were relegated, but Bill Anderson’s side looked capable of bouncing straight back up. Two fifth placed finishes in 1949/50 and 1950/51 sparked optimism that we might regain a place in Division Two, and with it trips to the likes of Leeds, West Ham and Nottingham Forest.
The 51/52 season started relatively well, with City finding the net freely. A year earlier we’d signed a striker by the name of Andy Graver from Newcastle United. He’d featured once for the Magpies as Jackie Milburn was in his heyday, and in September 1950 he moved down south to wear the red and white of Lincoln. He formed a terrifying strike force along with John Garvie, Harry Troops and Ernie Whittle.
Darlington visited Sincil Bank in mid September and were put to the sword, 7-2. A week later we made our way up to the North East and got beat 3-1 by Gateshead. Next up were mid table Crewe Alexandra.
On the day they visited we were in fifth, and they sat just three points below us in tenth place. That devastating forward line had bagged 27 goals in just ten outings, leaving us second in the countries scoring charts to Division Two side Sheffield United. It was (as it always seems to be with Lincoln) our defence that seemed to be holding us back, with 20 conceded, almost twice as many as the visiting Railwaymen.
11,269 fans turned out to watch City that day, which at the time was our lowest crowd of the season, and ultimately ended as our second lowest. I imagine that as they got news of the result on the wireless later in the evening, there were many Imps fans who regretted staying at home.
For eighteen minutes the game progressed at a subdued pace. Both sides created openings, but neither looked to have the intensity the fans wanted to see. The Echo at the time reported that one fan was heard to cry ‘Come on, this isn’t a game of cricket’. The next eighty minutes proceeded to give us something akin to a cricket score.
It took a 19th minute strike from Graver to spark City in to life. Almost a year to the day after his move he found a way past the debutant Crewe keeper, a 19-year old called Murray. From there Lincoln proceeded to not just dominate, but completely annihilate a sorry Crewe side.
Graver scored six that afternoon, matching Frank Keetley’s record of six set in 1932. His goals were the perfect double hat trick, two from his head, and two a-piece from his left foot and right foot. City swarmed all over the sorry Crewe side, with Ernie Whittle and Harry Troops both bagging a goal as well. The leading scorer from the previous season, Johnnie Garvie, couldn’t get his name on the score sheet, but he did create several of the goals. He was hauled down in the area as well which allowed right back Horace Green to get amongst the goals.
There was evidence of the usual frailties that City had suffered, despite the rout Crewe did grab a solitary goal through Mitcheson. It was a strike attributed to a defence tying itself up in knots, and doubtless had Radio Lincolnshire done a post match interview Bill Anderson would have lamented not keeping a clean sheet.
Stalwart Jimmy Grummett notched a goal too, in what would be one of the last times he appeared at Sincil Bank. He played just four more games at home before leaving the club after making 165 appearances.
The final scorer was a left winger called George Johnson making just his second Imps outing. He was described by the Echo as a hot prospect
“He has a deal to learn, particularly in the art of positional play, but he crosses a good ball, can beat a man, and if allowed to settle down should certainly make the position his own.”
Johnson played just once more away at Chesterfield a week later. He later missed a year as he was completing his national service, and upon returning he only featured for the reserves.
The result did help give the Imps a boost in the arm though. The defence tightened up, and although we didn’t score more than five in a game for the rest of the season, we did enough to ensure come May we led the table, finishing three points clear of Grimsby in second. The title was wrapped up on April 23rd as two Johnnie Garvie goals sunk Stockport County 2-1. By now interest had swelled and the game attracted a season record crowd of 21,501. Andy Graver had suffered an injury weeks earlier as we drew 2-2 with Carlisle, and he missed that promotion match, and he also missed his England B call up for a match against Holland.
City didn’t thrive in the second tier, but we did hold our own and retained our place just outside the top flight for almost a decade.
As for Crewe, they went on to finish 16th in the table, a long way from either the promotion or relegation spots. As they resumed their Division Three (North) campaign the following August, Lincoln were thrashing Blackburn Rovers in Division Two by four goals to one. unsurprisingly it was Graver, Troops and Whittle notching the goals.