Looking Back At: Gillingham v Imps October 1976

Saturday 16th October 1976

 Gillingham 0 Lincoln City 1 (Football League Division Three)

Following their record-breaking Fourth Division championship season Lincoln City had started life in Division Three for the first time in 15 years with manager Graham Taylor now in his fifth season in charge, writes Malcolm Johnson.

The Imps had made a moderate start to the new season, going out of the League Cup to Fourth Division Doncaster Rovers after a First Round replay and picking up one point from their first two Third Division games. Since then a run of three wins and three draws had seen them rise to 8th in the league table before a 3-0 defeat at Wrexham on the previous Saturday had seen a fall back to 12th place.

 Gillingham were in their third season in the division after finishing runners-up in the Fourth Division in 1974. They were managed by Gerry Summers who had been appointed just under a year previously after spending six years in charge of Second Division Oxford United. The 43-year-old had spent most of his playing career in the top two divisions with Sheffield United. The Gills, like the Imps, had lost just twice in the league so far, reaching a high of 7th place but a 2-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday had put them down to 11th going into this match.

The teams were:


  1. Peter Grotier
  2. Ian Branfoot
  3. Phil Neale
  4. Dennis Booth
  5. Sam Ellis
  6. Terry Cooper
  7. Phil Hubbard
  8. John Ward
  9. Percy Freeman
  10. Dave Smith
  11. John Fleming
  12. Alan Harding


  1. Mervyn Cawston
  2. Bill Brindley
  3. Eddie Spearitt
  4. Nigel Williams
  5. Dave Shipperley
  6. Dick Tydeman
  7. Bill Fogarty
  8. John Overton
  9. Damien Richardson
  10. Danny Westwood
  11. Joe Durrell
  12. Gary Armstrong (for Fogarty)

City goalkeeper Peter Grotier had been signed from West Ham United at the start of the 1974/75 season for a club-record fee including money partly raised by the supporters and had been named in the PFA Division Four team of the year for both of the last two seasons. Three of the defenders in front of him had also been included in the team of the year for 1975/76, with right back Ian Branfoot also named for 1973/74. Branfoot, like centre half Sam Ellis was now in his fourth season with the Imps, having been signed from Doncaster Rovers in the summer of 1973 for a fee of £7,500 while had Ellis had cost £7,000 from Mansfield at the same time. The centre half and captain had been voted City’s Player of the Season in the Fourth Division championship side, and the settled back four was completed by Welshman Terry Cooper, signed from Notts County in 1972 by previous manager David Herd, and the 22-year-old Phil Neale who had now made the left back slot his own since taking over from appendicitis victim Dennis Leigh the previous March.

In midfield were Dennis Booth, now in his fourth season with the club after costing £9,000 from Southend, and City’s longest continuously serving player, the ever-skilful Dave Smith, who had joined the club at the same time as his manager in the summer of 1968.

On the right of the midfield four was the versatile Phil Hubbard who had come through the ranks at City, making his debut at the age of 17 in 1966. Five years later he had joined Second Division Norwich City for £20,000 but soon moved on to Grimsby Town in Division Three before returning to City in the summer. Hubbard had just returned to the starting line-up after missing several games through injury, displacing one of the last season’s regulars former Oxford United man John Fleming who was however back in the side for this game instead of Alan Harding. The skilful Harding had been another early signing for Graham Taylor, joining from Darlington in March 1973 in a then-record deal worth £14,500.

In attack, City legend Percy Freeman was in his second spell with the club after returning from Reading in January 1975. ‘Big Percy’ was partnered by local-born John Ward, like Smith another player who had been with the club since the late 1960s. Between them the pair had contributed 54 of City’s 127 goals in all competitions the season before.


1 Comment

  1. Does anyone remember way way back. Gillingham put on an awful negative display at Sincil Bank and for several matches after the cry “Gillingham!” would come from the crowd if our opponents passed back, no doubt to the bewilderment of the visiting team and fans.

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