Don’t ask me why League One wrapped up a week early, nor why the National League still rumbles on.
I’m a traditionalist; I’d like to see all the divisions finish on the final weekend. After all, it’s not like Sky decided to broadcast anything worth watching from the League Two final day, was it? Believe me, there was plenty to enjoy, and not all of it in the Football League.
It was nice having a Saturday free, although I’d have loved to be at the BHF v FPA at Sincil Bank. It is my nephew’s birthday in the week, so I was over in Boston taking his bits, meaning I missed out. Still, come 3 pm, there was no radio on, no deep-seated fear of Lincoln City going away and not having a shot on target. It was, in that respect, blissful.
That wasn’t the case for many fans, and some saw some past Imps in action. There were tears of joy and despair in some of these games, in which former players of ours made a few headlines. Here’s our roundup of the former Imps in action yesterday.
This is the story of the day, no doubt. Bristol Rovers had to match Northampton’s result to get automatic promotion, but had to overturn a deficit of five goals. If they did that, they’d go up by virtue of goals scored, but it seemed unlikely, not least with Northampton 3-0 up a minute before half time. With The Gas 2-0 up in their game against a woeful Scunthorpe, all seemed lost. Who ever heard of a six-goal turnaround in 45 minutes of football? Josh Kay bagged for Barrow, meaning a five-goal swing was still needed, and remarkably, The Gas got it. Harry provided one of the assists, for Aaron Collins, and the game was held up for ten minutes as jubilant Gas fans ran on the pitch as they made it 7-0.
Whilst it is a great day for The Gas, there is a degree of shame on Scunthorpe. They fielded a squad with an average age of 19, including a young keeper playing only his second game of his career. It doesn’t feel fair on Northampton that Rovers were handed the opportunity, even if they did grasp it with both hands.
Another former Imp, Paul Farman, had a strong game in goal for Barrow and prevented Northampton from getting the additional goal they needed that could have seen them promoted automatically.
Poor old Luke Waterfall didn’t have his magic hat on yesterday. His Grimsby side are pushing for a play-off spot in the National League, and faced Maidenhead at home. Their opponents are lower mid-table and should have been brushed aside, especially given Grimsby’s recent form. Instead, Waterfall had a nightmare. First, he put the ball past his own keeper for the second successive game, and just a minute later was sent off for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity, with the visitors converting the penalty. They ended up losing 3-1, when a draw would have secured their spot. They’ll now face Boreham Wood and Eastleigh without Waterfall, but they do only need a point to book their place.
The tune of Hey Baby was winging out in West Yorkshire, but this time the fans signing it wore blue and white. Harry Toffolo, as we know, is a cracking left-back and he could be playing Premier League football next season. He scored the opener for his side at home against Bristol City, leading them to a 2-0 win and confirming third place in the Championship, above Nottingham Forest. They’ll face Luton Town in the semi-final, with either Sheffield United or Brennan Johnson’s Forest waiting at Wembley for the victor.
We’re going from a battle for the top tier of English football to one at the other end of the spectrum. Nathan Arnold is now manager of Newark Town, and they won their division yesterday, despite losing the final game. It’s Nathan’s first triumph as a manager, and earns them promotion to the Northern Counties East League, where the likes of North Ferriby and Brigg Town await.
Former Imp Alan Power only got 13 minutes on the field as his St Mirren side beat Dundee 2-0, but it ensured they are safe from relegation out of the Scottish Premier League. With three games remaining before play started, St Mirren were eight points clear of St Johnstone, who occupy the relegation play-off spot. Their win, coupled with St Johnstone getting a point, meant Power will enjoy a fifth successive season in Scotland’s top flight since leaving the Imps. This was his 32nd appearance for The Buddies in the league, and the first he didn’t start.
It was quite a day for former Imps (and a future Imp) scoring in their matches. Brennan Johnson grabbed a penalty as Forest drew 1-1 at Hull City to relinquish third place to Huddersfield, whilst Sam Clucas also scored in the Championship, ensuring Stoke finished the campaign with a 1-1 draw against Coventry City. In League Two, four former Imps scored; Lee Angol helping Bradford City to a 2-0 win against Carlisle. That was his seventh in 22 matches, and John Akinde got his second in 15 matches as Colchester United beat Hartlepool 2-0. There was a rare Michael Bostwick goal for Stevenage as they surprisingly beat Salford 4-2, whilst Jack Payne proved his quality with a brace for Swindon. They were convincing 3-0 winners at Walsall and Payne grabbed two, taking his season tally to 13, with a further five assists.
Into the National League and Chris Bush netted for Bromely as they drew 2-2 with relegated (lol) Dover, whilst Callum Howe netted for Solihull Moors as they brushed aside Dagenham despite having ten men for much of the game. They’re going to be involved in the play-off shake-up as well, and by all accounts, Howe was the best player on the park. Adam Marriott also grabbed a goal, he’s on Barnet’s books now and it won’t surprise you to hear he’s scored 17 goals in 35 outings, with ten in his last 12 matches.
Finally, Charlie Kendall once again bagged for Eastbourne Borough, even though they were beaten 7-2 at home. Kendall, who is a Lincoln player, has now scored 25 for the season, after appearing in just 36 matches.
There’s no Lincoln here, but I have to mention the Scottish Championship play-off semi-final. Montrose, who have never played top-flight football, took a 1-0 lead to Airdrieonians and led 2-0 at the break. The hosts pulled one back, but Montrose added a third, meaning with just 21 minutes left, the home side needed three to draw level. Three they got, with goals on 70. 75 and 86 minutes to send the time to extra time. Remarkably, both sides scored in extra time, with Aidireonians grabbing two, winning the game 6-4, 6-5 on aggregate. In the other semi-final, 180 minute of football produced one goal, a last-minute strike for Queen’s Park. Football, eh?