The Greatest Day of All? Imps 5-0 Grimsby

In Issue Two of ‘A City United’, Jamie Ward penned the words and Graham Burrell provided the pictures that documented our fine 5-0 win against Grimsby Town in March 2006.

What better way to prepare for the big derby than to reminisce about that wonderful afternoon that Jamie Forrester made his debut, Russell Slade delivered a rather interesting team talk and City hit five without reply? Take it away boys.

Sincil Bank has provided us Lincoln City supporters with plenty of memories over the years. There has been promotions, relegations and play-off heartbreak. There has been euphoria, there has been deflation. We have laughed and, of course, we have cried. Ask every Lincoln City fan to share their favourite moment and each one will offer something new.

Now, I’m very fortunate to hold some fantastic memories surrounding the club close to my heart. I spent my teenage years and my early twenties as part of Ringo’s band and experienced some great times as a result. From the two play-off finals at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff to trying to drum up support in the home friendly v Liverpool whilst surrounded by Lincoln-cum-Liverpool fans. However, with the plethora of good (and bad) times to choose from, there is one day which really sticks in my mind…

Saturday 25th March 2006. V Grimsby Town.

Along with thousands of others, I have attended plenty of games against our local rivals both home and away in which I can share a story or two. Who can forget Simon Yeo’s incredible hat-trick at Blundell Park in 2005, or Charlee Adams wonder goal in 2014? How about the embarrassing 4-1 defeat on Boxing Day 2012 at Sincil Bank? No? Me neither.

The game in early spring 2006, however, made national news.

Both clubs went into the fixture riding a crest. Grimsby were second in the table, pushing for one of the three automatic promotion places whilst the Imps sat in sixth and looking good value for a fourth successive playoff berth. The Mariners (their ‘real’ nickname), boasting one of the best defensive records in the league, were confident that they could secure a result which would cement their place in the top three. Lincoln, however, had other ideas…

Lining up in a 4-3-3 formation, Imps legend Alan Marriott started in goal with Colin Cryan, Nat Brown, Jamie McCombe and Paul Mayo in front of him. Lee Beevers, Luke Foster and Scott Kerr made up a very defensive looking midfield whilst Francis Green, Marvin Robinson and Jamie Forrester were tasked with causing disarray amongst the Grimsby back four. Over 7000 fans packed into Sincil Bank (yes, that was a big crowd in the 00s!) in anticipation of what was to come.

After only 12 minutes, Lincoln had the lead after a scruffy looping header from Foster landed in the back of the net via the post, handing the hosts the perfect start. Things got even better just four minutes later when Jamie Forrester latched on to a defensive mishap between Futcher and Justin Whittle, sending a stunning half-volley over Town goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall.

Chasing the game, Grimsby began to apply the pressure although struggled to find a way through the resilient Imps defence. With 38 minutes on the clock, Marvin Robinson burst into the Mariners penalty area and was felled by Mildenhall, with referee Steve Bennett immediately pointing to the spot, much to the disdain of the 2000 travelling Grimsby supporters. Paul Mayo, Lincoln’s penalty expert, calmly dispatched the resulting kick into the roof of the net to make it 3-0.

With half time looming, three became four when Marvin Robinson found himself in the right place at the right time when Lee Beevers hit a low cross across the six-yard box leaving the striker with the easiest of finishes. We were in pandemonium. Here we were, playing our most fierce of rivals, and we found ourselves 4-0 up, and out of sight, before the interval.

And then something strange happened. Something that only added to our utter delight. The half time whistle went and our heroes trudged off down the tunnel for 15 minutes of high-fives and back slapping. However, our despondent opponents were immediately confronted on the pitch by their manager, Russell Slade, who told them they were going nowhere. No safety net of the away changing room for them. No, they were going to have to suffer the humiliation of conducting their half time ticking off in the centre circle, in front of 5000 euphoric Imps fans and 2000 of their devastated travelling faithful.

Slade sat them all down, setting up a flip chart in the middle of the pitch and promptly set off on 15 minutes of red-faced finger wagging, each wag greeted in turn by large cheers from three sides of Sincil Bank.

It was an unprecedented move on Slade’s part, one which hit the headlines up and down the country, as the Town manager tried to rally his sorry troops into action. Two substitutions were made, as the manager hauled off one half of the centre back pairing in Justin Whittle, as well as another former Imp in Ciaran Toner, with Rob Jones and Jean-Paul Kalala entering the fray in their place.

For what it’s worth, the second half was almost a non-event, with the majority of the half spent goading our neighbours whilst our heroes sat back and soaked up the inevitable Grimsby pressure. All talk in the stands was in response to Slade ruining our usual half time treat of a member of the crowd attempting to manoeuvre the crossbar challenge.

Grimsby tried to find a way back into the game but the life had been well and truly sucked out of them by that blistering first half performance. However, there was still time for Lee Beevers to add a fifth goal seven minutes before full time, through a fortunate deflection from our resident pantomime villain, leaving us bragging rights for the remainder of the season and a result which sent shockwaves through the division.

The result saw Grimsby eventually surrender their automatic promotion place, finishing fourth, earning a chance for redemption as Lincoln finished seventh, setting up a mouth-watering playoff semi-final tie (but we don’t talk about that!).

That warm, slightly rainy Saturday afternoon is one that will be talked about amongst us Imps for several years, one that will go down in City folklore. Much like the whole “where were you when JFK was shot?” or “where were you when Diana died”, we have our own moment in history…where were you when Russell Slade conducted a half time team talk in the centre circle?

Thanks to Graham Burrell for the photos