The Fortnight That Was – Derby County in November 1967

It might have escaped your attention, but 56 years ago today, the Imps got their record attendance for a game. It came in the League Cup against Derby County and followed a fortnight of fervent excitement.

I thought as a nice aside from the excitement of our upcoming game against Stevenage, Michael Skubala’s first in charge, I’d go through the newspapers of the day and bring you the build-up to that huge encounter.

September 1967

The Imps had done a good job getting through to the Fourth Round. Mansfield were beaten 3-2 to set up a plum tie with top flight side Newcastle United. They were brushed aside, 2-1, in front of 15,000 at the Bank. Only 2,000 fewer turned out to watch Third Division high-flyers Torquay beaten 4-2. That put the Imps on the Baseball Ground trail in early November.

November 1st

City were 11th in Division Four going into the League Cup Fourth Round clash at the Baseball Ground. Derby, under the watchful eye of Brian Clough, were seventh in Division Two, the Championship as it is now.

Derby took the lead through Richie Barker, set up by Alan Durban. The pair would later manage Shrewsbury, but they looked to have put paid to the Imps hopes in Derby. City were second best for much of the first half, but rallied in the second. Lewis Thom had what seemed like a perfectly good goal disallowed, before he levelled late on.

November 6th

Never would City have a better chance of reaching the quarter-finals of the League Cup – the draw pitted them or the Rams at home against another Division Four side, Darlington.

November 7th

Planned for November 8th, the Imps were expecting a big crowd. Sadly, the league form wasn’t up to scratch, and the week prior to the fixture’s original date, Wrexham won 2-0 at the Bank. There were signs things might be getting out of hand in the ticket office when a half time call went out for the ticket printer to contact the office – the club were running out of tickets.

Things weren’t helped by Derby initially agreeing to 1,000 fewer tickets than the 25% to which they were entitled, only to change their mind and request their full allocation. It looked a lot like early November would see the Imps’ record attendance broken.

November 8th

Fog gripped Lincoln more than cup fever on the day of the game, and there was a real doubt it would go ahead. “No money can be refunded,” said club secretary Harry Pepper. “Those who have bought tickets will be able to use them.” He was referring to a possible replay a week later.

November 9th

Sadly, the game fell foul of the weather. The referee, Jim Carr, drove from Sheffield and got no hint of fog until well past Worksop. However, it was thick enough to put paid to the game, extending the cup fever by a week.

Derby wanted the game played on Monday, but Lincoln stood firm. It meant the game at home against Rochdale would be postponed, rather than the Imps playing three games in six days. We won the rearranged fixture in January, 3-2.

November 11th

The fog didn’t sink the league fixture at Southend the following Saturday, although goals from Phil Chisnell, both in the first half, sunk the Imps. Norman Corner had one disallowed for pushing in between, which might have seen a different result had it stood. As it was, Roger Holmes’ consolation was all the travelling fans had to bring home from Essex.

The big team news from Roots Hall was the omission of Billy Cobb and Mick Brown, both of whom missed out on the trip to the seaside through the manager’s choice, not injury.

November 14th

They were both expected back for the big cup tie, which was all set to go ahead after the fog cleared.

Some late tickets hit the market – the Supporter’s Club returned 200 five-shilling tickets for resale. The gates were to open at 6 pm, and fans were already being given some sound advice.

“No one will be admitted without a ticket,” said chairman Walter Mant. “It is sensible for everyone to pack in as tightly as possible. Get in early, and then shout like hell.”

November 15th

Game day, but for purposes of this article, we’ll bring you the headlines people faced heading to the ground. It was a wet, drizzly night, and the reserves were also in action, meaning they’d miss the game. Alan Pilgrim, who’d played against Southend, was dropped, as was Tom Brooks. Mick Brown and Billy Cobb returned. At least Brooks got to see the game – Pilgrim was forced to travel with the reserves.

Could the Imps get a result?

November 16th

No. Sadly not. 23,196 watched on as they lost 3-0, although the result doesn’t tell the full story.

Derby took an early lead, John O’Hare getting the goal after eight minutes. City gave a good account of themselves, even producing a wonder save from the Derby keeper just before half time, John Gregson’s drive tipped over the bar by Reg Matthews.

The rain came down heavily, and at one stage, the match was paused as puddles were brushed off the field at the Railway End.

As the game wore on, City still had hope of a leveller, until an incident seven minutes from time. Kevin Hector fouled Mick Brown, and whilst the referee gave the free kick, Brown was not happy. He headbutted Hector and was sent off.

After that, Derby added two more to snatch the tie away from the plucky Imps. One was scored by Hector, still bleeding from his wound, and the final goal by O’Hare.

Derby didn’t go up to the First Division that season, but in the years that followed, they won the Seconf Division, then the First Division, as well as the Texaco Cup and the Watney Cup.

There may have been an incident outside the ground, but if anything had happened inside, the crowd wouldn’t have been warned – the loudspeaker broke down and prevented records from being played at half time or the record crowd from being announced. At least there couldn’t be a rendition of ‘You’re only here for the Derby’. It would have been true – just 6,052 turned up four days later to watch Luton win 3-2.