Why we hate Grimsby Town (Part 1 of loads)

As you know I fancy myself as a bit of a Lincoln City historian, and in my continuing studies for a (self awarded) degree in Imps science I have decided to write a series of blogs on the reason we hate Grimsby Town.

Now to clarify I’m not looking at just listing things bad with the town, like the smell, the fans or the fact I recently left a job there prematurely. No, I’m looking into the real reasons that we hate each other, and not just the fact they’re close to us. We do have history with the Cods, a tale of disdain and distrust that stretches back over 130 years.

So welcome to Part One of what promises to be a long and arduous journey through our rivalry. I’ve no idea how many blogs I’ll write on the subject, if no-one reads this I guess it’ll be a shorter series than I imagine it might.

Mortimer, Bainbridge and Strawson are not three names that will be familiar to City fans, but they should be. On July 5th 1884 these three Lincoln men met in the Monson Arms in Lincoln to form Lincoln City Football Club. Within six months our long-standing rivalry with the Cods was underway.

Entrance to the John O’Gaunts ground, circa 1890

The club was formed from the ashes of Lincoln Rovers, and the intention was to bring home the then-prestigious County Cup. Originally Lincoln Lindum had been involved in discussions with the new team, but they opted to remain independent and continue life up on what is now Wragby Road.

Spilsby had won the county cup three years on the spin, and civic pride dictated that the magnificent City of Lincoln should be able to beat this village from up in the Wolds. There was a trophy called the FA Cup to play in as well.

Our first ever assault on the County Cup began with an 11-0 win over Boston Excelsior, followed quickly by a 4-0 win against Lincoln Albion. On Boxing Day in 1884 our interest in the competition ended for a season as Horncastle Town defeated us by 3-0.

The FA Cup wasn’t the main focus back then, but after beating Hull Town 5-1 in the first round, we travelled to Grimsby in the third round (after getting a bye). Our main benefactor Jack Strawson was referee on the day, and in the essence of fair play even ruled out a Lincoln goal for offside. Grimsby Town won the game 1-0, but early indications were that a relationship of fair play might be born from the county rivalry.

Once again it was Grimsby who ended our FA Cup run, this time winners in the first round 2-0 at our home, the John O’Gaunts ground. That was October 31st 1885, and the game was seen as a mere warm up to the serious business of the county cup.

Again Lincoln Albion were despatched, 4-0 in the first round. Six days before Christmas City travelled to the previously mighty Spilsby, but a 4-0 win put paid of any notion that the village side would continue their form in the competition. Brigg Ancholme were next up at home: City won 7-0.

That set up a tantalising semi-final clash with Grimsby, a team against whom we’d lost both competitive games without scoring a goal. March 13th 1886 was the date set for the big match.

Back then matches couldn’t be played in the dark, and with floodlights nothing more than the stuff of science fiction, it meant careful and considered planning. I’m not sure that was o the minds of the 1,600 travelling Imps that day, nor the Town fans that made up the rest of the 7,000 strong crowd. It should have been.

Lincoln City, 1888-86. The uninterested man in the bowler hat is ‘umpire’ James West who later managed Newton Heath. Jimmy Slater is front row far left, Edwin Teesdale is front row centre.

The game ended 1-1 at Clee Park after the full ninety minutes. Grimsby wanted to play extra time, but Lincoln, with a journey home to consider, didn’t. Besides it was almost nightfall and visibility was down to a minimum. Grimsby insisted, Lincoln stood firm. Whilst arguments could have gone on all night, they didn’t. Lincoln went home.

Grimsby appealed to the Lincolnshire FA who immediately disqualified Lincoln from the competition. Grimsby received a bye into the next round, or so they thought. City had other idea’s, and they complained to the Football Association. The national governing body pulled rank on the Lincs FA, and they ordered a replay to go ahead at Lincoln.

On April 10th 1886 City awaited their opponents from the land of the fish, but they never came. They weren’t playing ball, so to speak. City knew they weren’t travelling, but they had to stage the game anyway. After a few minutes we walked the ball into the net, were declared the winners and Notts Rangers came out of the stands to play a friendly for the crowd. City were in the cup final.

Only they weren’t. Grimsby complained to the Lincs FA again, and again our county association sided with the Mariners. The quickly arranged the final against Lincoln Lindum, and won the trophy courtesy of a 1-0 win.

City were incensed. Not only had Grimsby defied the FA, but they’d deprived Lincoln City of an all Lincoln final, a chance to settle old scores once and for all. The Lincs FA had to answer to the FA as to why it had gone against the original ruling. That didn’t help Lincoln City, Grimsby paraded the cup and the Imps (then known as the Cits) missed out.

The next season, 1886/87, has been mentioned a lot in recent weeks. It was the last time we reached the FA Cup 5th Round, eventually losing 3-0 at Glasgow Rangers. It also gave us a fine chance to get revenge over Grimsby.

The County Cup was at its pomp in 1886/87. There was no league competition as such, and despite our FA Cup heroics, we still hadn’t lifted the trophy we set out to win. a 5-0 1st round win over the previous years finalists, Lincoln Lindum, set the stage for a proper cup run. Grimsby Humber Rovers were thrashed 5-0 and Gainsborough Trinity 5-2 either side of the Rangers FA Cup game. In March we romped through the semi-final, beating Grantham Victoria 5-0. That set up a final with non other than Grimsby Town.

The final took place at the Northolme in Gainsborough, a ground City had already won on in the FA Cup 3rd round. A confident Grimsby expected a victory, but City we resolute. Edwin Teesdale and Jimmy Slater were the Cit’s scorers, but Town netted two of their own. With rules around replays already decided, the draw was accepted, and a replay was set three weeks later.

The Monson Arms, where it all began. Not to be confused with the pub on Skellingthorpe Road

Once again City travelled to the Northolme, although this time the result was favourable. Billy Gregson scored late in the first half, and Jimmy Slater bagged a second towards the end of the game. A packed Northolme erupted, and as the trains rolled into Lincoln Station later that night, so did the City.

Lincoln City had done what they set out to do: win the County Cup. No doubt the FA Cup heroics had given some food for thought, after all they weren’t to know it would be 130 years until they reached that stage again! On November 26th 1887, Grimsby knocked us out of the tournament at 3QF round stage (last 32 I believe) and the fans were immediately on the managers back.

So even 130 years ago Lincoln suffered rivalry with Grimsby, uncertain form and fickle fans. Not much has changed really, has it?

Next time on Why we hate Grimsby: More FA Cup woes, and twice a season league fixtures to contend with.


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