Looking Back At: 1981/82 (Part Three)

Looking Back At: 1981/82 (Part One)

Looking Back At: 1981/82 (Part Two)


Before the visit of Preston North End the following Wednesday night, another new player arrived with the signing of 19-year-old David Beavon from Notts County for a fee of £25,000. As with the other newcomer, Wayne Turner, Beavon had made five Second Division appearances for his previous club. These had been on the left of midfield, but he was also capable of playing at left-back. The player had been on Derby County’s books as a schoolboy when Colin Murphy was there and later signed as an apprentice with Notts, again during Colin Murphy’s involvement with them. “I am quite certain that inside 12 months, David Beavon will have made a name for himself at Lincoln,” said Murphy.

I will make no comment as to what, in my and most people’s estimations, that kind of name might be.


As one former Notts County man came in, another left, as David McVay was released with York City said to be keen to sign him. However, the player turned down the offer of a lengthy contract with York and instead had a brief spell with Grantham before joining Boston United as he moved into a career in journalism, notably with the Nottingham Evening Post and later the Daily Telegraph.

Beavon came straight into the side at left-back with Wayne Turner now playing on the right, as despite Colin Murphy saying anyone who went out of the team would have every chance of coming back, Trevor Thompson was banished to the reserves where he was to remain along with his last season’s full-back partner Nolan Keeley. Another change for the Preston game saw Steve Cammack return to the side, with Gordon Hobson dropped to the bench. Poor defending allowed Preston to take the lead after only two minutes, but although City equalised fairly quickly through George Shipley, more poor play, this time in midfield, allowed Preston to score again just after the half hour. This turned out to be enough for them to win the game as City gave an unconvincing performance in the second half, despite throwing men forward with the introduction of Gordon Hobson for Beavon with 20 minutes to go.


The defeat by Preston was the low point of the season as it left City in 20th place and out of the relegation zone only on goal difference, but deficiencies in both midfield and defence were able to be put right for the following Saturday’s visit to Southend due to the long-awaited return to fitness of Phil Turner and Steve Thompson.  David Beavon quickly lost his place in the side as City fielded two Turners in the full-back positions, Phil having played at right back on a few occasions in the previous season. Steve Thompson came in for his first game since May, which allowed David Carr to move into the centre of midfield with George Shipley playing on the right instead of Steve Cammack, who dropped to the bench. This meant Gordon Hobson who had been having a disappointing time of things lately, being left out altogether, as was David Felgate, and Stuart Naylor again taking over in goal. The changes to the side, especially with the strength brought to the back four by Steve Thompson, all paid off with a much-needed three points thanks to second-half goals from Glenn Cockerill and Shipley.


It was now time for the League Cup again, with a third-round visit to a Watford side riding high in the Second Division table under Graham Taylor. An unchanged City side took on a Hornets team packed with current and future international players such as Gerry Armstrong and John Barnes. All the goals came in the first half as City took the lead with a fine strike from the edge of the area by Wayne Turner. However, a quick Watford equaliser came when young Stuart Naylor spilt a shot from future Wales defender Kenny Jackett over the line. City then regained the lead when former Imps loanee Ian Bolton handled the ball inside the area for George Shipley to put the penalty away past later Imps goalkeeper Steve Sherwood. The home side then equalised again with a penalty of their own, scored by Luther Blissett, before City withstood relentless pressure from Watford in the second half, with Naylor particularly prominent as he made up for his earlier error. The evening was only soured afterwards by two of the supporters’ coaches being badly damaged by bricks and stones thrown at them half a mile from the ground.

The replay, which had been scheduled to take place in a week’s time, was postponed at Watford’s request due to their having three players on international duty. Colin Murphy was not keen on the postponement but said knowing Watford did not want to come to Lincoln without their international players should make his team extremely confident and “a team to be feared.” It was at this time that Murphy also came out with something that would be echoed by others forty years down the line: “I think that our supporters must realise that on a resources basis, it is absolutely impossible to compete with the majority of clubs in the Third Division. Our success and development has got to come gradually with players who are seeking to make their names in the game.”

The team was unchanged again for the visit of an expensively assembled Chesterfield side riding high at the top of the division. Swollen by visiting supporters, the crowd of just under 6,000 was the best of the season so far. Colin Murphy had said the home form had got to change, and it did, with City the better side for the majority of the match to record only their second home league win of the season and knock the Spireites off the top of the table. Although the visitors took the lead in the first half, City quickly equalised with Tony Cunningham’s seventh goal of the season following a long throw. Midway through the second half, George Shipley scored for the fourth game in a row and also made it seven for the season, scoring from the penalty spot after Steve Thompson was barged over.

