By Nathan Jackson
June 27 2006
In the latest "defining a season", we review the recently completed 2005/6 season in which City made the playoffs again. It was a year where City entertained at Premiership grounds but were soul destroyingly frustrating at other times. Now look back at incidents that made the 2005/6 season.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS WAS NEVER INTENDED TO BE CLINICALLY SPECIFIC, JUST A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF SOME OF THE MAJOR INCIDENTS OF THE SEASON.
It had been a bad summer for the Imps as several first team players had left via one method or another but City were still 2nd favourites for the title with the bookmakers and strangely enough, City met title favourites Northampton on the first day and it saw the debut of Gary Birch, a striker brought in from relegated Kidderminster equalised for the Imps after Northampton had scored and the game ended 1-1. Birch would go on to score a fair few goals during the season but his finest moment came in the Carling Cup game against Crewe Alexandra and Birch showed he could cut it with higher league opposition as he scored 2 very different goals in a 5-1 thrashing of the Championship club. Birch would play for the majority of the first half of the season, scoring several good goals.
Whereas Birch was having no trouble finding the net early on, the same couldn’t be said for Asamoah. The Ghanian striker had joined the Imps from Mansfield Town and had failed to score in his opening season for the Imps and it look like is would continue his run by wasting several great efforts in the early part of the season but City’s 4th game came against eventually relegated Oxford United. Davies had given the visitors a very early lead but Gary Birch had equalised midway through the second half. A few minutes from the end and it looked as though the game would be heading for a draw until a goalmouth scramble saw the ball fall to Asamoah. He belted it on the ground and it rolled past Turley and into the net to give him his first ever goal and sent City mental. It would turn out to be the first of just 2 goals before he was loaned to Chester, ironically the other team he scored against that season.
As a reward for defeating Crewe, City had been drawn to play away at Premiership side Fulham in the 2nd round of the Carling Cup and it was a night that the Imps would show all the passion the 2002/3 squad showed. City were 2-0 down on the half hour and heading into the last 20 minutes, it looked as though City were going to go out before Francis Green scored to get the Imps’ back in the game and an own goal from Voltz drew the Imps’ level. Infact, City could have won the tie when Marvin Robinson found himself free in the area without only the keeper to beat in the last minute but he could only hit the bar. Fulham quickly restored a 2 goal advantage in extra time before Scott Kerr’s free kick pulled one back for City. Unbelieveably, City were level again with a few minutes of 2nd half extra-time gone when Marvin Robinson headed in from close range but Brian McBride scored in extra time’s injury time to give Fulham a 5-4 victory. Despite losing, this was a great night to be proud of the players and ranks right up there with the playoff final defeat to Bournemouth.
October 1st saw the best goal of the season. The Imps were away at Bury and dominating the game but failing to break through. With only a few minutes of the first half to go, Paul Mayo was fouled around 35 yards out from goal and Dean Keates stepped up fresh from scoring a brilliant free kick in an away game at Rushden. Many were expecting the shot but no-one could have predicted how good the shot would be and it’s impossible for me to put into words how good this free kick was. It sailed over the wall and past the keeper into the net and clocked a huge 72mph. City would continue to dominate, including having 2 goals disallowed before Bury scored a last minute and very undeserved equaliser.
An away game at Cheltenham changed the season. Up until that points, the Imps were struggling and despite fans choosing to ignore it, City were slipping dangerously close to the relegation zone but most fans choosed to ignore it as most of the glory-supporting Imps’ fans hadn’t been there in the days of looking over our shoulders. City travelled to Cheltenham just a few weeks after the Robins had beaten the Imps at Sincil Bank with their only shot on goal. Cheltenham were 1-0 at half time but Paul Mayo equalised midway through the second half and but for a brilliant save from Higgs, Foster would have given the Imps’ the lead within a matter of minutes. However, Cheltenham’s Brian Wilson scored twice within a few minutes to make it 3-1 and the game eventually finished 4-1 in what would turn out to be City’s biggest defeat of the season. There was a clear the air meeting between the players but most were unsure how this would effect the Imps.
Every season has one moment that everyone remembers and Monday January 2nd was that time. City were due to face Mansfield Town at Field Mill and a lot of fans were already on their way when the news came through the Keith Alexander and his assistant, Gary Simpson had both been put on gardening leave by the club. No reason was ever released that revealed what had happened but everyone assumed that seeing as the sun shined out of Keith’s arse, that he couldn’t possibly have done anything to warrant being put on leave. He was put back in charge a few days later but by the end of the week, Gary Simpson had left the club along with club director’s Ray Trew and Keith Roe. The club was never the same after that. For the record, the game at Field Mill finished 0-0 with John Schofield taking charge of the team.
It was turning out to be a season that the Imps were beating teams that they’d often lose to and within the next few months, City beat Notts County and Torquay, 2 teams that definately had a jinx over the Imps but they succumbed to the Imps who headed into a derby game against Boston United on March 25th. City had infact on lost once since that defeat to Cheltenham on November 19th and the Imps were unbeaten in 2005 but it soon became evident it wouldn’t be City’s day as Joachim gave Boston a half time lead. Then Yeo, the striker who had returned in January was injured and it was no surprise that City started playing better after he went off and the man who replaced him, Marvin Robinson scored the equaliser for the Imps that was a beautiful overhead kick the sailed past Kuipers. However, Boston would have the last laugh as ex-Imp Lawrie Dudfield scored in injury time and City lost for the first time that year.
The next week and City had another local derby, this time at ome to Grimsby Town, a team that City would become extremely familiar with by the end of the season. Grimsby started the match extremely well but City scored with their first realistic oppurtunity as the ghost of Luke Foster (a player who kept disappearing and reappearing during the season) flicked the ball on to the back post and it went in for his first goal for the Imps. Minutes later and Jamie Forrester, an ex Grimsby player scored on is debut for the Imps with a beautiful lofted goal over Mildenhall to make it 2-0. It was 3-0 when Mayo scored a penalty and City went into 4-0 up after Marvin Robinson scored from close range. Infact, City should have gone in 5-0 up after Green hit the bar from close range. The second half calmed down with Grimsby playing better but never threatening the goal. City eventually scored a 5th when Lee Beever’s shot took a slight deflection off Futcher and it ended 5-0 to City.
City somehow made the playoffs again but lost the first leg to Grimsby at Sincil Bank and just like Huddersfield 2 years before, it was a case of win or you’re out. Grimsby didn’t start too well but City couldn’t create anything because giant defender Rob Jones was having a great game but midway through the first half, he had to go off because he collided headed accidentally with Imps’ striker Marvin Robinson. Less than a minute later and Robinson, who had been freed by Jones’ absence, headed the ball into the net and it was game on. City would control the majority of the game but then Ben Futcher, the man who replaced Jones scored against his old side to put Grimsby back into the lead on aggregate and Gary Jones headed Grimsby into the lead on the night with about 7 minutes left to play and it turned out to be a mountain too high for a stagnant Imps’ side to climb and City were left to ponder yet another season in League 2.