Saturday 2nd May 1992
Lincoln City 2 Blackpool 0 (Barclays League Division Four)
Former player Steve Thompson had taken over as Lincoln’s manager in November 1990 as the Imps had struggled under Allan Clarke and ‘Thommo’ had overseen a rise to a mid-table finish. His first full season had seen the side spend most of it in the lower half of the division until a run of only one defeat in 16 games saw them in a season-high tenth place going into the last game of the season on the back of six wins in a row. Eight points adrift of the play-off places they had however nothing more than pride to play for against visitors Blackpool.
Former Hartlepool and Mansfield defender Billy Ayre had been manager of Blackpool for a similar length of time to Thompson at Lincoln, and after losing in the play-off final to Torquay the previous season the Tangerines had spent the majority of the current one in the top three automatic promotion places. As things stood, they needed to beat Lincoln to be mathematically certain of promotion, although thanks to their superior goal difference over fourth-placed Mansfield a draw would have been enough, as it would also if Rotherham in second were to lose their final game at home to mid-table Chesterfield.
The teams were:
- Ian Bowling
- Paul Smith
- Dean West
- Matt Carmichael
- Sean Dunphy
- Grant Brown
- John Schofield
- Kevin Finney
- Jason Lee
- Jason Kabia
- David Puttnam
- Paul Ward (for Finney)
- Ben Dixon (for Kabia)
- Steve McIlhargey
- Dave Burgess
- Mitch Cook
- Paul Groves
- Paul Stoneman
- Ian Gore
- Tony Rodwell
- Phil Horner
- Dave Bamber
- Trevor Sinclair
- David Eyres
- Mike Davies
- Andy Gouck
In goal for the Imps was Ian Bowling who had been with the club since being signed by Colin Murphy from Gainsborough Trinity for £2,000 in November 1988. Initially second choice to first Mark Wallington then Andy Gorton he had brief spells on loan to Hartlepool and Kettering before then having to compete with the promising Matt Dickins for the first-team spot. With the sale of Dickins to Blackburn in late March for a record fee Bowling had now returned to the side and conceded just two goals in five games.
At right-back was Paul Smith, signed as a striker for a then club-record fee early in City’s GM Vauxhall Conference-winning season four years before. Since the middle of the previous season, he had made the right-back position his own, having played there earlier in his career. At left-back, despite wearing the number four shirt, was former soldier Matt Carmichael, also initially signed as a striker by Colin Murphy and making a sensational start to his City career with two goals in the first two games at the start of the 1989/90 season putting the Imps top of the table. Since then, he had also appeared in midfield before settling into central defence but due to the absence through injury of David Clarke and the recent sale of Shane Nicholson he had been required to fill in at full-back for the last few games. In the centre of defence were Grant Brown and Sean Dunphy. The 22-year-old Brown was another record transfer fee man, having been signed by Colin Murphy in January 1990 after a lengthy loan period from Leicester City. Alongside Brown was the 21-year-old Sean Dunphy who had been signed for the club by Allan Clarke in the summer of 1990 only to suffer a serious knee injury in a pre-season match. This had kept him out of action for the whole of the following season and he had belatedly made his Imps debut just four matches ago.
In the centre of the midfield in City’s 4-4-2 formation was the hard-working John Schofield, another player signed by Colin Murphy from Gainsborough Trinity at around the same time as Bowling for a fee of £10,000. He was partnered by the tall Kevin Finney, signed during the previous summer from Port Vale. Playing fairly regularly in the first half of the season he had then lost his place to Shane Nicholson, only returning after the latter’s departure to Derby County.
Wide on the right, although wearing the number three shirt was 19-year-old Dean West who had made his debut in the last game of the previous season and had featured fairly regularly in the current season, often as substitute, scoring three goals in the last six games. On the opposite wing was the popular David Puttnam, another played signed from Leicester City after a period on loan, this time in early 1990.
Centre forward was the tall and pacy Jason Lee, still only 20 who had been signed by Steve Thompson in March of the previous year from Charlton Athletic for a fee of £35,000. He had not so far been a particularly prolific scorer with only 10 goals from 57 games and was still something of a controversial figure among supporters. His striking partner for this game in the absence of top scorer Tony Lormor who had suffered a cruciate ligament injury in training the day before was 22-year-old Jason Kabia. He had joined the club in January on trial from Central Midlands League side Oakham United and was the much younger brother of Boston United legend Jim Kabia. So far, he had a record of three goals in 15 appearances not counting scoring in the recent away game with Aldershot which had been deleted from the records due to the Hampshire club going out of business.
