Tonight sees Rotherham United arrive to play under the Sincil Bank lights, which can only mean one thing for me; flashbacks.
Rotherham in the evening at the Bank is a trigger event for me, and I’m sure for around 3,000 others. It will take us back to March 25, 2011, when the Imps were seemingly closing in on League Two safety. As had been written many times before, we’d turned a poor start around and needed just a couple of points to ensure we’d be in the Football League the following season. One of the teams we hoped to get those points against was Rotherham United.
They were five matches without a win, and had just dispensed with the services of Ronnie Moore. They came to Sincil Bank in much worse form than us; we’d lost two of the previous six and had collected eight points in those games. To make matters worse, Chesterfield hammered them 5-0 a couple of days before, whilst we had been narrowly defeated by Stevenage. Surely, City were on their way to success.
Personally, it was a tough time for me and I’ve written about it plenty before. It was my first game back at the ground after my ‘breakdown’, and that made it memorable personally, as well as for footballing reasons. I needed a pick me up, as much as we needed three points to ensure we were safe from the drop. Surely, with Rotherham in such dire straights, we’d get that?
What is the opposite of new manager bounce? There’s no new manager in place, but still, the team destroy their opponents, is there a term for that? Maybe the effect was all about Tilson and nothing about Rotherham. Whatever the reason, a team I still class as our bogey team simply blew us away. The City team is one you’ll struggle to find much empathy with. Elliot Parish played in goal, Julian Kelly, Adam Watts, Pat Kanyuka and Joe Anderson made up the back four. The midfield consisted of Mustapha Carayol, Ali Fuseini, Tom Kilbey and Gavin McCallum, with Ben Hutchinson and Scott Spencer up top. Delroy Facey missed out through injury, as did leading scorer Ashley Grimes. Stephen Hunt was injured, Luke Howell was injured and Trevor Carson had been recalled by Sunderland. It was a seemingly makeshift side, but that wouldn’t matter, surely? Not against a Rotherham side on its arse.
It did matter. Ian Thomas-Moore, sone of sacked Ronnie Moore, scored before we’d found our stride, and Danny Harrison made it 2-0 before the 15-minute mark. We’d seen a collapse like this before; Bury had been 3-0 up inside 20 minutes earlier in the season, and Shrewsbury hit five first half goals as we lost 5-1 at home in February. It wasn’t unusual, and that’s sad.
I stuck it until half time, but within eighteen minutes of the restart, I’d walked out. Thomas-Moore added a third, Ryan Taylor a fourth and then Pat Kanyucka gave away a penalty and was sent off for Thomas-Moore to complete his hattrick. He came off not long after for Adam Le Fondre, whilst we took off Scott Spencer and brought on Danny Hone. That’s right, 5-0 down and Tilson took off a striker and brought on a defender. Danny was probably the only player from that pathetic side I don’t still feel angry with.
By the time Jason Taylor added a sixth, I was sat in the Poacher on Wragby Road enjoying a swift half with my mate Lee, a Rotherham lad with whom I’d attended the game. I think that was his last ever Lincoln game, and I’m not surprised. It was certainly Kanyucka’s, it was Spencer’s last start for us too. Sadly, Parish and Kilbey did play again.
I always reference this game as my lowest point as a Lincoln fan. I know we lost 6-0 to Oxford a couple of years ago, but that was a one-off result in a decent season. The same could be said of the 6-0 mauling Barnet gave us in the early nineties. This though, was different. This was a weak, lacklustre, uninterested Lincoln City side, stripped of experience (Anyon dropped, Kerr out on loan, Paul Green an unused sub). Even Drewe Broughton, a player I don’t particularly recall fondly, was on loan at Wimbledon, whilst we had Scott spencer and Ben Hutchinson up top, arguably the worst pairing I’ve ever seen start a game for Lincoln. At least Broughton might have thrown an elbow in, at least Kerr might have got booked and shouted at people. Hell, even Clark Keltie might have been able to stop the flow of goals.
In terms of the 2010/11 season, this was a low point, and when you’ve already lost 5-1 to Shrewsbury, 5-0 to Bury that’s saying something. Worse was to come; we didn’t score another home goal all season and were relegated on the final day.
That’s the memories Rotherham under the lights bring me, that and being beaten 1-0 in 2018/19 when we arguably deserved something from the game. We’ve only beaten them twice at Sincil Bank in the league since I was born, and I only saw one of those games, back in 1999/00. It’s a seemingly miserable record I’d love to see reversed, but this is for sure; if we lose 3-0 tonight, I can’t ever feel as low as I did sitting in the Poacher that evening, watching my team concede a sixth on the vidiprinter and wishing that’s how I’d see the other five.
As a precautionary note, this evening will be the first time I’ve been in the Poacher on a matchday since that game; my dad and I are having some tea there rather than brave the shabby service, cold food and sticky floors of the Ritz.
As a secondary note, I was going to put the YouTube video of the game on here so you could suffer too, but thankfully I couldn’t find it. Maybe it got tagged for obscene scenes of bullying and taken down.