Thursday, 28 December 2017

Sincil Bank

Lincoln 3-0 Stevenage

26th December 2017

One of my old teachers came from Lincoln.  At least I assume he did, for he was an avid Lincoln City supporter.  Quite how he ended up at a school in the Scottish Central Belt, I cannot imagine.  I can, even now, clearly recall his mounting joy/pride/boasting as his club, led by Graham Taylor, ran away with the 1975/76 Division Four (as was) title, scoring over 100 goals in the process.   Mr Burton was the chap’s name – an endearingly dishevelled-looking individual with a Grizzly Adams beard; and he taught history.  Unlike many of his disillusioned and cynical colleagues, he approached his topic with a rare zest and a refreshing enthusiasm.  Goodness, he was even able to make the arcane intricacies of the Schlieffen Plan sound interesting.

Even had Lincoln City not regained their Football League status last season, I would probably have dropped into Sincil Bank at some point in my travels - if for no other reason than to give a brief nod in the direction of good ole Mr B.

I had never been to Lincoln before, it being one of those places, although not far off the main routes, one would never really pass through on one’s way to anywhere else.  I had planned to poke about the impressive hulking cathedral before the match, but as I approached the city I realised I did not really wish to spend my time visiting another of god’s houses.   So instead I gravitated to the intriguing-looking monument on the hill above the South Common.  It looked for all the world like a smaller scale version of The Shard on London’s South Bank.  

After slipping and slithering up a muddy path in an attempt to reach the place, I discovered it to be closed off.  Apparently some building work or other was taking place.  I did encounter a cheery fellow sitting cross-legged on a large tree stump pouring himself a coffee from a flask.  He had with him a pair of binoculars with which, he informed me, he was planning to watch the match at Sincil Bank.  “You won’t see much from here” I asserted, for precious little of the pitch could be seen.   But he assured me he would be able to follow proceedings just fine.  

He went on to tell me he had recently lived on the South Common in a tent for six months, as the local council refused to house him (for reasons he did not elaborate upon).  Even the arrival of a heart attack had failed to melt the local housing department’s heart.  Quite where he was staying now, he also did not say, but he did have a look about him most charitably described as “itinerant”.  

He did, however, inform me the monument I had exerted so much energy to reach was the Canwick Hill International Bomber Command Centre Memorial, and that it was presently closed off during the erection of an adjacent visitor centre.  For which information I thanked him, and pressed a tenner upon him, requesting he buy himself something nice for Christmas.

I  was still not convinced he would have seen much of the match action at all from his vantage point, but I did find myself thinking about the poor bloke as the temperature plummeted as the afternoon wore on.

The International Bomber Command Centre monument on Canwick Hill.

Sincil Bank from Canwick Hill.
I suppose my friend could see both sets of goals...just.

Panorama of the city of Lincoln.

Maybe drop in on my next visit.

Sincil Dyke which, it sez here, can trace its roots back to the 13th Century, runs alongside Sincil Bank. 

Lincoln Cathedral overlooks Sincil Bank.

Entrance to Lincoln Co-op Stand.

Selenity, I learned, is a local software company.

Queuing to enter the Stacey West Stand.

What was clear, however, from the top of Canwick Hill was the rear of the neatly compact Selenity Stand.  I had hoped to obtain a ticket in there, but by the time I had decided to spend my Boxing Day taking another road trip, the stand was sold out.  As was, I was surprised to note when I accessed the club website, pretty much most of the rest of the ground.  The only tickets available being those to the extremities of the Stacey West Stand.  And upon taking up my seat, I could see why.  For the sight-lines were appalling here; the goal in front of the stand almost totally obliterated by folks’ heads.  A consequence of the seating consisting of buckets (thankfully backed) simply bolted onto a former terracing.

But to be fair, that was the only aspect of Sincil Bank which disappointed me.  I really loved the Selenity Stand, and the full-to-the-gunnels Lincolnshire Co-op Stand was an impressive sight indeed.  And the racket made by the pups in the block closest to us augmented the atmosphere immeasurably.  Given their boisterous renditions of both Depeche Mode and Yazoo tunes, I wondered if perhaps Vince Clarke has some connection with the area.  

Another point in the ground's favour was, for a fiver, I was able to buy myself a tasty hamburger the size of a small cushion.  Which I could not finish.

Eyes bigger than my belly.  Burger was also bigger than my belly (no mean feat).

I had noted before the match that 10 league places separated Lincoln City from their lowly-placed visitors Stevenage, and as the match progressed it was not difficult to work out why.

Stevenage really were very poor.  One goalmouth scramble early on, which had required a goal-line clearance from home defender Sean Raggett apart, the visitors rarely threatened.  Raggett and his co-defender Rob Dickie (whom I had last seen scoring for Cheltenham at Accrington in 2016) really did make for a very effective central defensive partnership.  And in Matt Rhead, the Imps’ forward line boasted a lad who clearly looked as if he could (ahem) take care of himself, should any situation require it.

But the real Star of the Show was Matt Green, who tormented visiting full-back Joe Martin remorselessly throughout.  It was GREEN's shot which led to Harry ANDERSON opening the scoring on 34 minutes, and his ghosting away from his marker at a free-kick which created himself space to tap in his side's second, just after the hour.  Green then laid on a sitter for the aforementioned Anderson.....and had the good grace to see the funny side when his team mate fluffed the open goal.  I am guessing Green may have been slightly less magnanimous had the scoreline still been goalless at this point.

Substitute Josh GINELLY hit Lincoln's third, ten minutes from time, but I missed this one as I was having a pee.

The Selenity Stand, Sincil Bank.

Lincoln City v Stevenage FC (December 2017)

Panorama of Sincil Bank - Lincoln City FC.

The impressively hirsute Michael Bostwick

The Bridge McFarland Stand.

The Friends and Family Stand.

Xmas hats !!

The Imp mascot appeared for the most part a secretive soul, content to watch the match from behind this wee hut. 

Lincoln City v Stevenage FC (December 2017)

I do hope the rest of Stevenage's Joe Martin's Christmas was more fun than this afternoon was for him..

Lincoln City v Stevenage FC (December 2017)

A word on the match programme, which was certainly one of the better examples I have come across recently.  I don’t know if this is a regular thing each festive season, but all of the Lincoln players’ names had been given a festive twist on the line-ups page.  And for an embarrassing few seconds, I really did think there were players called Elliot Whitechristmas and Luke Snowfall in the home squad, before things eventually dawned with the arrival of Calum Ho-Ho-Ho.  Glancing at the visiting players' names, I initially thought someone had done something similar with the Stevenage lot - surely, I thought, no-one can really have the surname Beautyman.

Further inside the programme, Danny Cowley's piece was that rarest of things – a readable contribution by a manager, whilst  throughout the publication were sprinkled all manner of entertaining historical articles.  Gary Hutchison's Where’s Our Derby Game? was my favourite; thought provoking, humorous, and poignant by turns.

But my biggest grin was reserved for the Commercial Corner pics on page 43, wherein some club official in a blazer had contrived to produce the least convincing-looking facial contortion in history.

Crack a smile, man.  These folks are handing over their hard-earned, after all.

Panorama of Sincil Bank - Lincoln City FC.

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