After 6 long and sometimes grueling seasons, the Imps are finally back in the Football League. The fixture computer had thrown up a trip to Wycombe first up for the Imps; a ground that my goons and I hadn't visited with the Imps since 1998. The Imps got thrashed 4-1 that day in a miserable (from our point of view at least) League One clash. The result left the Imps rock bottom of the table while propelling the hosts to the lofty heights of second from bottom. Apart from being one of the worst performances of any Lincoln game I have ever seen that match sticks out for two reasons. Firstly it was the final game the Bruce Grobbelaar played for the Imps and secondly the wonderfully named Jermaine McSporran hit a hat-trick for the home side. What was the cost of watching League One football at Wycombe back in 1998? 13 of your finest English pounds. Today's admission by contrast for this League Two game was £20 (which seems to be the going rate for this league it has to be said)
One of the brighter spots from Lincoln's time in the National League were some very enjoyable and relaxed away days. I was concerned that things on this front would change but if today was anything to go by, then we are looking at some great days out in League 2 this upcoming season. I always prefer to be away on the opening day and this was one of the most enjoyable ones in my 24 years watching the Imps.
We set off on our way at just after 9 after a hearty breakfast sandwich, and for the first time since Ipswich we had a full compliment of Retford Imps. We may have changed leagues but some things will never change . Early on in the journey I had managed to spill sauce on my shorts and Lee "Walnut bladder" Housman was true to form and needed additional pee-pee stops. Admittedly after a few beers I make regular trips to shake the snake as it were but only after one or two pints. On this front Lee really sets a new standard. We had planned on one stop en-route to Wycombe but due to bladder issues for LH meant an extra stop was needed.
Apart from that, the journey was pretty uneventful with the normal chatter about football, kebabs and cats (in that order) being the main topic of conversation. Upon arrival we parked up a short walk from the stadium which set us back £5, which isn't bad when shared between a car full but it was noted how the passenger riding shotgun developed short arm syndrome while we were coughing up the cash to park the motor.....
Wycombe's Adams Park is located at the edge of an industrial estate and as such there isn't a whole lot of things to do around the stadium itself, However since Lincoln have been away from the football league "Fanzones" seem to have sprung up in greater numbers than teams Felice has soft spots for. Fanzones are basically outside beer tents with and a burger stall or two where both sets of fans can mingle before the game. It may sound basic but I really enjoy them and long may they continue to grow.
However as good as this was it was the appearance of the huge badge stall that really took the eye (I am easily pleased it has to be said) As many of you know I am a keen badge collector having started my collection over 24 years ago when I was still at school. I have no idea how many I have but they cover 3 scarves and this season I have started on a 4th. When I started out I just collected any badges but I have a little more structure to it all now.
When it comes to English ones I stick to grounds that I have visited. Over time for one reason or another I have missed a few badges so stalls like this are a great chance to fill the blanks as it were. Too that end I was able to pick up a Matlock Town one as well as the latest Maltby Main design. It was also good to get a Sutton United one finally. Felice was in charge of getting them at the back end of last season but alas they eluded him in much the same way the Champions League title has eluded Juventus. Fair play to the lad though he did buy them as he said him would.
|20 plus years of collecting right here|
We still had a decent amount of time before the game so we sunk a couple of beers and soaked up the atmosphere. At about 2.15 a chap in a suit came round and gave us a team sheet and welcomed us back to the league. A nice touch and another reminder that the Imps were back in the big time.
The Imps away games are all ticket these days (still seems weird saying that) this means that for some games we wont all be sat together. However with a few empty seats in the away end it did mean that we were able to all meet up and all sit together for the second half.
As you would expect the backing from the fans for the Imps first game back in the league was first class. However the Imps were under pressure in the early exchanges as the gap between the National League and League Two quickly became apparent. Lincoln did take the lead however when Matt Green finished off a good move from just outside the box, all seemed well. However the game changed in a crazy 7 minutes when Wycombe first equalised following a corner (in which the Imps marking left a lot to be desired). It then got worse as a couple of minutes later the hosts took the lead when a free kick was covered from just outside the box. It was hard and low and completely took the Imps defence off guard. What made this all the more annoying was the fact that Lincoln had scored a few like this last season so you would have thought they would have been a little more aware of this kind of set piece. Apparently not. It wasn't all bad news in the first half though as I had a rather tasty burger. Felice on the other hand had a crappy half cooked hot dog. It's the small victories in life.
In the second half our entourage was back together as Felice and myself made our way to join Lee, Baz, Josh, and Amer (who has lots of cats).
Within minutes of the restart the Imps were level thanks to on loan Burnley winger Josh Ginnelly's cool finish. After looking like a team of nervous kittens for much of the first half the Imps were the cool cats of the second half and looked much more at home. The fact that Wycombe had a corner in injury time and instead of going for the winner, decided to play tappy-tappy in the corner was a sign of how well Lincoln had played.
Its always good to get in the car after an away day when you haven't lost and reflect on the game. One thing that has helped us do this in recent years is a visit to McDonalds, normally just for a shake but today it was more of a full blown pig out. It seemed quite a few others has the same idea as the queue was one of the longest I have seen and even had Lee shaking like a shitting dog in fear, as he was worried that he would be late home and receive an ear full from his better half. Thankfully it was all ok even though Felice didn't get his favorite Fillet O Fish.
So all in all a great start to the season. Had I been offered a point at before the game I would have snapped your hand off. The fact that the Imps played pretty well too made it all the better. On to the next one as they say.