The Imps History in EFL Trophy Semi Finals

1993/94 – Autoglass Trophy

 

Two steps from Wembley

1993/94 was an odd time to be a Lincoln fan. The long-ball tactics of Steve Thompson and Colin Murphy had gone, instead replaced by Keith Alexander and a faster, passing approach. It was Keith’s first season in charge of the Imps before he left and came back of course, and I personally remember it fondly, but probably not for the right reasons. We had a couple of big cup games at the Bank, Everton in the Coca-Cola Cup and Bolton in the FA Cup, which was shown live on Sky Sports, and they stand out far more than a mediocre league campaign. It is a season that feels ahead of its time, with squad numbers and names on kit trialled for the first time, as well as a kit that still impresses me today.

The competition started in September with a group stage from which we emerged leaving Mansfield and Chesterfield behind. Darlington were beaten in the second round, courtesy of Steve Williams’ first goal for City (and one each for Neil Matthews and Tony Loughlan). That brought Chester City to the Bank for the quarter-final, which a 20-yard Grant Brown drive settled in front of 1733. In fairness, the report does suggest we could have won the game by a much larger margin, with their keeper David Felgate (oddly in the sticks for us the lst time we reached this stage) stopping Neil Matthews and David Puttnam from turning it into a rout. Matthews had three one-on-ones with Felgate, whilst the former Imps keeper palmed a rasping Puttnam drive onto the bar.

Costello on transfer list

That set up a semi-final clash with Carlisle United at Brunton Park. We had already been there in the league, drawing 3-3 thanks to Mark Smith, Dean West and Tony Lormor. Keith’s side had been swashbuckling at times but with a painful inability to defend, and the trip to Carlisle came after three draws in the league, the last of which was 2-2 with Chesterfield.

The third semi-final of the Imps history in the competition saw us line up Mike Pollitt, Paul Smith, Grant Brown, Lee Hirst, Ian Baraclough, Tony Loughlan, David Campbell, Steve Mardenborough, Steve Parkinson, Peter Costello and David Johnson, with Ben Dixon and Neil Matthews the subs. Of that side, Costello had handed in a transfer request in January, Parkinson hadn’t started a league game and Hirst and Cambell were both loans, the latter only having played once.

Tony Loughlan

Carlisle took the game seriously indeed, but it was City who looked brighter, with the Echo’s David Garlant saying: “On possession and chances alone, Lincoln would be awaiting Stockport County or Huddersfield Town in the northern area final.” Sadly, football matches are decided on goals, and Carlisle got the opener on 41 minutes through Dean Walling, later to appear for City. The Imps played ‘cracking football’ according to the report, with Campbell, Loughlan and Costello running the midfield.

Magic Johnson headed home a leveller for City, before Loughlan had a chance to win it in normal times. Johnson turned creator, playing the ball into the former Forest man who lashed the ball against the bar. He had already seen an overhead kick hacked off the line on 20 minutes which would have given City a deserved lead.

Into extra time, Carlisle took the lead. A Tony Gallimore corner, the last of five in succession, fell to loanee Jamie Robinson, who fired home. Neil Matthews replaced Parkinson in extra time and missed two great chances to level. He mis-controlled a Costello ball on 115 minutes, before rattling the crossbar with 60 seconds left. That sent the Imps to defeat, despite another good showing. As for Keith Alexander, his side only won four more matches and finished 18th in the table, resulting in the sack.

There was no Wembley joy for Carlisle either, Huddersfield beat them 4-3 in the area final, before the Terriers lost in the actual final on penalties against Swansea. Curiously, John Cornforth and Steve Torpey both scored penalties for the Swans.