Looking Back 1989/90 (Part Two) – Grimsby & Halifax Galleries

Mick Waitt challenges against Halifax with a young Grant Brown in the background

A series usually doesn’t take a one-year break between episodes, but that’s exactly what seems to have happened here; the first part of my look at the 89/90 season.

I first sat down with my books, programmes and the like to start this in July last year and unbelievably today is the first time I can safely get part two done. Who knows, part three might even be before the end of lockdown!

In case you need to catch up, be sure to check out Part One here.

Having risen to the top of the table with a 100% record, things were looking good as York City visited on September 16th. The Imps were the only club to have four wins from four and even though seven goals was less than two per game, conceding just one meant we looked a strong outfit against a York side sitting in eleventh with seven points, having scored and conceded four.

The Imps played the same side for the third game in a row, with Andy Gorton keeping his place in goal after a solid start to the season. Paul Casey and Dave Clarke played at full back, with on-loan Grant Brown and Steve Thompson playing in the middle of defence. John Schofield, Bobby Cumming and Graham Bressington made up the central midfield area, whilst Paul Groves and Matt Carmichael played either side of leading scorer Mark Sertori up top. Darren Davis was on the bench alongside Mick Waitt, who still hadn’t kicked a ball since breaking his leg.

It wasn’t a classic, 4149 watching on as Mark Sertori wasted the best chance of the game from a Graham Bressington cross. Waitt came on for his first outing, his league debut for the Imps, but was largely ineffective and the 0-0 draw meant Southend leapfrogged us at the top of the table. With just seven goals in five matches, the obvious problem even at this early stage was goals. Phil Brown, the 20-goal hero of the GMVC win, was rotting away in the reserves and bagged in a 2-0 win for the reserves against Hartlepool in midweek, something which would prove to be a recurring theme.

Phil Brown in the 89/90 kit, do my eyes deceive me?

The York programme had a feature on Andy Gorton, the new man in the sticks for City. He’d been impressive in those early encounters, proving a safe pair of hands behind a solid pairing of Brown and Thompson. In the interview, Gorton is asked what the biggest influence on his career was. His answer perhaps pointed to issues further down the line: Stella Artois.

A week later the Imps were back to winning ways with a fine victory against Wrexham. Mick Waitt, the perfect foil for our long ball game, came in for Matt Carmichael. Sertori’s brace put the Imps level with Southend at the top, his first coming after a mishit from Paul Groves fell to him at the back post, the second just minutes later after Waitt’s header hit the crossbar. Wrexham, managed by former Imp Dixie McNeil, could have conceded more as Sertori missed a great chance for his third, as did Groves not long after.

That set up a huge game against Peterborough United, with 6106 making up the biggest crowd of the season so far. It was pretty much as you were in terms of team selection, only Paul Smith and Gordon Hobson were out injured, and the kick-off was delayed as 1,000 Posh fans turned up late to the game. Those Imps fans left waiting were able to take in some of Colin  Murphy’s wisdom in the pre-match programme, where he wrote; ‘Leaving that which is disparaging to times disparagement. However, the only time to worry is when those who disparage are able to justify there (sic) disparagement or alternatively are well-read and versed enough to quantify there (sic) disparagement. A rarity. I realise that not many possess the wisdom of Mandala but at time persiflage is not comprehensible. However, do not worry, we shall fight the diphthongs.’

I couldn’t have said it better myself. If that didn’t leave fans delighted, Dave Clarke’s dubious penalty on 46 minutes certainly did. Had I been there, the look of disgust on Posh manager Mark Lawrenson’s face would have delighted me, as it would at the final whistle when the 1-0 win left us top of the table once again. Cue Southend away a week later, the battle of the top two.

Dave Clarke on the opening day against Scunthorpe

Fans of Lincoln will know Southend tend to be something of a rival, whether it is 1981, 2005 or 2011. They’re often a nemesis too, Roots Hall is not a happy hunting ground and so it came to pass: the Shrimpers turned us over, 2-0. They’d lost 5-0 at Gillingham in midweek, but just days later beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 in the league cup, with 6,000 more fans watching that game than the vital league clash. Some things never change and it pains me to think Paul Brush, later to help bring us down, played for them in midfield. A 0-0 draw at Chesterfield a week later meant we were without a goal from open play in three matches and, with Bobby Cumming sent off, we had plenty of problems to consider.

Colin Murphy moved to spend some of the cash generated by the sale of Tony James to bring in Alan Roberts. It seems the first choice for wide right would have been Paul Groves, but Leicester weren’t willing to let him move to Sincil Bank, despite us selling them James. That meant a move for Roberts who had played Second Division football for Sheffield United earlier in the season. Roberts joined for a fee of £60,000, a club record at the time, and arrived with a view to sharpening the attack. Phil Brown meanwhile picked up an injury in a reserve game against Chester and was believed to need surgery, but bounced back quickly and was soon back in John Pickering’s reserve side.

Alan Roberts in FA Cup action

Grimsby were due at Sincil Bank not long after for only our second meeting since the 1976 season, but first, we had Halifax at home and a tricky trip to Maidstone. The Shaymen were beaten 2-1, Mick Waitt’s headed effort fell to Mark Sertori to level things after a tough first half, before a wicked Paul Casey cross gave Waitt a goal of his own 30 seconds later. Future Imp Neil Matthews should have levelled for Halifax not long after, who we would face again in the Leyland DAF Cup later in the month. The trip to Maidstone proved to be a disappointing one. They were in the Football League for the first season and despite a decent performance, we were beaten 2-0. The result didn’t match the efforts of the Imps, Bressington hit the post and Maidstone opened with a penalty, but the lack of proven goalscorer was evident.