From the Club's formation through to The Great War - a brief summary of the early years in the history of Lincoln City Football Club.
1884: Lincoln City were officially formed as an amateur association, even though there had been a team playing since the 1860s.
1886-87: Lincoln City win the Lincolnshire Senior Trophy for the first time. City were amongst the last 16 survivors in the FA Cup from an entry of 126 clubs. They eventually lost to Glasgow Rangers.
1889-90: Lincoln City again reached the last 16 of the FA Cup before being beaten by Preston North End. The Imps also won the Midland Counties League.
1891-92: Lincoln City turned professional and repeated their achievement of five years previous by winning the Lincolnshire Senior Trophy.
1892-93: Lincoln City became one of the 12 founder members of the Second Division. The other clubs were: Small Heath, Sheffield Utd, Darwen, Grimsby, Ardwick, Burton Swifts, Northwich Victoria, Bootle, Crewe, Burslem, Port Vale and Walsall T. Swifts.
1895: Lincoln City moved to Sincil Bank from the John O'Gaunts ground. They drew their first game at Sincil Bank 0-0 with Gainsborough Trinity and also drew their first League game 1-1 with Woolwich Arsenal.
1901-02: Lincoln City achieved what has proved to be their best ever League position to date - that of fifth in the Second Division. The Imps also reached the last 16 of the FA Cup again - yet another achievement that has remained unequalled since. They eventually lost to Derby County.
1904-05: Lincoln City made it to the last 32 of the FA Cup but were beaten by Manchester City for whom the great Billy Meredith scored the only goal.
1907-08: Lincoln City, along with Stoke City, are relegated out of the League. Lincoln finished bottom of the League, with only 21 points from 38 games, and were replaced by Chesterfield.
1908-09: Lincoln City do the double! They won both the Midland Counties League and the Lincolnshire Senior Trophy in the same year. City's success in the Midland Counties League ensures their return to the Second Division.
1909-10: Lincoln City retain the Lincolnshire Senior Trophy.
1910-11: After just one year, City are relegated again out of the League, having finished bottom of the Second Division for the second time in three years and were replaced by Grimsby Town.
1911-12: Lincoln City were the champions of the newly-formed Central League. Many people are convinced that this is the finest team that Lincoln have ever produced. The usual line-up of that time was:- Fern, Jackson, Wilson, Robson, A Gardner, T Wield, J 'Cracker' Manning, Max Cubbin, W Miller, Batty and Brindley.
1912-13: Lincoln City had returned to the Second Division in place of Gainsborough Trinity.
1914-15: Sincil Bank's doors were closed to keep the public out! The FA Cup Second Round Second Replay between Bradford and Norwich was played in front of empty terraces because of the importance of munitions work.
1915-19: The Football League programme was suspended because of the Great War.
Relegation from and promotion back into the Football League coupled with a Division Three North championship proved to be an eventful time for City between the two World Wars.
1919-20: Despite finishing next to the bottom, Lincoln were relegated out of the League. Grimsby, who had finished bottom, were more fortunate in that they became a foundermember of the new Division 3.
1920-21: Lincoln City won the Midland Counties League for a third time, and for a third time had achieved an immediate return to the Football League by winning the championship of the League they were competing in.
1921-22: Lincoln City became founder members of the 3rd Division North. The other members were: Stockport County, Grimsby, Accrington Stanley, Darlington,Hartlepools, Stalybridge Celtic, Crewe Alexandra, Walsall, Southport, Ashington, Wrexham, Chesterfield, Wigan Borough, Nelson, Barrow, Tranmere Rovers, Halifax and Rochdale.
1924-25: The Midland League side Alfreton put paid to Lincoln City's FA Cup hopes.
1926-27: Lincoln City signed Albert Iremonger from Notts County. Many people felt that Albert, one of the tallest players ever in League football, was the best goalkeeper never to represent his country.
1927-28: The Imps were runnersup in the 3rd Division North.
1928-29: In the FA Cup, Lincoln met Leicester City at Sincil Bank offer beating Carlisle and Lancaster in the early rounds. The crowd of over 16,000 was a newattendance record for Sincil Bank.
1929-30: The South Park Stand, which included the club offices, was destroyed by a disastrous fire. The fire also destroyed all the club records. The stand was rebuilt in eight weeks but the records were gone for ever.
