Follow Lincoln Away: Wimbledon

Courtesy Graham Burrell

Despite the recent lack of goals, Saturday was still an attractive prospect for avid Imps fans. Depending on your viewpoint we either haven’t ever played AFC Wimbledon, or we haven’t faced them for 35 years.

There was a certain romance about the game, a clash between two sides with tumultuous and chequered history, both enjoying a purple patch or renaissance of sorts. Throw that into the pot with a non-league ground reminiscent of last season and a League One side in poor form and you have all the ingredients of a classic cup tie. You can bang on about Burnley or Arsenal all you want, but last season aside, this is the FA Cup.

Destination: Chelsea Ladies??

The day started early for yours truly, 9am in Wragby for a minibus pick-up. As usual I was travelling with my old man, but we were on a minibus with a guy called Shane, his son and his son’s mate. The minibus was certainly rustic, Shane joked as we turned up that it’d been in the garage all week so it would definitely get us there. The back seat was loaded with cans of beer which pleased my old man, but current medication dictates I’m best steering clear of alcohol, certainly at 9am.

We picked up Richard and Eddie in Lincoln, two more new faces to all of us. Thanks to social media the word got out we had spaces in the minibus and they took us up on the offer. I spend a lot of time lamenting social media and the ease with which it can be used for negativity, but it certainly brings people together. After a brief toilet stop at Newark, we were on our way. Whatever happened to that tune from last year?

Dad and Shane sat up top doubtless sharing their passion for a bit of road rage, the two youngsters sat in the middle listening to whatever passes for music these days on a shared headphone and myself, Richard and Eddie found solace on the back seats talking primarily about cultured music. It appears Richard and I share much more than just a passion for our football club, we’re both ‘muso’ types that take great pleasure in listening to different artists and attending gigs. I might not meet many new people due to being insular, stand-offish and self-isolated in the Wolds, but when I do I seem to meet good ones.

There must be fifteen different routes one can take to get from Lincoln to Kingston, I’m pretty sure Dad and Shane debated most of them. Eventually we found ourselves at an M1 service station where, after checking the ridiculous queue for Burger King, we dipped into Greggs. Shane got eight rashers of bacon in his sandwich, whereas I got a inside-out cheese and ham sandwich and something labelled as ‘Japanese-style Chicken’ that seemed to have no chicken content at all. I also discovered the downside to eating runny, sticky food with a fully grown male beard. The upside of that was I found myself discovering little snippets of flavour well into the evening.

That’s right, the cheese is on the outside and the ham on the inside. Four bloody quid that cost me, an inside out melted sandwich.

In a haze of sticky beards, talk of accidental robot collections and the occasional whiff of cigarette from the front, we made it into London. Typically the traffic went from manageable to manic in minutes, people cutting each other up, slamming on brakes and shouting abuse, and that was just Shane! As he kept an eye on the sat-nav taking us to the ground, in the back we were checking out pubs on Google. It was slim pickings.

We planned to park at the ground as the free car park had been well publicised. However, as I’m sure many of you discovered, you can’t park there if you’re an away fan. I suppose there’s a logic to that, but it seems grossly unfair that people travelling a couple of hundred miles are forced to scour the so-called plentiful side streets whilst those travelling a few miles have their pick of a quite spacious car park.

The side streets did not yield any good spaces, certainly not for an eight-seater minibus, so in the end it got slapped in the Homebase ’90 minutes maximum’ car park. My theory was that if Shane was happy, I wasn’t going to let it bother me. It wasn’t my car after all.

At this stage I hadn’t actually got my ticket, a well-oiled chain of events had fallen into place for me to collect. I’d purchased on Eventbrite as you do, but in the week my glass back had decided it was a great time to play ‘give Gary some serious pain’, so driving to collect hadn’t been possible. Liam Scully and Roger Bates had combined to get my ticket to me, something that underlines the togetherness within the club. I appreciated both their efforts and arranged to meet Roger near the player’s entrance.

Finally I got to meet Ian Dovey. Not sure why we seem to have a red cord connecting our heads together.

I almost wasn’t allowed in that side of the ground either. As Dad and the gang made their way to a far-off pub in the middle of London (or so it seemed), I had to argue my case with a steward on the front gate. “Home fans only,” was his response as I tried to simply walk past him into a road at the side of the ground. I told him my story to which he replied “Do you have any proof?” I told him I’d ring Roger and he replied “How do I know who that is?” I was about to make a run for it anyway when his superior came over and told me to be quick.

Oddly, once I got around the corner there was a free mix of Imps fans and Dons fans, one of the official coaches had parked at the side of the ground. I didn’t really understand the fuss in letting me through given that there were more red and white shirts behind enemy lines than I’d seen on the road outside. Still, I’m no rebel, so when I’d got my ticket I made my way back out and around to the away end, being sure to thank the steward who wasn’t going to let me in. I’m too polite for my own good sometimes. Maybe it had been the same steward that had found himself faced with a barrage of Imps songs when we were first turned away from the car park in the minibus. I say ‘Imps songs’, I mean ‘abuse from Dad and Shane.’

