We Got Lucky
With Lincoln, we got lucky.
Frosty, frozen pitches were the order of the day for many groundhoppers and their plans were sadly up in smoke, particularly for fans in Scotland and non-league clubs around the UK.
Our game at Lincoln City‘s LNER Stadium was still on despite a 10:00 am pitch inspection. Thanks mainly to the frost covers and a special heat lamp system on the worst affected areas of the playing surface, the ground staff had done everyone proud and we were good to go.
Of course, by 10:00 am, we were already halfway there on the train, so it was pure luck and belligerence on our part for making the journey anyway. The same can be said of the couple of hundred Wycombe Wanderers fans who had made the journey up from Buckinghamshire.
Lincoln City – Journey and Pre-Game
In fact, our journey was very similar to that of The Chairboys fans but from the opposite direction. As Wycombe headed north for 125 miles, we travelled 135 miles in the opposite direction.
The day started with a walk to the local bus station, trying valiantly not to slip over on the treacherous ice the overnight sub-zero temperatures had left us.
A bus to Durham had us there by 08:20 and the pavements here weren’t as bad. Anyone who has ever climbed the hill from Durham city centre to the train station will know how relieved we were that it wasn’t icy!
The 08:41 train to London Kings Cross was a mere four minutes late and we climbed aboard, glad to be out of the cold. This part of our journey ended at 10:25 with a stop at Newark Northgate station. The connecting train arrived at 10:35 and we were in Lincoln approximately half an hour later.
That was how public transport should run!
Having asked around on social media for places to have a nice pub lunch, we were told to head towards the Horse and Groom or The Botanist. Having little appetite following our fill-up at Greggs that morning, we decided to ignore these great recommendations and just head to a pub in the Cornhill district of the city for a pint, instead.
We chose the Witch and Wardrobe, right by the canal and it was a decent, old-fashioned boozer that also does cheap bar food.
Parts of this building date back to the thirteenth century, but it is mainly the sixteenth century in date. Apparently, this pub used to be a fish and chip shop for most of the twentieth century but has also been a basket maker’s workshop and the Liberal Club.
It was restored and opened as a pub in 1979, taking its name from the popular book by C S Lewis. We didn’t see any Lion, so this is probably an accurate name. (Although, we didn’t see any wardrobe either, to be honest…)
Witches? I hear you cry, no comment, says I.
Mrs Hopper, being an American, was particularly impressed by an old support beam in the bar area that was presumably, a part of the original structure. Personally, I was more impressed with the band of merry elves that sat down at the table next to us. I did ask them if they had time to be sitting there enjoying themselves this close to Christmas when there are toys to be made.
They assured me things were in hand.
In keeping with the pub name, we decided to stick with the fantasy theme and ordered two pints of Hobgoblin for a very reasonable £7.80. Despite not being too hungry, the plates of food being eaten nearby did rouse my appetite… for another Hobgoblin.
Afterwards, we set off for a walk to the stadium, only to be distracted by a chip shop that suddenly sounded very appealing! After crossing a little bridge over the River Witham, the smell of chips covered in salt and vinegar was too much for my weak will to resist. I got a cone of chips to help with the walk to the stadium from the Sign Of The Fish for £2.20.
The walk from Lincoln train station to the LNER Stadium is 0.7 miles according to Google Maps.
As we neared the stadium, the view looking back towards the city, afforded us a glimpse of the famous Lincoln Cathedral. If we had more time, I would have walked the extra half a mile from the Witch and Wardrobe but to be brutally honest, the second pint of Hobgoblin had sounded better at the time.
Lincoln City – The Stadium
The road from the train station is pretty much due south and brings you right to the LNER Stadium.
The road runs alongside the largest of the stadium’s stands, the GBM Stand. Our seats were on the opposite side of the ground, so we had a slow wander around, taking in the sights and sounds of a happy group of fans enjoying their pre-game experience outside the Family Zone behind the Rilmac Stand.
