October 1998 – How does our start compare to last time at this level?

I thought it might be interesting to see how this season compares to the last time we were at this level – 1998/99.

There were plenty of comparisons made when we came up, the phrase ‘first time in 20 years’ seemed almost ingrained in us by the time we kicked off against Accrington. Opening with a 2-0 win was a great start for us, one we didn’t make back in 1998 when we lost 2-0 at AFC Bournemouth.

How does the current season compare in terms of points tally, goals scored and conceded? Well, it made grim reading for Imps’ fans, that’s for sure. As of close of play October 23rd we were second from bottom, kept off the foot of the table only by Wycombe Wanderers, who would go on to stay up and relegated us on the final day of the season.

The first thing that’s really striking here is the conformity with the number of games played. Even without the Bury farce, there would still be wildly differing games played because of international breaks, something that didn’t affect the table much during our last foray at this level.

As things stand we’ve played one more game this season than we had 20 years ago, won two more and lost one less resulting in a six-point difference. Our performance now would have us 16th in that table, one place below our current level. If we’d got the same record now as we had then, we’d be third from bottom.

At the end of the season, three of the sides in the bottom five were relegated; us, Northampton and Macclesfield. York, sitting pretty with games in hand in 12th, were also relegated. It means nothing in the scheme of things as the seasons are very different, but I’d wager that of Bolton, Tranmere, Southend, Wimbledon and MK Dons, at least two are relegated at the end of this season. If we are in a relegation battle, which I don’t believe we are at the moment, then I think we’re fighting to avoid one spot.

I hear we’re struggling to score goals and over the last month or so that’s the case, but we do have three more than we had in our last stint in this division. We’d bagged three on two occasions last time out as well; beating Notts County 3-2 at their place courtesy of a Lee Thorpe brace and losing 4-3 at home against Preston. I remember that game well, Leo Fortune-West got his only Imps goal and we were the better team for long parts. we were 31 up with 16 minutes left of that game and had we won, it might have been a different campaign altogether.

We had already claimed a big scalp at home, just as we did with Sunderland the other week; we beat Man City 2-1 on October 20th in a game I missed; I was working in Wales for the week and had to be content with Teletext and a programme grabbed by one of my colleagues who’d been a sponsor. Later in the year, we were hammered 4-0 at Maine Road, let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself in that respect.

With no transfer window back then we had been able to seel Fortune-West, sign Charlie Oatway on loan and would eventually bring in Bruce Grobbelaar too. we were also set to change our manager, although he was fired in November 1998, just weeks after the table above.

That season ended in relegation but we looked competitive at times, couldn’t score but crucially also leaked goals. We’ve conceded 20, included six in one game, but back then we’d already shipped 25. Aside from the Oxford game we’re hard to break down and although it’s not quite working just yet, there are no serious parralells with 1998/98.

I hope you found this interesting….


  1. Unparalleled (NB) to let a 31 goal lead slip in the last 16 minutes!

    Sorry (just like the correspondent the other day) to be a pedant. An interesting article but the typos rather dent it.

    From an Imps perspective it’s rather worrying at present, but best to keep the faith.

    • That season I kind of saw as a bonus. Mad times with the chairman as manager, the man who got us to the place of going up left and was replaced before the end of the season etc. This time in League 1 is part of a plan and a scheme to be a regular there and beyond. Relegation now would feel like a failure. Also the manager going this time around was because he has been applying for other jobs, sorry, being headhunted by teams higher up so shows the different place we were in. there is also a fair difference in attendances

      On Typos, sorry, didn’t want to say anything on that line as there are a few but the main jarring on is “and lost one less”, rather than one fewer.

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