Looking Back At: 1982/83 (Part 4)

Part One Here

Part Two Here

Part Three Here




The home game with Millwall saw City get some national media exposure with a report on affairs at the club in the heavyweight Sunday Times newspaper by acclaimed football writer Brian Glanville and the lead slot on BBC TV’s Match of the Day at the time when this was shown on Sunday afternoons.

The Imps had featured just once before on Match of the Day, when almost two minutes of their home game with Mansfield Town two years before had been squeezed in. The coverage this time was rather better with the game shown as the main match as one of the small quota of lower division matches required to be shown under the broadcasting agreement. It included interviews with Colin Murphy and Phil Neale and a ‘skill slot’ featuring the play of Glenn Cockerill.

As for the game itself City did themselves proud as they continued their 100% home league record for the season with a 3-1 win, the only disappointment being a drop in attendance to just over 4,200. Gordon Simmonite made his debut at left back as Phil Neale moved forward into midfield in place of George Shipley, banned for one match after his sending off at Hartlepool. Stuart Hibberd continued in place of Marshall Burke who completed his suspension while Stuart Hall was back on the bench. A goal after half an hour from Derek Bell set City on their way followed by a fine goal from Neale just before the break. Although Millwall started the second half strongly and pulled a goal back Glenn Cockerill settled things well before the end. As to Neale’s first goal of the season, he revealed in his Match of the Day interview that he’d had a bet on with ‘the other full back’ as to which of them would score first in the season. David Carr had told him, though, that it didn’t count as he was playing in midfield. The win stretched City’s lead at the top to five points again as the teams below them continued to change places.

Although out of the two main cups City were of course still in the Football League Trophy and that now resumed at the quarter-final stage with a visit from a Norwich City side currently third from bottom of the First Division table. This was despite having beaten top placed Liverpool the previous Saturday with a goal from their leading scorer John Deehan. Along with the future Imps Director of Football, Norwich included two other players with a future City connection in their side. With one or two players missing through injury, reserve striker Ross Jack was given a game and a tall 20-year-old striker named John Fashanu was given a bit of first team experience. In fact, it was ‘Fash’ who scored what was to be Norwich’s consolation goal near the end. For once, City had such a full-strength squad that they were able to rest Steve Thompson who was suffering from a groin strain. His place in the centre of defence was taken by David Carr with Gordon Simmonite switching to right back. Things were made easier for City when Deehan was sent off before half an hour had gone and in a seven-minute second half spell Derek Bell’s second hat-trick of the season, completed with a penalty, put City three goals in front. They were so much in control that they were able to give the patient Stuart Hall several minutes of action along with Gary Strodder as the rules for the competition allowed two substitutes to be used from five named. Fashanu’s goal then came when he headed in a corner to, as Maurice Burton put it, “give some indication that he possesses the scoring ability shown by his brother with the same club.”

City now had a blank Saturday due to their exit from the FA Cup which meant a third home game in a row and one that was not only to be the high point of the season but also arguably the high point of Colin Murphy’s time with City.

The Imps were now back to full strength with Gordon Simmonite dropping to the bench for the visit of a mid-table Bournemouth side. The Cherries were undergoing some turmoil at the time with manager David Webb controversially sacked the previous weekend. In charge of the team on an interim basis which would last for about three months was Webb’s former assistant Harry Redknapp for what would be the first game of a long managerial career.

On a pitch that was described as frozen and slippery but never dangerous it was an even game for the first half hour before Gordon Hobson rounded the keeper to give the Imps a lead which was extended minutes before the break when defender Phil Brignull put a back pass into his own net. City went on to score steadily and almost at will in the second half with their dominance later put down to, unlike the Bournemouth players, wearing boots designed for hard surfaces. Hobson made the score 3-0 following a corner before Glenn Cockerill got City’s fourth. Derek Bell then scored twice in the space of four minutes before Hobson completed his hat-trick. Cockerill then made it 8-0 after a run from the half way line before setting up Bell for City’s second hat-trick of the game, and there could have been a third in injury time but for a great save from Bournemouth keeper Kenny Allen to deny Cockerill.