Round the other side of the ground everything felt a bit ‘North Ferriby’. Two turnstiles, not designed for portly women or men, gave us our only option for entry into the ground but due to good communication from the club there were few queues. Everyone was being searched, after scouring the stewards for the one I feared being felt up by least, I plumped for a guy of around sixty that didn’t give off a Kevin Spacey vibe. We got through our fifteen seconds of intimate personal contact with a uncomfortable joke or two before I was asked to remove my hat. I don’t know what form pyro takes, but I’m assuming if I’d put it under my flat cap it would be fairly obvious as I’d have a lump or edges that shouldn’t be there. I obliged anyway, after all I always do. If he’d asked my to get the crown jewels out I would probably have just done it as not to upset anybody. Luckily for us both he didn’t.

We braved the search: Dad, Dave Mallett and myself. Can you spot any chicken in that beard?

I got in about half past two, it was already half full and the flow of people continued quite freely up until kick-off so I assumed the searching went smoothly for everyone. Given the lack of pyro it was also very effective, although Mr Needham didn’t go to the game so the risk was always going to be lower. He was at home letting of fireworks in a some sort of self-instigated protest I’m led to believe.

I would have gone for a pint before the game but the ground is perhaps one of the worst placed I’ve been to for beer. There were few pubs nearby, I’m told the one that the rest of the guys finally got to claimed to have sold out of most of their beers and there was nothing at the ground catering for us either. Along with the car parking it actually made it a pretty poor away day in some respects, although good company on the journey and a good atmosphere in the stands almost made up for it.

I finally got to meet Ian Dovey, a Deranged Ferret contributor and A City United subscriber. He told me he’d only come to the game after reading my blog last week. I snapped a photo as we queued for the rather basic portakabin toilets before taking my place in the ground for the game.

I’ve written about the game here in a bit of detail, to summarise we lost 1-0 to a higher ranked team that we bettered for seventy minutes of the game, yet we endured the same fate as Gainsborough who lost 6-0 to a lower-ranked team at home. Football can be cruel like that, can’t it?

It was as if we’d never seen a sunset before

Off field highlights included a sunset that seems to capture the attention of fans more than the game, being vindicated in choosing a covered spot with limited views when it absolutely lashed it down late on and chuckling at the abuse the poor linesman received before joining in with it when Green was hauled down but no penalty was given. I found it hard to be too upset as we filed out of the ground, if you take 2016/17 out of the equation a first round exit at a League One club isn’t the lowest we’ve experienced and we did actually better them once Lyle Taylor went off. The difference between the two sides was clinical finishing, or one miss-hit back pass. If that is the quality of League One then I’m pretty confident we’ll be in the mix by the time it comes around to May, especially with some new faces in January.

Filing out of the ground I got to meet a few more blog readers which is always good. I did what I always do, say thank you and then feel really awkward for a few seconds, it isn’t rudeness it is just me. You’ll understand if you’ve read this or this in the past. Please, do forgive me if I ever seem rude as it isn’t ever my intention.

Luckily Homebase had decided against ticketing a minibus full of Lincoln fans, so we were soon on the road home. I was able to get my match blog written as we queued on the A3 to exit London, then we chewed the game over on the backseat before settling down for a bit of a snooze. Somewhere around St Albans we were awoken by Dad and Shane having a discussion along the following lines: “Was that a roundabout?” “I’m not sure, it looked like one as we got near it.” “There were roundabout signs, anyway we’re over it now.” It seemed safer not to ask.

Matt Green fouled, no penalty

We did stop for some food on the way home, I sampled a KFC (burger only as I had venison burger and potato wedges waiting at home) called a ‘Double Down’. This is two chicken fillets glued together with cheese and bacon, no bread, no napkin and another tasty morsel or three for my food collecting facial hair. With sticky fingers and chicken-laden beard I slept from Baldock to Wragby, fearing we might just ride over another roundabout.

Despite the poor facilities for away fans and the defeat I actually had a great day. Richard and Eddie are good people, well-informed and friendly too. Shane and his entourage were great company too, Shane is a proper character but, as promised, he got us there and back in one piece with good humour all the way. Of course, spending any time with my Dad is good whether he’s yelling at a car park attendant or trying to tell me Ollie Palmer is an effective centre-forward. I think we all came from very different walks of life and backgrounds, but football flung us together as it has a tendency to do.

Dad and I are travelling with Shane again in the fearless minibus for Crewe, three spaces still available as long as you don’t mind missing the odd roundabout. Get in touch if you’re interested on social media or in the comments below, there might be a discount for anyone with a little beard hoover or similar.

On to Gresty Road!



  1. That sounds like so many away trips I’ve been on! Long boring journey to doze through, too much unhealthy fast food, nervousness parking somewhere you shouldn’t, unsure about the welcome awaiting you, lose the match, and yet somehow the day still feels brilliant at the same time! Need these kind of days to make the great away days GREAT!

  2. BTW your Dad is looking particularly mean in the photo above – wouldn’t fancy being a roundabout in his way!

  3. Without wanting to bore you with the delights of French cuisine I think your inside out sandwich is called a croque monsiour. They are very popular with non bearded Frenchman.

    • Fe did say that, however it was labelled as a cheese and ham sandwich. They’ve been accidentally French which I can’t condone

  4. My grandads brother played for lincoln 1927 /8 his name donald dovey .i am i assume related to ian dovey .john Pankhurst

  5. Love it, proper flavour of an away day.

    On a tangent on your social media point, it is great for bringing fans together. On my train to Victoria station this morning I had a chat with a fellow fan about our season so far with someone I have met from Banter who lives in the same town

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