Playoff Memories: Lincoln ’04

It’s 19th May 2004. On a cold Tuesday night, one of the most pivotal games in the club’s history took place. I had just experienced two relegations in the space of three years as a young Huddersfield Town fan. I had also just turned ten years old.

Most young fans would have stopped supporting a team which had played so miserably the season before. But I stuck with them, blindly believing that we might turn a corner and achieve some form of glory to remember. My Dad took me out of school and I gleefully missed two days of literacy lessons to make the journey up north.

At the time, I didn’t pay much attention to what might have happened if we had lost this game but after thirteen years, the game had huge importance to the long-term future of the club. If we had lost this match, we might have never been promoted again for another five years. The club’s budget was on a shoestring and manager Peter Jackson had cobbled together a tight-knit squad made up of cast-offs, academy players, calling in old favours and Andy Booth. Lincoln, on the other hand, was an accomplished team under the late, great Keith Alexander.

In what was then the old third division, their side contained future town players ‘Boom Boom’ John McCombe and Gary Taylor-Fletcher, who would go on to grace the limelight of the Premier League with Blackpool. After securing a 2-1 away win at Sincil Bank with goals from returning legend Ifi Onoura and defender David Mirfin, the stage was set for a thrilling climax. Unfortunately, it began with a major setback.

Town were shocked when midfielder Richard Butcher struck 8 minutes before half-time. Lincoln then delivered a sucker punch almost immediately from the restart when Mark Bailey doubled their advantage and took the lead on aggregate. The Town faithful were stunned into silence.

I remember being so devastated that we were losing that I cried, despairing at how we could surrender our lead and woefully pessimistic we could mount a comeback. My Dad just said “it’s only a game”, but it felt so much more than that. Thankfully, Town must have heard my wailing and answered my pleas.

We came out in the second half with renewed fight and determination, which was rewarded on the hour mark when Andy Booth was tripped by future town player McCombe and Danny Schofield duly stepped up to dispatch the penalty. The town onslaught then began and Jacko brought on the hero of the Scunthorpe comeback John McAliskey as a focal point up front. McAliskey almost became a hero again but he glanced a header just wide. However, one player did step up to be the hero on the night. After Jon Worthington drove a cross across the box, McAliskey stumbled over the ball, allowing full-back Rob Edwards to smash the ball home and send the town fans into delirium.

That feeling after we scored that goal is something I don’t think will ever be topped. It encapsulates why you should never lose faith in your team and showed me why when it comes to your team, you should never let your hope die. For every soul-destroying defeat or the agonising feeling of conceding a last minute equaliser or winner, there are these moments. The feeling of ecstasy as you celebrates your team winning when you never thought they could do it.

Let’s hope there are a few more to come this week.

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