Classic Match: Walsall 1-2 Imps

When talking fondly of the 2006/07 season, it is always prudent to start with that wonderful October, the one where we hammered seven past Rochdale, five away at Barnet and finished with a table-topping 1-0 win at Swindon.

As Halloween 2006 passed us by, Lincoln City looked certain for automatic promotion after four years of being nearly men under Keith. He’d moved on and John Schofield had patched up the squad, adding Mark Stallard’s power to Jamie Forrester’s guile, freeing Lee Frecklington from the reserve football he’d become accustomed too and even finding a decent centre half in Adie Moses.

November was appalling which was true to form from the previous four seasons. After losing just three games in league and cup since the big kick off, City lost four on the spin. Had the wheels come off?

People will tell you not. The recollection of most fans is we were superb up until Christmas, then it all went wrong. That is only partly true. We did lose just two matches of the next eleven, keeping ourselves within touching distance of the top three. A depressing 3-1 defeat at Notts County was sandwiched between 1-0 wins against Torquay and Peterborough, leaving us still in with a shout. That Posh side featured Richard Butcher, Ben Futcher, Peter Gain and Simon Yeo, but Mark Stallard grabbed the goal that mattered. However, Jamie Forrester’s red card at Meadow Lane meant he’d miss the big clash with Walsall, a Friday night game on which our automatic promotion hopes rested.

Celebrating the opening goal in our 2-2 draw

We had already held relegated Walsall in early August. Scott Kerr and Lee Frecklington gave the rampant Imps a 2-0 lead before the half hour mark, shocking the Saddlers, but with ten minutes left they pulled a goal back before heartbreakingly, City conceded a last-minute equaliser. It was still a vintage performance, a clear indication that the new era under Schofield was one to savour. The Imps played slick passing football, a week later Mansfield were hammered 4-2 thanks to a Jamie Forrester quartet. That’s four goals by the way, including a hat trick before 30 minutes had elapsed. This was vintage Lincoln City, the stuff people would enthuse about 12 years later, just as I am doing now.

The long season was beginning to come to a conclusion, even with the trip to top of the table Walsall coming in February. Loan player Spencer Weir-Daley would start up front after bagging on his debut against Notts County, meaning the full starting line up looking something like this: Marriott, Beevers, Eaden, Morgan, Brown, Kerr, Amoo, Hughes, Frecklington, Stallard and of course, Weir-Daley.

The Imps started the game in a positive mood, Weir-Daley attempting an early overhead kick which sailed high of Clayton Ince’s goal. Despite a small spell of Walsall pressure, it was the visitors who drew first blood.

Weir-Daley scores for City

Lee Frecklington surged forward, slipping a sumptuous through ball to Weir-Daley. The Forest player struck his shot close to Ince, with the keeper parrying it against a post and in. City’s early form had fully warranted the lead.

The lead lasted a full thirty seconds, with parity being restored immediately. From the kick off Walsall pressed forward and Hector Sam slipped a far post shot past Alan Marriott and in off the post.

Still, City didn’t yield to the table toppers. Jeff Hughes was clearly brought down in the box by Craig Pead, but the referee Taylor was having none of it. Still City attacked, Hughes was playing at his peak and almost scored a second from a free kick, blasting over from 20 yards.

Hughes was turning into the player that later graced the Championship

 

With just three minutes left of the half, City were back in front and justly so. Ryan Amoo, not a name to conjure up memories of scintillating play, combined well with big Mark Stallard. His through ball saw Weir-Daley break free once again and this time, he wasn’t going to rely on the post helping him out. His instinctive effort left Ince with absolutely no chance at all. He finished with the swagger of a player with a huge future in front of him, confident and almost cocky.

Next page: More exclusive Graham Burrell photos from our clash and what went wrong afterwards?