Penalty Woes: Ten Misses That Had Significant Costs

Credit Graham Burrell

The whistle blowing and the referee pointing to the penalty spot still elicits a cheer from supporters (and at least at our level there is no wait whilst someone else checks the decision) as a potential game changing moment, writes Gary Parle.

As can happen though that elation can quickly turn to dejection as City supporters found out against Portsmouth on the final day of the season when Danny Mandroiu slipped as he took the kick and the chance was gone.  He wasn’t the first though and won’t be the last to miss a penalty for the Imps.

Using various sources such as the British Newspaper Archive, match programmes, the club history books, Six Years in Purgatory and my own records 833 penalties have so far been traced in first team games (excluding war time and penalty shoot outs) of which 223 have been missed.  There are probably more still waiting to be discovered but here are ten games in which a missed penalty (or two!) has played a part in the Imps history.

John Irving

Introduced in 1891 the first so far traced penalty awarded to Lincoln came at home to Rotherham Town in a friendly match on October 17th that year.  Handball was given against a defender and John Irving was entrusted with the kick.  He shot straight at Town keeper, the early black pioneer footballer Arthur Wharton, who saved with ease.  It didn’t affect the result as City won 6-0 but as Irving did score twice it deprived him of a hattrick.  Irving also took the 2nd penalty traced on January 2nd 1892 this time scoring in a 5-2 home win against Long Eaton Rangers

James Mullineaux

The visit of The Wednesday to John O’Gaunts for a Football Alliance match on March 12th 1892 not only saw City’s 1st traced penalty in a competitive match but also a strange incident where the referee blew for half time ten minutes early and once his mistake had been pointed out to him by a spectator had to get the players back onto the pitch to complete the half! With City leading 2-1 in the 2nd half Frank Smallman was charged down as he was about to shoot and a penalty was awarded.  Irving took the kick but as the Chronicle reported “he kicked straight at goal but the wind carried the sphere out” The referee though ruled that some of the visiting players had encroached over the 12-yard line and ordered it to be retaken.  This time James Mullineaux took responsibility but saw his weak kick easily saved by the goalkeeper.   The visitors equalised shortly after as the game finished 2-2.

Jeff Smith

1963/64 ended with a home game against Barrow on April 29th with City comfortably winning 3-0 thanks to an Alan Morton hat trick.  In the 57th minute, 2 minutes after Morton had scored his third goal, Roger Holmes was crudely brought down from behind and a penalty was awarded. Full back Jeff Smith took it but according to Maurice Burton’s Echo match report “was at least five yards wide of the goal with his penalty kick”.    The miss is included in this list because Smith holds the club record (for a player continuously at the club and scoring at least two goals) for going the longest between scoring Football League goals.  He scored, ironically a penalty, against Middlesbrough on April 1st 1961 and scored his only other City goal at Halifax on February 26th 1966, 4 years and 331 days later.  In between he made 169 FL appearances.    Had he scored against Barrow that record would be held by Paul Morgan.

Lester Marshall

Lester Marshall earns his place on this list by virtue of his performance at home to Rochdale in Division 3 North on December 27th 1926.   With 22 minutes gone and the game all square at 1-1 winger Frank Pegg was fouled in the area and a penalty awarded.  Marshall stepped up and saw his effort saved by Len Hill (who would join City in the summer) although he was able to score from the rebound.  After 73 minutes, with the score 2-2, a Pegg cross was handled in the area and another penalty awarded.  Marshall again took responsibility but again Hill saved and this time was able to hold onto the ball.  Within a few minutes Rochdale scored what proved to be the winner.  Marshall is the only player so far discovered to miss two penalties in a single game for City

Fred Ward

After failing to gain re-election in 1920 City competed in the Midland League the following season finishing as champions with a home record of 18 wins and 1 draw scoring 61 goals with just 14 conceded.  The home game with Hull City Reserves on October 23rd 1920 saw one of those wins as City triumphed 6-1.  City were 2-1 ahead when in the 35th minute Alf Ball was fouled and Fred Ward converted the resultant penalty.  With the game in the final minutes Ball was denied a goal by handball and a second penalty awarded which Ward converted to make the score 6-1.  Immediately after the restart City again attacked and Thomas Rippon was fouled leading to a 3rd penalty.  This time though to “the intense disappointment of the spectators Ward shot wildly over the bar” Whilst it had no bearing on the result it deprived Ward of a hat trick of penalties meaning Alf Horne who achieved the feat in 1935 became the first and so far, only City player to do so.