1930-31: City were beaten to the 3rd Division North championship by Chesterfield, who led the league by one point. Despite scoring 102 goals, the Imps had to wait another year.
1931-32: Lincoln City's first League honour champions of the 3rd Division North. They finished level on 57 points with Gateshead, but with 106 goals for and only 47 against the Imps took the title on goal average. The 11 players who represented the club on the most occasions were: Dan McPhail, Albert Worthy, James Smith, Charles Pringle (captain), Alfred Young, Walter Buckley, Phillip Cartwright, Frank Keetley, Alan Hall, Harold Riley and George Whyte, Alan Hall scored more League goals in a season (42) than any Lincoln player before or since.
1932-33: The Imps were relegated to the 3rd Division North in the company of MiIlwall. Alan Hall, the goal scoring machine of the previous season, was transferred to Tottenham Hotspur.
1936-37: Lincoln City missed out on promotion again, finishing runnersup to Stockport County.
1939-45: The Football League programme was suspended for the course of World War 2.
Two more championships, two more relegations, goals galore and a great escape - all under the leadership of Bill Anderson, Lincoln City's longest serving manager.
1947-48: Building a championship winning side with little more than £2,000 seems impossible by today's standards, but that's just what Bill Anderson managed 70 years ago. The Imps won the 3rd Division North by beating Hartlepool in the last game of the season at Sincil Bank. When Bill Anderson was carried shoulder high through Lincoln he could hardly have believed the disaster that was to follow.
1948-49: The Imps repeated their feat of 1931/32 and 1932/33 winning the 3rd Division North and being relegated from the 2nd Division in consecutive seasons. Lincoln were relegated back to the Northern Section along with Nottingham Forest. The then chairman, C. W. Applewhite, said: "We shall be back in three years."
1951-52: Mr Applewhite's promise came true as the Imps won the 3rd Division North for the third time. This time they scored an alltime club record of 121 goals. The 1951/52 season was the best in City's history and was to remain so until 197576. The Imps also had the added satisfaction of beating near neighbours Grimsby to the title by three points. As the 193132 side had relied on the goal scoring of Alan Hall, so 23 years later a special goal scorer, Andy Graver, made a vital contribution. The highlight of his 36-goal haul was six goals in Lincoln's record 11-1 win against Crewe Alexandra. Lincoln remained in the 2nd Division until 1961.
1953-54: The Lincoln City team of this season included Bill Anderson (manager), Tony Emery (League starting appearance record holder) and Andy Graver (the greatest goal scorer in the Club's history).
1957-58: Lincoln produced the most dramatic escape from relegation in League history. They were at the bottom of the 2nd Division, with only 19 points from 36 games, when they won their last six games in April 1958 31 on April 8 at Barnsley, 31 on April 12 at Doncaster, 20 on April 19 at home to Rotherham, 40 at home to Bristol City on April 23, 1-0 at Huddersfield on April 26 and 3-1 at home to Cardiff on April 30 to escape relegation by a point. Notts County with 30 points and Doncaster with 27 points were the clubs relegated.
1960-61: The Imps' stay in the 2nd Division ended in relegation as the bottom club. It has also proved to be the last time that this level of League football has been seen at Sincil Bank.
1961-62: A disastrous season as Lincoln are relegated again into the Fourth Division, equally an unwanted record of relegation in consecutive seasons. The Imps were to remain in the Fourth Division for 14 years.
The 1970s proved to be a record breaking decade for the Imps but in the 1980s came another first that saw the club engrave their name in the record books.
1967-68: A record crowd of 23,196 saw the Lincoln City versus Derby County 4th Round League Cup tie on November 15 1967. This record still stands today.
1971: A young former player, Graham Taylor, was installed as the new manager and he began to plot the club's revival.
1974-75: The Imps narrowly missed out on promotion when they finished fifth on goal average.
1975-76: This was by far the most successful season in the Club's Football League history. The Imps were the champions of the Fourth Division with the highest number of League points (74) under the 'two points for a win' rule ever scored in any division. They equalled the record for the number of home wins in a season (21), set a new record of 32 wins in a season and a record for the fewest defeats (4) by a team playing in Divison 4. Lincoln also finished six points clear of their nearest rivals, Northampton Town. Lincoln also became the first Football League Club in nine years to score over 100 goals in the League.
