Result: Lincoln City 2-0 Carlisle United (FA Cup 2nd Round)
Venue: Sincil Bank (Saturday 1st December 2018, 3pm)
So it’s FA Cup Second Round weekend with the attraction of the prospect of meeting one of the “big boys” in the 3rd Round the reward for the victors of each tie. Of course, for the Imps of Lincoln City, the lure of such a tie may not have been quite so attractive – what with their cup run and shock defeat of Burnley still fresh in the minds of the Sincil Bank faithful – however, a fair pay-day will always be a welcome addition to anyone’s footballing calendar. The visitors, Carlisle United, would have their own sights set on their own run, though had been presented with, arguably, one of the harder second round ties to get through. Anyway, this trip was also my regular accompanier Dan’s birthday weekend game and, as such, provided a fine opportunity to have a mooch around the famous, historic city itself…..and sample some of the local public houses, of course!
Meeting in Piccadilly at a little after 8am, we were soon on our service through to Doncaster, where we’d have to endure a good 50 minutes until our connection which weren’t exactly favourable, what with the lack of Northern services yet again. Luckily for myself (in a very selfish way, I admit) I had a blog to write and so got to work both en route and whilst wasting away time in a Donny waiting room. It really was as exciting as it sounds. Soon enough, our excitement was ruined by the arrival of our service which would take us the forty-five minutes into the county town (city?) of Lincolnshire and we were swiftly rolling through the likes of Gainsborough and a couple of other stops before arriving into sight of the towering Lincoln Cathedral spires, accompanied by a drizzly, greying sky. After agreeing that grabbing a bus to avoid traipsing up the imaginatively named “Steep Hill” (which, would you believe, is rather steep), we disembarked outside the cathedral and began our “tour de Drinkoln” (sorry!) at the ‘ancient’ Lion and Snake, which apparently dates from the 16th century. Though it had been modernised somewhat inside, it still had a-hold of a fair bit of character and was a good place to begin our day in – especially as it was the only one in the immediate area that seemingly opened before midday, the round here costing just £6.05!
Lincoln is a highly historic cathedral city and the county town of Lincolnshire. It began life in the Iron Age around the Brayford Pool area at the foot of the hill where the castle and cathedral now reside and it is thought the Brayford Pool lent the city its original name of “Lindon” (or “The Pool”). It would later become the Roman settlement of Lindum, which continued to grow up around the River Witham, with the Romans originally conquering the area in 48 AD and constructing a legionary fortress at the end of the northern part of the Fosse Way. The legions would later move on to York with the town being given the suffix “Colonia” when it became a residence for army veterans. It would continue to flourish, being accessible by both the rivers Witham and Trent, though despite being thought of as the capital of the Flavia Caesariensis, would fall into near desertion by the end of the 5th century. Having its name later shortened to the Old English Lindocolina and then Lincylene, the city rose once more after the first Viking raids with and would become an important Viking trading post, which also minted its own coins. This would culminate in an explosion in the economy with the settlement of the Danes, though only the upper part of the city seemed to have been populated, for the most part during this period, though by the mid 10th century, it was being re-populated with the suburb of Wigford becoming a trading post in its own right, the castle being added in 1068 by the Normans on the orders of William I, for strategic means. The original cathedral was completed by 1092 though had to be rebuilt after a fire originally and a later earthquake in 1185. Upon its latter rebuilding, the cathedral is widely agreed to have usurped the Great Pyramid of Giza as the world’s tallest building.
The city was the site of an 1141 battle between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda’s forces during ‘the anarchy’, with the King’s men defeated and the man himself taken prisoner. Within a decade, Lincoln had become one of the most wealthy towns in England, largely on account of its cotton and wool industries (Lincoln Green was worn by Robin Hood in legend) though would later be a scene of a large anti-Semitic riot in the 1200’s, with the large Jewish population eventually expelled by the end of the century, with 18 of the more prominent members of the community executed at the Tower of London for murder. It again saw battle in the 13th century in the First Barons War as those who’d aligned with the French fought the English and lost, and the Second Barons War saw one of the aforementioned attacks on the Jewish people occur, as the synagogue was ransacked and debt records burned. Made a county in its own right in 1409, it would enter decline within the next century or so, and the dissolution of the monasteries didn’t help its cause. Seven were closed within the city, with the cathedral’s spire rotting away and collapsing and never replaced, a signal of the decline in political and economic fields. During the Civil War, Lincoln was on the borderline of the Royalist/Parliamentarian forces and therefore changed hands on a number of occasions and its ability to trade and create saw the city decline further into a “one street town”.
