The Imps went into their 1997/98 campaign having come
close to a play-off the previous season which was manager John
Becks first full season in charge following his appointment in
October 1995. Becks City side werent 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 Clubs 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 Citys
chances off at this point but Ainsworths 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 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.
Becks 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 Macclesfields 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
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
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 Citys 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.
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