I once said the Sincil Bank was my church, the place where I healed my hurts.
During my twenties, when my life felt devoid of direction or purpose, it was there I found solace. When I could lay in bed all day and nobody, not a single soul, would notice or care, I’d find meaning and belonging at the ground. When I studied hypnosis and needed to designate a special place where nothing could hurt me, it was my changing room just off the tunnel at the ground. Somehow, it was always a place of joy, even when we were utterly abysmal.
Yesterday, at 5 pm, I would rather have been anywhere than the gaping chasm of utter despair that opened up for me to jump into as I left the ground. I felt angry and hurt, disappointed and demoralised at the same time. I knew there was plenty to take from the game that was positive, but it didn’t even begin to cover the abject emptiness that enveloped my soul on the walk down Cross Street. The only slight silver lining was that my Dad took one route from his place in the stands, and I took another which was much quicker from the boxes. I was alone in my thoughts, hoping for perspective and perhaps meaning.
Yeah, I didn’t get that.
In fact, as I walked past a group of MK fans talking about their fortuitous win, I actually wished for a fleeting second I was a bonafide hooligan, so I could have just piled into them and let my anger pour out in a form of unadulterated and uninitiated violence. At least I would have had an ‘out’ that way, a method by which I could channel my anger that didn’t leave me feeling so bad about myself and my team. Of course, I’m not a violent man and I’ve never initiated anything like that, nor would I. It’s how I felt though, just needing an outlet for my anger. I knew the only outlet that awaited, back at the car, was my Dad, equally as upset but likely to be lashing out at the team, rather than trying to make sense of it.
Much of the journey home was spent in an agreed silence.
When I finally walked in through the door of my house at 6 pm, Fe (my partner for those who do not know) was waiting full of smiles. We hadn’t seen each other since 7.30 am Christmas morning and we were doing our second present opening session, having a nice meal and watching a film. I opened the door to the joy of the festive season in her eyes, filled with my own football-related malaise and had to quickly put it away and concentrate on what was important. I did that, I turned off social media and enjoyed my evening. We opened presents, watched Notting Hill (Julia Roberts…) and had a lovely evening. We ate, drank (coke for me) and chuckled and eventually went to bed late. Just as I closed my eyes, the ghost of Boxing Day past (eight hours past) knocked on my eyelids and said ‘if only Fiorini had scored, eh?’. Fe asked why the last thing I said before we went to sleep was ‘fuck off’.
I think the truly depressing thing is that whilst everyone checked their Twitter feed for news of the game being on, I had mine regular refreshed for the opposite. I felt like the Cheltenham game, during which we scored twice, was a case of the Emporer’s new clothes; it was just the same Lincoln City doing the same things, but everyone came away thinking it was different. We’re still threadbare, we’re still lacking cohesion at the back and a presence up front and with Covid in the squad, we’d be missing even more players. MK Dons were (and still are) in great form with a star-studded side (Boateng and Eisa two I’ve eyed enviously over the past few years) – it all added up to a miserable Boxing Day for me.
Instead, I thought maybe if we could get it called off, we’d be able to reschedule for late January when we might at least have a wide player capable of creating chances, or a fit striker to play through the middle. As it turns out, we could do with a centre back who’ll kick the ball into orbit when it’s needed, but we’ll come to that in the dismal and depressing ‘Part 2’ on the next page. Instead, after my rather melodramatic introduction, let’s touch on the positives.
For a good 35 minutes, if not more, City were excellent. We started shakily, a Montsma clearance handed the visitors a chance inside the opening seconds, but for once it was them wasteful, not us. That spurred us on and immediately we grabbed the lead. Maguire’s excellent ball found Adelakun, who clearly got new boots for Christmas. His excellent cross looked to have been turned in from close range by Fiorini, but obviously wasn’t. Ok, we’ve waited more than a month for a home league goal, I’ll take an own goal. I did fear it might be a bit like Wembley, scoring early and then not building on it, but I was proven wrong seconds later.
This time it was (checks notes) Adelakun again causing trouble. His strength and direct running caused their defended to go down, believing he’d been fouled. He hadn’t, so grabbing the ball wasn’t all that smart, not in the area. Enter Chris Maguire, 2-0 City with more than 80 minutes to play, Once upon a time, that’s the start of a fairytale, but under current conditions, not so much.
After that, despite being a full-blooded, end-to-end encounter, there was a lot more to cheer from either side. There was a moment where Scott Twine shoved McGrandles in the face and got a booking; many wanted a red for that. I thought it was a bit soft from Mcgrandles to be honest; he went down like he’d been hit with a snooker ball in a sock, although I guess it’s what Joe Morrell did on New Year’s Day in 2020. On that occasion, Morrell got Dembele sent off and we went on to win the game. On this occasion (rightly so), Twine stayed on the field. More on that later.
I was impressed with a few in the first half; Ted Bishop looked energised from his recent goals against Cheltenham and was really busy. Adelakun looked like the marquee signing I lauded in July and Poole was a proper rock at the back. Let’s not forget, we went into the game with yet another back four pairing; I daren’t count how many different ones we’ve had during the season. This Boxing Day saw a right back at centre back, TJ (who has been poor) at full-back with Bramall (not cutting it for me) at left-back. It looked wafer-thin, and yet we were really on it for the first half. Really on it.
Yup, 45 minutes was all it took to convince me I’d actually been a bit of a wally before the game, and that this was the best place to be on a wet and dismal Boxing Day afternoon.