The Georgian-era would see the Agricultural Revolution begin to help Lincoln recover and the re-opening of the Fosse Canal saw trade and industry become far easier to take part in. Lincoln grew in both economic and geographical ways and the Industrial Revolution of the 19th-century saw this continue, the railways seeing locomotives and heavy machinery made and many (latterly) large companies take residence and 1857 saw a permanent military base set up. The early twentieth century saw the city hit by a couple of disease epidemics, but it would recover and become a big player in wartime production, the first tanks being made in Lincoln and this was added to with aircraft and the like during WWII. Toward the end of the 20th century, the heavy industry began to fall by the wayside, though the area around the growing university has seen the city continue to grow in size and the city is also home to its famed Christmas Market.
Finishing off my pint of Hop House (whilst Dan was on a Carling binge for some reason), we headed off towards the castle walls and the Strugglers – the board outside portraying a guy struggling at the gallows in an explanation of the name! This was a real old school pub, tight and cosy and split into two parts, with one being pretty much behind the bar in what is more of a living room than anything else. A nice little place to have a pint and I opted for a pint of the Cornish Pale Ale, whilst Dan went for….*sigh* Carling. Deary me, though at least the rather pocket-friendly prices continued at £7.05. Unfortunately, the Victoria around the corner is closed on Saturdays apparently (according to Maps at least) and so we back-tracked towards the top of “Steep Hill” and to the Magna Carta, just outside the castle’s main entrance. This was another apparently old pub, its name coming from the 11th century copy of the book of the same name (one of only four) which resides within the stronghold opposite though, to my eye, this had gone slightly the wrong side of modernising. As I said to Dan at the time though, this could, of course, have been impossible to avoid for one reason or another, though this isn’t to say its a bad place, far from it in fact. The pint of Estrella was really good too, whilst Dan remained on his tried and tested formula, the round coming in at a touch over £8.00.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t spot the Imp hidden somewhere within the Magna Carta before we departed down “Steep Hill”, bypassing the small-ish bar on the way down in preference of getting to more within range of the ground itself. Well, that was the plan anyway, until we came across the Cardinal’s Hat (not an actual hat) and I decided we couldn’t go on by without popping in, especially with it being only about twenty minutes walk away from the ground. With that being said, this would be our final stop pre-match, with Dan’s Carling vigil coming to an end with the self-badged Cardinal’s Lager going to him instead (via the recommendation of the barman), whilst I ventured a little more to try out the Swiss Stiegl, a round of £7.75. I’m not sure what it is with Lincoln and the 5p thing, but it did allow me lighten the load via a fair bit of shrapnel. Finishing off in here, we headed off straight down the high street and over the level crossing in the nick of time to avoid the dropping of the barriers, arriving at Sincil Bank a little before quarter to three, despite having somehow got separated in the crowds whilst heading around the far end. Eventually having re-united, we handed our £15 over at the turnstiles and were into Sincil Bank and we went about sorting out a pie pre-match, myself opting for the Steak pie in the end with my initial option being off the menu, only to result in an upgrade, in my opinion. Anyway, the ground is all-seater, with two larger stands, one to each side, being joined by two smaller stands, with these running the width of the pitch at either end. The cathedral was just about visible from our viewpoint, its spires peering above the stand opposite. That’s Sincil Bank in short and this is the story of Lincoln City….
Lincoln City Football Club was founded in 1884 as an amateur outfit, though football had been a prominent player in the city since the mid-19th century, with the major player before City being Lincoln Rovers (née Recreation) who had disbanded the same year. Their first competitive games would be highly successful affairs, with City coming out 9-1 Victor’s over Sleaford in their opener, before thrashing Boston Excelsior 11-0 in their first home clash and their first silverware arrived in the form of the Lincolnshire County Cup, with a 2-0 replay win over Grimsby Town. However, amateur status at the club would be short-lived and Lincoln would turn professional come 1891, and moving from their original John O’Gaunts home to Sincil Bank in 1895.
