Sunday, January 29, 2017
Lincoln City 3-1 Brighton Hove Albion
The Brighton FA Cup tie is preying on my mind. It's dominated my thoughts for most of the day. I wander down Bridlesmith Walk before I snuck in the front door of the Herbert Kilpin. For those that don't know, Herb is a Nottingham lad who founded the famous Italian club A.C. Milan. A pint of Kilpin slips down the hatch, before I opt for a stronger citrus craft ale brewed in the 'Smoke.' Herbie would have been 127 years old yesterday.
I grab a couple of curry take-outs from Sainsbury's before returning to HQ, putting on my nurse's outfit and performing Florence Nightingale bed care with the good lady. She struggles her way through an episode of Emmerdale Farm and a double helping of Corrie before retiring to bed. Both Ms Moon and Lincoln left back, Sam Habergham will be having an 11o'clock fitness test to see if they are available for selection. Both are key players. There's just time for me and Murphy the budgie to laugh out loud at Darren Bent's shanked own goal. He must have selected the wrong pair of 'thousands and thousands' of trainers he has confessed to own.
I spend the night on the couch as Ms Moon coughs and splutters her way through the early hours. The plan was to catch the train, have a spot of lunch, take the game in, before meeting friends in the Steep Hill area of Lincoln, close to the castle and cathedral, to celebrate a close friend's birthday (Keebo).
Brighton fans, let me explain. I've supported Lincoln City for over 45 years. My late father took me to my first game in 1970 v Crewe Alexandra. An Irish lad from Finn Harps scored our solitary goal - my Dad missed it; he was having a pee at the time.
I've seen FA Cup defeats by the likes of Rochdale, Emley and Telford. I was at WBA 40 years ago, the last time we reached the 4th round, when a Bryan Robson goal cruelly robbed us of glory. I've travelled away on a Monday night to York City for a Freight Rover cup game. I've arrived home at 3:30am on a Wednesday morning after a League Cup tie at Southampton's old Dell ground. But I've let it slip a bit, of late. I was infuriated with the Chris Sutton era and hold him 100% responsible for the Club's demise. Groundhopping the Non League has become my obsession for the last 10 years.
My mojo has returned with the appointment of the Cowleys. I confess to having firmly jumped on the bandwagon. I attended both Ipswich Town games. There was no chance of a ticket in the home end for today. Ms Moon has called in a favour. Sue's cousin's husband, is a Seagulls' season ticket holder. Graham has very kindly put himself out and bagged us a couple of tickets in the away end. Ms Moon passes a late fitness test on Saturday morning, during an episode of Heartbeat on ITV Encore. If I'm honest, PC Alf Ventress, the bone idle sod at Aidensfield Police Station, looks in better health than the princess.
Plans for a day trip out on the choo choo are abandoned, as I volunteer to drive. Drinky poos for Ms Moon are a no-go. I'll be on the sauce with the gang later though, particularly if the Imps upset the applecart.
The journey down the A46 is without incident. Paul Gambacinni is pumping toons out from 1966 on Radio 2's Pick of the Pops. The inevitable clogged up roads begin to emerge in South Hykeham, before we finally park up at the back of Robey Street, near my dear old Nana's warden-aided flat.
We walk up the High Street at a snail's pace as Ms Moon has an Elizabeth Taylor diva moment of nose blowing and a sneezing fit. Much needed snap (northern term Brighton fans) is devoured at local chippy.
The city is alive with folk as we troop down Scorer Street, the birthplace of former Leeds United and Arsenal striker Lee Chapman (husband of the actress Leslie ..... with the lips), towards Sincil Bank. Ms Moon's family originate from Brighton. I can see her hanging her snotty nose over one of those bloody awful half and half scarves - not on your Nelly, darling.
Lincoln is a cathedral city with a population just shy of 100,000. Famous people born in the 'Shire' include: Sir Issac Newton, Tony Jacklin, Margaret Thatcher, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Tory MP Anna Soubry.