Substitutes were midfielder Paul Ward and left-winger Ben Dixon. The experienced Ward had been signed by Thompson from Scunthorpe in the March of the previous season for £30,000 and was just returning to fitness after two months out with a knee injury. The 17-year-old Dixon was a product of Keith Alexander’s youth team setup and had made two previous substitute appearances.
In goal for the visitors was Scotsman Steve McIlhargey who had joined Blackpool from Walsall in the summer of 1989 after making just one appearance for the West Midlands club. At right-back was 32-year-old former Grimsby Town man Dave Burgess who had started his career with Tranmere, making over 200 appearances for them before spending a couple of seasons with the Mariners. He had joined Blackpool for a fee of £30,000 and had returned to fitness after missing the whole of the previous season with a broken leg. Left-back was the similarly experienced Mitch Cook who had been a member of the Scarborough team that had won the Conference in 1987 to take City’s place in the Football League. After experience with Halifax and Darlington he had joined Blackpool from the Quakers towards the end of March. Central defenders were 19-year-old youth product Paul Stoneman and the previous season’s ‘Player of the Year’, 24-year-old Ian Gore who was in his fifth season with the club after being signed from non-league Southport.
Notably in midfield for Blackpool was Paul Groves who had spent time on loan to the Imps from Leicester City at the same time as Grant Brown in the early part of the 1989/90 season. Many supporters would have liked to see him join on a permanent basis, but he returned to Leicester, and with City later making Brown’s move permanent for a fee of £60,000 it’s unlikely the Imps could have afforded the similar amount that it cost Blackpool to sign him at around the same time. In the current season, he was Blackpool’s second-highest scorer with eleven goals. Also in the centre of midfield was another former Leicester City man, although Phil Horner had spent most of his career with Halifax Town, following manager Billy Ayre to Blackpool in September 1990.
Attacking players for Blackpool were Tony Rodwell, left-winger David Eyres and 19-year-old youth product Trevor Sinclair who had made his first team debut at the age of 16 years and five months to become the club’s youngest ever player. Not yet a regular first-choice player with the Tangerines, in just over a year’s time Sinclair would go on to set another Blackpool record with his sale to Queens Park Rangers for £600,000. Multi-million-pound deals then saw him play for West Ham United and Manchester City plus win 12 England caps, performing well on England’s problem left side during the 2002 World Cup.
Tony Rodwell had spent most of his career in non-league football in the North West, most notably with Colne Dynamoes. This was a club that having turned full-time professional and paying wages said to be higher than some league clubs, had won the Northern Premier League in 1990 by a margin of 26 points. However, with promotion to the Conference denied on ground grading conditions their millionaire chairman had then closed the club down, with Rodwell moving to Blackpool to make his Football League debut at the age of almost 28. Another former Northern Premier League player was left-winger David Eyes who had joined from Rhyl in 1989 at the age of 25. He had ten goals in the season so far.
Main striker was the tall and experienced Dave Bamber. Now 33 years old, he had started his career with Blackpool before playing for several other clubs, including the likes of Coventry, Swindon and Stoke City. He had re-joined Blackpool from Hull City in January 1991 after a spell on loan, scoring 17 goals in 28 games in the remainder of the season. He was currently way out in front as the division’s leading scorer and would finish the season with 35 goals from a total of 53 games.
Substitutes were Andy Gouck and Blackpool youth product Mike Davies, a utility player who had recently featured mostly at right-back, he was the club’s longest-serving player at the age of 26, and would go on to make well over 300 appearances for the club. 19-year-old midfielder Gouck, another youth team product, had made his debut two years before but missed much of the previous season through injury.
With promotion for Blackpool resting on this game up to 5,000 visiting supporters were expected with the majority of the Sincil Bank terracing turned over to them. As it was, the attendance of 7,884 was by far the biggest of the season, bringing in gate receipts of over £30,000, and was the highest recorded at Sincil Bank for three and a half years.