Classic match? A 2-0 defeat by York City? How on earth is that a classic match? I’ve picked it because it was my first ever Imps away day. I know we lost, but I’m sure this is worth a read.
I originally penned a version of this article for the Imps’ programme earlier in the season, but word restrictions meant I couldn’t quite get the full experience out. Also, I imagine many of you don’t buy a programme and therefore didn’t see it. Well, here’s your chance.
My earliest experience of travelling away with Lincoln was in 1993, heading off to Bootham Crescent. I was 14-years-old and not particularly streetwise I’m afraid. My Dad and I had been to a few home games before Christmas that season, but we rarely travelled away. I’d badgered Dad for a trip away and in a moment of Christmas drunkenness he promised to take me to a game.
There was a caveat though, one that Dad thought would get him out of taking me. 1992 hadn’t ended well for us, we’d been eliminated from the FA Cup by Stafford Rangers at the end of November and had just three games before Christmas. Two were in the Autoglass Trophy, even without a boycott they attracted bad crowds. 1066 saw us lose to Rotherham and 1263 saw the draw with Scunthorpe which ended our interest in that competition, a run that continued for another 26 years.
We had one league game before the festive period, away at Rochdale. Neil Matthews scored our only goal as we lost 5-1 at Spotland. I’m sure Dad was confident when he said we had to win our next three home matches if he was to take my away. My Dad is no statistician, but he knew we hadn’t won three on the bounce at home all season. We rarely did.
What followed was a Christmas miracle, straight out of the sparkly world of Walt Disney. The poor ginger boy, desperate to attend his first ever away game (probably) looked to the stars and asked Santa for three wins on the bounce and a bike. Probably a bike and three wins actually, knowing me. We faced Cardiff, future champions, as well as Doncaster and Carlisle. On December 25th, Santa did bring me a bike and he delivered on my other wish after Christmas too.
Cardiff City, en route to becoming champions, were beaten 3-2 at the Bank in front of 4359, me included. David Puttnam, one of my all time favourite players, had a storming game as he scored one and created another. Neil Matthews and Dean West also scored, another reason to celebrate. Matthews lived in Wragby and was considered something of a local hero purely by virtue of the fact he bought a house in my postcode.
The next two home matches were Doncaster and Carlisle, both coming after a slight hiccup at Shrewsbury. Fear not, Peter Costello scored twice to beat Doncaster with Jason Lee and Paul Smith doing the same to beat Carlisle. Dad’s plan had backfired, he now had to take me away. As luck would have it, York was our next match so at least he would have had to drive far. There were no excuses, no ways to get around it, we were going away.
There were no mobile phones in those days, so we looked for the floodlights to find the ground upon arrival in York. I suspect every ‘away day’ story ever written about a pre-1996 trip starts along those lines, certainly when I judged to Away Days book at Christmas we edited those lines out a few times. I suppose it is reflective of the era though. For the record we drove there in my Dad’s gold Vauxhall Cavalier and I imagine we had his Madonna ‘Like a Virgin’ cassette on as he blew cigarette smoke out of the window. God bless the 1980’s.
Bootham Crescent hasn’t changed a great deal in 25 years, we were on the uncovered terrace on a chilly, slightly damp late January afternoon looking down the pitch towards the David Longhurst stand. I vividly remember being a little emotional about seeing that stand, Longhurst had passed away on the pitch not long after we found our way back to the Football league. The memory of Teletext showing ‘match abandoned’ and us not knowing why will always stay with me. I’d been laid out on the floor of the living room playing Subbuteo with myself (because apparently I cheated too much) when Longhurst passed away. Seeing his name on the stand brought that home, even at 14.
That emotion soon changed though as York outclassed us all over the park. We didn’t know it at the time, but they were on their way to a 4th place finish and eventual play-off final win. They’d drawn seven of their eight games going into the tie and saw this game as winnable, despite our good away form. Away from the Bank we had only lost three all season, two of those in the first three games. We had beaten Northampton, Hereford, Bury, Darlington, Scarborough and Crewe on our travels, as well as drawing with Doncaster.
Next page – not a great result and my first experience of proper shitting myself.