There is a small club shop, an area for kids to play football and numerous food and drink stalls. All of which seemed to be well-supported and thriving.
Behind the SRP Stand are the main club shop, players’ and officials’ entrances and the main reception area.
There is also an enclosed all-weather area that had people on it playing football. I’m not sure if this was open to anybody, but it didn’t look organised. Just people having a kickabout before the game, which is wonderful if so.
Our tickets for the game had been bought in advance from the Lincoln City online ticketing site.
We entered via turnstiles 1-3 and entered Sincil Bank, which is the traditional, unsponsored name for the stadium and therefore, my preferred option.
Lincoln City – Inside the Stadium
Once through the turnstiles, we made use of the Hobgoblin-bladder facilities before making our way to pitchside.
The sun was dazzling our vision as it set behind the Rilmac Stand, so apologies for some of the photo and video quality contained in this review.
There was a nice moment taking place as I took my video of the stadium, as Wycombe manager, Gareth Ainsworth, was in front of the travelling support in their corner to our right, thanking them. He was very aware that they were giving up the chance to watch the big World Cup quarter-final game between England and France later that evening. (As were we but he never thanked us… 😂)
It was a nice gesture and one that was rewarded by the heavens portraying him as the Messiah in my video. (Cue the angelic choir)
I’m sure he will approve of that…
With an overall capacity of 10,780, Sincil Bank is made up of four main stands and a couple of smaller seating areas.
Stacey West Stand
Off to our right was the Stacey West Stand. This is where the away fans were housed in the corner adjacent to the SRP Stand where we were. This is a single-tier covered stand which holds 1,944 supporters and is sometimes split with home fans for better-attended matches.
There are support posts holding up the roof on this stand but I’m not sure if this affects the view too much, or not. Maybe readers who have visited Sincil Bank as an away supporter could leave a comment below.
Opposite us, was the biggest stand, the GBM Stand.
This is also a single-tiered stand with a walkway splitting it in two, about two-fifths of the way up. Opened in 1995, this stand has a capacity of 5,700. This is where Lincoln City’s impressive singing section is located on the right-hand side adjacent to the Stacey West Stand.
More on them later.
It is the only stand in the ground that doesn’t have posts supporting the roof, which makes it the best place to get an unobstructed view of the game.
To our left, was the Rilmac Stand, which is a low area of seating with a row of executive boxes behind those seats. It reminded me of a modern version of the stand opposite the away end at Leicester City’s Filbert Street ground, for those who remember it. Although the executive boxes at Filbert Street were raised up on a second tier above the seating below.
Completing the layout of the LNER Stadium is the SRP Stand and the structures on either side of it.
The SRP Stand itself is the Main Stand, which contains the inner workings of the club, the dressing rooms, the boardroom etc. It is a tall but narrow stand that straddles the halfway line. There is a TV gantry running under the roof and a press area to the rear.
There are smaller structures on either side of the Main Stand.
The one nearest the Rilmac Stand looked to have five rows of seats and was a permanent-looking erection. The players enter the pitch from between here and the Main Stand.
The other side of the SRP Stand is what looks like a temporary structure, with a canvas rear and a perspex roof.
It was difficult to get a decent photo of the SRP Stand from our location, so apologies for that.
There are two floodlights, one at either end of the pitch on our side, plus the modern replacement of lights on top of the roof of the GBM Stand opposite.
I miss the old-fashioned set-up of a floodlight in each corner of the ground, sigh…
Considering the weather we have had in the days leading up to this fixture, the ground staff deserve a big pat on the back (although, I’m sure they would prefer a pay rise). The grass was in excellent condition and gave the players no excuse for the game that followed.
All in all, Sincil Bank is a typical lower-league ground that has slowly evolved into a modern-day stadium that fits in with all the new safety laws. This has left it looking a little higgeldy-piggeldy but for me, that isn’t a bad thing.
Grounds should have a uniqueness and character that makes them different to other clubs’ grounds, otherwise, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.
There is quite a uniqueness in the number of acronyms used here too.
