Looking Back At: Swan’s Dive at Sincil Bank

I often talk about my first game, a Sunday afternoon against Hartlepool in October 1986. However, unlike many people, I also remember my second game – December 13th, 1986 against Swansea City.

Okay, so I didn’t remember the actual date, but I do remember the game. I’m not sure why I got to go to this game with it being so close to Christmas; perhaps I just badgered my Dad until he took me. However it happened, on a cold, wet afternoon in December 37 years ago; I witnessed Lincoln massage Swansea City.

There are some odd quirks to this game – firstly, it came in the season we dropped out of the Football League, and yet we eased past a team who started the day in second, having conceded just 16 goals all season. The return game, our final day defeat, is the Swansea City match that gets remembered for all the wrong reasons, and yet this one was forgotten. It’s little wonder, only 1988 people turned up, despite City having not played for a fortnight. Oddly, the last league game we’d played was against Wolves, and we’d beaten them 3-0, and yet this still wasn’t a big draw.

Hopes were for a promotion push, and they were boosted by two players returning – Gary West had picked up an injury in a Freight Rover Trophy game against Hartlepool, whilst Gary Strodder also came back into the side. Swansea, managed by Terry Yorath, hadn’t been beaten in the league since October, but he opted for a defensive line-up that included future Ireland defender Terry Phelan and a former Imps triallist named Gary Emmanuel, who joined the Swans after we passed on him at the start of the 85/86 season.

City started the game defending the Railway End, meaning my little face, resting on the granite wall at the front of the Railway End, didn’t get to see much action. Gary Lund had two early chances, heading a ball from Peter Daniel wide, then heading over after a Tony Simmons backheel had created an opening. I figure my eyesight must have been better than it is now, and it needed to be on ten minutes as City scored.

Lund, although I don’t think this is the Swansea game

Ian McInnes saw his ball cleared by a young future international, Andy Melville, but only as far as Richard Cooper. He picked out Lund lurking on the edge of the area, and the former England Under 21 striker lashed home with his left foot. City led, at home, agaisnt second in the table, time to shut up shop?

Not on your nelly. Lund turned provider for Simmons, who lobbed just over the bar before referee Mr D Allison was called into action. Simeon Hodson was fouled in the area by Phelan, and there was no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Mike Hughes‘ despairing dive impressed me almost as much as the well-struck penalty by Steve Buckley, which put us 2-0 up with barely 15 minutes on the clock.

Having witnessed us lose 4-1 in my first gamer, this was a real treat – happy faces all around me in what seemed like a packed stand. Of course, there weren’t as many people there as I recall, but at the time, I barely left Wragby, and we lived in a forest hamlet of fewer than 15 hours. 1988 people seemed like a lot when they were (almost) all cheering for the same thing as you. Maybe this was the moment the Imps seeped into my blood.

Lund really was a huge player for us, and deserved better than a single season that ended in relegation.

There were further chances at both ends as the rain came down. Chris Harrison hit the side netting right in front of me before another future international, Colin Pascoe, put one across the face of the goal. City had a header from Strodder saved, and two from McInnes stopped – pushed out for a corner and the other having Hughes at full stretch once again.

At half time, I have no doubt that Chris Ashton played ‘I Wanna Know What Love Is,’ as he always did. I wanted to see what happened with the Imps kicking towards me, eager to celebrate something happening at my end of the ground finally. I wasn’t disappointed.

Little happened at first – City came out disjointed, and Swansea were clearly still hit for six. They tried a clever routine from a free kick, but Phelan made a mess of it, and City broke. From Hodson’s resulting corner, Gary West headed just wide, right over my head. Sadly, much of the action was at the other end of the field, with the visitors hoping to get something to keep the pressure on Northampton at the top of the table.

They did get something – another goal in the ‘against’ column. Hodson broke away after a Swansea attack came to nothing, streaking down the flank before crossing for Lund, who headed into the net right in front of me. City led 3-0, and my Grandad, Dad, and me all hugged. I’d give almost anything to live that moment again.

Gary Strodder

As the game wore on, Swansea seemed resigned to their fate, with a Harrison effort over the bar and into the Hunters’ Stand all they could muster. As for City, we had one more trick up our sleeve: the perfect end to a perfect day. A ball got fizzed into Mitchell, and he chested it into the path of Lund, who struck a right-footed shot into the net. Left foot, header, right foot, the perfect hat trick, and the first any Imp had scored at Sincil Bank since John Thomas on the final day of the 1983/84 season.

The result lifted us into seventh play-off contention and just four points from the automatic spots. It also left us 20 points clear of the single relegation spot, and the focus was entirely on us returning to the third tier as we left the ground. That’s not strictly true – my Dad’s focus was fishing me out of a pile of dog mess after I replicated Hughes’ dive for the penalty on our way back to the car, parked on South Park. People didn’t pick up back then, and Dad, I assume, drove much of the journey back to Chambers’ Woods with the car window open.


For the record, I remember my third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh games, although it gets a little hazy after that. I saw one more in the 86/87 season, a 1-0 defeat against Cardiff, before seeing in the 87/88 season with home wins against Enfield (4-0), Bath City (3-0), Barnet (2-1, and my only game on the Sincil Bank terracing), and Weymouth (0-0, my only game in the Hunters’ Stand).

Funny, the things you can remember, isn’t it?