Lincoln City FC
 

 

PROMOTION!

Promotion! Lincoln City FC 1997/98

The Imps went into their 1997/98 campaign having come close to a play-off the previous season which was manager John Beck’s first full season in charge following his appointment in October 1995. Beck’s City side weren’t a pretty bunch to watch in terms of their style of play but what they lacked in terms of finesse they certainly made up for in terms of spirit and togetherness. “Team Lincoln” was now the name of the game.

Beck brought in young striker Lee Thorpe to add some muscle to the forward line and with the wily old Phil Stant alongside him and the hugely popular Gareth Ainsworth providing the ammunition from the right big things were expected as the season got underway with a trip to Chester City.

Never one of the Club’s best hunting grounds, the Imps once again came home empty handed from Cheshire but they soon started to put things into shape with a controversial win at local rivals Notts County setting the ball rolling. The game at Meadow Lane was all square at 1-1 when Stant headed home despite being suspiciously offside, causing one home follower to run the length of the pitch to confront the linesman.

Ainsworth, who scored a hat-trick in a 3-3 home draw with Scarborough, then left for Port Vale who shelled out the best part of half a million for his services. Many people wrote City’s chances off at this point but Ainsworth’s departure signalled the start of a tremendous run in the League with the Imps winning nine and drawing seven of their next 16 matches. Only six goals were conceded during that run and City sat, albeit briefly, at the top of the table.

The run then came to a crushing halt at Peterborough. Three days after they threw away a two-goal lead against non-League Emley in the Second Round replay of the FA Cup before going out on penalties, City shipped five in a miserable showing at London Road. Debutant ‘keeper Simon Brown, drafted in on loan from Spurs for the injured Barry Richardson and John Vaughan, never played for the Club again whilst unrest on the terrances between the ‘pro-Beck’ and ‘anti-Beck’ camps did nothing to provide any seasonal cheer.

Five winless games later City found themselves out of the top eight after championship-chasing Notts County won 5-3 in a thriller at Sincil Bank and just over a month after that ding-dong affair, manager John Beck found himself relieved of his duties due to a breach of Club discipline.

Beck’s assistant, Shane Westley, was placed in caretaker charge and a run of three wins; secured many thanks to the goals of Thorpe and Colin Alcide, got City up and going again but then came a trip to League virgins Macclesfield Town at Moss Rose. The Silkmen, pushing for promotion in their first season of League football, were unbeaten at home and were intent on keeping it that way and were far from hospitable towards players and fans alike.

After Macclesfield’s furry lion mascot was escorted from the pitch by police at the break after making an obscene gesture towards the City followers, things came to a head in the 59th minute after the ball became trapped underneath a couple of players in the Imps’ penalty area. Barry Richardson went in somewhat forcibly, future Imp Ben Sedgemore took offence, and in went all 22 players with arms and feet flying all over the place. It took five minutes before police, stewards and management calmed things down; Sedgemore and Richardson saw red and defender Jon Whitney went between the sticks.

City looked to be holding on for a point but, in the closing stages, Whitney was beaten from close range after Terry Fleming hesitated to clear his lines. Richardson, Jason Barnett and Lee Thorpe were later charged with misconduct by the Football Association whilst on a more positive note skipper Dean Walling, who missed the Macclesfield melee as he was making his international debut for St Kitts & Nevis, was named in the PFA Division 3 representative side.

Long-serving defender Grant Brown marked his 300th appearance for the Club by helping them to a 3-0 home win over Peterborough and a couple of days later a 2-1 win in a re-arranged game against Exeter lifted the Imps back up to fourth and on the fringes of the automatic promotion places. Steve Holmes netted both against the Grecians and he was on target again at Darlington on the Saturday with his penalty edging City in front at Feethams but the Quakers responded and as the game approached its dying seconds, hopes of automatic promotion seemed to be but a distant dream. Enter substitute Dennis Bailey, who joined the club on a week-to-week basis in March.

Bailey, who once scored a top-flight hat-trick for QPR against Manchester United at Old Trafford, picked the perfect time to net his only goal in City colours as, with the last kick of the game, he prodded home to not only send the travelling hoardes wild on the terraces, but also to keep City’s promotion door open going into the final game of the season against Brighton & Hove Albion. The equation was simple. For the Imps to go straight up, they had to defeat the Seagulls and Torquay had to lose at Leyton Orient.

Sincil Bank was packed to the rafters for the visit of Brighton and after a tense opening period, two goals in as many minutes - the first a scrambled Terry Fleming effort and the second a well executed Lee Thorpe volley - calmed the nerves and with news filtering through that Torquay were two down at Orient the promotion party was starting to gather pace.

At the final whistle thousands of fans swarmed onto the pitch thinking that a place in the Second Division was secured but Torquay had pulled one back and were throwing everything bar the proverbial kitchen sink at Orient. Deep into stoppage time they came within inches of booking the third-placed spot for themselves as a shot hit the woodwork but that was as close as they would come. Lincoln City were up, the city of Lincoln celebrated and an open-top bus tour down the High Street capped off a rollercoaster ride of a season.

This DVD, which is a copy of the official VHS tape that was released at the end of that season, features highlights together with extended coverage of the final game of the season against Brighton at Sincil Bank.

You can purchase your copy here for just £5.95 (including P&P) using PayPal's secure online payment system. PayPal is secure and confidential, your credit card or bank account information is never transmitted to Lincoln City FC or any other PayPal payment recipient.

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