The year was 1989, the season would conclude in May 1990. Colin Murphy’s side had spent one season back in the Football league, just as we have now. It had resulted in a 10th placed finish, but hopes were high we might go one better the next time around.
In a relatively muted summer, the biggest signing was Matt Carmichael, and it was the man who came from the army that gave us a fine opening day win against Scunthorpe. The crowd was 4504, a number which would have pleased Murph who mused in his programme notes “If you are able to maintain the 4,000 average of the last two years then you” deserve promotion.” What better way to get a few bums on seats than a win against you local rivals?
George Shipley had been named on the programme as returning to the starting line up, but an injury between printing and the game ended his career. Tony James started too, but his Imps tenure finished a week later as he moved to Leicester City.
By the time we travelled to Aldershot a week later we had several new faces, Paul Groves being one who impressed. We also brought in a defender called Brown who came from Leicester. I wonder what happened to him?
Bob Cumming also returned from injury and Steve Thompson, your favourite radio summariser, also came back. It might have been a such changed team, but it was the same outcome for City. 1-0 win, Matt Carmichael goal. The reports suggested the Shots had control of the game, but the News of the Wold reported that any of their attacks were soon snuffed out by a defence ‘well-drilled by newly returning veteran Steve Thompson’.
Carmichael stuck in the 62nd minute, Graham Bressington’s cross was nodded home with ‘military precision’, a disaster of a pun based on both his former employment and the fact he had been stationed close to Aldershot.
League Two today is very different to the Division Four of old, with far less technical ability but far rougher tackles. The game was different, harder and perhaps a little less refined, but certainly as competitive, if not more so. Thompson and Grant Brown settled into a rhythm in defence, whilst up front Matt Carmichael and Mark Sertori formed a decent partnership in the absence of the injured Gordon Hobson.
Once the league cup was out of the way, a two-legged 3-0 defeat against Wolves, it was back to Division Four action, Doncaster Rovers the visitors. They were managed by Leeds legend Billy Bremmer, and featured former Imps striker John McGinely too. The big names meant nothing as City stormed into a fine lead. Bressington opened the scoring with a fine half volley after ten minutes, before Paul Groves, fast becoming a fan favourite, nodded another on just before the hour. City threatened to run riot, but eased off the gas, allowing Rovers back into the game.
It still ended 2-1 to City, a first goal conceded in the league, but nine points from three games.
One week later and the ruthless streak unveiled itself once more. Away at Torquay, Grant Brown nodded a goal inside two minutes to put the Imps ahead. Sertori added another before ten minutes had passed, then worked a fine solo goal just before half time. Cries of we want four rang out around Plainmoor, probably. If they did, they were disappointed as City simply held out in a second half in which the Sunday Express said ‘strikers Denny Mundee and Robbie Taylor were well held by central defenders Thompson and Brown.”
Four games, four wins, three clean sheets. Champions elect?