Come 1892 and the recently undertook professional switch allowed a move into the Football League, with Lincoln taking a spot in the newly formed Division 2. After moving from the old ground on account of the landlord’s passing, Lincoln’s first game at the Bank ended in a goalless draw, with the first competitive game – against Arsenal – ending in a draw also, this time one-a-piece. Through to the 1920’s, the Imps spent time yo-yo-ing between Divisions 2 & lower leagues including the Midland and Central Leagues. However, they would form the next new expansion division of the league in 1921, taking a spot in Division 3 (North). Again, Lincoln would spend a large period going between both the Second and Third Divisions right up until the 1960’s, when they would eventually drop into the Fourth Division, the regionalised system of the third tier having long gone.
Season 1975-76 saw Lincoln make history in scoring 75 points under the 2-point for a win system, which stands as the record under these rules, and take the 4th Division title in doing so, whilst also becoming the first side in almost a decade to pass 100 goals, these feats coming under the late Graham Taylor. The early 80’s saw City narrowly miss out on promotion to Division 2 in both 1982 & ’83 and tragedy would later strike both Lincoln and Bradford City in the terrible Valley Parade fire, which claimed the lives of 56 people, the two City fans killed remembered in the Stacey West Stand, the two men’s surnames. The following season saw Lincoln relegated to Division 4 once more before suffering the drop into non-league at the end of the very next campaign.
The club soon recovered, becoming the first club to be promoted from the Conference (as opposed to being elected) as Champions, they would cement their spot back on the League, though the end of 2001-’02 saw them enter administration. Despite this and an overhaul of the squad to make ends meet, the late Keith Alexander almost got the side promoted, rather than suffering the dreaded drop, only losing out in the play-off final to AFC Bournemouth. They would repeat the trick following Alexander’s recovery from a brain injury, losing out in the 2004 semis to another future Premier League outfit in Huddersfield Town. 2005 saw a hat-trick of play-off appearances under Alexander secured, and despite defeating Macclesfield Town on the semi finals (whom Keith would be managing at the time of his passing of course), they would go on to suffer final heartbreak once again, this time at the hands of Southend United. A fourth straight play-off spot was made in 2006, though Alexander would depart the club at the end of the next season after disagreements with the great and good.
Despite and prior to this, Lincoln again made the play-offs for a fifth successive season, but defeat in the final to local, rivals Grimsby Town saw them become the first club to lose in four consecutive play-off finals. They again made the play-offs in 2007 after finishing 5th – the highest Lincoln have finished in qualifying for them – though would lose out once again, again setting a record for the most unsuccessful consecutive play-off campaigns. Worse was to come though and after a few unsuccessful years and managerial changes, the club were relegated back to the Conference in 2011 after a poor late season run. Struggling the next season to just above the Conference drop zone, a change of management saw results improve enough to ensure safety, whilst cup runs were also non-existent. After another season where safety became the main aim, a few seasons of mid-table security followed prior to the appointment of the Danny Cowley as boss for 2016-’17.
Their league form, though initially inconsistent, turned into a promotion chance and after defeating seemingly runaway leaders Forest Green Rovers after a late comeback, reeled in their 12-point advantage to take the National League title and with it promotion back into the League 2. The seasons also, saw the Imps embark on their famed FA Cup run when, as a non-league outfit, they made the quarter finals by defeating Premier League Burnley at Turf Moor before bowing out to Arsenal, their first Football League opponents. Last season saw Lincoln get their hands on silverware in the form of the much-maligned EFL Trophy, as they at least overcame an u21- side, Chelsea, in the semi-finals, securing their first Wembley appearance in the club’s 134-year history. It would prove a fruitful visit as the Imps overcame Shrewsbury Town to lift the trophy by a solitary goal and have started this season strongly and are in a good position to push on and look for promotion back to the third-tier of English football.
The game got underway after a minute’s applause in commemoration of the career and life of the late Kevin Austin, who had spent time at the Imps during his time as a player, and in the complete opposite end of the spectrum to Tuesday night at Old Trafford, the deadlock was broken immediately, as Matt Rhead netted within 30 seconds, meeting a Bruno Andrade delivery to control a close-range volley into the back of the net. Quite the start and certainly the quickest goal I’ve seen for quite some time, and possibly the second quickest I’ve ever seen I suspect, beaten only by a 21-second Llandridnod Wells goal a couple of years back. That game went on to finish one-nil. Surely, history wouldn’t repeat itself here….could it?!
