Looking back at the third time we reached the last 16 of The FA Cup...Despite being drawn at home in the Third Qualifying Round the officials of Midland League Worksop were prepared to switch the tie to Sincil Bank but as neither club could come to a suitable financial agreement City travelled as planned to the Cricket Ground and thanks to two goals in each half eased to a 4-0 victory, John Dixon (2), Dennis O’Donnell and Wally Smith being the scorers in front of a crowd containing many City followers who had taken advantage of a special excursion train run by the Great Central Company. Gate receipts though only amounted to £45 so leaving little in the way of profit.
Newcomers to the Football League, but no strangers to Lincoln, Doncaster Rovers were the visitors in the next round and the match marked another first for the club although not one to be proud of.
With Rovers wearing red and white City took to a partially frozen, especially at the South Park end, pitch in their old green shirts and survived an early scare when a Doncaster “goal” was disallowed due the ball being fisted in much to the disgust of the large amount of Yorkshire followers in the crowd.
Early in the half the referee, Mr Black from Burton-on-Trent, had to have a quiet word with City forward Wally Smith about his behaviour and as the half came to a close he acted decisively when he saw Smith kick Jack Price the Doncaster inside forward who retaliated in the same vein and both were promptly sent off thus becoming the first dismissals in City FA Cup ties. Smith would later receive a seven day ban for his actions whilst Price was suspended for 14 days.
Goalless at half-time the winning goal came just 60 seconds after the restart when Jack Dixon raced clear and sent over a perfect cross which Dennis O’Donnell smartly placed into the net. It heralded an almost total domination of the half by City but despite a shot count on target at the end of the game of 22 to Rovers two the one goal proved enough to set up a visit to Barnsley and the chance of revenge for the three previous defeats.
Another train excursion was organised for travelling supporters and as a bonus it was announced that the return train would leave at 5.55pm leaving time for City fans to be able to obtain a famous Barnsley chop!
On a windy day that had the spectators huddled together hands deep in pockets with over coat collars turned up to keep warm the game finished goal less although City’s Alf Webb was the busier of the two keepers whilst the share of the gate receipts of £105 10s 4d from the estimated 3,500 shivering crowd meant no loss was made in fulfilling the fixture.
Heavy morning fog meant the Wednesday afternoon replay was in doubt for a time but the fog cleared in time for the 2pm kick off but despite City starting strongly and having the better of the game it was the Tykes took the lead just before half-time. City suffered a further blow just after the break when centre half John Crawford was badly kicked and had to be carried off the pitch but five minutes later much to everyone’s surprise he returned to great cheers and shortly afterwards the equaliser came as all the forwards attached almost in line with each other and after a fierce struggle City and Barnsley players along with the ball all rolled into the net. For almost the first time in the tie City now began to dominate but no further scoring occurred and the match went into extra-time.
Almost immediately in the extra period Dennis O’Donnell, in front of an open goal, somehow hit the bar and from the rebound Jack Dixon also managed to hit the frame of the goal but with just seven minutes left of the second period Tommy McInnes finally put City ahead with a low shot and two minutes later O’Donnell made amends for the earlier miss by forcing the ball home after another goal line scrimmage to secure the victory.
Having negotiated the qualifying rounds entry would normally have been made into the competition proper but for five seasons from 1900 an extra intermediate round was used when 10 clubs that had been exempt until then joined the 10 who had made it through qualifying. Luck was again against City as the draw handed them a trip to Bank Street, a ground they had never won on, to play fellow Division Two side Newton Heath who had been one of the exempted clubs.
The team travelled on the Friday, arriving at 8pm, and after tea at their quarters, The Old Boar’s Head, they went to the theatre and then back to bed with a sightseeing tour of Clayton taking place on the Saturday morning prior to journeying to the ground. No train excursion was organised for supporters and the City followers who did travel on the Saturday morning had a wretched journey as telegraph lines along the route had been blown down meaning trains were travelling very slowly and they arrived ninety minutes later than planned although still in time for them to take their place in the crowd of 4,000 as the game got underway in windy conditions.
Having won the toss Will Gibson elected to have the wind behind the players in the first half but shortly after kick off a bad challenge by home full back Harry Stafford on Dennis O’Donnell saw the City player “fall like a corpse” and he had to carried off the pitch.
Undaunted the 10 men opened the scoring through Jimmy Hartley and the same player doubled the lead before a limping O’Donnell returned to the pitch just before half-time. A third Hartley “goal” just after half-time was ruled out for offside before the hosts took advantage of a mistake by ‘keeper Alf Webb to pull one back but long before the end of the game it was apparent to those watching that they were a beaten side and City comfortably saw out the closing stages for an impressive win.
Afterwards Secretary-manager David Calderhead sent a scathing letter to the press regarding the O’Donnell incident stating: “The City directors and secretary and players feel very much the misfortune that befell O’Donnell on Saturday last. Their ambition is to have a team who play football, but they also want that team protecting from men like Stafford. They don’t want to win if they can’t win by playing the game. I know a few on the ground on Saturday would have been prepared to swear it was manslaughter if anything had happened to O’Donnell – and two inches would have done it.”