1977: Graham Taylor decided it was time to move on. The Imps were left to ponder what might have been as Taylor steered Watford from the Fourth to the First Division and also to a Wembley FA Cup Final appearance. Taylor was replaced by George Kerr and then Willie Bell.
1978: Willie Bell left the game and was replaced by Colin Murphy, who began a seven-year spell at the club.
1978-79: Colin Murphy was unable to halt the slide into the 4th Divison, and the Imps were relegated with only 25 points and having scored only 41 goals.
1980-81: Lincoln City are promoted to the 3rd Division by virtue of finishing runners-up to Southend United. In both 1981-82 and 1982-83 the club narrowly missed promotion to the 2nd Division, finishing fourth and sixth respectively.
1983: The 2nd Round Milk Cup tie between Lincoln City and Tottenham Hotspur brought club record receipts of £34,843.30.
1984-85: Lincoln City managed to secure their third division status on the penultimate game. The final game of the season at Bradford City would be a relaxed affair. Bradford were the champions and City were safe. The awful fire in the stand, however, resulted in one of the worst tragedies in British football. The immediate impact for the Imps was the loss of two loyal fans - Bill Stacey and Jim West - and, when they returned home, to condemnation of half their ground.
1985-86: Colin Murphy left before the start of the season and his assistant, John Pickering, took over as manager. Pickering found the transfer from coach to manager difficult and was sacked before Christmas, to be replaced by George Kerr. Despite his efforts, relegation could not be avoided and the Imps were condemned to the 4th Division in the last fixture of the season.
1986-87: The Imps were well fancied for an immediate return, and even in January they were well placed. However, a disastrous run took them from seventh position to 24th in just five months. George Kerr was sacked and replaced by Peter Daniel, who was a temporary player-manager. The unthinkable happened at Swansea when defeat for the Imps and victory by Torquay and Burnley saw the Imps become the first club to be automatically relegated out of the Football League.
A journey into the unknown, one championship, one promotion, eight managers and a £15 million player at Sincil Bank - all in 11 years!
1987-88: First came the return of Colin Murphy followed by a large influx of players to replace those who had been sold at the end of the 1986-87 season. Second came the long hard season in the GM Vauxhall Conference. Finally, there was the triumphant return to the Football League, beating Barnet into second place by two points. The Imps were top of the GMVC for only three days in the whole season but they were the best three days because they were the last three days of the season. The season saw a new Vauxhall Conference aggregate attendance record of 79,005 set by the Imps, and the record attendance at a single game set by the Imps in their final GMVC game of the season when 9,432 people turned up to celebrate the championship with a 2-0 victory over Wycombe Wanderers at Sincil Bank.
1988-89: Lincoln City's first season back in the Football League sees them finish 10th.
1989-90: The Imps need to beat champions Exeter City to have a chance of qualifying for the play-offs but lose 5-1 at Sincil Bank leaving a 10th place finish for the second successive season. Colin Murphy leaves the club by 'mutual consent'.
1990-91: Former Leeds United and England striker Allan Clarke succeeds Murphy as manager and prior to the start of the season, the Stacey West Stand - named after the two City supporters who died in the 1985 Bradford Fire - is officially opened to replace the old railway end terracing. A poor start to the season sees Clarke dismissed just 179 days after his appointment. Club captain Steve Thompson takes over the managerial reins. Off the field and the Board of Directors announce a record loss of £268,000.
1991-92: Lincoln City suffer a record 6-0 defeat at home to League newcomers Barnet in early September but a run of just one defeat in the last 18 games ensures a mid-table finish. Goalkeeper Matt Dickins is sold to Blackburn Rovers for £250,000 and Shane Nicholson to Derby County for £80,000 as a profit is made for the first time since 1987.
1992-93: The Imps begin the season as the bookies favourites for the title but, after being in the promotion places in February, a poor end to the season costs the club a chance of a play-off place. Manager Steve Thompson departs after the Board decide not to renew his contract and Youth Team Coach Keith Alexander is placed in charge for the final game of the season.
1993-94: A thrilling second round League Cup tie sees the Imps go out 8-5 on aggregate to Premiership Everton and although Alexander's team played some open, attacking football, the final position of 18th was the worst since the club returned to the League. This prompted the Board to replace Alexander with Sam Ellis, captain of the 1975/76 Division Four Championship side.
