Every so often, a game will come around that you reference seemingly forever.
I used to get it from my Dad whenever we played Northampton, whether we went or not. ‘I remember when we thrashed this lot 8-0’ he would start, then begin to go off into his own little world filled with long hair, Gordon Hobson, George Shipley and Mick Harford. He would briefly snap out of it, only to go straight back there the next time the Cobblers were in town. Once, I think he made the ‘they were Cobblers’ joke too. Dangerous ground.
You will find yourself doing it to younger fans too. Whenever we play Rochdale it is tempting to start talking 7-1, and doubtless the same with Port Vale and the 6-2 win there a year or three ago. That’s what football does, it creates points of reference for the future. You may or may not know, but one cute memory technique is to create a mind palace, in which you store all the memories you need and know where to find them. Football is a mind palace of its own and the grounds, kits and players act as triggers for certain memories. On one October afternoon back in 1980, whilst I was not yet two years old and my brother was not two weeks old, my mother was left holding the babies as Dad went to the football and created a room in his mind palace that he has never forgotten. Probably.
City historians will know that 1980/81 was a promotion season, a year in which an excellent Lincoln side were denied the title only be a scintillating Southend outfit. It was a bit like us and Northampton in 1976 – their best team for a generation only missed out on silverware because of a wonderful Imps side. Going into the 15th game of the season, we had 19 points from 14 games and were second. Under the 3pts for a win system, we would have had 26 points. As it stood, we were just two behind Southend, with five points the difference between top and seventh. Northampton were not the whipping boys either, they were 14th with 13 points, having conceded 16 goals in 13 games, a modest deficit.
The Imps lined up as follows – David Felgate, Phil Turner, Nolan Keeley, David Hughes, Trevor Peake, David Carr, Phil Neale, Steve Thompson, Gordon Hobson, Mick Harford and George Shipley, with Tony Cunningham the sub.
Northampton came into the game on the back of fours wins from five and were thought to be a stiff challenge to the Imps. They were missing defender Phil Sandercock, with Paul Saunders coming in. It meant a newish looking defence for the visitors, but not one that should have imploded so spectacularly.
There were little signs of what was to come early doors. The Imps did take an early lead, Hobson exchanging passes with Phil Neale before lifting the ball over Andy Poole to make it 1-0. City kept knocking on the door in the first half, with Poole saving a first time shot from Hobson after Harford’s pass. Trevor Peake tested the Cobblers stopper with a header from a corner too, which he was more than a match for.
There was a let-off for the Imps as Steve Phillips picked up a loose pass from David Carr, squared for Adam Sandy who was one-on-one with Felgate. He fired straight at the keeper, and as the rebound dropped to him lashed it over the bar. There was a sense the visitors could get back into it with seconds on the first half left, but that worry was shunted aside by Hobson, who bagged a second before referee D Owen could blast on his whistle. Shipley was the provider, feeding Hobson inside and leaving him with the chance for a smart finish to make it 2-0.
They say a goal before halftime is a great time to score, and within eight minutes of restarting the game, City were 5-0 up. The visitor’s heads had dropped and a ruthless Imps attack made sure they paid the ultimate price. David Hughes provided a neat pass for Harford to calmly loft a shoot over Poole on 48 minutes, courtesy of a deflection from Des Waldock. The big man then turned provider, nodding Shipley’s cross back across goal for Hobson to prod home his third and City’s fourth.
On 53 minutes Keeley broke away down the left and was brought down by Gary Saxby, leaving the referee no choice but to point to the spot. Up stepped Shipley who, having been instrumental in two of the goals, added one for himself. 5-0 and the Imps still had 37 minutes to play. It didn’t all go our way though, a vicious drive from debutant Peter Cooke, on as a sub, brought a fine save from Felgate.
Despite the rare foray into our half, City were utterly dominant in possession and added a sixth on 62 minutes, leaving the 4060 inside the Bank in rapture. This time, Harford was the scorer and the architect with an effort described as ‘a brilliant solo goal’ by legendary Imps’ scribe Maurice Burton. Harford picked up a pass from Steve Thompson ball in the left channel, beat two defenders and slotted away to the keeper’s right.
Still, the goals kept coming. On 71 minutes, Cooke rolled a backpass towards his keeper but hadn’t banked on Hobson lurking. The Imps legend picked up the ball and waited for the keeper to advance before calmly lobbing him for 7-0. That stopped the scoring for 18 minutes, but not the drama. Having made their only permitted sub, Northampton were reduced to ten men after a Hughes tackle left Paul Saunders needing treatment. The scoring hadn’t stopped either, with just seconds left the cherry was dropped onto the cake. Tony Cunningham, on as a sub, was felled in the box by Wakeley Gage, and Shipley got his second of the afternoon.
Whether you win 1-0 or 8-0, you still only get three points, or two back in 1980, and with Southend winning 2-0 at Darlington were merely cemented our promotion charge, rather than seizing on a lapse by the Shrimpers. We won our next two matches, one of which was against Tranmere, before defeat at Rochdale meant we lost ground in the title race, only for us to beat Southend at the Bank a week later. We were locked in battle with them all season, eventually finishing second, just two points behind them. Incredibly, we only conceded 25 goals all season as Colin Murphy’s team took shape. As for the Cobblers, despite losing 8-0 to us there was no implosion and they finished tenth in the table.
For those who like a bit of context, The Police were at number one in the charts with Don’t Stand So Close to Me, with Baggy Trousers from Madness at three and the superb Specials double bill Stereotype and International Jet Set in the Top Ten. Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Blues Brothers were the big cinema releases of the autumn and it is rumoured that not long after Dad returned home singing ‘we are top of the league’ (which he does, even when we’re not), I ate a crayon and my brother was sick in Dad’s long hair. Happy days.
Some time ago I did write an overview of this season and although it may be littered with basic grammatical errors, which is unlike me. If you do fancy a read you can find those articles below.