At the LNER, we walked past the GBM, to get to the SRP to watch LCFC against WWFC… OMG!
Lincoln City – Stadium Gallery
Lincoln City – Pre-Game Video of the LNER Stadium
George ‘Johnny’ Johnson
Prior to kick-off, there was a lovely tribute to George ‘Johnny’ Johnson.
George was the last surviving member of RAF 617 Squadron’s famous ‘Dambusters’ raid of 1943. A minute’s applause rang out as fans of both teams joined the players and officials in remembering a true hero following his sad death on the 7th of December. He is said to have died peacefully in a care home, aged one hundred and one!
Well played sir!
You can read more about George here.
During the minute’s applause, the singing section of the GBM stand held up banners that read ‘RIP George “Johnny” Johnson, the last Dambuster’.
Taking their name from the 617 Squadron that George was a member of, they are an organised group of fans dedicated to bringing a better atmosphere to the ground and they did just that on Saturday. There was an impressive noise from the 617 Squadron fans throughout the game, with a drummer leading the tempo.
Lincoln City v Wycombe Wanderers – The Game
Coming into this game, Lincoln City were in twelfth position in League One, having won one, lost one and drawn two of their last four games. Their opponents were in tenth position at the start of play, with two wins, a draw and a loss in their last four matches.
This had all the makings of a closely fought game and that’s exactly how it proved to be.
I have read that games between these two teams are often tight encounters and I can only wish I had read that before choosing this game!
There were chances at both ends but they were few and far between and neither side really threatened to score very often.
The first half was started by the visitors, who were kicking towards the Rilmac Stand.
It was the visitors who had the first chance to score in the sixth minute. a corner was swung in and met by the head of Ryan Tafazolli but it was a tame effort, easily held by Carl Rushworth. The on-loan Brighton keeper didn’t really have a lot to do, although when he was called into action, he did his job well and his distribution looked decent too.
The next chance was another corner, this time for the home side as they attacked the Stacey West end of the ground. As the corner came over, an air raid siren started wailing. I’d forgotten all about this custom to be quite honest. It’s one that would have been perfect for those halcyon days of Rory Delap’s bombing throw-ins at Stoke City‘s Bet365 Stadium.
Arsene Wenger would’ve loved it!
Again, the chance wasn’t taken. Charles Vernam’s corner was swung in and met by the head of Paudie O’Connor, with the effort going just wide of the post. Vernam was also instrumental in the next chance to come Lincoln’s way in the 15th minute. He picked the ball up halfway in his opponent’s half of the field before turning towards the goal and letting loose an ambitious effort that went wide of the top left corner.
That man Vernam was involved in the thick of the sparse action in the 29th minute, too. After receiving the ball just inside the Chairboys’ half, he ran forward unchallenged, before unleashing a shot from thirty-five yards out. Unfortunately for both he and the Imps faithful, his low shot was straight down the middle of the goal and was comfortable for keeper Max Stryjek.
The best chances of the half came just before the half-time interval.
An inadvertent but clear handball by Josh Scowen in front of the Lincoln dugout allowed Garath McCleary to take the ball towards the Lincoln penalty area. Once on the edge of the box, he played the ball diagonally to his left, into the path of Anis Mehmeti. Mehmeti crossed the ball low across the goalmouth and Jamie Robson, the defender rushing to get back and clear the ball, only succeeded in turning the ball goalwards.
He will be grateful to his goalkeeper because Rushworth saved well with his legs, with almost no time to see the ball coming towards his goal.
This was followed by one of Lincoln’s best chances.
Another Wycombe corner was quickly countered by the Imps. A headed clearance fell to the feet of Matty Virtue, who showed some excellent determination and pace to hold off the defenders as he raced forward. He managed to wriggle between two defenders and put a cross to the back post where the unmarked Vernam could only steer the ball across the face of the goal when it seemed easier to score, at least from our vantage point.
I managed to catch this action in the video below.