1994-95: A return to the 'long ball' game brings some improvements on the field but, just like the previous campaign, the Imps spend the whole season in the lower half of the table. Off the field the season produces a massive loss of £464,000 but one bright spot was the completion of the Sincil Bank redevelopment with the opening of the 5,700 capacity Linpave Stand, which had been built on the site previously occupied by uncovered terracing.
1995-96: A series of uninspiring performances lead to the departure of manager Ellis in September and the appointment of former Chelsea defender Steve Wicks as 'Head Coach'. Wicks endears himself to the fans with his excellent communication skills but the results don't come along and, after just 42 days in office, Wicks is dismissed with the club lying bottom of the Football League. The Board turn to former Cambridge boss John Beck who completely rebuilds the team and a final position of 18th is seen as a satisfactory conclusion to a turbulent season. The sale of Darren Huckerby to Newcastle United (£400,000) and Matt Carbon to Derby County (£385,000) ensure that a healthy profit is made for the first time in several years.
1996-97: Over 10,000 people see Newcastle United's new £15million signing Alan Shearer make his Magpies' debut in a pre-season friendly at Sincil Bank whilst on the League front, it was a season of consolidation for Beck's team, although they came within a whisker of reaching the play-offs. The club's exploits in the Coca-Cola Cup see them defeat Manchester City 5-1 on aggregate before losing to Southampton in a replay when a disputed penalty hands the initiative to the Premiership side.
1997-98: Winger Gareth Ainsworth is sold to Port Vale in September for a club record £500,000 whilst Dean Walling joins the Club from Carlisle United for £75,000 - another club record. Ainsworth's departure doesn't affect things on the pitch though as a 16-match unbeaten run takes the Imps to the top of the table. Six games later though they're down to 11th with Beck's unique style of play a hot topic on the terraces. Two months before the end of the season, the Board of Directors dismiss Beck due to "three very serious breaches of contract". Assistant Shane Westley takes over with assistance coming from veteran striker Phil Stant and physio Keith Oakes. City stay in touch with the play-off places but a final day victory over Brighton, combined with Torquay's 2-1 defeat at Leyton Orient, clinches automatic promotion to the Second Division.
One of the most emotional spells in the Club's history as the Imps go from the brink of extinction to one of their most memorable days and a second relegation from the Football League.
1998-99: Shane Westley is appointed as manager on a full-time basis and record season ticket sales are announced as the Imps prepare for life in Division Two. City find it tough going on the pitch as well as off it though with Chairman John Reames putting the club up for sale stating that, without further investment, the club would "wither and decline." Supporters group 'IMPetus' is formed with one of the targets being to raise the £25,000 that would see an elected member join the Club's Board of Directors. With the Imps rock bottom of the table, Westley is sacked and Reames installs himself as chairman/manager. Despite a slight improvement in results, a final day defeat at home to Wycombe condemns the Imps to relegation.
1999-2000: A year after putting the Club up for sale, Chairman John Reames reveals that a "substantial" investment is needed or the club may be forced to call in the administrators. The Club and Lincoln City Council finalise a £175,000 deal which sees the freehold interest in the Sincil Bank ground go back to the Football Club in a move that will enable the Imps to avoid going into administration. On the field and a season of mediocrity sees Reames hand over the managerial reins to Phil Stant.
2000-01: Rob Bradley, Chairman of the Lincoln City Membership Scheme (formerly IMPetus) is elected to the Club's Board of Directors as the supporters' representative. With the club once again struggling at the wrong end of the table, attentions turn to off-field matters as, in November 2000, John Reames, Chairman for 15 years, resigns leaving his entire shareholding of 815,821 50p shares in trust for the benefit of future investors and the Football Club. Supporter/Director Rob Bradley is named as Acting Chairman. On the field and long-serving defender Grant Brown becomes the club's all-time record appearance holder by making his 425th career appearance. "Lincoln City Football Club is now a community club, owned and run by its supporters. This is an historic day for the club and a significant day for football in general" - that was the message on February 23rd from new club chairman Rob Bradley as he announced that the Lincoln City Membership Scheme's Community Ownership Package for the shareholding of the Club was successful. Four days later and with the team languishing at the wrong end of the table, the new Board of Directors terminate the contracts of manager Phil Stant and his assistant George Foster. Former Grimsby Town boss Alan Buckley is appointed as the new manager. An upturn in fortunes sees the club finish in 18th position.
