News in the match programme was of the appointment of player Keith Alexander as full-time Youth Team Coach, and that admission prices would be frozen for the following season unless the team occupied one of the top three places in the league in which case 50p extra would need to be paid. There was also what, in the light of subsequent events, was apparently in vain, a message from Blackpool’s chairman Owen Oyston to all his club’s supporters saying that whatever the outcome of the match, “I know that you will once again demonstrate that Blackpool Football Club has the most sporting fans in the country.”
Supporters were able to see evidence of the continuing redevelopment of Sincil Bank, with the steelwork in place for the new £600,000 stand at the South Park end to add to the recently built St Andrews and Stacey West stands.
Being the last home game of the season there were the usual pre-match presentations, with Matt Carmichael voted as player of the season, David Puttnam the players’ player of the season, Paul Smith the away player of the season and Dean West named as young player of the year. In addition, Steve Thompson received his award as manager of the month for City’s record of five wins out of five during April, while North Hykeham Youth Club benefitted from the Imps winning the performance of the week award for their recent 5-1 win at Chesterfield.
The game itself saw the Imps showing much more fight than their visitors whose nervous performance was typified when Blackpool defender Ian Gore pushed Jason Lee in the back for a penalty to be awarded. This was squeezed inside the left-hand post by Matt Carmichael with goalkeeper McIlhargey just getting a touch on it.
The Blackpool defence continued to look shaky, with City’s wide men Dean West and David Puttnam causing them problems, while at the other end top scorer Dave Bamber was marked out of the game by Sean Dunphy.
The visitors’ only really threatening moment came when future England player Trevor Sinclair was denied by a fine save from Ian Bowling with Tony Rodwell following up to hit the post before the ball was cleared by Carmichael.
Just after the hour mark, City’s Kevin Finney had to be stretchered off following a clash with Bamber and was taken to hospital with two broken ribs. He was replaced in midfield by Paul Ward, while close to the end young Ben Dixon came on for Jason Kabia. There was still time in the last minute for the Imps to earn their second penalty of the match when West was brought down by full-back Mitch Cook. Carmichael put the penalty away to spark off a pitch invasion from the Blackpool supporters, which after the game was completed minutes later was repeated. Apart from clashes with home supporters, Ben Dixon was hit on the back of his head, and there were fears that violence would spread along the High Street. However, only seven arrests were made, with one being a home supporter, and there was praise for the Lincoln fans ‘not rising to the bait’.
Apart from the pitch invasion and being aware that Matt Carmichael scored two penalties I don’t remember anything of the match itself, my main memory being that with a much larger than usual crowd expected, and with past experience of the match programme selling out I got to the ground at around 1.30pm to make sure of my copy then went away again before returning an hour so later at my usual time. My player ratings indicate that I thought David Puttnam was man of the match with good performances from Sean Dunphy, Grant Brown and John Schofield.
The win was City’s first against Blackpool for almost eighty years at the 19th attempt and kept them in 10th place, but with Rotherham drawing at home to Chesterfield to retain second place Mansfield’s 2-1 home win over Rochdale saw them push Blackpool down to fourth and a place in the play-offs. However, after beating Barnet 2-1 on aggregate in the semi-final they drew 1-1 with Scunthorpe in the final to take their chance of promotion to a penalty shoot-out for the second year in a row. This time they came out on top to end a two-year stay in the basement division.