Michael Hortin mentioned it in the commentary on Saturday that when Ben Whiteman’s cracking strike beat Alex Palmer it was the first goal City had conceded in the Football League for some 400+ minutes, an impressive performance but looking back over the years it “only” ranks as the 11th equal best run in the Imp’s Football League history, writes Gary Parle.
Working out how many minutes there has been between goals isn’t an exact science so for the purposes of what follows a match is considered to be 90 minutes long irrespective of how much time may have been added on at the end of each half. You don’t have to go that far back to recall a time when no indication was even given to the crowd of how long the referee was going to add on at the end leaving everyone wondering as to how long left you had to hold on to a lead or had to equalise. The other important factor is what time the goals are scored and whilst post-1946 most reports agree pre-war it is not unusual to find several different times recorded with sometimes a difference of ten minutes! In those instances, the time recorded in the Echo has been used. On two occasions, one with the last goal and the second with the next goal conceded, the crucial times of the goals involved hasn’t yet been traced and in one case it is quite an important piece of information that is missing!
Palmer’s run ended at 435 minutes with Whiteman’s 43rd-minute goal being the first since Brandon Hanlan’s 58th-minute penalty with four consecutive clean sheets in between. It equalled a run by Peter Grotier in 1977/78 and Grotier is also next on the list with a 445-minute run in 1975/76.
Andy Gorton managed 453 minutes in 1989/90, the same as a combined effort by Eric McManus and Kevin Fox in 1979/80. The McManus/Fox time included a run of five consecutive clean sheets which is the joint-most kept in the Football League. The fact that the goals scored in the games either side of those five games came in the 90th and then the 3rd minute means the run is only 9th equal.
Arthur Jepson may be better known as a cricketeer/umpire but he kept five consecutive clean sheets in 1949/50 eventually totalling 460 minutes between goals and Stuart Naylor had a similar run of clean sheets as he wasn’t beaten for 471 minutes in 1984/85.
A four-game run shared between Matt Dickins and Ian Bowling saw 472 minutes between goals in 1991/92 and whilst he probably isn’t aware of it Hortin’s oppo Steve Thompson had a hand in a 478-minute run in 1980/81 when he took over from broken leg victim Colin Boulton at Crewe and kept a clean sheet with the run continued by David Felgate. It equalled a Pat Jeavons/Peter Wakeham total from 1965/66.
Whilst the above runs are as accurate as match reports allow the first instance where there is some doubt of how long the run lasted is George Moulson’s record in 1947/48. Harry Clarke scored a penalty for Darlington in the second half of City’s 3-1 win in March 1948 but so far, the time has proved elusive. Moulson then kept five consecutive clean sheets before conceding a ninth-minute goal at Gateshead. Clarke’s penalty could have come anywhere between 46 and 90 minutes so Moulson’s record is anywhere between 459 and 504 minutes.
Len Hill did crack the 500-minute barrier in 1927/28 with five clean sheets between John Barclay scoring for Accrington Stanley in the 42nd minute and Sammy Beswick for Tranmere in the 7th minute a month later with the gap being 505 minutes.
David Felgate remained unbeaten for 512 minutes in 1981/82 and his total is the longest run that can be confirmed but it may not be the record. He didn’t concede a goal from being beaten by Wimbledon’s Kevin Gage in the 10th minute at Plough Lane on February 27th 1982 until Don O’Riordan scored in the 72nd minute for Preston North End at Deepdale on March 16th. In-between he remained unbeaten in victories over Huddersfield Town, Brentford, Doncaster Rovers and Bristol City.
The reason Felgate is not confirmed as the record holder is due to a missing goal time dating back to March 23rd 1901! On February 9th 1901 former Imp Joe Raby beat Alf Webb to score an 88th-minute equaliser for Gainsborough Trinity. Webb then proceeded to keep clean sheets against Walsall, Burton Swifts, Barnsley, Woolwich Arsenal and Blackpool and for the first half at Stockport on March 23rd. Billy Betteley scored the only goal of the game for County at some point in those second 45 minutes but to date, the goal time has proved elusive. To beat Felgate’s 512 minutes Betteley’s goal has to have been scored after the 60th minute and the only real clue to the time so far discovered is the brief match review from the following Monday’s Lincolnshire Echo which indicates the goal may well have been scored late in the game which would make Webb the record holder but until such time as any confirmation is forthcoming it is just a possibility.
Sources: Lincoln City Official History , http://enfa.co.uk , various newspapers reports via https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk , Lincoln City Archive