2001-02: Former manager Keith Alexander returns to Sincil Bank as assistant to Alan Buckley. Grant Brown breaks Tony Emery's long-standing Football League appearance record by playing his 403rd League game for the club. The Board of Directors announce that the collapse of ITV Digital - a new television sport channel launched amid a blaze of publicity at the beginning of the season and the subsequent loss of approximately £150,000 worth of TV revenue means that the existence of Lincoln City Football Club is very much in jeopardy. This is brought to the fore in April 2002 when the Board of Directors announce that, following advice from outside accountants and solicitors, they will be submitting a petition to the High Court for the Club to go into administration. Chairman Rob Bradley spells out the gravity of the situation by saying that the final home League game of the season against Rochdale "could be the last game in the club's history." Supporters dig deep and raise over £12,000 on the day of the Rochdale match as a "Save The Imps" campaign gets underway.
2002: A "Name Your Seat" initiative is launched, along with a host of other fundraising events, aimed at raising significant funds ahead of a High Court appearance. A week before this court appearance, the club parts company with manager Alan Buckley. On the same day that the club's petition to go into administration is successful, Keith Alexander is appointed manager. The club's creditors and shareholders accept a Company Voluntary Arrangement which guarantees that the club's future will be secure for the next two years. Five days before the new season gets underway, the Board of Directors announce that the Club is officially out of administration. Chairman Rob Bradley pays tribute to an "absolutely fantastic public response".
2002-03: With a host of new signings - the majority joining the club from non-League football - City start the season as favourites for relegation but a series of battling performances see them go into the New Year in a comfortable mid-table position. But just six defeats in the latter half of the season sees the club confound their critics and a final day draw at home to Torquay United, the equaliser coming just four minutes from time from one of the summer signings from non-League - Simon Yeo - earns the Imps a place in the Division Three Play-Offs for the first time in their history. A 6-3 aggregate success over near neighbours Scunthorpe United in the semi-finals books a place at the Millennium Stadium for the Final against AFC Bournemouth. A 5-2 reverse in the final though brings an end to the promotion dream.
2003-04: After a slow start to the season, results start to pick up when, with City lying seventh in the table, manager Keith Alexander underwent complex brain surgery at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital to repair a ruptured cerebral aneurism which had been the cause of a collapse at his home. Three months after surgery, he was back in the managerial hot seat alongside assistant Gary Simpson who had taken over his duties in his absence, and his first game back in the dug-out was the Imps' local derby against Boston United on February 7th, with the Imps still seventh in the table. City spent the remainder of the season either in or on the fringes of the play-off places and with the average home League attendance of 4,911 being a 66% increase on the 2001/02 figure, the Imps once again found themselves in the end-of-season play-offs, despite picking up just one win from their last five matches. A second successive trip to the Millennium Stadium is thwarted though as City lose out to Huddersfield Town in the semi-finals 4-3 on aggregate.
2004-05: Once again, City started the season slowly, although striker Gary Taylor-Fletcher equalled a 106-year record by scoring in the first six matches, but a good run of form prior to Christmas saw the Imps move up into the top five places with manager Keith Alexander winning the League's "Manager of the Month" award for November. City maintained their place at the top end of the table and a sixth-placed finish saw them reach the play-offs for the third successive season. A 2-1 semi-final aggregate victory over Macclesfield Town saw them return to the Millennium Stadium but promotion once again proved to be elusive as Southend United came away 2-0 winners after extra-time. Promotion would have been the perfect send-off to Supporter Director Rob Bradley who, after four years in the Chairman's seat, decided to step down at the end of the season. Gareth McAuley, a pre-season signing from Coleraine, becomes the first Lincoln player to represent one of the home countries at full international level for almost 22 years when he appears as a second half substitute for Northern Ireland in a friendly against Germany at Windsor Park.
2005-06: A fifth successive soiree to the end-of-season play-offs in what turned out to be Keith Alexander’s final season as manager, although the campaign wasn’t without incident with Alexander and his assistant Gary Simpson both being placed on ‘gardening leave’ in the January. Although Alexander was soon after reinstated, Simpson departed as did two members of the Board. Having defeated Grimsby Town 5-0 in the regular season, City lost out to the Mariners in the play-off semi-finals to become the first team ever to lose four consecutive play-off competitions.
