Monday Is Bigger Than Cardiff in 57/58
The 1957/58 season was christened The Great Escape by a nation gripped by the Houdini act of Lincolnshire's finest, the Mighty Imps. Warning don't read this one in your coffee break as it is a long one, but it is a must and particularly pertinent to anyone who went to either the Cardiff City game in May 1958 or will be at the Cheltenham Town game on Monday. But of course we'll all be their on Monday won't we Imps? Funny thing all that snow and all those postponements, then winning so many of those games in hand - 5 back to back – to drag us from the bottom to all but safety. Not counting any chickens as the chairman might say, but it takes us back 53 years, cue a return to black and white or perhaps even sepia. All those years ago we had so much of the white stuff it was hard to believe. We also had a key postponement that set up an end of season Cup final against Cardiff due to Snow. At 3-0 down the postponement was our first big break in a season that makes this one look great. Scope for optimism perhaps? We had won only two of our first fifteen. The Cods in a 4-1 defeat that made the first D Day debacle look tame, had crippled 4,500 signing George Hannah. We had also signed, one Roy Chapman. Under the weight of huge expectation it looked as if he might turn out to be the Steve Torpey or perhaps Drew broughton of his Day. And in those days the west Bank and Clanford Enders, mainly foundry workers (thanks yanks), would give out a little bit more than abuse. The proud second division Imps had suffered 7 months of woe, with one win in November and December, and none in January February and March. Two games at Easter had failed to melt any eggs either, yielding 3-1 reverses to Stoke and Barnsley. Indeed during the Barnsley game a gallant Imp had scaled the Sincil terrace flagpole and lowered the club colours to half mast. The mighty Bill Anderson, conjurer supreme and candidate for greatest Imps manager ever, sat head in hands by the famous old stove heater in the dressing room. The national press wrote the obituaries. Perhaps he drew inspiration from high upon the hill. Fashioned by heavens hand he shuffled a pack of cards, perhaps themselves peeling at the very edges. But then Bill was good at looking the devil squarely in the eye and the riders in the face at the gates of dawn and laughing all the way to the Bank. In both senses of the word. Back came old but dependable defensive stalwarts, Downie and Emery (who would make 406 appearances for the Imps) as we went to Barnsley for the return. Hannah gave us the lead to the delight of the travelling diehards. Alas they equalised on the stroke of half time. The Imps went for the jugular, Harbertson; a £2,000 panic buy in February finally came good. Rejoice, poetic justice for boo-boy target Chapman. When all around was blood and thunder at a corner, his cool clinical finish sealed the win. Four days later, local rivals Donny, one place and one point above us, came to the Bank expecting easy pickings, not unlike some of our rivals this season. Inside a qurter of an hour Rovers went one up against the spirited Imps attacking five. Oh yes 2-3-5 was very much the way to play and accepted order of the day. Wingers Smilie and Withers ran then ragged, roared on by the partisan Bank. A Withers cross was met by Hannah on the penalty spot, and few would want to stop such a bullet as it whistled into Clanford goal. Chapman then cleverly capitalised on a poor back pass to play in Harbertson who made it three. Happy days, as the Lincoln chippies fried all night to the hum of optimism and expectation. The Imps could be staying up. We then beat Rotherham and the escape was on. Next came highflying Huddersfield. We attacked just once at their place in the fifth minute and held for the remaining 85 for a one nil to the might Imps alsa I do not have the scorer - alas too, for all around us got results. So to that Cardiff game we had up our Sincil sleeve. Wales had incredibly qualified for the World Cup, so with the selectors in town things wouldn’t be easy for us. Still needing a point, 18,000 crammed into Sincil Bank to will the lads to victory. A wall of noise cheered until the 51st minute when Joe Bonson (later to don the Red & White) scored. The cad then taunted Emery, boasting that we were down the bounder, boo hiss! But the noise from the uncovered West Bank and covered Clanford ends just got louder as if someone had spun a 50’s radio dile to maximum, with all around in sympathetic vibration. The Clanford roar as only we Imps know how, drives, nay sucks in Sincil silver linings. Rejoice an equaliser, on 69 when Hannah waltzed past two and centred. Chapman crashed home a towering header to become Chapman the Champ. Around the City, those unable to get in, huddled around the wirelesses – a radio to you and I minus the downloads but all the dreams and ditties you needed. The Mighty Imps hadn’t finished yet, driven by the pride of the City and constant come on roar. The whole City erupted in the 80th minute as Harbertson went wide and centred for Chapman again, as cool as a cucumber in an early sparkling spring Pimms, he slotted home with aplomb. Five minutes later the most awesome strike ever witnessed at Sincil Bank as Harbertson sprinted past two defenders from the halfway line. Thirty yards out he hammered a thunderous howitzer of a drive that literally broke the stanchion. The keeper never moved. And little Lincoln were 20th out of twenty two and still members of the two tier football league. We would live to punch above our weight another year at least. Oh yes this tale will never pale, lest Lincoln our City our Club run out of ale. Nor will our quest for heroes in red and white, nor our desire to put this years relegation demons out of site. Fittingly the chance comes in what will be a Cup final atmosphere against Cheltenham on Monday. Let us be as one on and off the field and use the ghosts of Imps now past. This is our day our win because the Imps are staying up.
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