The only disappointing thing about the day was the attendance which was down again by a hundred from the Millwall match, but this could be perhaps have been partly due to it being a Christmas shopping Saturday and partly due to the freezing weather which, according to the Bournemouth players contributed to their defeat: “It was an icy day and they came running out in AstroTurf boots and we couldn’t stand up”, and “The game should never have been played, we were slipping and sliding all over the place – it was a farce.”

As for Harry Redknapp, he later recalled his first-ever managerial game as “Sickening. I cannot remember another day like it.”

The game made it ten home wins in a row from the start of the season and maintained City’s five-point lead at the top of the division, seven clear of fourth placed Newport County. It was City’s biggest win since 1951 and the first time since earlier in that same year that two players had scored hat-tricks in a game. On this theme, Derek Bell became only the second City player ever to score hat-tricks in successive matches and it also meant Gordon Hobson had registered one for the fourth season in a row.

With Christmas Day falling on a Saturday City’s next game wasn’t until the Monday Bank Holiday so a practice match was arranged on the Wednesday night away at Gainsborough Trinity. A full-strength side was put out apart from Gordon Simmonite again filling in for Steve Thompson and Stuart Naylor given a game in goal. As with the game against Bournemouth this was also played on a freezing pitch, and although City again had suitable footwear the Gainsborough players didn’t and the referee deemed the conditions to be too unsafe for them after 70 minutes of play. By then the Imps were 7-0 up in a one-sided match with three goals from Glenn Cockerill, two from Gordon Hobson and one each for George Shipley and Phil Neale.

Steve Thompson was back for the Bank Holiday visit to bottom-of the-table Walsall, but although the Imps took the lead just after the half hour through Glenn Cockerill the home side battled back in a physical game to equalise midway through the second half.

The draw at Walsall was actually the first in the league with almost half the season gone. Unfortunately, another run came to an end the following afternoon with the first home defeat of the season. Once again City led at half time thanks to a goal from Cockerill but a determined display from Huddersfield Town saw them dominate the second half to run out 2-1 winners and move up to third place in the table. With one point from the last two games City’s lead at the top had been cut to three points and to four ahead of fourth placed Cardiff although they had played a game fewer than the Welsh side. One bright spot was the attendance of 11,832 which was the highest for a league match at Sincil Bank for over six years.

So the year 1982 came to an end, possibly the most productive calendar year in the club’s history. City had played 48 league games, winning 29, drawing ten and losing nine, with 85 goals scored and 35 conceded. A record which, if translated into a single season of 46 games and even if two of the wins were taken out would have brought them a total of 91 points. But of course, only seasons count and the second half of 1982/83 was to be more on a par with the first half of 1981/82.


Concerns were starting to be raised that the two recent disappointing results were due to the small squad of players being required to play despite various of them suffering from niggling injuries. Glenn Cockerill and Gordon Hobson were mentioned in particular as having been undergoing treatment, but both were passed fit for the two games over the second holiday weekend and the two wins gained seemed to indicate things were back on track.

New Year’s Day required a long trip to Kent to take on a mid-table Gillingham side and the ‘walking wounded’ were patched up with a change seeing Gordon Simmonite preferred to David Carr at right back with the latter on the bench. In a confident display Derek Bell gave City a first half lead with a penalty after Gordon Hobson was brought down. George Shipley then sealed the win in the closing minutes to maintain City’s lead at the top of the division.

The Bank Holiday Monday brought a visit from bottom-four side Preston and in front of an attendance half that of the previous game at Sincil Bank City ran out comfortable 3-0 winners. An early lead came in circumstances which wouldn’t have been allowed to happen today when the ball rebounded off the referee for Gordon Hobson to play in George Shipley for his eighth goal of the season. Derek Bell then achieved a personal best with his 22nd goal of the season midway through the first half before Phil Turner put the result beyond doubt after the break, and with 12 minutes to go City were able to give Steve Thompson a rest, sending on David Carr in his place. With second-placed Portsmouth not having a game City extended their lead at the top by a point to be four ahead of Cardiff and were now seven ahead of fourth place now occupied by Huddersfield.