2006-07: John Schofield, former team captain and youth team manager, was appointed as Alexander’s successor and along with Director of Football John Deehan led the Club to its highest finish of the decade with a fifth-placed spot securing yet another place in the play-offs. The first half of the season was notable due to some tremendous football with striker Jamie Forrester scoring three hat-tricks in the first half of the season, including two in successive games at at Barnet (5-0) and at home to Rochdale (7-1). Having topped the table just before Christmas, a poor second half to the season culminated in a 4-7 two-legged play-off defeat to Bristol Rovers.
2007-08: A poor start to the season saw Schofield and Deehan depart with former Huddersfield Town manager Peter Jackson being handed the managerial reins. He steers the Club to a respectable 15th-placed finish, with five wins from five in February earning Jackson the Manager of the Month award.
2008-09: Another mid-table finish from Jackson’s first full season in charge, although he was forced to miss the last two months of the season for throat cancer treatment. His assistant Iffy Onoura took over managerial duties in his absence with a poor home record (just six wins coming from the 23 games) seeing the Club miss out on a top seven slot.
2009-10: Jackson is dismissed just five games into the season and after first team coach Simon Clark took charge for three matches, the Board of Directors turned to former England international Chris Sutton for his first foray into club management. With 40 players used during the course of the season City finish in 20th position, the lowest since 2002. This paled into insignificance, however, when former manager Keith Alexander passed away at the age of 53 in March.
2010-11: The Club are forced to changes at managerial level once again following Chris Sutton’s resignation in October following a poor start. Former Southend United boss Steve Tilson was the man entrusted with the job as his replacement but he was unable to stop the Club from being relegated out of the Football League for the first time since 1987.
2011/12 - There was a squad overhaul going into the first season out of the Football League for the Imps, but the start to the season didn’t go as many would have hoped and manager Steve Tilson departed the club in October, replaced on a temporary basis by Grant Brown, who was in turn replaced by David Holdsworth. The former Ilkeston Town and Mansfield Town manager, kept City afloat after a difficult first season in the Conference Premier.
2012/13 – David Holdsworth was unable to steer the Imps into the promotion places and following a run of just one win in 13 games, there was a change in management as Gary Simpson took the reins in February 2013. Come the end of the season The Imps were to stave off the threat of relegation, with successive wins in the final two games, first City defeated Tamworth at Sincil Bank before a comprehensive win away at Hyde United, helped in no small part by a Vidaine Oliver hattrick.
2013/14 – Gary Simpson’s Imps had a flying start to the season, City won four out of the six games played up to the end of August. However any early hopes of promotion were to be dampened after a run of indifferent form. Despite the disappointment, the mood was raised towards the end of the campaign as a resurgent City side lost just two of their last 15 games of the season finishing in their highest position to date in the Conference Premier.
2014/15 – City started the season in hot form yet again, winning three of the first four games, but the pattern of the previous season returned and form stuttered. With a bright spot sandwiched in the middle of the indifferent run of games being a memorable 3-2 win over Grimsby Town at Sincil Bank. In December, Chris Moyses was installed as The Imps’ new manager, and his squad finished the season in 15th place.
2015/16 – Moyses brought in a host of players ahead of the new campaign getting underway, amongst the signings were future fan’s favourite, Matt Rhead, and the return of Lee Beevers with both players coming in from Mansfield Town. Rhead netted 23 goals in his first season as The Imps finished 13th in the table.
Moyses stepped down from his role as manager upon the conclusion of the season and Danny Cowley was installed as manager, with his brother Nicky as his assistant. After the fans saw the brothers take Braintree Town into the National League playoff semi finals, people suggested that the signs were positive for the next chapter in The Imps' story.
2016/17 – It was a busy summer of transfers at Sincil Bank, with the likes of Nathan Arnold, Sam Habergham, Alex Woodyard, Sean Raggett all coming into the club before a ball had been kicked. After two games the supporters were purring, as City won 3-1 in their opening game of the season against Woking before scoring six against North Ferriby in the first appearance of the season at Sincil Bank. Two defeats followed, but they were to only be a blip as five consecutive wins followed leaving City at the top of the National League table.
