In August 1992, the Imps were scheduled to appear at Belle Vue in the Coca Cola Cup.
It was the first midweek game of the season, coming off the back of an opening day defeat at Colchester United. Hopes were still high of a decent place in the league though; a good run in the previous season had seen Steve Thompson’s side installed as pre-season promotion contenders.
The cup hadn’t been kind to us; in 1990/91 we lost 2-1 on aggregate to Halifax, only for them to draw Manchester United in the next round. The following season we went down 1-0 at the Deva Stadium in Chester, then won 4-3 at the Bank, but lost on away goals. Chester subsequently drew Manchester City in the next round, another big tie. In 1992/93, City didn’t intend on making in three times unlucky in a row.
The previous November, an inspirational City won 5-1 at Doncaster, completing the double with a 2-0 win later in the season. Both sides had lost the opening game; Bury had beaten Doncaster by the odd goal in five on the opening day of the season. It gave Thommo’s team hope of success, and it is where we kick off four days of Doncaster build-up, mainly because there’s be no real news all week, and I can write the articles on a weekend and queue them up for you to enjoy all week!
The Imps lined up: Ian Bowling, Dean West, Dave Clarke, Graham Bressington, Matt Carmichael, Grant Brown, John Schofield, Paul Ward, Jason Lee, Jason Kabia and Kevin Finney. On the bench, Sean Dunphy and Keith Alexander.
City dominated in front of 2,507 fans almost from the off. Doncaster were described as ‘dismal’, and it’s no surprise to learn they only managed six wins at home all season in the league. They just couldn’t handle Imps Man of the Match Paul Ward, the midfield lynchpin who helped conduct the show going on all around him. Think Liam Bridcutt levels of influence, with Echo writer Chris Hutchings calling him the think tank compared to the guts and fire of his partner Graham Bressington.
Wearing the blue away kit with red Echo sponsor, City dominated the opening exchanges without creating a serious chance. That all changed on 20 minutes, as they sprung a counterattack. Jason Kabia fed Jason Lee on the flank, but his cross deflected off a defender and returned to John Schofield’s feet. He popped in a sumptuous cross, and Kevin Finney gobbled up the chance to give the Imps a 1-0 lead.
If the Imps had been assured in the first 20 minutes, they were even more so after the goal. Having sat back on a 1-0 lead at Layer Road, losing 2-1, they pushed forward to seize the initiative. On 38 minutes, the game was put more or less beyond doubt. Ward, running the show, aimed a cross onto the head of Dean West. The local hero nodded the ball into the path of Graham Bressington, and he made no mistake, lashing home whilst the home defence argued amongst themselves.
The second period was a bit better for the home team, but not much. In 90 minutes, they managed just four shots on target, and four corners, whilst a dominant City had nine on target and nine corners. Kieth Alexander got on the field for the Imps, and a short while after, Sean Dunphy also came on. It was a rare outing for Dunphy, who had only returned to the side after two years out a couple of months before, but it was tinged with sadness; he came on for Paul Ward.
Eight minutes from time, the energetic midfielder clashed with Phil Quinlan and was stretchered off with a jarred knee. At the time, Geoff Davey said “It has not yet been diagnosed, but it isn’t looking hopeful. Paul will have an arthroscopy to look at the extent of the damage.” The extent of the damage was severe; it ended his professional career at the age of just 28.
The game still had a goal in it – a Graham Bressington corner forced home by Matt Carmichael, but it was a sombre end to a great game for City. The second leg finished 1-1, which meant we got out big tie, Premier League Crystal Palace. Imps fans may well remember we played them in a game famous for seven minutes injury time – this was different; we lost 4-2 on aggregate.
Paul Ward’s injury forced Steve Thompson’s hand in the transfer market – he brought in Ian Baraclough on loan from Grimsby Town, a player who appeared more than 70 times for City during his career. In the same week, we also added Ian McParland, although he only appeared five times for the Imps, including an outing in the second leg.
That’s the story of a big win at Belle Vue – you can see another here as well. Later in the week, we’ve got the story of a game against Rovers at the Bank from a little later in the nineties, and our ‘Do You Remember’ feature brings you a player who featured in the 3-0 Coca Cola Cup win. Plenty to look forward to.