Saturday’s visit to Arsenal will be the 13th time City have faced London opposition in the FA Cup so in the build up to the game we are looking back at those previous 12 meetings.Having reached the last 16 the previous season City were exempt until the short lived Intermediate Round made up of 10 sides that had battled through the qualifying rounds and 10 sides exempt until this stage, of the 1902/03 competition and the draw paired us with our first opponents from London as West Ham United, then in the Southern League, made the trip to Sincil Bank on December 12th
The Hammers travelled north on the Friday, staying at the Spread Eagle Hotel, with only a moderate record in the Southern League lying eighth of 16 with 10 points from 10 games whilst City sat sixth in Division 2 so whilst hopes were high that Lincoln would progress into the competition proper the City camp were in some turmoil in the week leading up to the tie as captain William Gibson had been so enraged at criticism levelled at him by the crowd a week earlier that he had vowed never to kick a football again! Fortunately the City directors were able to persuade him to change his mind during the week and he did take his place in the team.
The Echo prior to the match had appealed to the supporters to be sporting in their cheers for both sides but to remember which team was representing Lincoln and was cutting in its comments about spectators who hurled abuse by saying “men who cannot attend matches without howling out invectives against either a player or his play would be doing a really good service for the club and for the sport of football by keeping away from the matches. Honest criticism is a thing none of us would ever desire to attempt to stifle, but the hurling of vocal brick-bats at the head of a man or men who doing their level best generally betokens that he person who does it is no sportsman and that he knows rather less than one of the goalpost about the art of football.”
On the day rain fell in the morning but the pitch was in perfect condition but despite being under pressure early on it was City who took the lead after 20 minutes when Peter Proudfoot scored, keeper Griffiths allowing his seemingly tame shot to squirm between his arms into the net. The visitors thought they equalised almost immediately but the “goal” was ruled out for offside and before half time Jimmy Hartley headed a second for City.
The second half descended into farce as the visitors opted to play with just one back, a tactic considered unsporting, and City were constantly caught offside and no further goals were scored although after the game it was revealed that visiting centre half Kelly had broken a bone in his foot which helped explain their second half display.
February 3rd 1906 saw City, 18th in Division 2, travel to London for the first time for an FA Cup tie as the reward for beating Stockport County in the First Round was a trip to another Southern League side Brentford, sitting seventh out of 17 in the table and who included in their team one of the City goalscorers from the West Ham game, Jimmy Hartley.
Whilst City prepared at Mablethorpe before travelling to the capital on the Friday Brentford spent the week in Brighton prior to the game which was played in a bitterly cold strong swirling wind and the occasional flurry of snow, Brentford took the lead after 25 minutes and thought they had extended it a few minutes later when Hartley netted but was ruled offside. The irate ex-City player then chased after the referee letting the official know in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t happy at the decision but the referee refused to change his mind.
City suffered a further blow shortly after the goal when Freddy Simpson was hurt and was actually carried off the pitch whilst play continued leaving City with 10 men and the Bees scored a second in controversial circumstances on the stroke of half-time. With over 45 minutes played, according to several observers, Brentford scored although the City players appealed, unsuccessfully this time, for offside. City kicked off and the half-time whistle was immediately blown.
Simpson attempted a comeback as the second half began but it was soon clear he couldn’t continue (he was later discovered to have badly twisted his knee) and a third goal 15 minutes from time confirmed the Bees’ passage into the next round but City were considered unlucky to have lost with the injury to Simpson proving costly.
The following season saw City drawn at home to Chelsea and despite being offered a guaranteed fee to switch the tie to Stamford Bridge the City directors refused and the London club, top of Division 2, stayed in Skegness during the week prior to game against 17th placed City who spent the week partaking in special training with walking, sprinting and skipping being the chief forms of exercise. With Arsenal playing at Grimsby in the Cup the GNER organised a special excursion train to bring supporters of both teams to Lincolnshire with the train stopping at Lincoln and then continuing to Grimsby.
Chelsea suffered two blows prior to the game as three regulars, Walton attending the funeral of his son, McRoberts through injury and Windridge through illness, were missing but they took the lead after twelve minutes through Jack Kirwan and had several other chances to increase their lead but it wasn’t until nine minutes into the second half that that did so when a quick break ended with Ben Whitehouse scoring. City looked down and out and when William Watson was seemingly fouled in the penalty area but the referee waved protests away it seemed luck was against them as well.
With just a minute left though and with many of the 5,000 crowd (gate receipts totalled £145) drifting away Watson pulled a goal back and incredibly just 30 seconds later winger Norrie Fairgray put over a perfect cross and Edward Dixon drove the ball past the ‘keeper to earn a replay. The remaining spectators went mad throwing hats and umbrellas in the air and the goals probably meant the Chelsea players didn’t enjoy the visit to the theatre arranged for that evening as much as they may have done had they won!
City originally objected to the replay being played the following Wednesday (they wanted it played on the Thursday) as Fulham were also scheduled to be at home and it was feared the gate would suffer but it was eventually agreed to play on Wednesday and with Chelsea having won of their home League games the task facing City was immense. The team travelled down on the Tuesday staying at the King’s Cross Hotel and, in front of an estimated 12,000 crowd (gate receipts were £364 4s 6d), had to withstand immense pressure with goalkeeper James Saunders making several fine stops. An injury to Dixon meant City had to play with 10 men for a short time but no goals had been scored at the end of 90 minutes meaning extra-time.
The players began the extra 30 minutes without a break, although several players nipped to the touchline for a slice of lemon, and with two minutes played Fairgray stunned those present by putting City ahead and it was a lead they held onto despite the second period of extra-time being spent almost entirely in City’s half and with the light rapidly fading.
The team were afforded a hero’s welcome when they arrived at the Great Northern Station at 9.22pm with several thousand people crammed onto the platforms along with the Lincoln City Band.