In mid-November, with City second in the table behind Forest Green, the pair were to play out one of the most dramatic games of the season. The Imps were two goals behind with under 30 minutes remaining and seemingly staring defeat in the face until Alex Woodyard pulled a goal back. Then in the dying embers of the game, defensive pairing of Luke Waterfall and Sean Raggett netted a goal each to complete a remarkable turnaround live on TV. This win came in the midst of a run of 17 games unbeaten in all competitions, as City began to capture the imagination of the supporters and the dream of a return to the Football League was creeping ever closer to becoming a reality.
The Cup competitions were to also become a feature in the season. In the FA Cup, The Imps were to defeat Guiseley after a replay then Altringham were also despatched. City welcomed Oldham Athletic to Sincil Bank for round two and The Imps roared into a three goal lead just after half time before The Latics made a late fightback, scoring twice but Cowley’s men held on to their lead to make it into the hat for round three.
In the FA Trophy, Nantwich and Gateshead were put to the sword ahead of The Imps making the trip to face Ipswich Town in the third round of the FA Cup. Almost 5,000 City fans travelled to Portman Road and they saw their side defy the odds and force a replay against the Tractorboys. The replay at Sincil Bank brought a memorable night under the lights, Nathan Arnold netting a last minute winner setting up a fourth round tie with Brighton and Hove Albion.
The Seagulls opened the scoring at Sincil Bank, but the onlooking thousands in the stadium were to witness City come from behind, scoring three goals to progress as the supporters began to think of Wembley.
The victory over Brighton was the first of seven consecutive victories in League and Cup, after another remarkable result in the 'World's greatest cup competition' against Premier League, Burnley, on their own patch. Sean Raggett's late header sent The Imps into the quarter final of the FA Cup to face Arsenal and the FA Trophy Semi Final was also on the horizon.
Before any thoughts of the win over the Clarets were allowed to linger, The Imps were to arguably get their most valuable win of the season, defeating North Ferriby 1-0 away from home and keeping the National League campaign on track alongside the cup exploits.
Arsenal were to defeat the Imps in the quarter final at the Emirates with City putting up a valiant effort against the Gunners, City were to also miss out in the Semi Final of the FA Trophy but keeping the pain of defeat close was to only sharpen the focus on what was ahead in the National League. The Imps were relentless in the task of gaining promotion as seven wins on the bounce culminated with promotion at Sincil Bank against Macclesfield Town. Terry Hawkridge’s brace sealed the success and come the final whistle, The Imps were back into the Football League with two games to spare.
2017/18 – The Imps first season back in the Football League was to full of excitement and intrigue, Matt Green scored the first goal of the season at Wycombe Wanderers to begin another memorable campaign for all involved.
Carlisle United were defeated at Sincil Bank, giving City their first win of the season before Mansfield Town succumbed to The Imps in the first game of the Checkatrade Trophy, the start of a historic run in the Football League Trophy.
The Imps slowly but surely made themselves a team to be respected, with notable wins away at Swindon Town and a thumping win away at Crewe Alexandra. Heading into the latter half of the season, City were in the top ten in the League Two table and edging closer to Wembley in the Checkatrade Trophy after topping their group and then defeating Accrington Stanley and League One side, Rochdale, to progress to the Quarter Final stage.
City's form continued into League competition as they were to remain unbeaten before getting back in the Checkatrade Trophy action, against another League One side, Peterborough United. The Posh were to fall to City in the quarter final before two more League Two games followed, as Newport County were beaten and then a last minute equalizer from Michael Bostwick nicked a point at Sincil Bank against Swindon Town. Cup action returned as Chelsea’s Under 21’s stood in the way of a first ever trip to Wembley for the club in the Checkatrade Trophy, and after a tense penalty shootout, City were the victors setting up the grandstand occasion at the National Stadium.
Back in league action, after Exeter City were defeated on Good Friday in late March 2018, the murmuring from some sections of supporters was that there could be a second successive promotion on the cards, but there was the small matter of a trip to Wembley Stadium on the cards to come first.
On Sunday 8th April 2018, The Imps, led out onto the Wembley turf by City legend Colin Murphy, were to beat another yet League One side in the final. Elliott Whitehouse scoring the decisive goal against Shrewsbury Town leaving Luke Waterfall the job of hoisting aloft the trophy to the delight of over 27,000 City fans in the stadium.
A month later, City secured a spot in the end of season playoffs in League Two after drawing with Yeovil Town in the final regular league game of the season atat Sincil Bank. But The Imps were to be defeated by Exeter City over two legs in the semi final.