Victory meant the competition proper was reached for the first time since the 1890/91 season but the draw was unkind as it gave City an away tie at the only remaining amateur side left in the competition, Oxford City.
Attempts to get Oxford to switch the tie to Sincil Bank for a financial guarantee were unsuccessful so the City players travelled south on the Friday before the match but fears of a low crowd proved groundless as the attendance was reported at 5,463 (receipts £141) which was reportedly a new record crowd for the White House ground with many more watching from the surrounding houses and from the trees around the ground.
The game finished goalless although Tommy McInnes had a second half header disallowed for offside and a further misfortune occurred in the final minutes when captain Will Gibson sustained a knee injury which kept him out of the Wednesday afternoon replay. Prior to the replay the draw for the Second Round was made with the winners of the tie being at home to the winners of the Blackburn Rovers and Derby County tie which had been postponed due to snow.
Oxford travelled up the day before but were no match for Lincoln on this occasion and after a spell of sustained pressure McInnes scored after 15 minutes shortly before Jimmy Hartley hit the bar and Peter Proudfoot had an effort ruled out for offside. A second goal did arrive before half-time when Dennis O’Donnell scored from close range. The second half followed a similar pattern with McInnes adding the third within seconds of the restart with Wally Smith scoring the fourth. Proudfoot and Hartley both had further efforts ruled out for offside as City comfortably ran out 4-0 winners
Derby overcame Blackburn 2-0 on February 1st and almost immediately the excitement began to mount not just in Lincoln but all over the county for the match which was to be played the following Saturday. Derby offered City £100 to switch the tie plus a guaranteed £300 as a share of the gate money but the City directors declined the offer.
In an effort to give the team the best possible chance of success the players and trainer along with several club officials went for a week’s special training at Sutton-on-Sea staying at the Bacchus Hotel whilst back at Sincil Bank a new stand was built on the north side of the ground capable of holding 1,050 people.
Whilst tickets sold well the daily reports from the City camp indicated things were going well with the players each day taking a half hour sharp walk before breakfast at 8am and then at 10.30am they partook in an eight to 10 mile walk along the sands before returning for lunch at 1pm whilst in the afternoon they trained between 2pm and 5pm before supper at 8pm and bed at 11pm. They also had use of the hotel’s billiard room and were all in excellent spirits.
The team was named on Thursday and was as expected Webb; McMillan, Gibson; Fraser, Crawford, Blow; Hartley, Proudfoot, McInnes, W. Smith and O’Donnell although there was a slight doubt over Gibson’s fitness so Cowley was placed on standby should he be needed.
Travel arrangements were publicised with trains being run from Grimsby, Peterborough, Grantham, Doncaster, Chesterfield and two from Derby itself. As a sign of how things have changed the excursions called at all stations en route such as Louth, Bardney, Wragby, Waddington. Potterhanworth, Washingborough and Horncastle all now long gone.
Friday brought a final report from the seaside saying that the players had been having a good time but with plenty of hard work and for the final day they had undertaken two long walks one before breakfast and one before lunch whilst the afternoon had been spent playing ping pong, cards, dominoes and billiards with them due to leave for Lincoln at 8.50am on the Saturday morning, arrive around 11am and after light refreshments at Strawsons Tearoom they would be ready for kick off at 3.15pm.
On the morning of the match snow fell leaving the pitch soft as captain Will Gibson led City out, 10 minutes before the advertised kick-off time, to great cheers shortly followed by the visitors who were greeted with equally loud cheers by their large throng of followers and the game actually kicked off five minutes early at 3.10pm.
City started strongly with Jimmy Hartley heading against the post before with just six minutes played a centre from Wally Smith caused chaos in the County area and Tommy McInnes drove the ball into the net amidst scenes of great excitement.
County’s legendary striker Steve Bloomer thought he had scored an equaliser almost immediately after but the referee Mr King from London after consulting both linesmen disallowed it for offside. Snow began to fall heavily as Derby continued to push with Bloomer hitting a post before disaster struck for City when centre half John Crawford injured his ankle in a collision with a Derby forward and had to leave the field. He returned shortly afterwards but eventually it was apparent he could not continue and before half time he left the pitch again and City had to continue with ten men.
Only a short break was taken before play resumed and within three minutes of the restart Derby equalised through Ben Warren at which point Crawford reappeared although playing at outside left. Play became rough for a while with the referee having to speak to the players about their conduct before Warren headed the visitors in front and with 15 minutes left he completed his hat-trick and as the light faded and the snow got heavier County were the side who threatened to score again as George Davis had a goal disallowed for offside and Warren hit the post but there was no further scoring.
After eight matches the cup run was over and ironically despite selling 16,435 tickets the bad weather kept the crowd down to around 10,000 on the day and the gate receipts of £429 meant once they had been shared out the club would have made more money had they accepted Derby’s offer to switch the tie.