Neal Eardley went close shortly afterwards, his free-kick hitting the side-netting just the wrong side of the post from his perspective, whilst Adam Collin between the Carlisle sticks had to pull off a fine save to deny the second Matt up front – Matt Green. However, Lincoln were almost made to pay for these missed chances when a deep cross wasn’t fully cleared and the ball came to Regan Slater who’s shot from the angle flew through a group of bodies, somehow evading everyone, with the ball smacking back into play off the upright directly in front of us. A wake-up call for the hosts that it wouldn’t be all plain sailing for them and Josh Vickers in the Lincoln goal had to be alert to dive away and tip over a Richie Bennett drive that looked destined for the top corner. Lincoln would go close again at the end of the half, Harry Anderson’s drive across goal going narrowly wide of the mark, as the sides headed in at the break with that early goal still separating them and it looked as though the first-minute curse would strike once more.
The second-half began with the familiar fifteen-to-twenty minute spell of the side behind coming out strong with Carlisle, now attacking the end at which their band of supporters were situated, striving to get themselves back to parity. Regan Slater had the better of the sights of goal the Cumbrians would create during this spell, with his effort flying over the crossbar before Lincoln began to regain the front-foot and went close with a few efforts that were well defended by the solid Carlisle defence, until on came John Akinde, a man who always seems to find the net when I am about. I commented on the fact to Dan as well and gave him a confident prediction that the former Barnet man would bag under the ever more dominant Sincil Bank lights.
However, it would be Lee Frecklington who’d twice go close to finding the net and putting his side two-up. First, he hit a crisp volley which Collin flung himself at to his right and pulled off a fine save (even better at close quarters) to keep his side in the contest and he later scuffed an effort up and over the bar when he ought to have done far better. If the contacts had been reversed, he would likely have been far happier! However, these missed chances wouldn’t prove to be vital as that man Akinde popped up with around four minutes left to slide home a low cross by the impressive Andrade at the back-post to seal the Imps’ place in the hat for the Third Round.
That would prove to be that for the game in truth with the whistle going after a few minutes of stoppages and we beat a hasty exit and popped in to the nearby Shakespeare pub, which was the first we came across, just at the top of a side-street leading to the main road from the bridge over the stadium neighbouring stream. The highlight in here? The pool table being covered by a 1978-’79 (that’s what we tried to decipher, anyway) season sticker collection. Finishing off our drinks of a Heineken and Carling – yes, normal service was resumed – which came in at the now standard £6.90 with an extra 5p, we grabbed a bus from right outside and up towards the station. However, we weren’t ready to depart Lincoln just yet, no sir. First, we had stops at the Ritz Wetherspoon’s (a former theatre) which is far more impressive from outside than inside to be honest, where I got a Punk IPA for £3.95, and the interesting looking Treaty of Commerce, a narrow Tudor-style, wood-clad building just short of the level-crossing, where we had a round of Kronenbourg and Carling whilst breaking into an occasional sing-along on account of the fine tunes being played out.
By the point I’d finished my pint, Dan had decided to play safe on his drink here and so I headed off over the crossing to the Witch and Wardrobe, which sat next to a nicely lit church and another small waterway. After a quick pint of Strongbow in here whilst suffering through the last few minutes of the Southampton-Manchester United game, I headed back to the station and Dan prior to boarding our train back to Doncaster and then onwards back to Manchester once again. On the second train, we got talking to Rochdale fan Chris who had got us agreeing to go to Spotland the following day to watch their cup tie against Portsmouth. Unfortunately, things would conspire against us, causing these plans to go awry, and so my weekend came to a premature end. At least the Saturday had been a fine one! Lincoln is a brilliant city and it was certainly far cheaper than I suspected/feared! The game was decent, the ground the same food and programme both of good quality (the latter surprisingly so, as they usually seem to be cut-back issues in the Cup most places) and the travel went as well as could be expected, all things considered. So on to next week and a return down to the Big Smoke for the first time this season. In true GTA San Andreas style, Gunners will be involved. I’ve just gotta follow the damn train…..!
Value For Money: 8