Welling Hold On For Imp-ortant Point at Lincoln
Even for the hardcore fan or tireless groundhopper, November football can be a hard sell. There’s a howling wind which BBC News have given a deceptively cutesy name to, and it’s spectacularly wet. The roads are clogged, the trains are late and your mercurial winger doesn’t fancy taking his position in a corner of a football field which is forever freezing. But the glare of the floodlights, the whiff of drama and the sense of community draws us in. There are 2,528 of us scattered around the grand Sincil Bank today, and a changeable contest between promotion-pushing Lincoln City and relegation-battling Welling United awaits.
I arrive in a sodden Lincoln at lunchtime, and even in the throes of grim November, there’s a sense of grandeur and beauty about its historic centre. Castles, cathedrals and historic architecture jostle amidst the skyline, as I head for the refuge of one of its renowned eateries (more on that later). It’s no surprise the town draws in tourists from far and wide, but there’s another side to Lincoln. It has the unwanted distinction of being the country’s capital of crack cocaine and heroin use – its dilapidated estates hidden behind the picture-postcard image of the city. My next stop, though, is one of Lincoln’s more famed and attractive sites – The Green Dragon; an eatery with a difference.
‘So, what’s the deal with this place, Dave?’ I hear you cry (like anyone actually reads these things…). Well, their ‘Black Rock’ steaks are served on 440 degree pieces of volcanic rock. It’s an extremely fun gimmick – and though the food (I go with rump steak & chips) is tasty, the searing serving method is the most memorable thing about this pub. Once I’m warmed with Sharp’s ale and sitting next to a slab of volcanic rock, it’s off to Sincil Bank – one of the most impressive grounds in the whole of Non-League.
Before the turnstiles open, I head for the Travis Perkins Lounge, where thankfully the only timber being carried is on the frames of a few chunky blokes (myself very much included). It’s spacious, friendly and has a large screen showing Sky Sports & BT Sport. I get chatting to Gary and Jill, a married couple and lifelong Imps fans. Gary tells me this season has been “a pleasant surprise to be challenging”, but is critical of the the team’s style. “We play a lot of high balls”, he remarks, with a resigned look. But, he – and most here – are admirers of current manager Chris Moyses’, and it’s very much his side. “The regular starting XI have been brought in by the manager” Gary tells me. “It’s looking promising, but he’ll live or die by how these players do.”
They eventually leave (perhaps I shouldn’t have said that Grimsby were good to watch) and there’s time to flick through the Team Lincoln matchday programme (professional but too ad-heavy, and rather steep at £3) before heading through the turnstiles. The ground remains one of Non-League’s grandest and most impressive stadia. But the ‘Sin Siro’ (as it’s probably not known) has a lot of character to it. Sure, it’s all-seater, but its curious mixture of stands of all shapes, sizes and colours – replete with views of the green Lincolnshire countryside – gives it a unique and likeable feel.
I settle myself into the Co-Operative Main Stand, a single-tiered behemoth seating 5,600 fans. Opposite is the tall but thin Software Europe Stand, with the smaller Stacey West Stand (away fans) and Bridge McFarland Stand (Imps fans) behind either goal. The latter sees the early action, as a super cross lands on the head of the enormous Matt Rhead, but his weak header flashes wide. Then, Lincoln’s Jack Muldoon sets off on one of his trademark mazy runs down the wing, befuddling defenders and exciting the crowd, before his sharp cross is well cleared by the Wings defence.
In truth though, it’s a poor first half. “Dogshit”, a man in front of me mutters, as another pass goes astray. And aside from the brief flashes of excitement – including Sam Corne’s blocked effort for Welling, and a Wings corner which flashes agonisingly across the goalmouth – it’s pretty woeful stuff. There’s an acrobatic effort from one Lincoln player, and a decent effort from the lively Muldoon, which forces a smart save from Welling stopper Mike McEntegart, but the half seems to be drifting towards a goalless stalemate. And then right on half-time, a bit of magic under the fierce lights of the Software Europe Stand finally sparks this contest into life.
After a sloppy set-piece sees Lincoln lose the ball with a number of men upfield, the away side take advantage with a counter-attacking goal of the highest order. Several slick passes and some deft footwork leaves what’s left of the home defence in tatters, and ex-East Thurrock United winger Reece Harris slots coolly past the helpless Farman. The whistle goes, and a smattering of boos ring out amidst a mostly silent Main Stand. Lincoln’s 4-match unbeaten run looks to be ending, with Welling on course for a first away win in the league, since their triumph at lowly Kidderminster Harriers on 3rd October.
A rejuvenated Lincoln come out for the second half, and attack from the off. Alan Power hits a rasping strike across goal, which whistles past the post by mere inches. The off-form Matt Rhead and ex-Scunthorpe man Luke Waterfall both miss golden chances, and Welling struggle to get the ball forward, despite a good performance from the surprisingly well-behaved Nortei Nortey. And eventually, the hosts’ pressure pays off. Jack Muldoon’s fierce effort is flapped at by McEntegart and squirms into the net. The Imps are level, but neither side seem satisfied to settle for a point.
The well-travelled Kieron St Aimie (on his 18th club, aged just 26) has an effort superbly stopped by City ‘keeper Farman after a slick Welling move, before Matt Sparrow rattles the woodwork at the other end, from a tight angle. Amidst the dark skies and damp conditions, both sides have done well to make an entertaining game of this. Lincoln though, pass up several more good chances, with Rhead and Sparrow again failing to convert promising opportunities. 1-1 it ends, as the players exit to applause from all corners of the ground.
Unaware that a horrific train journey awaits, I exit Sincil Bank with a sense of cheer. Even in the most miserable of conditions, Non-League football manages to whip up excitement and a feeling of togetherness at a fraction of the price fans are expected to pay in the top echelons of the game. It would’ve been nice to see a dramatic winner, but you can’t have it all.
Lincoln City – 1 (Muldoon, ’72)
Welling United – 1 (Harris, 45+1)
3pm, 28th November 2015
Sincil Bank, Lincoln (Att: 2,528)
Ticket & Travel Info:
Ticket Prices: Adults (£16 pre-booking/£18 on the day) / Over 60’s (£12 – pre-booking)/ Under-18’s/Students (£6 – pre-booking).
Travel: Lincoln is on the Lincoln-Sheffield train line, with hourly trains on this route, calling at Worksop, Retford and Gainsborough Lea Road (amongst other smaller destinations). There’s also a half-hourly service from Newark North Gate. With no motorway nearby, Lincoln is difficult to reach by road. However, the A46 road leads into the City. The A158/South Park Avenue (10 mins walk from the ground, has parking), and there’s a small car park behind the Stacey West Stand (£4).
Posted on November 29, 2015, in Dave's Matchday Adventures, Vanarama National League and tagged Conference Premier, Groundhopping, LCFC, Lincoln City, National League, Sincil Bank, Welling United, WUFC. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.