I take a few snaps and a few deep breaths before passing through the visitors' turnstile - how the bloody hell am I going to cope with all this stress? Fortunately we're at the far end of the Stacey West Stand (named after two supporters who died in the Bradford Fire Disaster) close to where the Lincoln 'singing section' is.
I stand in silence for close on 25 minutes, barely passing comment with a well wrapped up Ms Moon. I'm as nervous as hell and the good lady can feel my tension. The warm ups are a blur as the players walk out to the centre circle. Both sets of fans exchange banter. Brighton top the Championship, as are Lincoln in the Conference. The whole stadium sings "We are top of the League" - it's a beautiful spine-tingling moment.
Danny Cowley picks the same starting eleven that defeated Ipswich. Chris Hughton has shuffled his pack, making nine changes from the 2-1 win over Cardiff City. They should have enough in reserve to turn over Lincoln, especially with leading scorer Glenn Murray back from suspension.
I like Brighton Hove Albion and particularly their manager Chris Hughton, who blog legend Trumpy Bolton and I bumped into at Bury's Gigg Lane a few years ago, when he was watching his son, Cian, playing right back for the Imps.
The Imps begin nervously and get caught napping on six minutes with 'keeper Paul Farman parrying a Murray header. Theo Robinson has an effort chalked off for offside. I quickly spot the linesman's flag to prevent me from passing out, such is the fragile state of my body.
Brighton ooze class and start to boss the game. Steve Sidwell and Non-League bargain buy, Solly March, display their long range passing. The warning signs are there, as a shot from distance by March beats Farman, all ends up, only to cannon off the woodwork.
Lincoln fail to heed the danger signs and are caught dozing again. The menacing Murray flicks on a header, nobody picks up the runner, Richie Towell, who lifts the ball with the outside of his boot over Farman and into the net. The Brighton faithful are in good voice, they sing: "1-0 to the Nancy-boys."
The Imps are hanging on the ropes and desperate for half-time so they can regroup. Murray is leading the Imps' defence a merry dance. He has a deft touch for a big fella and is full of running. The big man is unfortunate to see another chance go the wrong side of the post.
The big news at the break is that Wycombe Wanderers are 2-0 up at White Hart Lane. They are managed by Lincoln's greatest ever player, Gareth Ainsworth. I believe he will manage at the top one day.
The second half is sensational. The game turns on its head, on the hour, with a ridiculous and unnecessary challenge on Robinson. The 'keeper has had a kamikaze moment and has fallen awkwardly. The poor sod is in extreme pain as he kicks the floor time and time again with his boot. He's carted off with either a broken arm or dislocated shoulder.
There's an age before the Irishman, Alan Power, can take the spot kick. Brighton are in his ear, with the cocksure Murray having plenty of gas. Third choice 'keeper, 37-year-old Caspar Ankergren is the sub 'keeper. Power coolly rolls the penalty to the left-hand corner of the net, sending the Dane the wrong way. A flu-filled Ms Moon looks more alive than an ageing Caspar.
Caspar gets his second touch of the ball minutes later, retrieving it from the back of the onion bag after a 'Darren Bent' moment from Brighton defender, Fikayo Tomori, following a wicked cross from Nathan Arnold. Lincoln can smell blood and go for the jugular. Caspar has had a 'Weston Super Nightmare' since his unexpected arrival. He plays his defence into trouble with a short pass rather than going long - Uwe Huenemeier panics quicker than Dad's Army from Sussex's Walmington-on-Sea. Robinson doesn't waste the opportunity.
Ms Moon grabs my hand and squeezes it tightly. I can't and won't look at her as tears stream down my face. My head is pounding and my stomach is churning when it's announced that there's 8 minutes injury-time on the clock. Farman keeps out a couple of stinging shots before referee Andy Madley calls time on the best day out I've ever had in 45 years of watching football.
Man of the Match: Graham the Brighton fan for putting himself out for us ... Cheers