Sam Ellis

The most prolific penalty taker in City’s history is Sam Ellis who has a traced total of 32 kicks which is nine higher than George Shipley.  Ellis missed one in a pre season friendly but only missed one in a competitive match which occured on December 20th 1975.  City were unusually that season losing at home, 1-2 against Bradford City when shortly after half time John Ward had “his legs whipped away” by Cec Podd and a penalty was awarded.  Bradford did dispute the decision whilst as Maurice Burton reported “Ellis sat calmly on the ball awaiting his chance of an equaliser.  So certain has Ellis been from the spot that few entertained the thought that he could possibly miss -least of all the man entrusted with the kick.  Astoundingly, he did.  As Punton (Bradford’s debutant goalkeeper) moved to his right, Ellis sent the ball the other way and watched with horror as it went wide” City did eventually win 4-2 with Ellis atoning for his error by scoring the 3rd.    21 of Super Sams penalties were in the Football League, a club record, which is 3 more than 2nd placed Alf Horne.

Steve Buckley

Whilst the previous misses only affected the players concerned the final four could have changed the club’s history had they been scored.  From being 7th and eyeing a promotion push at the turn of the year by the visit of Hereford United to Sincil Bank on April 4th 1987 City had slumped to 18th and had won just once in 14 games.  City dominated the first half but were unable to beat former Imp Kevin Rose in the visitor’s goal but in the first minute after the interval Tony Simmons was brought down by the keeper and City awarded a penalty. Steve Buckley stepped up only to see Rose keep out his kick.  The game finished 0-0.  It was Buckley’s 2nd successive miss having failed in the 1-0 home defeat to Cardiff earlier in the season.  Had either been scored City could have had an extra three points and may not have suffered relegation on the final day into the GMVC.

Ernie Whittle

Whilst the exploits of the 2016/17 FA Cup run remain vivid in the memory that season was a rarity for City in the competition with the club more often than not the Goliath, relatively speaking, that got slain by the David.  Having taken two replays to dispose of bottom of the table Division 3 South Walsall in 1953/54  the Division 2 Imps were drawn at home to Preston North End in the 4th Round.  23027 packed into Sincil Bank on January 30th to see a Preston side that had finished runners-up in Division 1 the previous season and included Tom’s Docherty and Finney.  It was the visitors who took the lead after 35 minutes but three minutes later Jimmy Munro was brought down in the box and a penalty was awarded.  Ernie Whittle, who had settled the tie with Walsall from the penalty spot, stepped up only to see goalkeeper George Thompson dive the right way and make what was described as a magnificent save in some reports.  Preston added a 2nd on the hour mark and eventually lost in the final to West Bromwich Albion.

George Shipley

Whereas in 1986/87 City had gone into the new Year looking up only for things to turn sour the opposite happened in 1981/82.  Due to a spate of postponements defeat at Carlisle on January 30th left the Imps in 18th place in the Division 3 table.  Fast forward to April 10th and City were unbeaten in 16 games and top of the table prior to the trip to 6th place Burnley.  For the first hour City were dominant without being able to score when in the 61st minute David Carr was brought down in the box.  George Shipley stepped up only to see his effort hit the post and be cleared by the Burnley defence.  Ten minutes later Burnley scored the only goal of the game.  Burnley would win the title, 3 points ahead of City who finished 4th. If that penalty had been scored how different may the rest of that season have unfolded?

Harry Kitching

A postponement also contributed to the importance of the final missed penalty chosen. On February 28th 1931 City, top of the Division 3 North table, were due to visit 3rd place Chesterfield but heavy snow led to the game being called off just before kick-off.  City were still top on 55 points from 39 games when it was rearranged for April 22nd with Chesterfield second on 54 points but 40 games played.  20092 were present and saw Chesterfield take a two-goal lead inside 30 minutes but by the 48th minute it was 2 apiece.  Chesterfield retook the lead with a goal considered by most present, including the goal scorer, as being offside but within two minutes Bob Whalley was hauled down by home keeper Bill Dolman and a penalty was awarded.  Jack Haliday had missed from the spot in the previous game so Harry Kitching took responsibility but could only direct his kick straight at Dolman.  The game finished 3-2 knocking City off the top of the table for the first time since September and defeat at Accrington the following Saturday coupled with a Chesterfield win meant City’s 1-0 win at Wigan in the final match was academic as they finished 2nd.