Keith Curle and Lincoln City – A Loveless Relationship

Courtesy Graham Burrell

Keith Curle is a manager that we have crossed paths with many times during his managerial career, and another chapter of that saga gets written today.

He sparked a bit of a debate ahead of the 2017/18 season when he described us as big spenders. He’s an interesting manager, perhaps one who is not able to find the ‘next level’, but he has carved out a decent managerial career. His promotion last season was typical Curle – grinding out a decent finish with a side perhaps not always fancied to do so. However, today he is looking to shift a hoodoo that goes back almost two decades – in 18 years as a manager Curle has never beaten Lincoln City. Games involving him and us have seen plenty of red cards, goals and penalties, but never a Curle win.

He first managed at Mansfield Town, taking over as they were in Division Two in 2002. He couldn’t stop them being relegated, and that set him up for his first double-header of Imps action. It was December 13th 2003, and to spoil his one-year anniversary Peter Gain and Richard Butcher cancelled out a Liam Lawrence penalty. When they visited Sincil Bank later in the season it was an Imps whitewash, 4-1. Again they had only a Liam Lawrence penalty to show for their endeavours, whilst Taylor Fletcher (2), Francis Green and Simon Yeo gave us a convincing win. Both sides qualified for the play-offs, both were eliminated by Huddersfield.

Curle at Mansfield in October 2004, months before the sack – Credit Lincoln City

That season he carved a niche as a pantomime villain by rolling out the age-old ‘long ball Lincoln’ routine before and after the matches. Of course, he was right, but it still made him a villain in our eyes.

The following year his Mansfield side finally earned a point against City. Adam Murray and Alex-John Baptiste scoring at Field Mill, whilst Gareth McAuley and Simon Yeo bagged for City. By the time Mansfield travelled to Sincil Bank, Curle was gone. He was controversially sacked in December 2004 after allegations that he bullied a youth-team player. In August 2006 he filed, and won a case for wrongful dismissal against the club and was awarded undisclosed damages. The judge in the case cleared Curle of any wrongdoing and described Mansfield’s disciplinary process as a “sham”.

In May 2005 he joined Chester, and his second game in charge was a visit from the Imps. Again the score was 2-2, Nat Brown and Gary Birch gave the Imps a 2-0 lead, but Ben Davies pulled one back. In the last minute, Paul Morgan was sent off for a professional foul, and Michael Branch netted the penalty. It’s fair to say Keith Curle’s sides get a lot of penalties against City!

On December 10th it was time for the return leg, Curle bringing his Chester side with three straight wins and unbeaten in six. Former Imp Marcus Richardson gave them the lead before Dean Keates was sent off for City, but three goals from the ten men sank Chester. Richard Logan, Paul Mayo (penalty) and Derek Asamoah all scored to give the points to Keith Alexander’s side. That started off a horrendous run for Curle. He went 12 matches with just one win and one draw, leading to his February dismissal.

Paul Mayo nets against Chester 2005/06 – Credit Graham Burrell

He spent a year out of the game before joining Torquay on 8th February 2007 as head coach. His first game on the bench? Lincoln City away. Stevland Angus was sent off as we won 1-0 thanks to a Mark Stallard goal in the first half. That was the final time our paths crossed for almost a decade.

On August 26th 2017, he brought Carlisle to the Bank for our second home game back in the Football League, and once again the Imps were on top. Alex Woodyard bagged a brace and got a face on when Matt Rhead denied him the chance of a hattrick by taking a 67th-minute penalty as City won 4-1. Tom Parkes was sent off for the Cumbrians, giving them ten men with us 2-0 up. Later in the season, we pushed our play-off credentials with a fine 1-0 win at theirs, courtesy of Matt Green. Once again, there was a man dismissed, Mike Jones for the home side.

Curle left Brunton Park at the end of the season and appeared at Northampton in October 2018. we had already been to their place that campaign and the first time Curle got a chance to finally beat Lincoln was in the FA Cup in October. Once again, there were goals, five of them. We bagged three, they got two and we progressed to face Carlisle in the next round. Once again, as seems to be par for the course, they had a man sent off, Junior Morais in the last minute.

Our final match against Curle’s Cobblers came a little later in the season as the two teams shared a 1-1 draw. Oddly, once again, there was a man sent off, this time Harry Anderson in the 42nd-minute. Bruno Andrade opened the scoring for us, but Aaron Pierre levelled at half time. Since then, we have had one season apart, making this our eleventh meeting.

Alex Woodyard nets as we beat Carlisle 4-1 at the Bank – Credit Graham Burrell

His full record in matches managing (or as Head Coach) against City is played ten, lost seven and drawn three. His teams have scored 11 past Lincoln, conceding 23. In those ten matches, seven players have been dismissed, one in each of the last seven matches he has managed against us. In those ten matches, penalties have been awarded on five occasions, three to them and two to us.

Keith Curle is one of the more experienced managers at this level and he’s done wonders with Northampton, despite losing key players from last season. If history is anything to go by, today’s game should finish 2-1 to City with a player more than likely sent off and maybe even a penalty!