By Gerry PrewettBristol Rovers are looking to get their season back on track when the entertain Lincoln City this weekend. Having drawn 3 and won the other of their four games in 2015 Rovers have failed to make much of a dent in the lead of top dogs Barnet. The Imps are 7 places and 10 points behind Rovers.
The Midland team has had a very mixed season with short runs of victories and defeats. After going down 4-0 at Chester, manager Chris Moyses was so upset with his team he gave an 11-second interview to apologise for his side's performance.
"I will give you a statement," said Moyses, "I will apologise straight away. That is unacceptable in my eyes. It is my fault, I will carry the can for it and that's the end of the statement. That is all I am going to say."
It must have worked for Moyses as his team then went on to end Dover’s 13 match unbeaten League run at Sincil Bank.
The win saw City close ground on the top five places having seen their play-off hopes take a battering with back-to-back defeats on the road. The Imps took the lead just after half time when Nolan laid his corner ball off to Newton, the full back whipped the ball in and Rafferty dropped his catch and Tomlinson pounced to make it 1-0 to the home team. City managed to weather the late storm and picked up their first win in three games.
Back in September Rovers picked up their first away win of the season at Sincil Bank. First half goals from Stuart Sinclair and Daniel Leadbitter gave them a two goal cushion but the home side levelled before the break.
In an open second half both sides had chances before Lee Brown missed an 87th minute penalty. However the defender set up Ellis Harrison who fired in a last minute winner, though Clarke’s side were indebted to goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall for a superb save from the final shot of the match.
The last time the teams met in League competition was during Rover last promotion season. During the regular season the Imps came out on top with a 1-0 win at Sincil Bank and a 0-0 draw at the Mem. In the Play-Offs Rovers won the home leg 2-1 and expected a tough game at Lincoln. An early Stuart Campbell stunner settled Rovers nerves as they went on to win 5-3 on the night and 7-4 on aggregate. The failure was the fifth in successive Play-off competitions, a record for any club.
Lincoln City have a proud history like Rovers the Imps were formed in 1883. Unlike Rovers they joined the League at an early point, in 1892-93 season. Division Two had teams such as Small Heath (later to become Birmingham City), Darwen, Ardwick, Burton Swifts, Northwich Victoria, Bootle and Burslem Port Vale at that time. They enjoyed some success at that time and in 1901/02 City conceded just 4 goals during their 17 home games.
The Imps lost their League status after finishing last but one in 1919/20 season. When Division 3 North was founded in 1921-22 season they became founder members. They stayed there until they became Champions of the Division in 1931/32 season, beating Gateshead on goal average to promotion.
On 1st March 1930 the Imps started a 37 game run during which they scored in every game. Unfortunately two unsuccessful seasons saw them back down in Division Three North again until once more they were crowned Champions in 1951/52. It was a season during which they scored a remarkable 121 goals, of which 80 were scored at Sincil Bank.
Successive relegations in 1960/61 and 1961/62 saw the Imps hit the basement Division for the first time. They struggled until a young Graham Taylor took over the helm at Sincil Bank.
They eventually had a superb season in 1975/76 when, they were runaway Champions. Their record at the end of that season bears close examination;
Played Won Drew Lost Goals For Goals Against Points
46 32 10 4 111 39 74
That points total was an all time record under the two points for a win system. In this day and age that would have given them 106 points! That 111 goals scored was the best since Spurs had scored the same number in 1962/63 season.
The Imps yoyo existence continued however when Graham Taylor went on to manage Watford. They suffered relegation in 1978/79, won promotion again in 1980/81, were relegated once more in 1985/86 and then finished bottom of the basement Division the following season. It was only a single year sojourn in the Conference; a further promotion in 1997/98 was followed by immediate relegation the following season.
After several traumatic years of failure in 2001/02 former Manager Keith Alexander returned to Sincil Bank as assistant to Alan Buckley. A year later, the club parted company with Manager Alan Buckley. On the same day that the club's petition to go into administration was successful Keith Alexander was appointed manager. In his four seasons as in charge Alexander took the Imps to the Play-Offs four times without success. The re-appointment of Buckley during the summer was an attempt to find that final push.
City were relegated from League Two on the last day of the end of the 2010–2011 season. They needed a win in their final game against Aldershot Town to survive, but lost 3–0.
The first match between the clubs took place on 19th September 1953 and the Imps stunned a 24,650 Eastville crowd by inflicting Rovers with their second home defeat of the season, 1-0. In the return match at Sincil Bank Rovers gained their revenge with a 2-1 victory with Paddy Hale and Vic Lambden scoring for Rovers.
Lincoln were relegated from the Second Division in 1960-61 season, one year before Rovers suffered the same fate. During those seasons the Gas won four more times in Lincoln and suffered just one more defeat in Bristol. One of those defeats was a 4-1 thrashing on 20th September 1958 when Geoff Bradford scored Rovers consolation goal. At Eastville Rovers scored pretty freely against the Imps and five times put three goals past the Lincoln keeper. Alfie Biggs twice scored doubles in these games.
After their relegation from Division Two, Lincoln dropped straight through to Division Four the following season and in fact had to apply for re-election in 1962/63, again in 1966/67 and 1970/71.
Rovers’ home record against Lincoln is not the best. When Rovers dropped back down into the old Division 3 in 1981/82 season Lincoln imposed Rovers first home defeat of the season with a 2-0 victory and 12 months later virtually repeated the dose with a 2-1 win. Overall at home Rovers have won 9, drawn 7 and lost 5 times.
City assistant manager Grant Brown has identified defensive frailties as something that needs to be addressed by his team. The Imps defence has struggled on the road in recent weeks with 11 goals conceded in their last three away games.
"We have conceded a few goals on the road recently," admitted Brown, "However, those games have seen situations where players have been sent off and such. We do need to look at how we are playing and the win over Dover showed that we can grind out results.”
"If we want to get promotion then we need to show we can play a different style. It is good that we can play attacking football and have scored some goals, but you need that other side of your game as well."