There was no game for City the following Saturday due to scheduled opponents Southend being in FA Cup third round action. Instead, they were treated to a three-day trip to Majorca and a complete break from training. However, the players were back in action 24 hours after their return with a friendly match away to Northern Premier League Worksop Town. Rested for the game were Glenn Cockerill and Steve Thompson, both still nursing injuries, while Derek Bell had suffered a groin injury against Preston and Phil Neale had broken his nose in training. Despite fielding only one recognised striker the Imps won easily with goals from Marshall Burke, Gordon Hobson, and a Stuart Hibberd penalty.

But it was from now on that things began to slip as the effects of having such a small squad began to be seen, particularly with no cover for the striking positions. Derek Bell’s injury meant City had to reshuffle with Stuart Hibberd coming into midfield for the visit to Wigan in what could be described as a 4-3-1-2 formation with Marshall Burke pushing forward behind the front two. This, however, did not work well due to City’s successful game being based on having three men up front with pace, strength and scoring ability.

The home side took an early lead when winger David Lowe headed in following a corner but although Marshall Burke’s second goal of the season put City level five minutes later the match was won ten minutes after that when Wigan’s Graham Barrow headed high into the net. In a patchy display City were unable to make any impression in the second half and saw their lead at the top down to three points again with the gap to fourth down to five points.

A tough game then came with the visit of that fourth-placed team who were Bristol Rovers, and a first for the game was that City’s shirts bore the name of a sponsor for the first time – that of seed merchants J. Arthur Bowers. Thankfully Derek Bell was fit to return so City were back to full strength again and it was Bell who gave them the lead, heading in a free kick within 20 minutes. Although the visitors fairly soon equalised through later City player Nicky Platnauer the Imps were dominant after the break with Gordon Hobson scoring what proved to be the winner early in the second half. The only downside came when Derek Bell aggravated his groin injury midway through the second half and had to be replaced by David Carr who went into midfield as City were forced to adopt the same tactics as at Wigan. The Imps remained three points clear at the top with a game in hand over second-placed Cardiff, and stretched the gap to fourth place, now occupied by Portsmouth, to six points.

Derek Bell was expected to be absent for at least two weeks and in view of the nature of the defeat at Wigan it emphasised the need for strengthening of the squad, particularly up front. An attempt was made to sign veteran striker Ernie Moss from promotion-chasing Fourth Division side Port Vale for what would likely have been a small fee but nothing came of lengthy negotiations. Colin Murphy had plenty to say on the subject – that it was no longer possible to patch up players and expect them to keep winning, and that the club were at a crossroads, “To capitalise on our achievements I must inject new blood…the question is whether the board will give me the cash.” He went on to say that since he came to Lincoln, he had been trying to build a football club, not just a team, “Until recently I thought I was getting somewhere but now I am not so sure.”

There seemed another possibility of a new striker joining the club with an inquiry having been made for Norwich City’s Ross Jack who had featured in the recent League Trophy game against the Imps. The player himself said that he wanted a few days to think things over. With City’s need more urgent a new striker did arrive, with Colin Murphy’s former assistant Lennie Lawrence, now acting manager of Charlton Athletic allowing 23-year-old Steve White to join on a month’s loan. A prolific scorer throughout his career, White had registered 18 league goals for Luton as they won the Second Division championship the previous season after having cost a fee of £175,000 when he joined them from Bristol Rovers. Staying in the second tier in a summer move to Charlton when he was valued at £100,000 he had played regularly in the current season with eight goals so far until the signing for the Addicks of Danish international and former European Footballer of the Year Allan Simonsen.

Although White’s arrival was good news in terms of player numbers it was balanced out by Stuart Hibberd having to be rushed to hospital with appendicitis. White went straight into the side for the visit to Reading who were fourth from bottom and drifting towards relegation.

City were fortunate not to be facing the Football League’s current leading scorer 27-goal Kerry Dixon as the future England striker was absent with a groin injury. But they were unable to take any advantage with an undistinguished display, and scarcely deserved the draw earned thanks to a late goal from Steve Thompson. City were still six points ahead of fourth place now occupied by Bristol Rovers, but their lead at the top was cut to a single point, and after Cardiff’s win the following Tuesday night the Welsh club moved above the Imps who relinquished leadership of the division for the first time since September.


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