Looking Back At: March 23rd 1895

Whilst there are much more important things going on than football at the minute here is another dip into the history of Lincoln City Football Club and an event that happened on this particular date, writes Gary Parle.

The Imps start to 2020 has been mixed and led to lots of comments on the various social media platforms but it doesn’t bear thinking about what the likes of Twitter and Facebook, had they been around in 1895, would have been like after what our predecessors at John o’Gaunts witnessed.

Victory by 3-0 over 2nd placed Newton Heath on December 29th 1894 meant City went into the New Year in 9th position in the Division 2 table having won seven and lost eight of the fifteen games played and whilst the top two, Bury on 35 points and Newton Heath on 25, were well out of reach hopes were high that the previous seasons final position of 8th would be bettered with the Echo writing after the busy Christmas schedule “Five matches have been played in eight days, and of those three have been won. Four of those games were in the League and not one of them could be looked upon as gift. The result has been to give the Cits four points, and this has raised them to a satisfactory position in the table. On their present form they are more likely to advance than recede”

Sadly, those hopes were soon dashed as 1895 started in disastrous fashion culminating in a 7-1 defeat at a Burslem Port Vale side that had lost 18 of their previous 25 matches leaving City 13th and in the re-election places ahead of the journey to Hyde Road to play Manchester City on March 23rd.

That defeat in Burslem was City’s eighth in nine games (victory with a 90th minute goal against Walsall the only victory) and with the club having to find a new ground at the end of the season, heavily in debt and almost certainly needing to apply for re-election to the League at the end of the season the Echo described the situation as “a very melancholy picture it is, too – nothing but a huge dark cloud with never a bit of silver lining” with the run of defeats “enough to take the heart out of the staunchest supporter, but has not somebody written something somewhere about the hope which springs eternal in the human breast? It is to the future we must turn our attention and if we are still to enjoy first-class football in Lincoln the followers of the pastime must rally round the managers of the club when their support is asked for.”  It rather put a damper on the stirring words then by referring to the next match at Manchester City and admitting that even with eleven players “it is hardly likely success will attend them” with Manchester having won six of their last 8 games.

Formerly known as Ardwick financial difficulties the previous season had forced the club to reorganise and this was their first season under the guise of Manchester City. One of their recent victories had been 2-0 at Lincoln at the beginning of the month aided by the fact Lincoln had played with ten men for most of the match after Harry Darcy suffered an injury in the first ten minutes and thirty minutes with just nine after Robert Duckworth was hurt on the hour mark shortly after the first goal with the second not coming until the last minute, They lined up with Charles Williams in goal, Johnnie Walker and David Robson as full backs, Joseph Nash, Walter Bowman and James McBride as the backs, the legendary Billy Meredith and Pat Finnerhan on the right wing, Sandy Rowan in the centre and William McReddie and Bob Milarvie on the left.

Despite the disastrous run of results City’s only change came in the forward line where Robert Duckworth replaced Thomas Pyle although the proposed line up published in the Echo showed a change of goalkeeper with Evan Roberts, one of six players to have featured in all nine games, being replaced by John Broadbent who hadn’t featured in the first team since picking up an injury in the second game of the season. In the event Roberts played with full backs Archibald McFarlane and William Heath, backs William Brittain, Ned Mettam and Charles Osborne with Frank Smallman and Robert Duckworth on the right wing, Albert Flewitt and Jimmy Frettingham on the left either side of centre forward Don Lees.

Leaving Lincoln at 6.30am on the morning of the match it took the team eight hours to reach their destination in, as the Chronicle reported, an “awfully poor condition for football. Their stiffness, in fact, never worked off during the whole of the game” and in front of a crowd estimated at between two and three thousand were quickly behind with Milarvie scoring. Severe pressure quickly saw McReddie (two) and Rowan make it four before Lees pulled one back although Rowan added a fifth before half time.

The second half hadn’t been underway long before McReddie completed his hat trick before Smallman pulled another one back for Lincoln. Meredith, who had been recalled from the Welsh team to play Scotland, then got in on the act making it seven with Milarvie, McReddie and Meredith again making it double figures. A rare Lincoln foray forward saw a Smallman cross diverted into his own net by Walker before Finnerhan completed the rout with the eleventh goal.

The Echo, having believed the lowest point had been reached after the Port Vale defeat lamented “after their woeful experiences at Manchester on Saturday, it may be doubted whether there is any limit to their misfortunes”   Three more successive defeats did follow but the final two games of the season were won leaving the team in 13th place after going through the FL season without a single draw winning 10 and losing 20 having scored 52 goals whilst conceding 92.

Successfully re-elected at the FL AGM and with the move to the new ground at Sincil Bank in the summer of 1895 the long-suffering City fans were probably looking forward to a brighter future…if only they knew what was coming!!!

Whilst this result is considered City’s heaviest Football League defeat we have lost by eight goals on four other occasions as shown below and in the pre Football League era another trip to Manchester for a Football Alliance fixture saw City defeated 10-1 at Newton Heath on 21/11/1891

9-1 at Wigan Borough Division 3 North 03/03/1923

8-0 at Notts County Division 2 23/01/1897

8-0 at Preston North End Division 2 28/12/1901

8-0 at Stoke City Division 2 23/02/1957

Sources: Lincolnshire Echo, Lincolnshire Chronicle, Manchester Courier (Manchester City goal scorers differ in various reports with the report from this paper being the source for this article), Athletic News all via www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk   http://enfa.co.uk The Official History of Lincoln City.  


  1. I knew there was a reason I dislike Manchester City. Apparently when asked about the heavy defeat in a season of heavy defeat the City goalkeeper said when aske why he made no effort to stop the goal avalanch he said ” I thought that was what these goal nets were for.”

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