1957/58 - THE GREAT ESCAPE.
After the very ordinary performances of the previous season no one expected anything special this season other than a fight to keep in Division 2, but in the event I don`t think anyone could have predicted what was to come as the season unfolded.
The season started with a few personnel changes with Joe Buick taking the number 6 shirt vacated by Neal`s transfer and Thompson taking over from Mitch Downie in goal and Grainger who I think we got from Rotherham being the main changes.
In the first 3 games Grainger scored in every one, but with a 2-2 draw away to West Ham followed by a 5-1 thrashing at Swansea followed by another 2-2 draw in our opening home game I don`t think anyone was in any doubt of the task we would be facing to stay in this division.
Such are the ups and downs of football that when we entertained Swansea in the return fixture we busted a few people`s coupons by beating then easily 4-0.
We followed this up with a 1-0 win away to Blackburn, a 1-1 draw at home to Derby, and another home win to by 2-1 against Ipswich Town.
So with 8 points out of a possible 14 things looked a bit rosier, but as Doctors tell you when you reach 40 "ITS ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE" and in Cities case it was about to become a reality.
Anderson had somehow managed to pull off the signing of the season by acquiring George Hannah from Newcastle United and he made his debut in the win against Ipswich, but after 3 more games which were all lost he didn`t play for the next 5 after being clogged into submission by the Grimsby Town defence.
There was no doubting Hannah`s class and silky skills, but he was due to get a lot more of this in his stay at Lincoln.
After the early promise of the first 7 games we had now took just one point from the next 8.This wasn`t just relegation form, it was free fall.
At about this time Nothcott departed the club and Roy Chapman arrived. He was initially the but off any criticism going mainly because we weren`t doing very well and he being a big fellow tended to stand out.
The next 6 games produced 2 wins, 2draws, and 2 defeats, but it was the way we were being beaten, not by the odd goal but taken apart. With West ham destroying us 6-1 and as Christmas approached a bit of a miracle was needed.
Our only present unfortunately was that Fulham beat us twice in two days over the holiday period and then we went down 4-0 to Sheffield Utd the following Saturday.
There was a bit of a revival when we drew the next 3 games before entering on a run of 9 straight defeats the last one being at home to Barnsley at Easter by 3-1.
One important match during this period occurred on March the 9th when we were at home to Cardiff City who in the first half gave us a football lesson and duly went in with a 3-0 lead. Surely nothing could save us from another defeat and one more nail in our coffin. During the half time interval it appeared that someone up in heaven decided we needed divine intervention, and duly arranged to have a blizzard of momentous proportion that covered the pitch and more importantly the lines.
The ground staff started to try to clear them but rumour has it that Anderson had instructed them not to exert themselves overtly and the referee put the second half start off by 15 minutes.
In essence the snow was covering the lines faster than they could be cleared and after the 15 minute delay came the news that the match was off and would have to be replayed.
As this match had been part of the run of 9 defeats and would have to be tagged on to the end of the season it was to have a tremendous outcome as to who stayed up and who went down this year.
After the 3-1 defeat at home to Barnsley we were as good as relegated and if it was to be avoided we would need our very own ROY OF THE ROVERS and they appeared the following day in the return match at Barnsley in triplicate in the form of Hannah, the much maligned Roy Chapman and a young man by the name of Ron Harbertson who had been signed by Anderson and had made his debut on the 15th of March away to Liverpool. His first 5 games produced 2 goals from Centre Forward, hardly setting the world on fire but showing some promise of better things to come.
Back to this Barnsley return and Anderson played his last cards in an attempt to change course of the season.
Out went Goalkeeper Thompson and back came Mitch Downie for only his 3rd game of the season, Tony Emery, who had been left out for the previous 5 games and the afore mentioned Chapman.
I was at work that day as the word filtered through that we had won by 3-1 with Hannah, Harbertson, and Chapman obliging, but although happy with the result, felt it was simply a stay of execution.
However 4 days later we repeated the dose at Doncaster with the same three getting on the score sheet.
This meant that if we could win our next two games at home there might be just a glimmer of hope that we could stay up.
Rotherham were beaten 2-0 with goals by Harbertson and Smillie, and Bristol City really put to the sword 4-0 with that man Harbertson scoring 2, and the battle was now really on.
Even the bookies, who had took City out of the betting and were merely quoting odds on who would be going down with us,were giving us a quote for staying in.
To say that the mid week game away to Huddersfield was a mountain to climb was an understatement.
However not for the first time City seemed to have had a stroke of fortune when Dennis Law was ruled out of the game through injury. We were though still giant underdogs to win against a team who were to finish ninth.
After six minutes of play City took the lead through Harbertson and then spent the next 84 minutes defending it, and against all the odds we had won our last 5 games to set up a grand finale with Cardiff City in that rearranged match.
And so it was that on the 30th of April that the match kicked off in front of 18,001 spectators with a good amount of those from Notts County who had a vested interest in the result as if Cardiff won we would go down instead of them.
The first half was a very tense affair and it was obviously affecting City`s players.
I was positioned up against the wall more or less where the Passionatas are now and saw us go one down after 6 minutes of the second half.
The crowd behind me were mainly from Notts County and they were in seventh heaven as the match went on, but then a classy run down the right wing by Hannah resulted in Chapman sliding the ball home and the dream was back on.
Five minutes later the same man did it again and the dream was now a reality.
It was left to Harbertson racing in to their half from the right and letting fly.
Where I was stood we had a perfect view as it headed goal ward. The goalkeeper just stood there frozen as it hit the back stanchion, then the ground and the inside of both goals. A chap behind me, obviously not a regular had been asking all the game what all the fuss was about this man Harbertson, and in that split second he got his answer.
I had been tempted to say something to him for the whole game but had been too wrapped up in the tension, but lets just say that it gave me a warm feeling inside as the young man answered his question in Spades. Will I ever experience such tension and ultimate joy at a match?
I doubt it, and in many ways hope not, but I wouldn`t have missed it for the world.
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