The next few weeks then saw City largely involved in cup competitions, starting with the visit of mid-table Fourth Division side Port Vale in the first round of the FA Cup. The attendance was down by around two thousand as supporters were perhaps saving themselves for the following Wednesday night’s visit of Watford in the other cup.  An unchanged team was fielded again, and despite a generally rather lethargic display City did take the lead with a header from Steve Thompson. But future England international Mark Chamberlain set up his brother Neville for an equaliser before himself hitting what looked likely to be the winner nine minutes from the end. There was still time, though, for Steve Cammack, who had earlier replaced George Shipley, to fire in a 20-yeard shot to set up a replay at Vale Park.

Following the run of three defeats towards the end of October, a supporter had written to the Echo suggesting that the reason for recent poor results was the lack of a capable deputy to Colin Murphy since the departure in the previous month of John Sheridan, who would, as the writer put it, “bully and motivate” the players from the sidelines. Since then, Murphy had been assisted only by Lennie Lawrence who was officially the youth team coach. The club now appointed an assistant manager, and this was 37-year-old former long-serving Halifax Town centre half John Pickering, who had recently resigned from a similar post with Carlisle United. He had also spent six months as manager of Blackburn Rovers before being succeeded by Howard Kendall, joining the coaching staff at Bolton, and then moving to Carlisle. Lennie Lawrence was now given the title of Reserve Team Manager and was in charge of the whole youth setup.

More events off the field concerned plans to hold a ‘Lincoln Imps Market’ at the ground on Friday afternoons in the run-up to Christmas. However, action co-ordinated by former City centre half Brian Heward, now involved with an organisation of local businesses, saw the idea come to nothing. Following objections from market traders, the Chamber of Commerce and others, the City Council had threatened to apply for a High Court injunction to prevent the markets going ahead, with Heward saying that as all the goods were to come from outside the area, it would have provided no employment for local people and the plan would have been “a kick in the teeth” for local traders.

The following Wednesday night saw the visit of Watford for the League Cup replay, with a home tie against Queen’s Park Rangers awaiting the winners. Changes to the visitors’ team from the first game saw veteran full-back Pat Rice and young winger John Barnes miss out through injury while City fielded what was an unchanged lineup for the fifth game in a row. A season’s best attendance of 8,773 turned up to see City concede two goals to defenders Steve Terry and Keith Pritchett in the first half hour, and when midfielder Wilf Rostron scored a third soon after half time there must have been fears of a similar scoreline to Watford’s last visit to Sincil Bank which saw the infamous 0-5 surrender by Willie Bell’s side in 1978. But under Colin Murphy, the Imps were now a different proposition, and Tony Cunningham soon pulled a goal back from a corner and then set up an interesting last 20 minutes with his ninth goal of the season following a free kick. Watford held on for the win, though, and left City with the consolation of record receipts for the game.


The next Saturday saw a league match squeezed in between the cup ties, and a third win in a row completed a rise in the table from 20th to 14th as a result. After receiving some blame for goals conceded in each of the previous three games, young Stuart Naylor made way for the return in goal of David Felgate, while a forced change due to Derek Bell suffering from a groin injury was the return of Gordon Hobson to the side. Being the third home game in eight days was probably a factor in the lowest attendance of the season so far, with just 3,171 turning out for the visit of Swindon, but we saw a comfortable City win with only the visitors’ goalkeeper Jimmy Allan keeping the score down to two second-half goals, one an own goal plus a header from Tony Cunningham to give him ten for the season. The good news after the match was that the loan period from Luton Town of Wayne Turner, who had given a man-of-the-match performance against Swindon, was to be extended for another month with the possibility of a permanent deal.

City were in action again on the following Monday night with the FA Cup replay with Port Vale presumably having had to be arranged for then in case there was another League Cup tie on Wednesday. Colin Murphy said he was toying with the idea of bringing David Beavon into the squad for the match, depending on the conditions. In the event, after two days of rain turning the Vale Park pitch to mud, the only change to the side saw Steve Cammack, who had scored in the first game, swap places with Gordon Hobson, who dropped to the bench. On a surface which was against good football, it became a two-hour slog for both sides with neither able to get the better of the respective goalkeepers. The venue for the second replay was decided on the toss of a coin, with Port Vale manager John McGrath calling correctly. This was to take place two nights later as the FA had decreed it must be no later than the Thursday of the same week, presumably in case a third replay was necessary, in which case it would have to have taken place the following midweek before the second round date on the Saturday after that.