Be Imp-spired By Bills 57/58 Great Escape at Doncaster and Magpies Expense
Victory over mighty Cardiff City saw the Imps relegate local rivals Notts County and Doncaster on the very last day of the season, but only just and after six wins on the bounce. The visit of Cardiff City, full of Welsh internationals fit for the 1958 World Cup Finals, saw 18,000 witness the culmination of the greatest escape the Football League has ever witnessed. The Imps were still in Division 2, in what is now the Championship, as the Magpies, the Leagues oldest Club, had their birthright stolen by a single point. Read this Imps, be inspired, be there today and most of all help the players to believe.
We had won only two of our first fifteen after Grimsby had crocked £4,500 signing George Hannah. Bill Anderson’s other big gamble Roy Chapman would,not surprisingly, struggle for much of the season, under the huge weight of expectation. In those days the Imps support came mainly from the foundry workers. Many would come straight from work, or via the pubs, where they would link up with their sons. In many ways this timeless bond, or passage to manhood we modern fans still take for granted, would see the only prolonged period of father son time. As one can imagine the regulars would expect something for their hard earned money, giving out far more than abuse.
Their patience and pockets had been sorely tested too, although football crowds were peaking as postwar austerity continued to come to an end. This season would see typical gates over 8400 with a healthy average of 10,146. The proud Second Division Imps had suffered 7 months of woe, with just one win in the November and December. January February and March saw none won. Two vital games at Easter had failed to melt any of those luxurious eggs either, yielding 3-1 reverses to Stoke and Barnsley. The defiant yellow-belly pride saw a gallant Imp scale the Sincil terrace flagpole to lower the club colours to half mast during the Barnsley game. The mighty Bill Anderson, conjurer supreme sat, head in hands, by the famous old Sincil stove heater in the home dressing room. The national press wrote the obituaries, the fat lady was on stage doing the old one-two to check the PA.
Perhaps Bill drew inspiration from high upon the hill, whence the Imp spirit had escaped all those centuries before? The burning embers of the fire inspired, as he shuffled a pack of cards fraying at the very edges. But then Bill was good at looking the devil and the riders of doom in the face and laughing all the way to the Bank in both senses of the word. He had got us back into the League twice, on one occasion building a side for under two thousand pounds. Back came two old but dependable defensive stalwarts, Downie and Emery (who would make 406 appearances for the Imps) as we went to Barnsley for a return we simply had to win. We did, in a reversal of the 3-1 scoreline in the previous encounter. but the hard way as usual. Hannah gave us the lead to the delight of the travelling diehards. Alas the Tykes equalised on the stroke of half time. The Imps went for the jugular, Harbertson; a £2,000 panic buy in February came good. Finally, 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, fierce local rivals Doncaster Rovers, one place and one point above us, came to the Bank expecting easy pickings. On 14 minutes, very much against the run of play, they went one up against a spirited Imps attacking five, who had done everything but score. Wingers Smilie and Withers ran Rovers ragged, roared on by the partisan Bank. A withers cross was met by Hannah on the penalty spot, and few would want to stop his bullet. Chapman capitalised on a poor back pass to beat the keeper one on one. Harbertson then made it three. As the huge crowd dispursed, the talk was of whether the Imps could pull off what would indeed be a great escape against all the odds.
Even the national media echoed the Lincoln Chronicle’s belief that a great escape was on. After all 3 of our last four were at home. We beat Rotherham 2-0, thanks to Smillie & Harbertson again. Then came the 4-0 home demolition of Bristol City thanks to a Harbertson brace, a swashbuckling Smillie solo and Chapman rounding off the rout. Next came highflying Huddersfield. We attacked once at their place in the fifth minute and held for the remaining 85. Alas all around us got results. So to that Cardiff game up our sleeve. Thanks to heavy snow back in January it had been called off with us three down.
Wales had qualified for the World Cup, and with the selectors in town things wouldn’t be easy for us. Still needing a point 18,000 crammed into the Bank to will the lads to it. A wall of noise cheered until the 51st minute when Joe Bonson (later to don the Red & White)scored then taunted Emery, boasting that we were down. The noise picked up again as only we Imps know how, driving, sucking in an equaliser. On 69 Hannah waltzed past two and centred. Chapman ‘the Chump’ crashed home a towering header to become Chapman the Champ. His last for games to be fare, all had been forgiven. Around the City, those unable to get in, huddled around the wirelesses. The Mighty Imps hadn’t finished yet, driven by the pride of the City. The City erupted in the 80th minute as the Imps punched above their weight once again. Harbertson went wide and centred for Chapman again, this time he slotted home.
Five minutes later the most awesome strike ever seen at Sincil Bank. 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. But Lincoln were 20th out of twenty two and still members of the two tier football league. Notts County and Doncaster Rovers were down and out as the underdogs continued to prove the doubters and their bigger rivals wrong.
First the scorers & crowds, then the match results and finally the League table showing just how close things were.
|J Grainger||10||Biggest Gate||18,000||Blackburn|
|R Chapman||8||Ave gate||10,146|
Match by match
|Aug||24||West Ham United||Away||Drew||2-2|
|Dec||21||West Ham United||Home||Lost||1-6|
The Final Table
|1||West Ham United||42||12||8||1||56||25||11||3||7||45||29||1.87||57|
Posted on March 9, 2013, in Ex Imps, Relegation Reprieve 2012/13, Writers - Neil Gentleman-Hobbs and tagged Cardiff City, Doncaster Rovers 1957-58, Lincoln City Great Escape 1957-58, Notts County. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.