That action brought an end to any meaningful action in what was a pretty dour first forty-five minutes.
Half-time – Lincoln City 0 Wycombe Wanderers 0
The half-time entertainment was provided by Mrs Hopper.
After going to fetch a cup of tea, on her return, she climbed from behind the seat to avoid disturbing people in our row. Now for those of you that don’t know Mrs Hopper, she is, by her own admission, rather clumsy!
With this in mind, my heart rate multiplied by a few times as I watched nervously. Before I could offer to help, she came over the back of her chair, put all her weight on it, clutching a scalding hot cup of tea over an unsuspecting spectator in front of her!
Luckily, our luck held firm and so did the chair and the lid on the cup of tea. About ten minutes into the second half, my heart rate was back close to normal…
The Second Half
We have been lucky on our adventures so far this season and haven’t seen a 0-0 draw since we went to Berwick Rangers v Spartans in April of last season.
This game was a real danger to that record!
Wycombe gave us the promise of a goal shortly after the resumption of play when a goalmouth scramble ended with successive shot blocks by a doughty Imps defence before Brandon Hanlan ended hopes of a goal by hitting the far post.
After that, the second half became even more attritional than the first and I won’t bore you with further details other than to say that some of the best parts of the action were captured in this last video I took.
Defensively, Lincoln City looks sound but they lack a cutting-edge threat up front and it’s easy to see why they have drawn quite a few of their games this season. Vernam was the only attacking player that stood out for me and this shows if you read back on the chances they had.
Although the second half never really got going, we enjoyed our trip to Lincoln. It is a city with some great history and characterful pubs that would bear further exploration for those with more time on their hands.
Around the stadium seemed a friendly atmosphere both inside and outside. Also, one more shout out to the lads and lasses from 617 Squadron in the GBM Stand, who kept up the noise levels throughout most of what had to go down in the record books as a bore draw.
You can read a Match Report here from the Lincoln City website.
Full-time – Lincoln City 0 Wycombe Wanderers 0
Attendance – 7,530
Entrance Fee – £24.00
Programme – £3.00
Meanwhile, Wycombe Wanderers will face top-of-the-table Ipswich Town at home on December 17th.
Lincoln City – Match Highlights
Lincoln City – After the Game
Following the game, I took advantage of the one-hour waiting time we would have before our 18:01 train, to take another video of the stadium. This time without the sun affecting the lens and from the vantage point of higher up in the SRP Stand.
After finishing the video, we started the walk back to the train station, with no particular haste. We still had a good half hour to wait when we got there. The fans on the opposite platform kept us entertained by singing songs that alternated between ‘Football’s Coming Home’ (turns out it isn’t… again!) and songs that weren’t particularly flattering about Lincoln.
I’m not sure which team they followed, so if you were there and know, please drop a comment below. I thought they were Grimsby Town fans at the time but they were playing at home so it wouldn’t really make sense to be their fans.
Our train dutifully turned up on time, in keeping with the rest of the day’s transport and we were soon on our way back to Newark Northgate. We arrived in Newark with fifteen minutes spare to catch our connection back to Durham and our luck held.
The 18:48 was also on time and this was the first Saturday in quite a while where we had no problems to report with public transport.
While on the train, there was the small matter of a little game between England and France taking place and people had their phones tuned into the ITV app or website to keep an eye on it.
It was obvious from the groans and cheers just how the game was going and although England ended up losing, despite being the better team according to my son the next day, we did ourselves proud once more in a major tournament. For this reason, I hope Gareth Southgate remains in place for the upcoming European Championships.
Following a World Cup semi-final in 2018 and a European Final in 2021, I genuinely think he will lead us to a trophy if we keep him in place.
Anyway, that disappointment aside, we made it back to Durham and caught our bus home, picking up a pizza to assuage our sadness.
Next up for us is a toss-up. Due to the rail strikes planned for the coming week, we will be limited to local games reachable by bus services. I may even run a poll on Twitter and let you decide for us…
Onto the next! (Wherever it may be!)